The weather is perfect right now. Spring. Not the spring that comes after a long winter but the one that comes before a long summer. In a month or two it will be too humid to wear jeans. After a few weeks I will dress only to anticipate stickiness and overly air conditioned spaces. But now, the sun is warm, the shade is cool, the breeze still offers relief and the nights are magic. This is the time of year in South Louisiana that I get most excited, most restless. The things I thought I should do no longer were working, the endless work was making me tired and irritable so I took to the road, with snacks and water, a camera and binoculars. I have a few projects coming up that I not realize I was working on as I drove slowly with the windows down, turning down side roads and stopping to take notes. Halfway through the day I realized that is exactly what I am doing. Here is a piece of what will come later.
Some days I try not to schedule anything. No classes, no meetings with friends, no work. Maybe an idea. Usually involving the ferry or a bike ride. I am not good with this kind of open-ended day, the choices become overwhelming. Which is the opposite of my intentions. So I TRY not to schedule anything but I usually have an idea. One recent afternoon I took the ferry from Oakland to San Francisco, which is enough for me but then also walked through a weird mall downtown, took a bus to Land's End, hiked until I found a place to sit, and then went to a mall in Japantown on my way home.
I've never hated Mondays. I've rarely had one full time job and never one with a Monday through Friday routine. I used to dread Sundays in high school but those milquetoast afternoons were always worse than Monday mornings. If you know me at all, you may know I rarely take a day off and it is almost never planned. I have a schedule for sure, that I write and re-write in my planner. I even plan a day off.
The past few months have been rough--Andy's schedule is constantly shifting, and I have been feeling the lasting effects of loosing a good friend with secrets. I love rain and hibernating and baths but lately the noise of the city and the noise in my brain have me craving wide open spaces of light. We rode to the park last week where I discovered the sketchiest day time bathroom outside a BART station. I read on the couch last week. Both were good. But not wholly satisfying.
This morning we headed out unplanned to breakfast. The coffee seemed stronger and the sun warmer so I convinced Andy to adventure through the shipyards of the port of Oakland to the most expansive and underused park in Oakland. Views of San Francisco across the bay, of the bridge of the hills to the southwest. It is a weird oasis, quiet and large, mostly used by Canadian geese. Benches face the Bay, there is an observation tower and it isn't a Superfund site as I suspected. I do not know why it is here. I have written about it before but every visit is a reminder that I am not long for the city life, even with donuts and coffee. I'll share my secret place with you again because there is room for us both. And if you ever want company to see the sun set, I'm in.
Boy howdy, I am starting off the season busy! Though there are tabling events all year, including three I signed up for and then missed, September is really the start for me. First the SF Zine Fest, then SFCB Roadworks, I start tabling just about every other week until, well, Christmas. I am not trying to get you all anxious about the holidays, and I still only have one holiday card design , but mid-November though late December becomes a blur of weekly events where crafty people and giant megastores alike, offer up their goods under the heading of holiday season. I don't participate in the big business gift frenzy, I usually make something for my family and friends. And I don't make anything especially holiday-like, (see that one card design above) but I do like making things and I like that people want to buy them. People are a little more into buying things in the fall and early winter. Last year I said yes to every tabling opportunity I was offered, and by the last show, I was tired, unable to see straight. I put away my stuff for a few months and focused on the postcard subscription and becoming a yoga teacher. In June, I thought I was ready for more. I wasn't. So this season I am being a little more choosy about which events I table, and am trying, like every year, to be a little more prepared. Andy G. is employed this season, which means more coffee and chocolates for me but more tabling by myself.
The thing is, I kind of like tabling. It is exhausting but also fun. You put all the stuff you love making on a table and see if the people are interested. It can be rough when it feels like no one is interested or it is loud or raining coal dust but I have been lucky that I still have another part-time job, that I am mostly going to events where I have been before, and I have good company.
That said, it is also a lot of work. No matter how I prepare, I always remember I need more labels last minute or I forgot to assemble zines or I bind just two more books. Or I have to print next month's postcard even though I won't be selling the cards. Because that is how it goes. I cleared off my work table two weeks ago only to be buried again before I left yesterday morning for SFCB Roadworks. I was leaving behind piles of zines and future books but I couldn't leave them on the floor since there seems to be some kind of superflea in our house feasting on my ankles and Andy kindly took care of it while I was out in the sun selling postcards.
We arrived fashionably on time, with time to get coffee and time to feel a little rushed as I had a new set-up thanks to a postcard rack I found on Market Street a few days ago. With a little spray paint and magnets,it changed my display but allowed me a little more room on my half table. I stacked, arranged, crowded, moved and was ready. I only reserve a half table and make do, which usually works out for me at this event. At eleven o'clock my table was craftily stacked, my coffee and donut were in my belly and I was almost forming full sentences without sounding crabby (my sleep schedule is changing which at the moment means Not Enough Sleep Ever. this is temporary. But unfun). The other half of my table remained empty.
11:30. Usually if one has not arrived 30 minutes after an event opens, it is acceptable to take over their space. However, the table was so blissfully bare, blonde pine shining in the sun. And I realized what is missing in my life.
