Friday, November 21, 2014

new jersey

Was at Braverman's wedding in NJ the only time seeing Rick & Brian together, in line for the buffet.  Something of a whirlwind weekend, taking the train up from DC, a rooftop party in the city, re-connecting with Elizabeth at Zinc's, spending the night at the Chelsea Hotel.  She I met in DC, the night before she moving to NYC, renting space from an Indian woman, who discovered a hidden room behind a wall.  From Minneapolis, schooled in architecture, Elizabeth had a mid-western wholesomeness and charm about her, relaying a story of being behind a mom & restless tot in the supermarket, overhearing "Listen, I got just 2 words for you- 'BEHAVE'!'  Oddly enough, want to say it was Zinc's in DC where Steve learned of Rick's diagnosis.

For the wedding, paired up with Sarah's girlfriend Robin, and put up in Shari's parent's guest house for the night, Brian passing-out Quaalude at bedtime, and I passing out promptly thereafter.  Odd too, years earlier, another Robin, a guy from work, pointed out Quaaludes dispensed by another Sarah, housemate Richard's girlfriend at the time.

Brian at the wheel, we caravanned back to DC, stopping en route for gas, discovering little cans of mixed drinks for sale.  As it happens, at the exit for Northeast MD, where, years earlier, in HS, I had spent a week with a friend from Buffalo, staying in a trailer park.  Stopping once again for dinner, in Baltimore,  TGIF's, at one point a bell rings, the waitresses promptly climb the bar, and start dancing, a ritual there, so I was told.

Once back in AM, making it to Bradshaw's before last call, a familiar blonde waitress approaches me to walk her home, bedding down on her futon surrounded by candles, the comforter catching fire as things heated-up.  Somewhat awkward in that she was a love interest of a Brazilian friend, Enrico, though later eloped to Oregon with Louie, from that same social circle.

Had been to New Jersey on 2 other occasions-- Rutgers in New Brunswick, to check-out grad school in Urban Planning, then Princeton, rubber stamping some contract, as it happens, Brooke Shields a student there at the time.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

CRX & gra(ha)ms

Funny thing about Rick, always whimsical and silly, even after being diagnosed, showing up one afternoon, on a scooter, in a Ronald McDonald clown outfit, going on about Pee Wee Herman's Playhouse, by then AIDS was part of the national consciousness.  It had been years earlier, in talking with friends in San Francisco, both nurses, told of some mystery illness showing up in hospitals, with time, it got more defined, and given a name.  Then got word my neighbor, Jim, apparently a fixture in the gay community, being diagnosed positive, witnessing a once brash feisty being, reduced to a frail cringing shadow of his former self, wheeled around by his partner, also named 'Jim', the quieter humbler of the two.  He sold the Adams Morgan coop, moving back to PA, after his partner died.  And oddly enough, neighbor upstairs also named 'Jim', he acting head of ACSM at the time.

Another friend Brian also persevered, he a florist by day, living in a high rise up the street, attending a friend's wedding in New Jersey, we stepping-out for a 'bump', I panning the middle class suburban-scape, "My God, look at all these parking spaces." 

Happened to be over at Brian's place in Adams Morgan, his younger sister visiting, she not knowing of her brother's dealing side, Brian in the basement working on floral arrangements, when the intercom rings, someone at the door downstairs, "Is there a gram there?", "No," my trying to be discrete, "check back in 15 minutes."  Fifteen minutes later, Brian still absent, again the intercom, "Is there a gram there?"  Again putting the guy off, Brian finally shows up, "Is the pizza here yet?"  Unbeknownst to me, the guy on the intercom was the pizza delivery guy, Brian's last name happened to be 'Graham'.  Who would have guessed.

Hairdresser friend Rodney too remained upbeat, while walking across the Calvert Street Bridge, he & Sam pulling over to say 'hi', never knowing Rodney to drive, noticing he bought a new car, a red Honda CRX, thinking 'Geez, his payments will likely outlast him.'

