In This Moment

what if it matters?


I’ve been in Puerto Vallarta seven times or more.  I fold and unfold peso bills to pay the restaurant at the beach where I’ve already been three times this trip.  Folding and unfolding is different than at home.  That’s the point.  We’re in a condo here for the first time, far above the beach.  A lot that’s different about Mexico is different whether we’re here in PV or elsewhere, so I take out my pesos and inquire about the water taxi in my fragmented Spanish and it’s a coastal Mexican experience, new because I’ve traveled less in recent years.  Has it really been since 2008 that I came here, or 2010?  Alaska Airlines informed me today my frequent flyer account expired years ago as I haven’t flown Alaska since 2006.  Ten years.  God.

Avalon is pristine. Clean lines everywhere. The hot water heater erratic but the pool warm and not filled with territorial condo owners.  Seems the tourists don’t come up this high, or the wealthy Mexican owners don’t bother to rent out their units to tourists, or both.  It’s quiet.  They use reposado tequila and Grey Goose vodka at the pool bar.  I think it’s the bar guy who says it’s ok for my daughter to shout at the top of her lungs…kids are kids, he says.  Really?  That’s surprisingly nice.

Mexico is nearly as I remember except it seems to be happening in the background while I’m distracted by email and kids, thinking about returning to Berkeley, setting up a dolphin swim.  It’s like I’m separated from everything by a bubble. My auto-correct tried to fill in “Bible.”  I hope I’m not separated from the world by a Bible.  My son and I stopped briefly at the cathedral on our way to get playing cards, on our way to the cafe to play two computer games.  Reminds me of a trip to Hawaii with my parents as a teenager.  Now we’re getting a handmade bracelet for my daughter’s friend while I approve several games my daughter requests from her iPad up at the Avalon pool.  We order after deciding the water taxi would be too bumpy to take us to the dolphins tomorrow, and too slow.  My son plays two games while I play one.

The sun comes out but I feel as though I’m going crazy because as the afternoon wears on  and I try to write my son keeps tapping me a certain way, trying to get me to play Ron Beasley in a Harry Potter game.  But it’s bright now and a relief after a day of clouds.  Writing for the first time in a while.  I’ve been reading this three-book Magicians series, so easy to fall into.  They’re books about mirrors and losing oneself in books.  I could lose myself in a book about losing myself in the details of Puerto Vallarta.  Didn’t I read somewhere that authors have to write and that is the only reason they can bring themselves to do it?  Makes the usual sort of paradox out of free will because if I’m writing it’s only because I have to.  Like actually noticing clouds appearing out of thin air rather than rolling across the horizon.  Free will is like seeing the sun come out and thinking, “What a good job I did!”

There’s something more important than free will, though it’s related, and as we close the glass doors for the evening and hear the  fireworks across the water the darkness amidst the shush of air-conditioning I see it’s personal development:  free will or no, you either develop or you are already dead.  Develop haltingly and you’re haltingly alive.  Tell me about it.  I’m back in Mexico after how many years and the fried Lima beans taste good.  And what have I learned except that it’s much harder to manage four psyches than even the impossible task of managing one. My wife reads and my kids are supposed to be reading too. Mischief managed?  More like mischief overlooked.  It’s too quiet out there so I go to check:  one reads, one doesn’t.

Just like that it’s nine PM.  Different when I’m not lost in a book. More happens. I’m more willing to let go of the day in delicious anticipation of tomorrow.  King Arthur was supposed to return from Avalon someday, wasn’t he?  When I return from my stay will it merge with my other travels into a montage of cobblestone streets and beachside restaurants?  After my conveyance here to the Avalon par avion what is next that isn’t a retreat from the pain of missing this repeated retreat?  Children, challenges, the spirit to say Yes I’ll write.  The courage not to live to please to earn rewards?  The rewards are never enough; only the earning is worthy.  Unless Arthur wakes up and gets some work done Avalon is a quiet place.  As quiet as a tomb.


