In Praise Of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Chaos or community?

This was not a new question. The was, is and shall be our oldest and maybe most important question. It’s the reason to stop at the stop sign, to wake up enthusiastic, to believe in Belief.

I placed a jar in Tennessee…

This word, chaos. I know what this means. It’s hoodoo, it’s madness, it’s nihilism.

For thou wilt light my candle: the LORD my God will enlighten my darkness.
(King James Version, Psalms 18:28).

Darkness isn’t a thing. It’s the thing before there were things, as Stevens repeatedly hints at. The slovenly wilderness before it was named the slovenly wilderness, or any name at all.

Darkness is in the gut reaction. It is Kahneman’s System 1 applied on a vast scale.

It is the forces that fear an entire class of people simply because of a single piece of criteria. And from that fear? Subjugation, castigation, social castration.

It is the rare few who’ve dared to help us – all of us – create a divide from the darkness. To place a Jar of light upon the hill. JC. Muhammad. Gandhi. King.

Dr. King should be celebrated by all of us. That he’s not, or that he’s considered just to be a leader of a certain race, is an error. The poverty he was talking about was exclusive to one class or one race. All of us who are held back from dreaming and achieving noble dreams and human dignity, no matter what the arm that bars us, can take inspiration from this man who dared to say Stop. No. This is wrong.

Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy is a stand against the darkness. A stand for the light. For the right of the individual to hold up hers and his light. For community. And for you.

Anecdote of the Jar

Wallace Stevens’ 1919 poem:

Anecdote of the Jar

I placed a jar in Tennessee,
And round it was, upon a hill.
It made the slovenly wilderness
Surround that hill.

The wilderness rose up to it,
And sprawled around, no longer wild.
The jar was round upon the ground
And tall and of a port in air.

It took dominion every where.
The jar was gray and bare.
It did not give of bird or bush,
Like nothing else in Tennessee.

– Wallace Stevens

We have funny relationships with poems. Films, pictures? We see them and we might frown or smile. Rarely do we ask what one means.

But poems?

We read a poem and expect to understand something.

Y Tu Mamá También

YTMT

Watch movies slowly now. Over three or four nights. I think it’s that I don’t want them to end. I need a story to stick around for longer than two hours. Need to live with a film’s mindset and mode. Let it into my dreams, see what happens.

I like a story that weaves through characters. YTMT begins as Tenoch and Julio’s story. Then it becomes Luisa’s story. And at the end, as Luisa transitions out of this world, we find ourselves at the beginning of Julio’s story.

YTMT is also Mexico’s story. 71 years. Vicente Fox. Urban wealth, rural poverty.

YTMT is also a good story. A coming of age story, a road story, a sexy story, a story about dying and living and a country waking up from a political daze.

A minor nitpick: The last scene, in the coffee shop, we’re told authoritatively that Julio and Tenoch never see each other again.

Well, fine. But that was 14 years ago. This is 2013. So they’re only 30-somethings. With all the richness of possibilities ahead of them. Including future encounters. Never say never.

My favorite question: Now that we know the truth about Luisa, when we think about the scenes where the boys caught her sobbing… was she crying for her broken marriage, as we’d assumed, or was she crying for her fate?

Drive (Back)

Portland -> Salem -> Eugene -> Roseburg -> Grants Pass -> Ashland -> Yreka -> Weed -> Shasta -> Dunsmuir -> Redding -> Red Bluff -> Woodland -> Vacaville -> Carquinez Bridge -> Berkeley -> San Francisco -> Palo Alto

Columbia Valley -> Up Willamette Valley -> Umpqua Valley -> Rogue Valley -> The mess left behind by Mt. Mazama -> Siskiyou Range -> Shasta -> Down Sacramento Valley -> Delta -> San Francisco Bay

Heat, kicking up in notches, 5 degrees for every 50 miles. Desiccated grasses, honey hills all over Southern Oregon. Smoke from Grants Pass to Ashland, smoke from Dunsmuir to Sacramento. August 19 = Fire season in the West.

Dry lightning all over the Bay… a rare treat, welcoming me back to home away from home.

Drive (There)

Up at dawn. Watched that sun come up over the maples on Leland Ave. Last night, a 1995 Alexander Valley cab with the Fam. Went to bed thinking about well aged CA cab and everything that means, and also how that bottle was made the year we graduated and also half a life ago.

In San Francisco. It’s the buses. Charter buses. Full of guys and gals and more guys in hoodies with laptops open and earbuds in. Big buses towering above City. Lots of traffic around Sightglass, girl asks do I know what happened. I don’t, and only later find out that a cyclist, 24, got right-hooked by a truck and died at Sixth and Folsom.

Sightglass coffee: Macchiato, light roast, tobacco and fruit. A pistachio croissant. And then I gotta go. Golden Gate Bridge next.

* * *

Petaluma
9AM

Every day, the fog. What the fog did today. Could write a book about each day’s fog, the patterns within patterns, how the whorls affect larger whorls and etc etc.