As it happens, in my geographic to San Francisco, having burned all my bridges in DC, was met at the Ferry Building by long time friend from Buffalo, a male nurse, he the one who first alerted me to the AIDS mystery, pulling-up in a red Honda CRX.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

obelisks & paris

In the background, TV on, 'video wallpaper', so to speak, tuned to travel channel, today 'Rick Steves in Paris'Place de Concorde, where, as it happens, an obelisk stands in place of the guillotine, the site of beheadings during the French Revolution (1789), a symbol of reconciliation by the Directory (1795).

Recall once building a plastic model of a guillotine, bringing it to high school history teacher, Mr. Peck, a show & tell for the class.

Mr. Peck's lectures, intense, with a a bit of humor slipped-in now & then, one comes to mind,    A bookshop keeper with a Gutenberg Bible for sale, who ended-up throwing it out, "Ruined," the seller explained, "some guy named 'Luther' had scribbled all over the margins."

Strange, looking to a copy of the 1968 Bennett High yearbook, finding faculty photos, none though of Mr. Peck, and noticing a dedication, to the memory of Martin Luther King.

Odd too, 'Rick' & 'Steve', first names of friends in DC, a gay couple, Steve, from Canada, worked at the World Bank, a townhouse in Dupont Circle, Rick his partner, younger, dying of AIDS in the early '90's.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

fog lamps & obelisks

Returning from a meeting in Sebastopol one evening, the headlights on the car went out, no surprise, the beaten-up '76 280Z was said to have been held together by 'bubble gum & baling wire',  pitch dark, country roads, street lamps every so often, hopping from light puddle to the next, taking forever to get home.  First thing next day, after replacing fuse, installing fog lamps as a back-up, adding to the car's already 'Road Warrior' motif.

May have been the very next week, again returning from Sebastopol in the dark, more at ease with restored illumination, turning onto Hwy 12, ramping-up to freeway speeds, in an instant, something tubular appears in the projected beam, before clanging its way under the undercarriage in less time than it takes to utter 'What the fuck?!', ...And spotting an SUV stopped on the shoulder nearby, people gathered around, continuing on, at a loss of what it might have been.  Though once home, finding it had taken-out my fog lamps in the process, discarding those to the recycle bin.

Months passed, seasons passed, finding myself now on Santa Rosa Avenue, auto row, spotting a towering art piece on the salescape that had not been there before, an obelisk, which, on closer inspection, was comprised of bicycle frames & parts.  Then it dawning-on me, the metallic object impacted years earlier, likely falling from a passing vehicle's bike rack.  And if I had had the consciousness then that I do now, would have recognized the placement of the obelisk as a trigger to my memory.

If I go back far enough, recall making an obelisk in grade school, out of 'play dough', the class must have been studying Egypt, in Geography.  And all familiar with the Washington Monument, which, true or not, heard set the height limit on buildings in the city, the one exception, built in 1894, on Q Street in Dupont Circle, the Cairo, who would have guessed, ....once having ventured to its rooftop, posing as a pizza delivery guy to gain entry.

As it happens, inherited my first car shortly after arriving in Santa Rosa, when moving to South E Street, from a former resident, he had worked as a pizza delivery man-- a '76 Dodge Colt, perhaps unique in auto annals for being half English / half metric, by design. And odd thing about the Colt, had a 90-day temporary registration through DMV, and on the day it expired, the engine seized, approaching the gates of HP in Rohnert Park.  Not to mention, rescued by a female tow truck driver, making a re-appearance, in hot pants.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014


Seeing the world vicariously vis a vis TV travel channels, as time permits, tuning into Joseph Rosendo's 'Travelscope' this morning, cruising the Mediterranean on the Regent, stopping at Malta, the stuff of lore, the Knights of Malta, the Maltese Falcon, .... catching the word 'Medina' in the narration, apparently the island's original capital (spelled 'Mdina').

There is a city 'Medina', located in the Hejaz Region of Saudi Arabia (from 'madnah' Arabic for 'city'), 'The City of the Prophet', ... While the Maltese Falcon from the 1941 Hollywood film resides in John's Grill on Ellis Street in San Francisco's Tenderloin District, 'Jazz Nightly', so says the sign.