It’s back. And I Ching says “immaturity is a household,” “a leader must bring children to knowledge” and “the child takes over the family.” Today I feel taken over.  Not only by the children but by the indirectness of my path. Yesterday I toured a building for a second time with a client.  Why do it twice?  And today I toured no building and yet made few sales calls.  I did swim in a pool, at 7:30am, that was so filled with people that at one point I had to circle, three to a lane.  After that the day followed no direct course, and I essentially sat by and watched it go, while came the wind, then the rain.

I read some hexagrams of I Ching and now the rain plaps and draps, trickles and shimmels around me in this room that I keep saying I’ll use for…this. Yesterday in the building we toured for the second time I saw a room within a suite that I hadn’t seen before. In the room sat a man at a desk facing a row of many-colored bottles before a window.  Quiet music seemed to come from an old wood-encased amplifier. He didn’t turn, in his modern, 1960s chair, to face us, but continued to work. This tenant has an office that is so much more beautiful than mine. Mine at work, that is.  At home, I’ve set up two offices. The first one is business and my wife uses it also, and the kids and she are in there now watching gymnastics videos.  Here I am, in a jutting peninsula of the house that presses into the rain, before a diamond-shaped window, the very desk and window at which I stood twenty seconds after entering this house for the first time fourteen years ago and thought to myself, “I like this.”

The rain is back. Perhaps to stay?  To end the drought.  I feel positive energy coming into me in this room. I thought I’d feel that in the other office that faces green trees and faces south. But I find recently that this quiet room facing north is the place that rejuvenates the most.  So I have my office retreat just like that other guy…I only have to remember to use it.  Corollary for my brain.  I only have to remember that my mind, my very choices, are opportunities to retreat, to build, and to create beauty.  I remember when I first bought this computer and began to use it as a writing sanctuary, a special place to work.  I tried to set up shop in various places, in San Francisco.  Tried to and it worked to some degree, but I wonder what is next.  Typing in the small quiet office at my home.  How fortunate I am to have three offices plus the ability to work anywhere with my laptop or my smart phone.  Really begs the question of what work shall I do, doesn’t it, and when?

The sun comes partially from behind the clouds and my wife turns around from the little table where she’s eating lunch to see what is all the fast typing.  She laughs and says she had imagined I was sitting here in this little office entering numbers on a calculator.  That’s about right: I’m always calculating return on investment from real estate.  And as a salesperson, much of the time the returns are not mine or even realized by anyone I know.  Just quick math on a calculator and then it’s over.  I even wrote an email to a client between when she laughed about the calculating and when I continued writing here.  Email said Hey look at the deal you’d be getting at this rent multiplier, do you want to proceed?  I actually did that.  So in a sense some of that furious typing was from making calculations.  Then back to writing.  Sun’s still out; rain fell hard earlier.  I’m passing time until this waterproofing consultant comes by to inspect some areas above our unit.  Then I have to pass the time before doing a tenant walkthrough inspection at another property.  Strange, but filling in these gaps with writing can work.  I’m not sure how it all ads up across sales, investment and writing, plus family, but I get the feeling I need to take a step back and see how things go for a bit.

I Chings says nothing because I’m not reading it.  Just sitting here at the quiet desk with my son looking over my shoulder.  It is early morning, barely seven, and I can hear the water trickling in the fish tank, the low howl of the water going to my wife’s shower, the clump as that water stops, and perhaps above all the sound of my son reading and exclaiming “Don’t say that!” to everything I write.  Now he’s hitting me.  He says Why do I like writing so much, only math is fun.  Writing should not be used in this way, to describe one’s situation, one’s momentary experience.  Now he huffs off to take his shower.  Quiet returns but is infused with his concern for me, his perspective.  I can feel where he head-butted me in the shoulder after I wrote the “Don’t say that” comment.  And still I Ching says nothing.

