Friday, February 29, 2008


Once every year or so, the cat goes missing for the better part of a day. Because he does it so rarely, it always throws me; I just expect him to be shadowing my every move, sleeping just near enough but not touching while I read or write, yowling and biting if my arm strays to close.

This morning, Brian washed my hair for me in the sink. I've got stitches on my shoulder that mustn't get wet, so I put on my raincoat and wrapped a dishtowel around my neck. The warm water felt so delightful on my filthy little head, warm and soft and full of memories of how my mom used to wash my hair when I was little, with warm water in a tin pitcher. We had a picture book that showed vikings bathing the same way.

Anyway. I'm sure the cat will be home soon. In fact, I keep expecting him to walk in as I type this, a swaggering, bald-ass* cat conjured by my deliberate busywork.

It's been a long week, kitten. Won't you please come home?

* I'm not sure if I mentioned this, but the cat's butt was half shaved for his surgery last month. It's just starting to grow back, and its all soft and downy like a baby chicken. A baby chicken attached to the posterior of a very crabby cat.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

And I'm still on the Vicodin, so this may not be all that cogent

So. This past Tuesday, the Western Association of Schools and Colleges announced that it was terminating New College of California's accreditation. As most (if not all) of you are aware, New College is where I earned both my masters degrees, where I finished my bachelors, and where I taught as an adjunct from the fall trimester 2006 to fall 2007.

I'm not entirely sure how to feel about this. No, wait, scratch that; I have plenty of feelings on the subject -- they just don't sort out well.

A big part of me is just crushingy embarrassed. In this thoroughly modern age, when we all get our news of the internets and it's just as easy for people to make their opinions known in the comments section of the San Francisco Chronicle as it is on this lovely little blog o' mine, I can't help but be aware of how stupid we all look. And I can see how tempting a target it is: the hubris of it all! The stupid, willfully wide-eyed optimism of running a school as if ideals were all that mattered! As if all you needed were a building and a bunch of good intentions.

But the truth of the matter is, the ideals weren't what did the place in. Neither were the smart, starry-eyed utopians who were fool enough to learn and teach there over the years. It was just poorly run, poorly overseen, and didn't have the time or money to right itself before the end came.

One of the things I keep coming back to, though, is how happy I am with the education I got there. New College was the third school I attended full-time (the fifth I attended for any time at all), and, with its strong social justice angle, was the perfect top-off to my more previously literature-and-tweed-heavy academic career. I really did learn a lot there, as both a student and a teacher. And isn't that the true worth of my degrees? The effect upon my noggin?

Still, though, it's sad, and shaming, and just... yeah. Sad.

In other but not unrelated news, I ran an errand recently for an old poetry prof of mine (also recently cast adrift by New College). He gave me this poem as a thank-you.

Just in case you can't read it:

After Wang Wei

Chilling down by the water
stopped to watch clouds drift
clouds drift clouds drift
bumped into mr. green
talked laughed forgot
it was time to go

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

This post brought to you by collarbones, screws, and the letter vicodin

Yesterday, I had this metal plate, which had been holding my collarbone in place since my surgery last May, taken out. This was the best operation I've had yet. First of all, since it was outpatient, I got to keep my underpants on, which adds enormously to one's sense of dignity in those all-but-backless hospital gowns. My cousin, Molly, drove Brian and I to the hospital, and even though my surgery ended up being delayed for something like four hours, the time flew by, the three of us laughing and talking and even playing charades for a while, I in my hospital gown, Molly with her knitting, and Brian critiquing the wan watercolors on my private waiting room's walls.

Once things got moving, it all becomes something of a blur (due, no doubt, to the sudden influx of sedating drugs through my IV). The operating room had, surprisingly, a large window to the outside, and the last thing I remember is a large blue sky with a dollop of slowly rotating cirrus. I asked the nurse in the recovery room if there'd really been a window or if I'd been hallucinating and she said that yes, the window and sky were real. The hospital is built into a hill, so even though the ambulatory surgery ward is downstairs from the entrance hall, it looks out on the sky. It's like being Tycho Brahe, but without the golden nose.

Anyway. Then we all came home and I ate some jello and slept for hours and hours. And then I woke up this morning and ate some jello and slept for hours and hours more. And now I'm going to have more jello.

As an aside, I keep having this sense memory of eating rootbeer-flavored jello, with fossilized bubbles in the gelatin that popped against my tongue. Has any such thing ever existed? Can I have some?