And not far from Buffalo in Western New York, another Medina, only knowing that since an old friend's father was from there, and going there once on a day trip, swimming in the quarry, "My dad's showing-off the 'vertical float'," Leland pointed-out, "...something he came-up with." 

Read where Medina, NY, a village contained within 2 towns, made it into Ripley's 'Believe It or Not', on 2 counts-- 'Church in the Middle of the Road', and the 'Culvert', only place where a road passes under the Erie Canal.  The quarry once a source for the construction of 'Brownstones' throughout the area.

All that said, leaving for a lunch date, spotting these campaign signs across the street.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

small appliances

Nature may abhor a vacuum, but in Santa Rosa no dearth of outlets for their sale & repair.  Small specialty shops for vacuums, sewing machines, & other small appliances seem to be around every corner, even once spotted a shingle for 'Printer & Typewriter Repair'.

Interesting how Dyson has used elements of Industrial Engineering to re-invent common devices that seemed to go unchanged for years - the 'Ball' replaces wheels with a sphere for easy turning of vacuum cleaners, the 'Blade' dries hands in a fraction of the time of previous automatic hand driers, and his 'Air Multiplier' is a blade-less household fan forcing air through centripetal motion.  And wondering if the later might have been the underlying principle to Tom Clancy's 'Hunt for Red October'.

Got to hear Tom Clancy speak once, early '90's at Johns Hopkins University, he happened to be speaking with a former classmate of mine, Cliff Stoll.  At the time, was crashing at the family home of a mutual friend, Stuart Rodes, in Columbia MD.  Clifford by then was a recognizable name in the area of computer security & the web, having appeared on PBS's NOVA and authoring a couple of books on the subject.  Now he's retired to his home in the Berkeley Hills with his internet business - 'Acme Klein Bottles', hand-making '0-Volume' glass containers for sale.  He's come a long way since 9th grade, seeing him at Kleinhans Music Hall in Buffalo accepting a State Science Fair Award, a project on suspended animation of gold fish.

A couple few years later would be back at Johns Hopkins, the hospital outside Baltimore, detox, a roommate, Mac, there for a spinal tap, keeping me supplied with ice cream & cigarettes.  Upon my release, Stuart helping me empty my SOWEBO flat, then returning to Biltmore in a blizzard, as it happens, in time for Christmas.

On a couple of occasions, crashed at friends Jeff & Sheri's place off Dupont Circle, an upscale hi-rise, with a rooftop pool, they'd pull-out the hide-a-bed, give me the remote, and turn-in, lying there, the hum of the a/c, a night view of an adjacent corporate building.  Both Jeff & i, at one time, 'white-knuckling' it looking for employment, off to play a miserable game of pool at a neighborhood bar, not drinking, he landing a position at Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab, south of Columbia, and still there today, from what i hear.

Sunday, December 30, 2012


George W. Bush Sr called it 'a thousand points of light'- that charity-based sector that fills-in the gaps in government's responsibility ensuring people at least have the basics- food, shelter, health care.  It happened to be Catholic Charities who ran a 'homeless center' on Morgan Street, fronting 101 downtown, a modest house in outward appearance, a beehive of activity when i walked through its doors, all types here, getting information on assistance available, rummaging through the food donations, making use of showers & lockers, to simply sitting a spell without being directed to 'move-on'. "Are you homeless?", came a voice, the accent English, the gentleman, Nick, guessing correctly the director, noticing me in passing.  "I like to think of it as being 'between homes'," my reply.  Immediately sensed a welcoming vibe, and over time gained a respect & appreciation for their dedication, at the same time their taking things in stride.  It's funny- ran into Nick a time later on Upper 4th Street, he, as always, hurrying to an appointment, though pausing- "Can i get you anything?", reaching in his pocket for a dollar or 2, i couldn't respond- i was dying equally for a cup of coffee & a cigarette, which to choose if i could only have one, thinking back, indecision may have had me pass on the offer.