Now he plays his guitar while I type on the bed.  Older now, enough to be real but not felt, (a week, maybe less), so I can’t just say Oh it’s been three years, see how my life has gone… No, it’s only been three to six days so it’s hard to really say I’ve gotten older, surely not noticeably.  The children haven’t grown visibly taller.  But you know, they have grown more mature.  And I’ve changed a little.  I can see myself coming a tiny bit farther out onto the rim of the crater we seemed to fall into some years ago with the Great Recession (do people still remember that?).  Perhaps there’s another crater a few days ahead, but thank God I’ve crawled out of this one.  Uh oh.  Now he’s taking my computer and setting it aside before he jumps onto me for some wrestling, his once-tiny but always round chest hammering down on me, his legs strong enough to lift me off the bed even though I outweigh him two-to-one (correction: 1.5-to-one…when did he get that big?).  There’s nothing to get away from, only moments to attend.  Maybe the sun will come out and everything will be fun, fun, fun.  Or maybe it is already fun and can just keep raining.


French Hotel.  Fall.  Berkeley.  With my Americano I have the sense of times past, Italy and train stations, of wandering freedom.  An older woman sails across the cross walk towards where I sit.  She looks so much like a man I’m sure she is for a long time.  But as she stands and talks with the other elders gathered outside the cafe I see something feminine in her features and then that she wears a dress.  The elders have this guy with them that I’ve seen many times before who is clearly autistic.  They talk as though they’re having a council meeting.  Anyway, not that the dress is definitive, just that it confirms by observation that the person’s features are distinctly feminine.

I’m waiting for pickup time for my kids.  Late in the day and only three p.m.  There’s something old-style about this cross walk with all the old people using it, as though a bridge back to the sixties and seventies, whether by way of seventy-year-olds who were in their twenties and thirties then, or by way of people in their twenties and thirties who carry yoga mats and dress in seventies styles now.  What’s the difference if you put them into a place like Berkeley where all can focus internally on their own life path?  The youngsters have more natal chi, but they waste it.  The elders floating across the cross walk or gathering for their meetings hoard it and use it…to what end?  The circle: young frivolous seriousness and old serious frivolity.  Where is my coffee; this is a bit much for my fifty-year-old brain, halfway between thirty and seventy.  But those ages don’t matter, do they, all in the mix.  More important I’m half-way between 20 and 80.  Those are real ages, moments in life when we’re something unmistakable.  Logical follow-on question: at fifty, am I an unmistakable age, or am I unmistakably mistakable in my place in this continuum?

The cross walk is an old crossing in front of the BMW’s and Acura’s today.  Actually I bet it’s newer than the traffic lights at the two nearest corners.  A mid-block cross walk to a cafe.  Those cars have to stop or-at-least-slow-down while oldsters and youthful acolytes drift across their way like ducks or metal targets. Microcosm of Berkeley.  The French Hotel, Gourmet Ghetto next to the cross walk is not gourmet and seems the opposite of ghetto.  The opposite of a ghetto would be a truly integrated city, and Berkeley isn’t.  Berkeley is nearly a ghetto town in which each ghetto is a ghetto of one single person living a fantasy of his or her own.  How well I fit with the misfits…