So I kept my side stacked and organized, the cozy clutter I like in my life, my desk, my shelves of books and jars and photos and mementos and notes. It is not an unworkable aesthetic. But I kept the other half of the table clear, propped a chair behind it and opened my notebook. I took out three pens (three colors!) and without a plan, drew. It was as delicious as reading a book, something else I haven't done much of lately. I sat, and doodled, talked to strangers and postcard subscribers and a lady from Vermont who holds a grudge against New York State ( I am from NH and can relate a similar grudge against Massachusetts.) It was lovely. I drank more coffee, sold postcards and was home by five. I am not sure what I did until 9 but when I closed my eyes I slept and slept and slept. The piles are still on my desk this morning but I am ready.
It's funny to live so close to water and not see it often.
Nineteen years ago I was stuck on I-80, heading from Berkeley to San Fransisco, during my second visit to the Bay Area. I was amazed that even with the shitty traffic, the water was so close, shimmering. When I moved here, I discovered I could ride on a path between that traffic and the water, following the bay to work and then home. It is a greatly beautiful distant view of the city, of the hills of Marin, and of the expanse of water.
Some one offered to take me sailing the other day. it didn't work out but it reminded me how close I am to the water. I am terrible at taking a day off, even though I have been tired, my mind sluggish, my energy low. But I made sure to ride to the water, with an hour of nothing. I lay on my back, the same shitty traffic tucked out of view, just the bay and the waves and the waves and the clouds like looked like water.
Occasionally, we get a friend's car for a few days or a few months. The transportation system is better in the Bay than residents make it sound--you can reach many places though it might take some time. It is nice sometimes though to pick a spot on the map and explore. A few weeks ago, when I think it was still snowing in Boston, we drove a little bit to explore a park near my favorite park. Huckleberry Preserve is a spot in a volcanic valley, a botanical park with a self-guided tour of unique intermingling of California species. It is only a 20 minute drive from downtown Oakland and quiet and full of wonder. Also it is an easy hike, more like a walk with incline. Nevertheless, we treated ourselves to vegan burgers afterwards.
Then, as if the day couldn't get better, we returned to my favorite cemetery in Oakland. It is large, reaching up a long hill, and there is always something new to see. We drove to the top, found a way around a fence and kept heading up, all the way to the top f the hill. Since we moved here I have been looking up at the top of this hill, thinking that's where I want to be. We made it to a concrete slab and the finest view.
And we didn't forget on the way out where to find the cutest public bathroom (in the mauselem at the bottom).
Today I was telling an out-of-town friend about The Chapel of the Chimes in Oakland and a stranger overheard and asked if that is what we were talking about. He agreed it is a place to explore and not in most guidebooks. I have only recently discovered it. It is located near the entrance to the Mountain View Cemetery at the end of Piedmont Ave. There is a coffee shop nearby that makes their own peppermint patties. Often, after a cup of coffee and some chocolate, we wander up the street to explore the cemetery.
There is always something we haven't seen. We were there a few days ago and were diverted from our intended path by a pair of mourners. The cemetery is also used as a neighborhood park, a place to jog, stroll, fly a kite and take a date so the mourners were a rare sighting. We walked around the backside of a building that seemed too imposing to be open to the public. But after tugging on a door, we discovered its long, labyrinth halls, with marble skylights and eerie piano music piped in over speakers . We went up one flight of stairs but somehow were on the third floor. Some of the windows were covered with violet colored glass, casting a rose light in the halls. There were multiple glass skylights and marble, reflecting light. The bathrooms had sinks like small fountains, and tile floors. And they were open--a rarity. Though I am not sure I could ever find it again.
As we were on our way there, our friend mentioned a fountain at the top of the hill. I guess we have something to look for next time.
If you want more photos of a cemetery I loved to explore, check out these photos about Cimiereo Monumentale in Milan.
My Dad flew from Tennessee to visit last week. As it was his first visit to see me in the Bay Area, he went along with any idea I had. When I was learning to drive I remember that my Dad would let me play whatever music I wanted to listen to. He even would try to hum along and get into it. It is very sweet to know my Dad would sit through hours of Ned's Atomic Dustbin and the Pixes AND let me drive.
Lucky for my dad, I was a little more considerate of his tastes. However, I was interested in visiting the diRosa in Napa, not sure what to expect or what my dad would think of a modern art collection. You have to get a tour to see most of the work but we spend a little bit in a gallery, took a walk to the sculpture meadow, and toured the house. There is a site-specific video installation of the changing light through a stained glass window at Chartres. It was the second time in a week I spend a few minutes contemplating a part of that cathedral, a coincidence that was not lost on me. (Chartres is also home to a large labyrinth I had recently learned about).
Oakland friends who like conceptual art: this collection is packed with lovely discoveries. The owner passed away a few years ago, leaving his collection open to the public. And if you have an Oakland library card, you can see it for free. I will let the photos explain the rest. There are paintings, sculpture and conceptual work, and enough of it has a sacred, quiet, contemplative feeling that made it feel a little like its own church of art. Go. And take me back.