Sunday, March 14, 2021

Lovefest

Simple pleasures are more potent during this unprecedented time of social constriction. 
We had an idyllic Sunday brunch with Karen and Victor followed by a sunset hike.
It felt normal, luxurious, decadent and perfect.

I don't know if it's the promise of spring or a vaccinated world,
but a mixture of optimism and excitement is brewing inside me,
feelings I haven't encountered in months.

















Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Paula



Woke up early to the ping of a text alerting me to sad news.
A friend who had moved away years ago to a remote town named after a game show,
took her life.
I was aware her mind was seized with madness, but didn't realize the daily battle she was fighting.
The woman I met in Los Angeles in the mid '90s was a whisper floating on the wind.
 
We were a growing circle, a bundle of live wires, not connected by the industry
but other like-minded friends.
Like native plants we took root and these relationships came to define
my thirties and first decade in LA. 
My life was richer for the weekends spent in Venice or Hollywood at spirited backyard parties.
There was ALWAYS a gathering sometimes marking an occasion, but more often than not, just a reason
to be together.  

I bonded with Paula's boyfriend, Davey D, first, an affable, big hearted guy
who happened to grow up in a neighboring NJ town.  
He encouraged her to get to know me, but working as a set dresser she was skeptical of executives
and was certain she wouldn't like me.  
She soon came to realize that I didn't fit the stereotypical mold of her fears and we bonded.  
Born three days apart, our similarities were many and our curiosity for the world, art and design
lead to many thrifting adventures and hours crafting.

Paula was a cautious seeker working through childhood demons and forging a path forward.  
One long weekend we loaded up the car and headed North to Esalen 
for a qigong retreat with a renown mystic.
Prior to breakfast, all guests were invited to participate in early morning ecstatic dance before dispersing to individual workshops. 
Paula looked through the glass window at the guests wildly gesticulating at 7am to hippie dippy music
and was horrified.  
Her comfort zone was 500 yards down the sprawling lawn, but Kate and I joined in as she remained on the outside looking in.
On the third morning, without any coaxing, she took part.
We all laughed as she abandoned herself to the rhythm without a care to what she looked like to the outside world.

We were kindred spirits, yoked by our curiosity and wanderlust.
My early desert adventures were with Paula.
Years before I owned a house in Palm Springs, we rented a friend's mid-century modern 
and spent blissful hours thrift shopping.
Before the trend became mainstream, Paula's finger was on the pulse of MCM treasures.
For two consecutive years, we spent Easter weekend in Desert Hot Springs at a funky, recently renovated motor lodge with thermal baths, succulents and a peculiar night manager.
My first Pappy and Harriet's encounter was during one of those jaunts.
A Sunset magazine article lead us to the off-the-beaten-path Integretron.
We sat around a fire pit with three sister's who recently purchased the geodesic dwelling and were given an impromptu sound bath under the expansive wooden dome.  

Months leading up to our respective fortieth birthdays we spent hours discussing how we wanted to honor the watershed moment.
We were shedding our 30s, moving deeper into adulthood and
we both knew it was significant in a way we couldn't describe.
On the night before I turned 40, I had dinner with Dave and Paula at their house in Eagle Rock.
Dave made pizza and I basked in the joy and effortlessness of their friendship.
We toasted the last day of my 39th year, honoring the life receding in the rearview mirror. 
The moment had such a profound impact that, to this day,
I continue to acknowledge the eve of my birthday. 
Like standing on the banks of the river, I breath in my surroundings and let the sounds fill my senses, before crossing to the other side.

The last time I saw Paula was in 2009.
Craving a different lifestyle, away from the traffic and hustle of LA,
Dave and Paula sold their house and bought an old bank in Truth or Consequences NM.
In the front of the building they opened an artisanal coffee shop 
and became a popular destination in the quirky, tight knit community.  
They had been there for a few years when Vanina and I took a road trip  to see them.
Correspondence was minimal since Paula loathed lengthy phone calls or emails,
but we picked up just where we left off.
By this time, they had closed the coffee shop. 
Living behind the storefront made Paula feel like she was living an examined life from the outside.
She longed for privacy and an existence where the small town couldn't peer into their lives. 

On our last day together we floated down the Rio Grande gently bouncing on inner tubes
under a sky so blue heaven seemed visible through the clouds. 
It felt like a day ripped from the carefree summers of childhood when the hours were vast
and chilling with your best friends was the only thing you needed to do.
I would have hugged her tighter if I knew it was the last time,
but that is the inherent tenderness of life.
We never know what lies around the bend.
Perhaps that is why my initial instinct to the winds of change is to hold on tighter.  
 




 










Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Insurgents

I was under no pretense that turning the page on  2020
would whisk in a new political climate,
but I was still in shock and awe as I watched an assault on the US Capitol building
unfold in real time this morning.
I'm exhausted by hours of news footage of insurgents, whose sartorial choices were burning man meets combat, plowing through barricades and locked doors.
Like battering rams they shattered glass and splintered locked entryways, achieving their goal to shut down the joint session gathered to certify Biden's win.
The egotistical maniac who can't comprehend defeat lead them in battle
from his pulpit never asking them to retreat. 
I hate this man with every fiber of my being.
He ia  dark, fetid stain on decency and truth. 
I fear for our faltering democracy and the future of our world.