I feel my most recent work here was one of those targets, floating through time, shot down by an undeciphered error message while I sat at a little table in a new restaurant serving oversize sushi rolls.  Sumo.  I trusted their wi-fi network, thought I was so smart, and all the updates since the elder crossing were lost.  Now I climb from Sumo to the Rotunda at Neiman Marcus.  This feels like a ladies’ place with all these salads.  I mean tell me if I’m wrong about that, I didn’t even look for the steak, just accepted what they suggested for me; I always love trying the press-button solution.  And it’s good.  I would hazard to say it’s better than what they have at the Nordstrom Bistro on top of that institution.  And the wine seems pretty good.  I’d love to see a comparison of how much food, wine and experience quality you get for the dollar at different places.  Can you guess my guess?  I propose it would be the-more-you-pay-the-better-it-is.  I know practically everyone who writes about things or pursues things tries to get a deal, tries to see how one thing is better than another for reasons other than price.  Do you see the fallacy?  All these people writing about things and thinking about things are the ones making sure that it’s an even playing field: if one restaurant is a relative bargain then everyone will want to go there and try it (long lines theory of quality).  If a restaurant is overrated in terms of price per increment of value then fewer people will attend and I can’t help thinking it will be in a hotel (or a department store?) and people in pajamas will be nursing coffee refills at three in the afternoon, or a stampede will be there at 9:30am if you happen to be there then.  The point: my wife says I’m a hedonist and I’m having a pretty darn good glass of wine many floors above Union Square at 2:30 in the afternoon.  I bet the people around me are filthy rich but what do I care, I’m not going to try to proselytize them, in fact I’d rather read about the downfall of the Comanche empire a century and a half ago than look at their pale white hair, their clenched Asiatic jowls, or listen to them go on about how the project the one hired the other to do was so…successful?  Just a project.  I bet the white-hairs have made real contributions to the University of California, San Francisco, the Asians own a lot of San Francisco property and I’ve called them on the phone before, and the interior designers know someone whom I could use for both my home remodel and the exterior project in North Oakland.  Just being practical, there is no way in I’m going to approach any of them.  Oh well.  I find in writing this out I’ve actually generated a wish to do exactly what I am saying I shall not do, make contact.  Deep breath.  Other projects first.  Maybe in a dining car on a train through Russia.

Break. Work for several hours, receive relentless complements on my cuff links, sweater, hat and tie, buy Christmas presents for the kids, read about the Comanches, eat, drink wine and write.  That’s a perfect day. I found a Chinese restaurant in a Chinese mall today with a tiny front filled with hanging ducks and went back inside to where they don’t speak English well.  The hostess shooed another patron over so I could sit at the big round table and there I read about the Comanches and ate steak with brownish sauce.  Good.

How many things I could do.  I didn’t expect to find presents for the kids here at this other mall (Nordstrom, Westfield) in San Francisco.  But I did. There’s a building I’m selling that I’d really like to look at, but as darkness falls and I’m burdened with two bags of presents I won’t venture into that neighborhood.  Not the plan but here’s what is:  another day. I’ll come back (maybe tomorrow!) and I’ll see that building. God help me my source of energy is this balance of personal pursuit with work.  If I had gone up to that building today after already exceeding the planned time on real estate work it would have led me to a place where I’m less happy, less successful, less alive.  Dangerous abyss one skirts working for oneself, working sales.  I must keep some balance or lose all hope.

Fall.  Nordstrom Bistro.  So many meetings this week and last week. I’m swimming in them.  December 16.  That’s Fall, but barely.  So many meetings that my life is swim, meet, eat, family.  Answer emails and make a few calls. Field questions from clients. Write. Wonder why it feels like a treadmill. Start over the next day.  I’m on the outside looking in at my life, in a way.  How can I get back in?  Hello, you at the table at the Nordstrom Bistro, listening to Frosty the Snowman, sipping Cabernet, asking your assistant to do things for you.  Yes you.  You’re buying a charmed life.  Hope the tab isn’t more than you can pay.  Hope you’re having fun.

And you know what?  I am having fun.  For seventeen years now I’ve been grinding away at real estate and I actually like real estate.  So that’s lucky. I like writing too, and the real estate seems to support that as the late almost shortest-day-of the-year sun reflects off a seven story building for a moment into my eyes atop Nordstrom.



