Tiny Steel Rooms

Still on break from blogging meanwhile, again Mr. Miller.

tin hats

I open the door.  I must get this right.

Last week I came down with a fever.  In the beginning it was only 102 degrees or so, nothing approaching my record.  Still, I was sweating heavily.  The sheets wet.  The room muggy.  In the distance rain threatened, but so far over my house, nothing.

I went down to the kitchen and opened the refrigerator door to cool off.  I stood there naked for a few minutes and then went back up to bed.

I was in someone else’s home, paying $150 a night.  One of the owner’s dogs had died and the remaining little dog was sad in the room.  He lay like a shoe at the foot of my bed.  I could hear him breathing and then I am sure my fever got worse because I began to imagine a movie made like a high fever and what a…

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Queen Anne’s Lace

Loved this poem by Bijou

tin hats

Queen Anne’s lace grows quiet
by the roadside in spring.
With brilliant purity, leaves of chartreuse
and flowers champagne.
With edible bitter roots,
wild carrots you could call out by name.

Queen Anne’s lace grows dark
and brittle as a backdrop by fall.
She stays the night just as quiet as before,
with a heart hard as timber by sunrise
still delicate and breakable and
by some fortune still ignored
by the creatures with limbs that might call
out her name and

snap her by the stem for a memorial.

She will not break beneath the endless rains
the frost of the morning or
the bleak quiet of the cul-de-sac,
the shades of grey you could call out by name,
the warm bodies which brush blithe
against the lines of her form.

Queen Anne’s lace sleeps with
her fingers to the sky
and her body deformed in glory,
patient for…

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Returning to where I was

The young lady in the cubicle next to me looks like a teenager.  She has perfect skin and long luminous but absolutely straight black hair.  Always with a bit of eyeliner perfectly applied, she dresses modestly in jeans and non frilly blouses and she is always very serious.

Nonetheless, every morning the Joes come by to see her.  The Old Joe, for her smiling nod to the wisdom of one’s elders, and Young Joe on the guise of friendship as his puppy dog crush is hopeless.  K is engaged to be married.  K has been engaged to be married since she was a baby but, although their union has the full blessing of both families, they are soul mates.  At age five they both escaped the collapse of Vietnam on an overcrowded boat which drifted at sea until its occupants were rescued and brought to a refugee camp in the Philippines.  There they waited until asylum in the US was granted.

Our cubicles are split into units of four or eight and spread across the floor of former warehouse.  It’s like a rat’s maze with only minimal natural sunlight. The only thing that makes the job bearable are the perks. Weekly barbecues, season tickets to the nearby ball park, commute vouchers for gas or mass transit, a gourmet lunch service, all the soda or coffee you can drink and unheard of salaries, even for a tech firm.

Across the cubicle wall from K is T, coincidentally a Filipino guy with an intense love of computer games and Star Trek.  T signs up for every social event and even organizes a few.  His mother calls every day because he is an only son and we can all hear their half English, half Tagalong conversation. I try not to giggle at the exasperated sigh I hear after he hangs up the phone.

When in the office, N sits across from T in another set of cubicles.  N’s first marriage (now failed) was arranged by her father and a stepmother whom N describes as vain and silly.  Her own mother died in a suspicious oven fire when she was young. N will tell you unapologetically that she is the smartest and prettiest of all her cousins and that when she returns to India they all greet her like a Bollywood star.

Over the cube wall from N is X who shyly overhears work-related chitchat between N and T and never asks them to find a conference room as is the respectful thing to do in such crowded conditions.  X has a circle of similarly quiet friends, two from Mainland China and the third from Taiwan, like X.  One wouldn’t know it by her shy demeanor, but X is a fierce competitor, having won many a marathon.

It is the morning of September 11, 2001.  The Russians have gathered in a conference room nearby.  Their voices carry through the thin walls and sound angry.  The only other sounds come from the radios which people have gathered around.  A technician, newly hired to help with a vital product release, arrives at work with an oversized American flag which he posts on the wall above his cubicle where it can be seen by all.

