Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ category

Easter Mass

April 23, 2022

Sophie and I drove to San Francisco the day before Easter, and that meant we’d go to Easter Mass at St. Ignatius church. It’s on the campus of the University of San Francisco, where my daughter plans to go to college.

We got there about 40 minutes early because we assumed it would be packed and it would be hard to find a place to sit. It was packed, by the time mass started, but we hadn’t realized how big the place was. All those pews provided plenty of seats for all.

The church is gorgeous. It’s like one of those cathedrals you would tour in Europe except it’s newer and in better condition. It has a dome and twin spires on a street strung with electric bus cables. The stained glass windows showed the stations of the cross and, on that day, Easter lilies were placed on the alter and flower arrangements were hung along the aisle side of the pews.

Inside the church had a bunch of those rounded arches. Romanesque? I’m not sure what style they were. Not an expert.

The San Francisco culture was on display at this place. It’s a culture that’s unique among California cities. The city was well established and a fairly civilized when San Diego and LA were still the wild west. In the church we saw people well dressed. The music was good and the priests were poised and polished.

The service was pretty long for Catholics. It was not a “tight hour” as my daughter put it. Well, it was Easter and they did have a baptism, which can stretch things out.

At the end the priest said there would be an Easter Egg hunt on the lawn, though he said it would be more of an Easter Egg grab. The eggs were not hidden, just sitting on the lawn.

My journey of faith has been a rewarding part of my life as an adult. But religious faith is even better when you can celebrate it in a really cool church.

Hyde Street, SF

April 20, 2022

At the backend of the Tenderloin

They are lost in the Sparkling City

With sagging breasts and sagging faces

Where we help them to hide

Because we don’t even see them

Because they walk with a jerk in their stride

Because they shout at all the fucking bastards

In voices that shatter the air.

So what is their story?

It’s the gravity of life that gives you no breaks

While your mind is screaming

And you just want a feeling

That you’re someplace else but there’s no other place.

They are lost where nobody wants to find them

Where there’s too many dead ends on Hyde Street.

Why Do Wine Glasses Have Stems?

February 22, 2022

Consider the wine glass.

It has a round base, a two inch stem and an oval vessel on top that contains the liquid. I can’t argue with the round base, since it needs a flat surface to rest on a table. But what’s with the stem?

I’ve heard people say that the stem exists so you can grasp it without touching the part that holds the wine. This way you don’t heat up the beverage with your hands. This makes less sense the more you think about it.

Is the wine really in danger of warming up too much because your fingers touch the glass and transmit a very small bit of body heat? And let’s face it. We all hold it by the part that contains the wine, not by the stem. Next time you go to a wine and cheese party, take a look around and you’ll see what I mean.

Does anyone really hold their wineglass by the stem?

This is why stores are starting to sell wine glasses without stems. The last time I went to IKEA I saw them. Just the oval glass with a flat bottom.

There’s one other argument in favor of stems. The bottom is disconnected (by the stem) from the liquid and its condensation. Therefore it’ll be less likely to leave a glass ring on wooden furniture. I leave it to you to decide whether that makes sense.

But I think the real reason we still put up with stems on wine glasses is because it looks classy. We’ve been raised to believe that wine is drunk by fancy, sophisticated people and they drink the wine, using this elegant glass.

And yet, I remember my first trip to San Francisco where we stayed in a small hotel in the North Beach district. We went to a modest Italian bar and grill. My wife ordered wine wine and they brought it in a short, clear tumbler. No stem. I think the Italians in North Beach saw wine as a common drink that doesn’t need to be dressed up.

I drink a lot of wine and that means I break a lot of wine glasses. When I replace them they won’t have stems. It’s about time.

Best to be Gentlemen

February 17, 2022

Back in the old days there was a lot of segregation of the sexes. There were tasks, professions, sports, and social events where it was just you and the boys, or just you and the girls. We see that less and less. In fact the law now demands sexual integration of the workplace.

How’s it going? Based on the many stories and lawsuits about gender harassment and discrimination, I’d say not so good. But there are new demands on our behaviors.

Here’s one example. I was texting with a female friend of mine who’s in the army reserve, and the subject of ‘Fuckin-A’ came up. Lemme explain. My dad served in WWII and he told me that when he was in the Navy, everything was Fuckin-A.

You going to get that done? Fuckin-A.  Everything go OK with that thing?  Fuckin-A. It was an affirmative term that was used all the time. And I jokingly told my friend they must do the same thing in the Army.

‘I’ve never heard that,’ she said. And she added that swearing like that was not considered appropriate. Well, of course! There are women in the military today. Did I blow it by bringing up Fuckin-A with a woman?

I’ve been involved in some discussions about discrimination in the workplace. A serious matter to be sure. But one example given, as a form of discrimination, is “micro-aggressions.” This is defined as aggressive language and put-downs that are presented as humorous remarks.

In my experience, the condemnation of this behavior has come from women. Don’t they realize that this is how men communicate with each other?