There’s something exiting about traveling through the Transbay Tube on BART.  Just finished watching The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and have that after-dinner-on-a-Friday-night-after-the-movie indestructible feeling.  I feel I must rise to a higher level of engagement with the world around me and need to write.  BART and all trains, but especially trains that look like a 1960s future series of railcars pulled by an engine and make lots of noise but mostly hollow hissing, move you magically along while you continue your business inside.  Like life moving us forward except simpler.  The train, the seat, whatever I have in my lap.  Perhaps a companion.  And the outside world sliding past.  Maybe the darkness of the Transbay tunnel.  Anyway, if a train is pulled by an engine and BART has every car powered individually, does that make it not a train, or only similar to a train?  BART is like a train except that it’s very silvery and hisses, doesn’t choo-choo

A different vantage:  the Saturn Cafe in Berkeley.  All windows around the outside and people walking by all the time.  I wouldn’t have thought it the best pedestrian corridor at the bottom of UC campus where Oxford is full of fast traffic and you can’t get into campus through the baseball field.  Guess I was wrong as lots of people are walking by and I’m inside the fishbowl of this cafe, but I know from experience I don’t really look in from outside.  And from inside one sees the world going by.  Like being on a train except the world is moving and you’re still.

Before I could write much about the Saturn the Uber came and I’ve written most of this in the Toyota Sienna with Arabic-looking rugs on the floor and an Asian-looking man named Rommel driving.  Now I’m getting dropped off.  Thus ends my commentary for two weeks.  Back on BART again after coming through the BART tunnel during Friday, Oct 30 afternoon commute in my Halloween costume.  Dropped off, picked up again by the Uber.  Just like my job making three hundred calls this week to buyers and sellers and lookers and listeners.  Givers and takers and movers and shakers…and fakers.  And it seems to come down to chance, and I get dropped off at the same intersection where I broke my leg a year ago.  Coming back around to the same places.  Traveling through the same BART tunnels.  But you know, every time something changes.  Today the sun has just set and it’s warm and there’s a different feeling in the air that autumn carries.  So this moment is not the same as others were.  It’s more fall and sunny.

Here’s an interesting idea related to seeing the same places again and again, working on the same piece in different but similar places.   To me that has come to seem like a tesseract, a construct with an additional dimension (in this case time) allowing for a series of similar events to compress together, accordion-like, into a common moment. Ok, yes, that’s really cool, and in watching my favorite TV show I came across this idea for a fifth dimension:  if you see time as unfolding and in the process linking everything and everyone together as a fourth dimension, in what dimension would time travel occur?  Or, here is the kicker from Continuum:  would traveling in time require a fifth dimension because of changes time travel causes in the first four, creating a dimension of alternate worlds.  Because we’re used to the idea of time moving only forward, if you jumped backwards to a prior point in time, how would that affect things?  How would we understand the relationship between the world before you did that and the world afterwards?  That is what works as a fifth dimension, the dimension consisting of different possible outcomes based upon our choices.  I just realized something maybe too neat, so obvious I’m surprised I’ve never heard anyone talking about it.  Suppose we define a fifth dimension to our ordinary lives as the parallel worlds created by our choices.  Then…all the ramifications of choice are evident in the resulting continuum.  Choice?  Free will, right?  What are the areas of human endeavor most associated with free will and choice?  Besides career planning… philosophy and religion!  I’ve always tried to interpret Christ’s statement “The Kingdom of God will come as a thief in the night,” at a most unexpected time and place, to mean that it is concealed within each moment.  Existentially, if something big is going to happen at a surprising time, something really big, then there is probably only one surprising time it can happen.  1999?  2112?  No, now!  That’s the only existential time that has any real utility.  Everything else is unreal, who knows may never become real because…there are so many possibilities.  In a fifth dimension we have a way that literally everything from dropping your ice cream cone on the ground to the Rapture of good souls, the separating of wheat from chaff, goats from sheep, the end of the world, can coexist.  All the predictions were correct, every one of them.

