Thursday, March 8, 2012

Transition- Back to Suburbia

     Moving is always a hassle no matter who you are. I am making my third move in as many years- in 2009 I moved from San Francisco to the Peninsula (Menlo Park)- in May of 2011 I moved to Mountain View and Kurt Kieffer’s restored 1880 farmhouse- and now in March of 2012 I depart “the country” for the more relentlessly suburban life across town, in a six-plex where we have a corner unit with a large backyard.

   Of course I would not have it any other way that I found a place with a yard, since Carolyn’s pets would have had to have been split up, otherwise, and I didn’t feel like living with a woman stressing out over having had to give up a pet for the ability to have someplace to go- since the farmhouse was always one of those “only so much time to be here” kinds of deals, and Carolyn is up against the limit of other things in her life… recuperating from a foot injury she got on the job working for Whole Foods when she broke an ankle and having a terrible time getting back to health, with a possibility remaining of future surgery and another year’s recovery…

No, I don’t think it would have been a good idea to move Carolyn without her dog. And neither, her cat, who’s grown rather fond of me his own self. Two unrelated and uninvolved members of the opposite sex have to respect each other’s space and we do. It’s actually kind of like an experiment for myself, to see how well I can relate to another of the opposite sex in living closely without the emotional gamesmanship that goes along with relationships, but since we had mutual friends we have a leg up on being total strangers trying it. For financial reasons, I having been unemployed almost the entire time I lived at Kieffer’s, and her being on workmen’s comp, we needed to get someplace we could afford that would afford us fewer nuisances like credit checks, references, let us keep the dog and cat and still come up within our mutual shelter budget.

The dog and the cat, well, they just have to deal. The large acreage of the Calderon Avenue house was carefree- we could let either of them out any hour of day or night and they would be relatively no bother. Here they are crowded into a fraction of the space they once had, so their territoriality senses will have issues for a few weeks, if not longer. And there are other critters about who have tenure... they need to get used to that.

    The fact Carolyn was so close though, to the Expresso band and all of its members, and that she is into photography, and is also a friend of my newest musical collaborator Bundy Browne, makes for our getting along too. Not to mention that we both grew up within a couple of miles of each other on the South shore of Oahu during the early 1960’s, and that she, her sister and I all happened to go to the same school there for a time (Punahou) leaves us with a lot to talk about. She also has similar musical tastes that range from acoustic and electric ja and blues through the Dead, the SF rock scene of the 60’s. and mid-sixties Brit-rock like the Beatles, the Stones, as well as Dylan.

     Carolyn’s relationship to Kieffer was something like “sister out-of-love” That is, while they were never lovers, they had lived together (like this) off an on several times over their lives. Carolyn has tons of Kieffer stories- my own friendship with him was so far back (adolescence) that many of them I just absorb and grin… Kurt was the first guy I knew who built his own bong- out of something other than bamboo. Long ago, my  friend Kevin’s brother John brought a bong up from Santa Barbara on a college break. The pipe grew in popularity anongst John’s younger brothers, Matt, in particular, who was Kurt’s best friend many years, began going on raids (with Kurt) in the upper reaches of San Carlos’ Eaton Avenue, for tall bamboo stalks to be cut into foot-sized bongs. After a couple of years of bamboo pipes, however, it was Kieffer got the idea first to make a ceramic bong. Under the cover of creating a coffee cup in his high school Ceramics class, he crafted a pipe known as the “Treebeard bong”- it has a pipestem shaped like a face, with the pipe bowl where the nose might be. Carolyn still has this pipe, which Kurt gave to her many years ago as a token of friendship… nowadays they are all made of pvc and glass, but Kieffer was the first person I can recall, as early as 1971, who made the personal creative step of taking the traditional Vietnamese design one step beyond.

     As a performer, Kurt’s style of playing- tone, phrasing, is nost similar to Pat Metheny, Larry Carlton, John McLaughlin, Stevie Ray Vaughn- who were his heroes. He liked Jerry Garcia, but didn’t especially go for Dead music per se-”too sloppy”- nor hope to be part of the Dead Scene the way I did. His playing was often flashy for the sake of flashiness, but as he aged and matured he became, like me, one of those “less is more” type of players. Steve Miller once commented on his prowess and offered to make Kurt a part of his band- whether Kurt really needed the boost or not, life circumstances were such as he didn’t take Miller up on it. Besides, in Steve Miller’s band there could really only be room for one star. And (in my opinion), Kurt was obviously the focus of Expresso… though I am sure the other members might argue it! He only would have eclipsed Miller, given the time.