We have names for it too. We call it ‘giving you shit’ or ‘trash talk.’ I don’t know if it’s micro or macro but men put each other down all the time. Typically we have a laugh and it’s over… until the next time comes around.

I’m not saying that use of profanity or putting down your fellow male co-worker can never get out of hand. When it goes too far it becomes bullying, and we should know a bully when we see one. But in the old days of gender-segregated job sites, at least those dominated by men, the cussing and the put downs happened and they were expected.

The question: How do we solve the problem of friction between the sexes in the modern workplace? I don’t think the answer lies in some modern sensibility. It lies in something old fashioned. Men need to try to be gentlemen when women are present.

Men used to think there were things that were too rough or rude to mention around the ladies. And even today, anyone with half a brain knows that there are still some thoughts and speech that are best kept between men. This is true for women too. Trust me. Some stuff women talk about… I just don’t want to hear it!

My view on this may be influenced by the fact that both my son and my daughter attended single-sex Catholic high schools. Will my kids turn out better or worse for it? I’ll never know for sure. But they both loved their schools. And I think men and women both need some time when they can say whatever they want, and they don’t have to worry about impressing the other sex.

I can hear people argue that any move to resegregate the sexes will make it hard for some people to get opportunities if they create old boys clubs or, maybe, old girls clubs. But we have got to find a balance. And if men have to be gentlemen a little more often these days, thanks to sex-integrated employment, they’ll just have to find other ways and places to hang out with other guys.

There will always be a frat house somewhere. You just need to know when you’re in one and when you’re not.

All the Cats

February 8, 2022

In honor of Ray Manzarek, of the Doors

All the cats. They’re gone.

Ray said it at the piano.

Was it a poem or just one thing he said?

He meant all the jazz cats who played the in the 50s and 60s

Who made the music art.

Playing late nights, dressing in suits and ties.

The Blue Note cats. The Village Gate cats.

I got a poster called a Great Day in Harlem and there they are.

Dizzy with his tongue hanging out.

Count sitting on the curb with the neighborhood kids.

Monk in a white jacket!

Ray was in a rock and roll band but he was one of them.

And he talked to me, and played the piano.

He played the blues.

But now he’s gone too.

He and all the cats.

Christmas 2021

January 2, 2022

It was a wet Christmas this year in San Diego, which is our version of a White Christmas. Not much happened this year so there’s not a lot to say. But our newest family member Enecko enjoyed the holidays in Texas. My nephew Ian visited us after New Year’s Day, taking a flight in from Bloomington, Indiana.

My niece’s baby Enecko enjoyed the holidays in San Antonio. The hat says it.

Sophie and her friends got together a few days before the 25th to make gingerbread houses. The heartwarming holiday event was marred by the brutal murder of Mr. Marshmallow, who was found stabbed to death just outside Sophie’s gingerbread house. We hope your Christmas was less gory. One observer suggested they won’t have to move Mr. Marshmallow until the spring thaw sets in. Happy Holidays! We’ll stay in touch.

Mr. Marshmallow lies dead outside Sophie’s gingerbread house.

West Side Story

December 15, 2021

I was preparing to watch a movie on Prime Video when the trailer for the remake of West Side Story came on, and it sent my mind wondering about that story and that show.

I don’t really know New York, but I wondered about the West Side of Manhattan today. Is it still a haven for tough kids or has it gone the way of most of coastal urban America?  Gentrifying to the point where your greatest fear, entering those neighborhoods, is being attacked by a small yappy dog or being dangerously scratched by somebody’s jewelry.

A scene from the 1961 movie West Side Story

Mostly, the trailer made me think about how West Side Story has been a part of my life. It started many decades ago. I directed a high school production of West Side Story while a high-school student myself in my home town in Iowa. I also got to play the role of the hot-headed Jet named Action. We were a bunch of small-town kids pretending to be New York gang members but we had fun, and the audience seemed to like it. So what the hell.

I was also in an amateur production of West Side Story later in Saint Paul Minnesota. It was actually staged outdoors, on the street, alongside a downtown building with a fire escape. Perfect for the romantic scenes between Tony and Maria!

My best story from the production of that show: We were rehearsing the rumble between the Jets and the Sharks, which culminates with two guys pulling knives, when a cop car pulled up onto the parking lot that doubled as our stage. The car knocked over a barricade and screeched to a halt as the cop warned us to disperse or face arrest.

We actually got the neighbors, who called the cops, to buy into the whole scene! When it comes to performing a drama, it doesn’t get better than that.

But let me tell you about one other thing. This one is from my high-school West Side Story. If you know the show you know the character Lieutenant Shrank, a cruel, burned-out New York cop patrolling the neighborhood where the kids lived. 

The actor who played that role in our show was an interesting guy. His parents were well-known in the school district for being conservative Christians who were trying to ban “indecent” books from the school libraries. It so happens their son was an outgoing, likeable kid. In fact he was a good actor.

In one scene, Lt. Shrank is mocking the Jets whom he considers pathetic white trash. And he says to the character I played, “How’s the action on your mother’s mattress, Action?”