So many paths to consider.  What about this one: in the Continuum series the most disturbing aspect was to have to face a reality in which one did not belong, say by coming into a time where there is already one of you there.  You can’t very well both sit in your favorite armchair at the same time.  You also can’t both spend one-on-one time with your child at the same time, or your fiancé… So, what about these groups that have predicted the end of the world.  What if it ended in some timelines as the believers predicted, but not for us in this timeline we happen to be on?  If there are parallel worlds initiated by every choice each of us makes, then any of us could be heading down a path to any one of those worlds any time and the people we know are doing the same.  So there might be really cool worlds that we might or might not get to depending upon the choices we and others make, and we might get there with our friends, but only with the ones who made certain choices.  All religious thought that supports an afterlife or a consequence from our free will might be proved out in one of these parallel worlds right here and now.  Heaven and Hell can literally exist in parallel worlds that we could get to really easily by means of our choices…

By creating disturbing situations such as persons meeting themselves, Continuum made it more clear that each moment we make decisions that may remake our future.  The kicker was the decisions that had the greatest impact were the ones made with the greatest degree of caring and insight.  That makes sense in that the decisions that affect humanity will be the ones that in some way take its interests into account.

For a second I’d step out of the flow of time as it rushes past in the form of fire engines, students, three lanes of cars, someone nearby playing a guitar.  As a bassist rolls his acoustic instrument, taller than himself, with an electric amplified monitor, past the bicycles and bystanders while the sun goes down behind the Revival Bar & Kitchen across the street from me in Berkeley.  But I wanted to step out to enjoy this moment.  The hedonistic impulse may or may not be culpable, maybe without it I’d be bereft of any meaning, so hedonistic impulses have their purpose in bringing us closer to truth through creating a frame of reference.  If I seek a certain pleasure at least I’ve created clarity of intent and action.  I say taking a step back is one entry to that fifth dimension of free will and choice, a dimension not easily perceived and not easily used to good purpose, or even used at all.  Let’s say I’m using it now because let’s say I actually care that I use my free will.  Say I engage in an exercise, a practice whereby I take note of what I perceive and what I feel.  I thereby create a different world.  And the only way it can be different is through use of free will, and free will is tied, inevitably, to action, and the only premeditated action is practice (because otherwise it’s just vague ideas, not acts we can actually count on making), and so by a practice, say of meditation, or swimming, or stopping and listening to my kids, I give myself a tiny almost invisible moment to use my free will.  And that is creativity and that is magic.  The glass that holds the wine.  And all along you thought it was your hand that held the wine.




Continue reading “Easy”


At Billy’s house.  We know each other pretty well but not one-on-one.  I’m about to get into my car to leave and both of us smile, which says we’ll hang out together again.  My dog doesn’t talk but she’s always communicating.  My mind takes it in as though she’s talking.  A person of the opposite sex catches your eye and there’s a moment of communication that’s almost a sound, like the rap of the handle of a tool on a tabletop.  Silent.

Twenty years later my daughter leads me away from the fountain on the south side of UC campus and I look at a woman who’s been there while we were.  She smiles and I may as well hear a sound in my head.  Not a sound a smile.  Her passive face momentarily seems to say, “I am open.”  But I don’t think so.  I think the smile can be a false openness.  Why would that be?  It may say something more like “Hello I’m here,” or “I remember riding my bike around as your daughter does while my father watched me.”  I guess I don’t know what the smile communicates.  Still, my brain has to interpret the shockwave of it so it partly seems a sound, perhaps out of habit that when someone suddenly communicates something you’re used to hearing it.

Immersed in a non-verbal world, surrounded by our fellows at cafes, restaurants, on the street.  Communicating verbally but mostly not.  A guy at my work always looks over the top of his cubicle, trying to connect.  But he doesn’t connect with me as well as others do who don’t always say hello or obviously seek me out.  I’m wondering what constitutes communication because just the visceral shared experience of being in an office together, passing by someone’s cubicle, means something, doesn’t it?  I’m not sure it matters if I’m unaware.  I want the crystal clarity of an action novel where things are destined to happen and time slows down as I focus on what is essential.  If I slow down, let go my emotional tension, may I become aware of the communication implicit amongst me and my neighbors?

A thirty-person office.  Wouldn’t most discourse have be unspoken so we don’t spend all our time articulating?  Submerged in unconscious, unspoken banter.  Saying hello or not, walking down the corridor to a colleague.  It’s interactive at some level yet what does it mean without intention?  Isn’t the awareness of my own goals and intentions more powerful than managing the interactions in which I find myself, because awareness is quicker than control?  I find myself wondering what would happen if I paid more attention to what was being communicated to me, even if implicitly.

