Monday, January 12, 2009

Anonymous Woman

(Author's note: This blogpost is a draft, a work in progress. I wanted to write down my thoughts about Anonymous Woman before the experience, emotions and impressions fade into oblivion. By posting this draft, I am signaling my intention to memorialize her.)

I had seen her once or twice before, sitting on a green canvas folding chair, the kind with armrests with scooped out pockets for beverage holders.  Once in summer I saw her under a skimpy tree seeking shade from the scathing sun.  She was a passing blur in my peripheral vision, old and obese, and black as a prune.  Her ashy gray calves as big-around as tree trunks left a dent in my memory.


She is anonymous to the world, a homeless woman, living on the sidewalk under a tree or the eave of an abandoned building.  Cars drive past her without slowing down, the same way I drove past her once in the summer and again in the fall. 


On Christmas Day I saw her right smack in front of me as I turned on Tennessee Street towards the 80 freeway.  It was a beautiful winter day in the bay area, sunny and bright, beautiful but bone-chillingly cold.  She sat in the sidewalk on her folding chair like a lump of overstuffed trash, covered by a dirty gray fleece blanket from head to toe, except for slits for her eyes.  

My heart broke. 


No, I thought.  Not on Christmas Day.  Not on a day when families were cozy and comfortable in their homes, opening presents, feasting heartily, heavily, indulgingly. But now I was running late for lunch and a movie date with my closest friends.  I headed out to Oakland with a humbling sense of gratitude.  There but for the grace of God go I.  I told myself I would come back that night and get her, feed her. 

(To be continued..)



Sunday, January 4, 2009

From Dawn To Dusk

“However long the night, the dawn will break.” 
-- African Proverb

“Too low they build who build below the skies.” 
-- Edward Young

"Let the sky and God be our limit and eternity our measurement.” 
-- Marcus Garvey

“Only from the heart can you touch the sky." 
-- Rumi

"Thank God men cannot fly, 
and lay waste the sky as well as the earth." 
-- Henry David Thoreau

“When you realize how perfect everything is 
you will tilt your head back and laugh at the sky." 
-- Buddha

"I thank you, God, for this most amazing day, for the leaping greenly spirits of trees, 
and for the blue dream of sky and for everything which is natural, 
which is infinite, which is yes. " 
-- e.e. cummings

“Beware of the man whose God is in the skies” 
-- George Bernard Shaw

“Dusk is just an illusion because the sun is either above the horizon or below it. 
And that means that day and night are linked in a way that few things are; 
there cannot be one without the other, yet they cannot exist at the same time. 
How would it feel to be always together, yet forever apart?” 
-- Anonymous

“What if a demon were to creep after you one night, in your loneliest loneliness, 
and say, 'This life which you live must be lived by you once again and innumerable times more; and every pain and joy and thought and sigh must come again to you, 
all in the same sequence.  The eternal hourglass will again and again be turned 
and you with it, dust of the dust!'  Would you throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and curse that demon? Or would you answer, 
'Never have I heard anything more divine'?” 
-- Friedrich Nietzsche

"Excuse me while I kiss the sky."  
-- Jimi Hendrix

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Arnold's Walk In The Hood

It's a joy to walk Arnold in my neighborhood.   We love the giant sycamores lining the streets. The walk is as much for me as it is for him.  In fact, without him I wouldn't walk as much.  

I often hear myself saying, "I'm taking Arnold for a walk" instead of "I'm going for a walk."  It's more fun with him.

Arnold looks to his left before crossing.

A well-manicured front lawn and facade...

Amazing color!

The first poem I ever memorized was "Come Little Leaves" by George Cooper.  I was 6 or 7  in Grade 2 at the International School of the Sacred Heart in Tokyo, Japan.  Even now I still mumble the words to myself when I see brilliant fall color...

"Come, little leaves" said the wind one day,
"Come over the meadows with me, and play;
Put on your dresses of red and gold;
Summer is gone, and the days grow cold."

Pit stop!

This blue door always catches my eye.  

And this majestic Tudor commands attention.

"Sit, stay," Mom says, as she takes photos.  I would normally keep walking to the
 nearest bush but by this time I'm too tired...

I love this white-picketed Hansel & Gretel house and its side yard...

And rounding the curb is this nice tropical red hot chili pepper house...

Homeward bound... 

"Look, Ma!  No hands!"

Thursday, January 1, 2009

A Brand New Day

“Hey, c’mon over and share a glass of champagne with me,” my neighbor Michelle said the minute she heard my voice on the phone.

Looking up at my wall clock, I said, “Now!?!?!”  It was a little past 6 PM, a long way to go before the ball drop.  

“Why not?”  Michelle said, matter of factly, “It’s new year in some part of the world!”

“Okay! I’ll be right over!”


I stopped vacuuming and bungie-corded the fridge.  Arnold, my five-year-old newfy opens my fridge and eats everything on the shelves while I’m away.  I had a box of Omaha steak defrosting in there, a special gift from my friend Jonie, and I wanted it for myself when I got back.

The vacuuming and housecleaning is a family tradition leftover from childhood.  The idea is to welcome the new year without the literal dust and figurative detritus of the past.  My mom always instructed our domestic help to clean every nook and cranny of our house every year in preparation for the new year.  As midnight approached, all the lights were turned on to help guide good spirits into the house, and all the windows were opened wide to cast evil spirits out.

How silly and superstitious, right?  Nevertheless, I still observe the practice to this day and by now it has hardened into a personal ritual.  I guess throwing the old pages of a calendar outside building windows holds the same symbolism.

It was an impromptu celebration.  I thought I was just coming over for a quick toast but Michelle’s friend Bill came over shortly and pretty soon we were all settled comfortably in cushy, cozy sofas chatting around a  roaring fire.   


Thirty minutes before midnight we switched the channel on to NBC to watch the ball drop.  Times  Square was aglow with neon lights.  Celebrities were clad in their holiday best.   Crowds were cheering and rocking to the sounds of Ting Ting and Ludacris.  The camera panned to people wearing funny hats and glittery 2009 glasses.  It looked so festive! 


I was there last year.  I had watched the ball drop from Times Square for decades.  When I had the chance to fly to New York last year, I made sure I would be at Times Square on New Year’s Eve.  The experience was not what I had hoped.   I blogged about it here.  


When the countdown started Michelle and Bill poured the champagne and I filled my fluted glass with the last half of my diet coke.  We stood up and clinked glasses, toasted, screamed Happy New Year and hugged one another tight.


It was a sincere heartwarming moment.  We were cozy and comfortable by the fire.  We forged new friendships.  We were where we were meant to be --  living and loving the now.


Look to this Day!
For it is Life, the very Life of Life.
In its brief course lie all the 
Verities and Realities of your Existence.
The Bliss of Growth,
The Glory of Action,
The Splendor of Beauty;
For Yesterday is but a Dream,
And Tomorrow is only a Vision;
But Today well lived makes 
Every Yesterday a Dream of Happiness,
And every Tomorrow a Vision of Hope.
Look well therefore to this Day!
Such is the Salutation of the Dawn!