Take That California Trip

The drive yesterday. Palo Alto, Sightglass, Bay Bridge, Vacaville BevMo. Then The Haul. Ten hours straight up that five. Other than two slow drivers and some freezing fog around Medford, pretty smooth sailing. Surprisingly. In retrospect, it’s something that was done that makes me think Wow, did I really do that? And what was I thinking of, and what was going on in my mind?

I think these trips get easier as our memories fill up with thoughts. Or the other way around.

Christmas Eve: Sightglass -> Union Square Shopping -> Lunch at Rose Pistola -> Blue Bottle Ferry Building -> Folsom -> Rocklin Christmas Eve Vespers Service

Immediate thoughts? This is what I wrote the next morning:

This isn’t the only way it could have been. You could probably come up with something better. Might take you a thousand years. Or two. Don’t worry though. It ain’t easy. In the meantime though, it might be convenient to have a look, at least, at one of the many only ways being laid bare in rooms big and small across this world.

It was just an evening of plainsong. Nothing more. Just adoration for this that is and this that will be. Nothing more.

On a fog-shrouded midnight Sacramento Valley winter eve. And it doesn’t mean anything more than it means. It doesn’t mean you can’t be fascinated by this alluvial valley. By how it was formed and settled and the creatures which inhabited it. Or have any need to argue any of this.

But enough of this. Just to sit on Sunday afternoon and enjoy. A football game, a meal, relaxation. More work to come soon. For now? Slow.

Winter Solstice 2013

Saturday morning at Coava. Listening to my macchiato being made: Phuss, phiss and bang. Out the big windows, a December morning. Grey, silver city skyline across the river, Grand Ave flying by, a streetcar jammed with Christmas shoppers. This line of thinking, simple iteration over what’s there – “Macchiato’s on the bar!” – coffee morning.

Macchiato and an almond croissant. Smiling across the communal table, a joke well told. Taking selfies with the tablets. Tweeting them at each other. Connected world. Put’em down and look around. This big, open space. Christmas tree in the middle. A twenty-five footer, this warehouse space they share with the carpenters.

After coffee? Over the river and through downtown, to the winter market we go… you sing when you realize it’s a song. Hemingway in A Moveable Feast: “It was always pleasant crossing bridges in Paris.”

At the market, the ‘farmers market’, just an outdoor market with vendors from the Willamette Valley and even some who come from Hood River or up around Chehalis in Washington. Last market of the year. Vendors bundled up. Their bunches of carrots, parsnips, beets. We buy some onions, a bag of apples, a bunch of radishes, and one black Oregon truffle like a lump of coal from the mushroom guy. We walk down the park blocks, one last time this year, sipping on hot apple cider and talking about what we’ll cook tonight.

Driving down 13th Ave towards the espresso bar. An alley street, the backs of buildings on 12th and the backs of buildings on 14th. Brick. You have to drive slow because there’s bicyclists and pedestrians. A mixed use street, without sidewalks. I park and we walk up the wood stairs, plunk across the deck, look at the tables on the patio – “Maybe if the sun pokes through again? – because the sun has been threatening to come out all morning.

An espresso. Austin Texas roaster. Bright, sunny, plenty of acidity, fading towards apple tart. Reminds me of a good Chardonnay. Sit at the counter and have that espresso looking out at 13th ave. Christmas shoppers out, the brick buildings, USB Tower shining copper and purple high in the sky. Holding hands and sipping the espresso as people come in and order and drinks are made and called out at the bar and more people come in, the line out the door as we head out into it, almost noon, time to get our own shopping done.

The sun wants to come out through the grey clouds. So low in the sky. The southern sky, as if the sun is in California. In two days we’ll do the drive. The sun wants us to come.

Winter In Port Orchard

Sitting at a table overlooking Sinclair Inlet. It is sunrise. I am looking west and as the sun rises the light hits the Olympics turning those snowy peaks first purple, then pink, then bright golden.

Wind is blowing this morning, which might be obvious if you know that if a stiff north wind is not blowing, then the Puget Sound in December is either getting battered by an Alaskan storm, or is sitting under the most desultory blanket of fog.

And when it is sunny in winter here?

You remember the days, the week, the weeks you sat looking out the window at the grey and thinking it didn’t matter. And you think I must have been half-dead, because that’s how it seems. Seeing the sun after a long winter grey spell is like being tapped on the shoulder by God and reminded how you’re alive again.


he says, he has to sharpen that tool
three times, he says
before it goes out the door.
he says he sharpens it once
and then when it’s fit on the axle
he says it has to be sharpened again
and then he says
before it goes out the door
he has to sharpen it with the finisher.
so that’s three times he’s sharpening it.
he says each tool
he might sharpen it ten-
thousand times
and he says it’s as sharp
as the day it came in –

This is me listening
to this lingo, this jargon.
this is me with my new laptop
This is me sending emails, this is me writing code
approaching each day more insulated
more inured to lingo
to jargon.

this is the fight.


Always thought I’d learn to surf.

sundown @ torrey pines

San Diego. I moved here in 1999. Always thought I’d live at the beach someday. Live in OB or PB or Encinitas. Buy a board and learn to surf. It never happened. I lived out by State for two years while I went to school. Lived briefly in City Heights, lived briefly in North Park, lived briefly in Normal Heights. Eventually found a great place in Hillcrest and lived there for eight years.

Never surfed. Not once. Never even went boogie boarding.

What did I want from surfing? The danger? The coolness? Communing with the ocean?

I think what I wanted was the eyes. To look at the ocean as a craftsman.

To squat at the beach and watch breakers come in and understand the implications of this and that. The way a woodworker looks at a 2 by 4 and knows by the grain of the wood if it’s good or not, useful or not.

I think I’m like that with a lot of things. I do so I can have the eyes. “It’s something they can’t take from you”, as Hemingway might have and did say it.

Living in Paris, for example, gave me all sorts of eyes. How to judge things aesthetically. How to pursue a local perfection. How to be proud of making perfect frites.

San Diego Weekend

Macchiato morning in north park. Macchiato morning in my spot that was my spot before I knew what good coffee was. Just that I wanted a macchiato. Calabria’s warm, woody espresso. A warm December morning in San Diego.

This is the city I lived in for eight years and was grumpy in because I wanted her to be Paris. Ridiculous to me now. San Diego is not a northern city. This is a southern souled place. Half Mexican, Half Californian – like me! – a million miles from Northern Europe. Almost a Mediterranean city, almost a Southeast Asian city.

This is the city that seduced me. For years I wanted her to be Paris. She isn’t and never will be. She has her own particular personality. It’s part Mexican, part Californian, a million miles from Northern Europe. Maybe a Mediterranean city, similar to southern France, or northern Spain. Much too warm for Paris. Not grey enough, dismal enough, ordered enough.

Sun Shower

San Diego weekend. Raining when I got in. Drove to Solana Beach to meet Abbie.

An amazing moment: no sooner am I served a long espresso in a beautiful cup when it starts pouring. And the dun comes out. And it’s Paris – perfect Paris! – what I always dreamed of when I lived here.

Moments are so strange. They move past at the same pace as the rest of the river of time. It’s only when they’re past, and we place the framework of personal narrative around them, that they can take on their proper stature. your first kiss. Your first base hit. The spectacular sunset you saw from the boat. The coffee you took while watching a sun shower.

People don’t understand style. “Style, is what matters… (panning content)”… this is from Tom Robbins’ book Another Roadside Attraction.