“Maybe now’s not the time.” We suggest to which we get a rant worthy of a diehard Trump supporter (except Trump is at this time bragging about how his hotel is now the highest in NYC).  As the Russians exit the conference room, the technician glares at them as if they were to blame.  He rants on as if he is in an office full of enemies and anyone not caucasian begins to hunker down in their cubes hoping he doesn’t have a gun. We call HR. 

A few minutes later the HR reps arrive along with technician’s manager, a tall lanky Dutchman, to explain to the technician that he is working for a company owned by the Dutch which has offices all over the world.  Indeed 38% of his fellow workers at this particular site are not Americans and he’s making them uncomfortable. 

He begins yelling that this is America and he has the right to post the American flag and that everyone who doesn’t agree should leave the country, etc. etc.

He is told his services are no longer required and to remove his flag and person from the property. He leaves threatening to sue. Oh, they’ll be sorry.  All these foreigners can’t tell real Americans what to do on American soil!  On and on … until the door is closed behind him and he burns rubber out of the parking lot.

Minutes later everyone is told to go home and take the next few days off.

The end of summer means no more excuses!

For me, September is always the start of the year and May 31st is the end.  Summer is just that dead zone in between.

On the plus side, I did get out of the house more than last summer.  Probably because the temps here in the SF Bay Area were moderate to below average – yeah!  And the state is not on fire as it was last year.  The above shot is of the Golden Gate Bridge from the Marin County side. 

This pier along the wharf in San Francisco could be a metaphor for my writing efforts this summer.  Abandoned and covered with bird shit.  But it is still standing.

However the summer was not a total waste.  I did read a couple of books which I highly recommend although they are world’s apart in just about every way.  The first, The Life of Rebecca Jones by Angharad Price, is described as a “gently reimagined family memoir” set in rural Wales during a time of cultural transformation.

Reading this book I often felt as though I was mutely walking the Welsh countryside, feeling at one with nature but completely alone.  As Price writes:

“I sometimes think that the act of remembering life gives more pleasure than living itself.”

She goes on to say, that like a quilt, the swatches of memory we select are our reality. An assertion validated by a most unusual ending.

In Anna, Colm Herron (see Home from the Sea; Meet Colm Herron) illustrates the dilemma facing young men in Northern Ireland who want to get laid but don’t want Mother or the Catholic Church to know. Because the stain of semen can never be totally removed from his trousers, our hero (Robert Browning) must confess to his priest after his night of kinky sex with the wild and uninhibited Anna. He laments that, but for his BO, it could have been a sin from which there could be no forgiveness.

“… there was another reason for my particular release being fitful and that was my BO.  Which might have been a blessing in disguise because otherwise she would definitely have given me the full treatment and I could have taken a fatal brain haemorrhage [sic] and that would have me damned and no mistake.”

Because the story is set in the late 1960s, when Robert and his friends aren’t “looking for tramps but scared shitless of them all at the same time,” they’re debating how to fight social injustice. Do they follow the path of Marxism or heed the caution of the Church?

[Robert’s friend] mimicking their bishop: “My dear Catholic sheep of Derry, it is not those who can inflict the most but those who can endure the most that the Lord will lead to the happy slaughterhouse in the sky.”

Although Anna is primarily a love story that doesn’t always go smoothly, the book is full of hysterical scenes, such as this bit between Robert and his devout Mammy:

“Did you not hear me?  I said beauty’s only skin deep.”
“I know Mammy.”
“Aye, but do you?”
“For Christ sake Mammy, its not her intestines I’m after.”

The next book on my list will be a different ride altogether, You Beneath Your Skin by Damyanti Biswas.  I’ve only begun the read but I can already tell Damyanti has taken an interesting twist in the usual murder, detective story and run with it.

First I’ve got to hitch myself up to some sort of routine. Maybe I’ll finally finish “The Demise of Dickey” – my debut romance novel!  Rollover Danielle – prepare to meet your match!

I leave you with this favorite song of September from a performer I saw on stage decades ago and fell in love with.  Yes, believe it or not ,Jerry Orbach had a whole other career before Law and Order!

“Without a hurt, the heart is hollow.”

