There are clearly few, who are so talented as Connie WalkerShaw.
Today I pick up the dress she made for me from special fabric that had been given to me when I was 35. I remember because it was given to me by an older woman artist who shares my birthDAY and lives in a synagogue. She gave me the fabric when she was 70. She was twice my age. The fabric has gold threads in it. It is like a color shifting fairy tale fabric that changes from lavender to gold, hinting at rose.
I am late picking up the dress, so her lesson is already underway. I try on the dress which is magical and am ready to go. As I leave, I ask the student seamstress if she knows that Connie also is in a band and that she can play two saxophones at once? The little girl says a shy “no”. I smile, shrug, raise my eyebrows and say “well, she can” and leave.
After WalkerShaw I drive to the beach.. Ocean Beach in San Francisco is like heaven. It is so empty and so nothing. I can see as far as I can see in three directions. My cells take in the empty vastness with relief. This hasn’t changed. I think then, have I changed? Each time I stand at Ocean Beach I remember other times I’ve stood before her. Before the ocean and cried out with my soul for all that I hope for. She solicits requests like that. The ocean is vastness itself. Before her, troubles shrink and expire, being obviously temporary. She emanates eternal presence, over and over, her waves sounding like a large echo of my internal self; of something that helps me let go and know.
It’s the same, and different. It always is.
Two solitary men pass me going one way; then an older couple passes the other way. That’s it. The beach’s nature to human ratio is nourishing, safe and separated from the highway by blocks and blocks of gorgeous graffiti, painted on the ocean side, I assume late at night.
There are birds. That familiar seagull silhouette is everywhere; taking off and landing. I notice a particularly nice one but sense something odd about it. It’s the wrong size. I realize it’s outdoor art of some kind as it is not a real bird and even far away it reads clearly and I like the design so I walk towards it. It takes longer than I expect. Getting closer I see it’s a sign. Not a regular government sign but still it seems official. It says something like “strawberry ice plant sanctuary ends here”, yet there’s nothing but sand for miles.
A couple of days ago, in the middle of May, I got a large envelope in the mail. It was a very official United States one from the “Bay Valley District of Consumer and Industry Affairs Office”. Needless to say, I was worried. As a self employed person putting two kids through college, I wondered what I could have done wrong on which of the countless tax and financial aid forms I fill out.
It was thin, like one sheet of paper inside. That also didn’t seem like a good thing in my fear based state. An 11×14″ white envelope with a government seal and one sheet of paper inside?
So I wait a day and then open it. To my amazement it is an apologetic letter from the post office. An announcement for an art opening I had last December somehow got itself to the “Letters to Santa” receptacle.
My card was “mistakenly treated as one of the legitimate request letters”. Who knew such a place existed? and that “every piece of mail at said receptacle is intended to be fulfilled by one of our santa helpers”!
They did not know what to do with my card. So they sent it back; with apologies, hoping I’d understand. Truth is, I’m thrilled my request got to Santa, but I don’t really understand.
In the locker room, I realize I don’t have my goggles.Coming outside to the pool, I see the dark college lifeguard is talking with a woman in the lane with the ladders. She is round and blond with pink skin. They are friendly and acknowledge me as I sit on the edge getting ready to go in.
I comment on forgetting my goggles and the lifeguard offers a box of goggles I can borrow. As I begin to look, the woman offers me her goggles which she explains are brand newish. Most of the ones in the box are broken at the nose. Before I know if all of them are broken, I put the guard box down and accept the pink woman’s goggles. The strap is the thinnest I’ve ever seen. It is made of linguini shaped translucent off white plastic with sparkles.
When I first put these over my eyes and enter my dry face into the water, all air is suctioned in, water tight. At the end of the watertight lap, I slide the goggles to the top of my head to do backstroke. I like to alternate between freestyle and backstroke which lifts for me the boredom of swimming. At the end of backstroke I pull the goggles down from my wet hair to my eyes.
They don’t fit. Not at all. Water seeps in near the nose so I swim the freestyle laps with one eye winking open and closed as my head goes in and out of the water with my breath. The goggles help some but do not allow me to see clearly.
I see clearly when I am doing backstroke, facing the sky and what I see clearly is nothing.