Saturday, January 2, 2021

Expansive 2021

There are years that ask questions
and years that answer.

Zora Neale Hurston








 

Thursday, December 31, 2020

Ineffability

I flip through my photo stream as I try to distill this year
into a final post hoping the images will tell a story I am unable to put into words. 
There's a dull ache in my chest as I acknowledge life was certainly lived;
the sun rose and set, vibrant buds filled nearby hillsides, meals were cooked and shared,
silver streaks sprouted from my roots, and faces of loved ones made guest appearances.  
And yet, my overwhelming takeaway is that, at best, life was on hold in 2020.
I was one of the lucky ones who was able to maintain my job, my health and my love, but I watched as the pandemic mounted a slippery slope of anguish for those less fortunate.
 
My first image of a stranger in a mask appeared on April's fool day like a novelty act,
a spectacle to be photographed. 
Civil unrest and months of shuttered businesses would not occur for another two months significantly altering the businesses selling wellness juices, expensive textiles and farm to table entrees.  
Boarded windows and For Lease signs became pervasive in all neighborhoods, as did homeless tents and piles of discarded trash. 
Compelled to time stamp the moment, my masked face becomes a constant in selfies taken on daily hikes in the warm late afternoon sun.
"I'm still here", the photos bellow, even though at times I felt like my body was melting into the side of the hill dripping into a puddle on the dry earth.
  
My slipping grasp on reality was indoubitably caused by the devastating wildfires on the west coast.  Living under a pall of grey smoke and ash we were literally trapped in the house.
I knew I would get triggered by the state of our democracy as the election neared,
but I didn't account for the fires and months of unhealthy air quality
creating an even larger barrier between me and the world.
There were immediate ramifications, but it was the searing reality that climate change on the west coast was no longer something that would happen in the future.
 It was at our front door and it threw me for a loop.

The most difficult, defining experience of 2020 for me to write about is absent from 
my photos, but the most profound.
It eclipses the pandemic, Trump's antics, the ugliness of racism in America
and the precarious state of the economy and environment.
Weeks before coronavirus became a household name,
my friend was diagnosed with stage IV brain cancer.
None of us knew what the journey would look like, and although there was a frankness in our conversations, there was always hope he would somehow beat the odds.
His robust appetite, stamina, lucidity and drive to keep writing indicated
he would ring in another year.
Optimism was winning until a brain scan in September revealed the protocol was not successful.
The virus precluded us from gathering while he was undergoing treatment,
but in the six weeks before he died we gathered at his home
in the makeshift hospital room which used to house their dining room table.
These were some of the happiest hours I experienced during 2020.
Complaints and grievances had no place in our conversations guided by the present moment 
and love.
"I'm a lucky man", he uttered with pure conviction.  
Our last evening together was November 7th, a day when church bells rang
and people shouted continuously in the canyon celebrating Biden's win. 
His face lit up when we walked into the room although it was evident his strength was waning.
Too weak to move to the TV room, we listened on the radio to Biden's and Harris' historical
acceptance speeches.
The moment felt suspended in time like a Rockwellian painting documenting this bizarre year.

Death is one of the great mysteries in life.
 I don't think of myself as particularly macabre or morbid,
 but how it will  happen and when is a thought that takes up space in my brain.
These notions aren't just about my demise, but others too, mainly loved ones, but I often go outside the box and ponder about others like The Queen or Donald Trump.
I think about losses which will have global consequences. 
I file it under the heading of curiosity.

Death is the biggest plot twist, but I'm undecided who it impacts the most; the dying or the living.  Dave's death was a little too close for my liking, and I'm not feeling very curious right now.
His loss builds like a pressure in my chest that I'm not always aware of until it gets so heavy
that my breath is shorten to a sob.
His death created a puncture wound in his wife's heart.
We hike when we can and talk often,
but the damn pandemic has hindered our ability to gather around a dinner table
or raise a glass of wine in his honor. 

Throughout this  inimitable year I've had an incredible man by my side. 
Although we were solid before the pandemic, our compatibility is even more abundantly clear.
I love him deeply and can't imagine rowing this boat with anyone else
which leads me to my last observation of the year.

The last day of the year is always a signifier of time marching on 
— endless possibilities loom in the distance as we collectively take one step closer to the finish line.
I hear the tick, tick, tick of the rollercoaster car as it ascends to the top of the track 
and I wish I was kid again whose gut flooded with exuberance anticipating the rapid drop.
The 2020 version of me is holding on for dear life with clenched hands.
A seriousness has crept into my being, stealing my frivolity.
This year has made me acutely aware of the fragility of life, our democracy and "normalcy",
but my goal is to shed the fear that it can all evaporate in nanosecond 
and embrace the moment at hand.










Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Sunday Drivers

How do we mark the last weekend of the year 
when the infection rate continues to soar?
This has been a quiet holiday, but in the silence 
we have found ways decompress and enjoy the days off from work.
Today we drove south to San Pedro, walked along the promenade,
explored the old neighborhoods and drove down the coast through posh Rancho Palos Verdes. 
We came home sated, and put a big x through another day on the calendar.