Saturday, February 16, 2008

A good weekend, so far

Friday, Brian and I went for a walk along the beach. The sand was full of ladybugs and washed-up jellyfish, and we had to walk carefully to avoid them.

Then my cousin Molly picked me up and we caught the Marie Antoinette exhibit at the Legion of Honor (just in time, too -- it ends this weekend) and went for a ramble down by the ruins of the Sutro Baths.

(Which are, by the way, one of my favorite places in San Francisco).

Then we went to see one of Hope's friends sing at the Savannah Jazz club down in the mission. I drank French Martinis and ate fried plantains and felt very grown up.

Then today Hope and I went to the farmer's market and then birdwatching, and we ate the yummiest fennel and beet dinner ever, if I do say so myself. And the grass at Heron's Head was just so pretty, I had to take a picture. There were some ducks nearby, but my cellphone just wasn't up to wildlife photography.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Fort Fun!

It was marvelously sunny today, so we headed out to one of our favorite city parks:

There were four of us: Hope, Brian, the dog, and me. Hope's car is a two-seater by nature, but has this teensey vestigial back seat that I folded myself into for the trip. I had to sit sideways with my seatbelt wrapped awkwardly around me and my feet wedged against the opposite wall, but at least I had a decent view of the dog, who was sitting cozily on Brian's lap in the passenger seat up front.

At Fort Funston, Re Dag (the dog) and I played ball in the surf while Brian and Hope went for a run. The tide was coming in and washing sand and sea water against my bare toes, and I called my parents up to inquire about the weather they were having. I didn't let on that I'd overheard at the farmer's market earlier today that it was snowing in Boston.

Finally, Re Dag and I, both soaked to the skin, met up with Brian and Hope by the stairs leading up to the hang gliders' launch point. We heaved ourselves back up the hill to the car, where Re Dag fell asleep on Brian's lap, and I tracked sand through the nonexistent backseat.

The end.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Marching with Milk

Originally uploaded by sfjim123
I'm in the bottom left of this photo, taken during the filming of some protest scenes for the Milk movie last night. If you click on the photo, it takes you to a larger version & you can see my orange poncho.

Friday, February 01, 2008

I Heart Milk

Right now, they're filming Milk, a movie about the life and death of Harvey Milk, on location here in San Francisco. Certain parts of three blocks of Castro street have been made over for the movie, with storefronts returned to their 1970s facades, and era-appropriate cars parked on either side of the street.

It's a funny effect -- fliers and signs from 1974 visible in one store window, while next door Gay Porn DVDs and erotic devices Barbarella herself could have never imagined sit proudly on display. Walking down Castro street the other day with Brian, I was reminded of one of my favorite passages from Civilization and Its Discontents, where Freud describes the mind as being like a city where nothing is ever torn down. Rome the palaces of the Caesars and the Septizonium of Septimus Severus would still be rising to their old height on the Palatine and that the castle of S. Angelo would still be carrying on its battlements the beautiful statues which graced it until the siege by the Goths, and so on. But more than this. In the palace occupied by the Palazzo Caffarelli would once more stand -- without the Palazzo having to be removed -- the Temple of Jupiter Capitolinus; and this not only in its latest shape, as the Romans of the Empire waw it, but also in its earliest one, when it still showed Etruscan forms and was ornamented with terra-cotta antefixes. Where the Coliseum now stands we could at the same time admire Nero's vanished Golden House. On the Piazza of the Pantheon we should not only find the Pantheon of today, as it was bequeathed to us by Hadrian, but, on the same site, the original edifice erected by Aggrippa; indeed, the same piece of ground would be supporting the church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva and the ancient temple over which it was built. And the observer would perhaps only have to change the direction of his glance or his position in order to call up the one view or the other.

Here in San Francisco, perhaps because it's my adopted home and therefore one I'm less likely to take for granted, I often feel like I'm catching glimpses of other eras, walking on streets downtown where there are shipwrecks in the landfill beneath the cobblestones or passing the spot on Ashbury street where Charles Manson and the Grateful Dead were once neighbors with a convent of French nuns (only the nuns still remain). Seeing the past made real on Castro this week is an odd sort of delight, a sense of a world made new and old again at once, and a reminder that our lives, our pasts, do not perish entirely, so long as time and memory conspire to keep us present in the people and objects that take our place.