Walking to my office from a coffee shop I hear a pair of old persons walking.  Thin man with cane, woman with head pitched forward.  Think of it, the slow motion of an older person carefully placing every step.  I infer a continuous high-pitched screaming, either the shriek of bones lacking cushion, or an imagined sound of the two pushing themselves along by sheer will now that the natal chi they used to throw at every whimsical impulse no longer serves.  They move as automatons powered by outraged human spirits.  An imagined sound, yet isn’t there a tendency to imagine sound with movement?

At a table at Starbucks in Orinda east of the Berkeley Hills on a hot day.  At first the shock of cool air seems too much but now I’m fine.  The corporation has coconut milk and sweet Chiquita banana.  Not organic.  Through the semitransparent green blinds I see cars passing in the heat silently as through a corporate…blind.  I hear their silent motion.  Each movement my eyes track elicits a response in my brain, partly a hearing response.  Guess I just didn’t notice it before.  The guy at the next table moves his elbow towards me as he lifts the screen of his laptop and I hear and feel it too.

Could it be the towards me that matters?  Since I partly seem to feel the motion of the guy’s hand towards me, not just infer  a sound, perhaps the what I experience is an adrenaline response.  It seems possible when my body experiences an adrenaline surge, even a small one, that it expresses itself partly through the hearing and vision areas of my brain.  If there weren’t some amount of sensory overlap I would have no direct way of sensing the initiation of an adrenaline surge–I’d just see the thing that I was reacting to… Wouldn’t I then risk being an amygdalic reactor leaping into action without awareness?  Of course I can feel an adrenaline surge in my chest, in my fingertips, but I also imagine a sound when my eyes see the stimulus that starts the reaction.  It’s a whole chain.  Call it synesthesia if you like, but don’t you also associate a sound (not an actual synesthetic sound, but a brain message that has the sense of sound) with sudden, dramatic, silent movements and expressions directed right at you?




It’s cool under my mother-in-law’s house.  Here and more important writing I feel free even safe. The thump and crack of my youngest’s gymnastics on the floor upstairs is background.  Loud voices, television, blend with the whoosh of cars from the street farther down the hill.  Into my thoughts of the day.  I email my CPA, talk to my son, text my mom, view a LinkedIn post and a Facebook photo.  I feel the freedom to write or not and the texture of the moment, of my breath as I lie back on this little bed my wife’s mom has down here.  Making the feel of the moment mine.

Earlier I finished Tom Cruise’s Edge of Tomorrow.  No need.  Partway through it was clearly about taking control of the moment.  You let life carry you along or you take charge.  Tom Cruise gets the opportunity to try over and over.  Getting it right could take ten tries.  Or, despite the repeated chances it may never happen.  One could just take a half-step back, slow down, and do it now.  All I have to do is take control enough to feel it, to know I’ve done it…

When I’m not in control…is that when I’m uncomfortable with the way things are going, as when I’m with family and my situation seems out of balance because the kids are screaming, I’m tired and something seems missing?  Or is losing control when I feel good, like while playing a computer game or watching a movie?  If the latter, being in control is more difficult to test than just noticing that I feel good.  That could be taking control if I were purely a hedonist.  I’ve decided writing, reflecting and looking at sunsets is taking charge, but not because it’s hedonistic, because it’s a practice.  And taking charge happens in the actual moment, not just from stepping back.  It’s about technique.  The act is everything.  Take perspective; take action.

I could start a new vignette now at Cafe Strada.  Touchpoint: years ago my wife and I would walk here from the other end of town.  We’re closer now and I come with my children who listen to the students.  It was blazing hot while I worked on my taxes, ate and walked.  It was hot at home and the kids fought.  My wife was calm, thank God, but it was not cool there and no escape from the day though still early.  The early evaporated into consultation with my CPA and the next thing I knew I was across UC campus at Strada with my daughter on her bike and it was after six and she was pretty much not interfering with my writing.  And it was cool.