     My other favorite memory of Kurt came through hanging out with the Donohue’s when their home on Frances Lane in unincorporated Deadwood was sold. We would hang out in the living room with the piano, which had not been moved out, alhough the family already had, and Kurt drew a large mural on the living room wall, a mountain scene similar to Mount Tam, and it was fun to play the piano and imagine oneself inside the picture. Certainly those few weeks between the one house and their new one (on Southgate St.) were idyllic- no adults around, and the house to ourselves, we would smoke what and when we wanted…

     However, because Carolyn and I are not an item (nor planning on becoming one), there’s the space to be ourselves without the private stress of intimacy. She has an ex-boyfriend comes round a bit, Jose, but on that I dare not speculate. Now that I am working again once more I can begin seeking out that other part of my soul who’s been hiding the last fifteen years or so, while I struggled back from divorce, uprooted from one home (or two), several jobs which took me from working class to middleclass and back again, (and now once more on the upswing) and I am ready as I will ever be for all that relationship means.

One thing I mean it to mean is loyalty on both sides of the aisle. I am never the one who leaves, who quits, who walks away from a love. No, it’s always the other way around. I am the one who gets left, (usually, for some jerk who’s less intelligent, less creatively talented, and less individualistically assertive, and I suppose by all that, "less threatening?") and I have little to apologize for in order to “deserve” a future relationship, certainly a lot less than I may have had at age 23, when everything I had worked for to that point failed me. No, if I have someone to love, they are my life and world, so this time around I intend not to give 100 % to anyone who won’t give 100 % of themselves to the “us”. Only in that way can you really achieve “50-50” anyway. And don’t you know that finding love is only the beginning? THEN the hard work begins! Too many people are running from being committed. I never ran from it, I just have done without it, since I can’t seem to find partners worthy of the matchup, or haven’t yet, at least. Forever is always scary to a coward, & I suppose I have never been afraid of living.
Anyway, moving helps you to focus on what you need in your life and what you don’t. During these last three moves, I have shed a little of my baggage, and yet still have one box full of ephemera, effluvium, stuff that had a purpose or has a future use which is yet cloaked in uncertainty. Things that could come in handy, “if”/”when”. And once I work my way through that box, tossing the needless and the purely dead wood, then I’ll have the ship on a trim sailing footing.

My work now involves describing pictures in textbooks for the blind. This involves seeing things in a different perspective- undertanding things from the perspective of those who cannot see but who are relying on your ability to communivate what you see, what the message is of the image, without subjectivity or editorialism.
I can’t add what isn’t being explained to any explanation, it always needs to be in the context of the text and a particular lesson. In some ways it is like being Winston Smith in Orwell’s 1984- I have to help interpret history to the blind, and in some cases, make corrections (or allowances) for the stupid historical ignorance of (some) supposed professors of same. And I get off on being able to write better descriptions than “professors” and PhD’s would, in their “specialty” subjects. There is a difference between being able to recite history, and being able to interpret a historical artifact like a political cartoon, without bias…

But nonetheless, it is being paid for creative writing. Like, all I need to do now is get the publishing world to take on some of my work… there’s a lot on the shelf, in the drawer, completed work, work that can be completed on spec (if there’s backing) and work that’s just completed, needing only an editor to pick and choose and frame in a manner that’s acceptable… to those folks in those places & offices. For all the years I have spent working, getting paid for writing was always a goal, but it’s a hope that now that it’s working for me (one way) it can score for me the other way too… we’ll see. At the least I am getting in on the ground floor of a new assistive technology and getting my feet wet in electronic publishing. The way I look at it, it can all ony get better, because things have been (for far too long) going in a direction that required good financial management, deprivation, and rethinking of materialistic needs and acquisitions, and sheer persistence in knowing that I culd and woould hook up with a new ‘dream job” if only the right opportunities arose. And they have. I look forward to the next three to five years, and beyond…

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