The Eyes Have It

Today, the last of the pictures I took while on a Mission Trail Mural walk down in San Francisco.

Who wouldn’t want to come home to these garage doors?

The murals in the Mission are an example of a community working together with artists to transform alleys into places where you want to hang out and not simply get through as fast as possible. They reflect the histories and passions of the residents and also provide an escape pod for the imagination. For example, if you look closely in the mural below (painted on a garage door and thus eligible for entry in Norm Frampton’s #ThursdayDoors event) you can see a  figure in the pupil of the eye.  If I had to guess I’d say it’s a soldier in a helmet. 

Below the eye is a row of lashes perhaps inspired by Clockwork Orange?

This mural is one of my favorites.  It promises that if you open the door you’ll find yourself in a magical world.

Below is a crowd favorite.  People (particularly women) stood in front of this mural forever and would not move until they’d identified each face of “the women of the resistance.”
I didn’t even try.  I was more interested in the figures hovering over them (all dressed in business suits). The message was, if you’re wearing a business suit you’re most likely either polluting the planet or a greedy warmonger.

If you’re planning a trip to San Francisco and/or have a particular interest in murals, check out the PrecitaEyes website. This group has been promoting street art since 1977. They even have a museum and a community center. To see other special doors from around the floor, check out Norm’s place.

 

Alta Impunidad (street art in the Mission)

I have to admit, the following murals from the Mission district in San Francisco (see The Mission, Part 1)  were some of my favorites.

The first one shows women perhaps pleading for news about missing loved ones or perhaps mourning them while above a dove flies towards a group of military men, one of them with dollar bills in his eyes.

Next to it is a mural depicting a joyful harvest.

The text on their rainbow banner reads: “I give you a song like a tribute, like a book, a word, a freedom fighter, like I give love,”  Silvio Rodriquez.

I didn’t recognize the name and so I googled him.  Wow – such a beautiful voice.

 

On the other side of this particular alley was a mural spanning half a block which depicted a modern day street scene.  This is only part of the mural.  Another section (which I didn’t get a good shot of) shows the police arresting young men.

The third section is perhaps the most powerful. It depicts the banks  pulling the plug on the neighborhood.

And why?  In upper right corner is a sign advertising “Alta Impunidad, Luxury Hipster Community, for techies with lots of cash.”  Just below the sign are two figures in black with canisters on their backs spraying something on the flowers (Blackflag?).   Written on one of the canisters is the word “Facebook.”

Alta Impunidad translates to High Impunity.  I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions about what the artist was trying to say.

The Mission, Part 4: The World is an Orange

This mural is most likely a tribute to Isabel Allende and Pablo Neruda, both of whom made references to oranges in their work.

Allende wrote of a trip to northern Peru (in My Invented Country):  “Thirst was unquenchable. We drank water by the gallon, sucked oranges, and had a hard time defending ourselves from the dust, which crept into every cranny.”

And Neruda actually wrote a poem entitled: Ode to the Orange

Above is a block party on Mission Street.  Note the tourist with his camera watching the street artists at work and the folks dancing in the street.  There is a fruteria in the middle of the block depicted in the scene and it has its own street art (below) however don’t ask me to interpret this one.  I suspect they were selling more than fruit.

The one below could have been done by the same artist however it has a clear meaning. A woman giving birth to a baby and the ocean.  That one could give me nightmares.

Below is a gallery of this and that. The first two murals are depictions of Frida Kahlo, who along with her husband, is a patron saint of muralists.  The third I believe is a homage to rap stars although I only recognized a few of the names.  Then there’s a group of people gathered around a picture of the Pope (and that’s all I dare speculate on that one.) Of course I had to take a picture of Max sailing out to join the Wild Things.  It was one of my children’s favorite books.

The last one shows the Earth being held up by a couple of indigenous people while parrots hover.  In the lower right is a city bus full of people which seems to have been converted into a space shuttle. In the upper left the eagle clutching a snake could have many interpretations.  I can’t decide if the message of this mural is hopeful or worrisome.   The hope of the world resting on the backs of a few people.

Next time, the plug is pulled.