Old Forest

New music.  Moody, maudlin but upbeat.  At Cafe Gratitude, where there’s no dairy or gluten.  I didn’t used to care about that, although the cashew-milk shakes were all right.  Dishes have names like “I Am Grateful For Giving Back.”  The thing about The Old Forest is I feel Cafe Gratitude wants to give us access to some mysterious past.  Why not? Access to a better future or even to our true selves doesn’t actually mean anything specific.  But an imagined past?  Where we wander pathways in and out of darkness under the canopy, and in our deeper imagination our feet rarely touch the ground…that’s more exciting than the future of humanity or coming face-to-face with flaws.

My kids come into the cafe with my wife to join me and the dog and the music picks up and suddenly the dog is sitting next to me on a pillow.  What was it like to look out from the edge of the forest, feet on the ground, pondering a venture onto the savannah?  So many children, so much chaotic sound, such a discussion of the merits and demerits of playing guitar in schools interrupted first by questions from my daughter, then by a squabble over tortillas dipped into plantains, guacamole and coconut flakes.  Turns out Mr. San Jose the ukulele teacher was promoted to teach at the high school level.  New worlds.  The trip to the Old Forest, alone with my dog, leads to something more complex than those secret, winding ways.  Now we can fight over everything we can possibly imagine, because of course we’re no longer coming out of the forest, we’ve taken over the savannah and look back with longing.

So that’s the end I mean the beginning.  My daughter sits on a pillow next to the dog on the pillow looking off into space while she drinks her cashew shake.  It’s a really good shake, as long as you don’t drink the whole glass, and Radiohead’s Karma Police reflects her vacant lost expression.  I really don’t think she’s lost.  I think she’s traveling the interior paths of her mind.  She jumps up and ties a napkin on the dog’s head.  The beginning of forever and all you have to do is take a little moment back on the old forest paths and come out again onto the plain.  Even though the plain is filled with our own people looking back at the forest when they can remember to do that amidst the hot dust and the shouts and the looks of dismay.



A four magnitude earthquake struck nearly underneath us this morning.  Woke me up to jump from bed and check my kids.  I hadn’t slept well because of the heat, was only sound asleep after awakening twice to my wife’s phone, once while I drifted to sleep and once when the thing began to sing joyfully Time To Get Up, at 5:15 p.m.  Honestly I didn’t mind the song at five a.m. as much as the percussive, single bleat from the phone after ten p.m. Then the earthquake hit and I felt its aftershocks in my chest as I lay aching and on one of our beds with my kids and the trembling dog. I wasn’t trembling, exactly, but must have been processing stress hormones from being shaken awake to a momentary fear that it was the Big One.

I end up in my Uber, reviewing the morning.  The wind blows gently, as though I’m not riding in Berkeley but the tropics.  I think to put on my headphones and realize the breeze draws my attention to the peaceful outside world.  No need for headphones if Berkeley is Bangkok this morning.  Later I write in the BART through the Berkeley Hills to Orinda.  It’s peaceful also, and I’m not late.  At all.  What will I do to find stress, to bring on the stress hormones?  I can find something of course.

Instead of Uber I have BART again.  Time flies as the cool train sighs through the tunnels.  I arrive.  No time to finish this, but do I control time?  I stop and look back at the BART tunnel ride from another place another time, another glass of wine, this time with papadam and shrimp.  So, no, I don’t control time, yet I may turn this way and that to take perspective as it sweeps me along.  The memory of sighing BART brings me a certain peace now fifteen minutes before I must present for a listing, one day after a hot, uncomfortable standing BART ride, two days after that quiet contemplative ride on BART, one hour and twenty-three minutes before a high-flying midday ride to El Cerrito on, yes, BART.  And the presentation is cancelled and my day is changed, yet I’ll return to BART and Uber in transit with no final place.


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