I went to allende alone
i could have asked someone but I didn’t feel like it
buying tickets at the bookstore, I was surprised when asked “How many tickets?”
I said “oh, just me and my lonesome” kidding around ish.
I know how to park at that downtown oakland church.
You don’t go for the lot. it’s way too small
however the neighboring streets, particularly
the ONE WAY in the wrong direction from the entrance to the church
is usually an easy spot
there it is
I am parking behind another car which has just parked
not exactly behind but on the other side of a driveway
I know the car type
older model and the too many bumperstickers
none of which I could disagree with
“AWAKEN” and such
The woman who gets out of the car is dressed in layers of dresses and baggy pants
She is messing around in and out of the car.
She is filling or emptying a water bottle
She wears a scarf
Finally she throws a guitar case over her shoulder and walks in the direction of the church
I am not wanting to be near her but I am not disgusted either
I realize that we are going to end up waiting together at the corner for the light to change.
She turns to look at me and there is a moment when I could have pretended I didn’t know but I didn’t do that
When she looked at me I said,
“Janet?”, “Janet Fowler?”
She usually sings at this church on Wednesdays In a room downstairs. Therefore, the guitar
She decides to see Allende instead at $15. without blinking an eye
Waiting for it to start we talk.
She has been homeless for a long time and she doesn’t seem crazy. Mostly she camps out.
Not needing more of her story, I stand up , excuse myself and ask her to save my place.
She says, “Leave something”, so I leave my scarf and go look at the books for sale in the lobby.
The latino poet laureate of san Francisco
Introduces Isabelle and after some chatter
Alllelne reads from her new novel which is a mystery set in san Francisco amid teenagers.
She reads a gruesome description of a brutal murder discovered by children.
Immediately, abruptedly even, after the description Susan gets up and leaves.
Like she couldn’t risk it
Or wouldn’t allow it.
Anyhow she left.
But when I got back to my car,
Her car was still there. Still across the driveway. Still saying “AWAKEN”
Amma asks , “There are 86,400 seconds in a day. What are you doing with them?”
She asks, “Where are you going? If you are in a car and someone asks you where you are going, you know. If you get on a plane you know where you are going. Where are you going with your life? To go around willy-mildly is no good”, she’ll say.
“What is the goal of your life?”, she will ask.
“Is it the realization of god?”, she’ll continue.
The cashier is chatty so I join in.
“I have soo many hooks because each of my teenagers have a thousand sweatshirts from thrift stores and 500 of them are on the ground”, I explain.
She says, “I know. It’s the same at our house.”
That catches me as we are outwardly so different in lots of ways. Yeti it’s the same at her house.
We have longer than an moment of eye contact. I note her perfect eyeliner but mostly we look into each other’s eyes for a second or two. Then we look down at the hooks.
“No matter how many hooks I buy…” , I say.
“it will never be enough”, she finishes.
After talking with Ilana, whom I’ve just met at a party full of eclectic people, I am starting to wonder about her glasses. I don’t have on my glasses because I am not reading but, truth is, I should be wearing those progressives all the time as there are quite a few subtleties passing me by.
Ilana, a wildly talented San Francisco Art Institute grad student is talking about her hispanic childhood in LA and how she devoted twelve years of her life to throwing the discus. She’s got the body for it. She’s funny and is rambling on in a I’ve-got-this-conversation-covered kind of way. I’m fine with that and enjoying the ride as are my two teenagers. It’s Christmas eve and even the food is eclectic because a lot of the party works at Rainbow grocery, one of the first large co-op health food stores in the nation.
I am feeling friendlier and friendlier with Ilana as we get smushed closer together when still others feel there is enough room to sit down on the large couch.
I become more suspicious and say, “Let me see your glasses!”
She shies away and says, “No, you can’t see my glasses!” but in a smiling way.
“Come on, take them off”.
“I can’t see without them”.
Close enough now on the couch for almost anything I grab her glasses. There is no glass in them!
I comment on this and she says, “I’ve got a pair of sunglasses at home just like these”.
I say, “But there’s no glass in them!”
I’m liking her more than ever when she says, “I Know. They’re prescription!”