Driving through Marin. Those honey hills with their clusters of scrub oaks. Makes me think of the Dharma Bum. Ray and Japhy – yeah right. Jack Kerouac and Gary Snyder having their wild wine parties, going up the hill through those whisps of fog to their shack. Meditations, and Snyder’s poem about them.

* * *

At Portuguese Beach

I thought there would be time to know the sea.
“I’d like to come back
in the summer sometime
swim in this cove”
– I said on an August morning
a low fog blowing in

* * *

Pinotage
Tasted at Fort Ross Winery. Drove through Sonoma Coast AVA.

* * *

Mendo: Pigmen in the Guallala River, STOP THE RADAR. Pt. Arena, Fort Bragg. How do you get to the Lost Coast?

Amazing dinner in Gold Beach. Everything the Coast promises, delivered. Obscurity and the unexpected, created by a charecter with passion.

Dawn on the Oregon Coast

Sunrise at Bandon. Orange, purple, silver. Whisps of fog coming in. Bandon Police parked in their usual spot, 30 MPH son. Loungers at the cafe: Condo owners, vacationers, the RV set. A klatch over in the corner: Retirees. Veterans. Widows. Survivors. Talking local politics, telling jokes. I grab my cinnamon roll, gotta go.

Fog starts around Coos Bay. Oregon fog. Marine layer, blown in clear to Pocatello as I’ll find out later when I punch up Weather.com but for now it’s just this soup I have to drive through. Run the wipers. August on the coast “We should come here in the summer”.

Alsea River. Country. Signs say Lamb, say Eggs. Advertising to the neighbors.

And then the Willamette Valley. And then up the 5, to home.

A Henry Miller Sort Of Bike Rider

The approach to the bridge is paved with cobblestones. I ride so slowly that each cobble sends a separate and distinct message to my spinal column and up through the vertebrae to that crazy cage in which the medulla oblongata flashes its semaphores.

And I cross the bridge at Sèvres . . . I yell, like that maniac St. Paul—’Oh death, where is thy sting?’

In back of me Sèvres, before me Boulogne, but this that passes under me, this Seine started up somewhere in my myriad simultaneous trickles, this still jet rushing on from out of a million billion roots, this still mirror bearing the clouds along and stifling the past, rushing on and on and on while between the mirror and the clouds moving transversally I, a complete corporate entity, a universe bringing countless centuries to a conclusion, I and this that passes beneath me and that floats above me and all that surges through me, I and this, I and that joined up in one continuous movement, this Seine and every Seine that is spanned by a bridge is the miracle of a man crossing it on a bicycle.

– from Black Spring, Henry Miller

Henry often refers to himself as a dinosaur, a man of the romantic 19th Century, stuck living in the mechanical 20th.

I may be a digital boy, but sometimes I feel just like Henry. Out on a bike, I’m nothing like the serious sorts that go flying by with frowns on their faces and destinations in mind. As soon as safety is taken care of, I just want to play. Zig-zag down a quiet street. Take a fun little shortcut. Race someone.

I’m certainly not serious about speed. I’ve thought about spending on a bike, but just like cars, I find myself irresistibly attracted to form as function + thrift. Here in Palo Alto I’m borrowing a bike. Going to have it tuned up, one of these days. It’s in pretty good shape as it is. Good shifters, the most important criteria to me.

Last morning in Palo Alto for a week. Last macchiato at HQ #3 aka Cafe Venetia. Tomorrow, a drive up the coast.

Bike Rider

“I took care of my wheel as one would look after a Rolls Royce. If it needed repairs I always brought it to the same shop on Myrtle Avenue run by a negro named Ed Perry. He handled the bike with kid gloves, you might say. He would always see to it that neither front nor back wheel wobbled. Often he would do a job for me without pay, because, as he put it, he never saw a man so in love with his bike as I was.”

Henry Miller, ‘My Bike and Other Friends’

“It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.”

Ernest Hemingway

Palo Alto, especially the part around California Ave, is a great place to get around on a bike. It’s flat, there’s bike paths, traffic sticks to the main arteries for the most part.

I find myself really enjoying my bike rides down to the Bolivian cafe, or to the Italian cafe, or to Whole Foods. There’s a satisfaction in cruising, or in getting on those pedals and getting going. In finding shortcuts, hidden spots, passages. There’s a joy in little places where you might cross a bridge, or dart through a particularly fun chicane.

Most of all there is the purity of focus. On a walk, you can think. A walk encourages thoughts and expanding ideas. On a drive you might have ideas at stoplights, but mostly you just feel annoyed, anxious, all the stresses of the commute. It’s only on a bike that you don’t think. Can’t think. At least not me. I have to focus 100% of my attention on the road, traffic, and how I’m handling the machine. Gearing, braking, conserving energies on a long hill.

It’s a kinesthetic meditation, morning and evening: Me and bike and the legs pumping up. Down. Up. Repeat.