Staying for the time in the commercial space at Bauhaus, the 'Homeless Center' was typically the first stop most mornings, a shower & a cup of coffee.  The kitchen counter there, piled with boxes & bags of donated day-old bake goods, was an irony of sorts- a large proportion- fancy decorated cakes, obviously unsold, laying credence to Marie Antoinette's line- "Let them eat cake."

It was at the Center i befriended a big friendly guy. lumberjack in stature, shoulder length blonde hair, smart, funny, a vet of the local scene, learned he had a MA in Economics, and oddly content with his homeless status.  He pointed the way, a short walk, to St Vincent's Dining Room, where free lunches were available daily, to a full house, noticing in the corner- a disheveled guy looking like he slept in the bushes, and who could have played the town drunk in a Western, sitting with him, quietly accepting, a young angelic Mexican woman, the scene seeming strangely familiar, familiarly strange.

So tray in hand, joining my Econ Grad at one of the empty chairs, he flipping through a copy of Newsweek over lunch, my jaw nearly dropped-  photos of the space shuttle 'Challenger' exploding, insisting on seeing the cover, it was dated the week of January 28, 1986!  That 24-hour day 7 years earlier was etched in my memory- struck with a panic attack, undoubtedly tied to stress combined with copious amounts of coke & vodka, made my way to a shrink i had been regularly meeting with, he making last minute arrangements for admittance to a suburban hospital in Chevy Chase for the AM.  Overnight a blizzard blanketed DC in snow, though sitting in the back of the cab there, was too shut-down to take it in.  At the hospital, a warm comforting greeting by a woman, compassion in her eyes, "You must have been shocked by the news," she said sympathetically, then obviously reading 'Huh?!' in my expression, "Oh. Didn't you hear? The space shuttle blew-up."  In the moment, i heard it, but i couldn't process it.  So of all the copies of Newsweek fit to print, that's the one the showed-up at the lunch table that day.  Oddly enough, now hearing on McClaughlin Group, Newsweek no long being distributed in print copy.

An investigation of the space shuttle catastrophe found fault with a contractor, Elkton MD-based Thiokol, manufacturer of the 'O'-rings that failed at low temperatures.  And record number of viewers may have been watching live TV broadcasts of the Challenger explosion, due in part to the 'Teacher in Space Program', Christa McAuliffe its 1st invited crew member.  Oddly enough, the only photo above my desk at Ridge Lea in the grad department was of the space shuttle atop a 747 being flown back from Edwards Air Force Base to Florida, it was from a parody done by National Lampoon,.  Around the time David & Cheryl invited us to a disco outside the Buffalo Airport- the 747 Lounge, on the return trip home, had to pull over to the side of the road, Debra getting sick, the only time i knew her to do that.

Recall too where i was on February 1 2003, on my way to work at HP that morning, a neighbor stopping me before i got to my car, "Did you hear? The space shuttle [Columbia] exploded!" she said with a look of disbelief.  Actually we had met months prior to her being a neighbor, at a late summer party outside Forrestville, a friend-of-a-friend Abba's place, she talking of attending the upcoming 'Burning Man' fest, held each year on the high plains of NV.  Upon moving in, she placing a huge stuffed teddy bear outside her door.

So my Econ Grad friend asked if i could put him up for a night, this when residing at my newly gotten Bauhaus suite, later seeing him at the Armory, used each winter as a homeless shelter, he, clipboard in hand, gladly stepping to the plate organizing the chaos, like he wouldn't rather be anywhere else.  Since then, lost track of him.  "I like SAC," he once commented, returning from 1 of his sorties to surrounding places, maybe he's in SAC, the State Capital, that is, not the Strategic Air Command.

In visiting Sacramento, i am taken by the approach- a raised ribbon of highway over flat moor-ish flood plains, the SAC skyline almost like Oz on the distant horizon.  Not unlike the Capital Beltway through Kensington, coming over a rise, the spires of the Mormon Temple appear to rise out of the ground, an overpass with spray-painted graffiti- 'SURRENDER DORTOTHY'  captions the image.