Our guy playing Lt. Shrank approached me, since I was the director, and asked if he could say instead, “How’s your mother, Action?” I didn’t like it but I said OK, not wanting him to get in trouble with his parents. Then came the performance, and Shrank’s scene with the Jets.

“How’s the action on your mother’s mattress, Action?”

He said the line. The way it was written.

This was a long time ago and I can’t remember if I thanked him. Doing what he did — when his parents clearly didn’t want him to — took some courage and integrity.

The story of West Side Story comes from Romeo and Juliet, which tells us that politics don’t stand a chance when up against the power of young love. The story is also VERY relevant to the America of Donald Trump, where poor whites resent Latino immigrants who they believe have come to take what’s theirs and to mess up their lives. 

The new movie, the remake of the ’61 version, is directed by Steve Spielberg. I hope they get it right.

Roundabouts

December 7, 2021

The city where I live, San Diego, has begun using roundabouts to channel car traffic and to slow it down. I’ve spoken with people who don’t like them because they think they reduce parking spaces. Around here, eliminating any place to park is an assault on our way of life, though I’m not convinced roundabouts really do make it harder to park.

I think roundabouts are kind of fun. I like driving in circles and figuring out which exit to take. And they do slow traffic, which makes me feel a lot safer when I’m biking on Meade Avenue, where they just created what look like about a dozen roundabouts.

One of the new roundabouts on Meade Avenue.

The problem in the U.S. is people don’t really know how to use them. I’ve noticed this riding my bike.

When I’m in a roundabout cars seem like they want to barge right into them even if there’s somebody in the circle already. Of course, they’re used to just barreling ahead whenever they’re traveling on a through street. The only impediment. they think, should be a stop sign or a stop light.

So I did a Google search of the phrase “traffic rules for roundabouts.” Here’s what I found, and it sums up the main point pretty well.

Give way: the most important rule – when entering a roundabout, give way to traffic on the roundabout, unless road markings or signs say otherwise. If the way is clear keep moving. Stopping at a clear roundabout slows traffic and can cause frustrating delays.

It’s funny that I found this very helpful advice on a British website, http://www.nidirect.gov.uk. It’s a government site that has tips about motoring, crime and justice, property and housing… among other things.

I was on vacation once when I rented a car in the UK and had to navigate their roundabouts, which was pretty tricky when you’re driving on the wrong side of the road and shifting with your left hand.

Let me just say I am a supporter of roundabouts in America but I understand if people here think they’re a little too foreign. Just give it some time.

Blue Line Trolley

November 21, 2021

Today San Diego’s Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) just got 11 miles of new track.

The Blue Line trolley extension heads north, starting at the Old Town transit center and connects the VA Hospital and then UC San Diego, where it’s takes a jog to the east, followed by a bend to the south, making it look like a shepherd’s staff. It’s terminus, the UTC Mall.

San Diego’s new trolley map

I am a public transportation geek going way back. I have loved exploring subway or trolley systems in New York, London, Minneapolis and Mexico City and not long ago I served on the board of Circulate San Diego, whose goal is to get people to travel on anything, including their legs, that’s not a car.

I love trains and I love looking at transit maps. They look like needlepoint designs. They’re like a spiders web that tries to catch any fly buzzing around the city. San Diego’s map just got a little more comprehensive but there are some missing links.

You can’t take the trolley to the airport and you can’t take it to the beach. Can’t take it to the beach! In San Diego for fuck sake! Something’s gotta be done.

Today, on the first day of its operation, my son is taking the Blue Line up to UCSD where he is working a shift at the on-campus Target store. He is as covetous of the environment and as devoted to alternative transportation as I am. Maybe more so. He’s always looking for a way to kill some more carbon emissions.

I asked him if he thought there would be a lot of people riding on that trolley leg, maybe because they were excited about the extension’s premiere day of travel. He said he didn’t expect so. But I bet they were there. The transit geeks. The train lovers. The environmental puritans. My kind of people.

THIS JUST IN!

Here’s a next-day update on my trolley blog post.  Like I said, my son took the Blue Line extension on Sunday afternoon to UC San Diego. He got on at Old Town at about 130 pm, and the trolley was crammed with people! He had to go to 2-3 three different entrance doors before he could find a place where he could push his way onto a trolley car. He said these people didn’t look like joy riders, excited about the first day. They just looked like everyday transit users.

Her (a love poem)

November 16, 2021

I think about time I could spend with her.

When I dream of the future, I dream of her.

I think of her body and the ways I could touch her.

She fills my mind like an overbearing presence

Though I could bear her as easily as the scent of a lilac. 

I sit at a table and try to write a love poem 

While she listens to the calls of owls and sandhill cranes.

And sees an egret on the river’s edge.

The miles between us don’t stop me from imagining

That I can see her standing by a tent at a campsite 

As she teases me for being a man too weak to pitch a tent and rough it.

And she says this in a text that ends with a semicolon and a rounded bracket

Which form a smile that makes me see her. And want her.

And wonder when I will be brave enough to tell her.

Just her.