I heard him roaring half a block to my left as I got off the freeway and rode toward Cutting Boulevard. I thought, maybe there’s a chance we’ll meet up at the light ahead. I slowed my pace, drove carefully up to the intersection and waited for the light to catch me up short. Bingo!
And right there on my left, he glided up. Staring at the signal, gasping to glimpse the green, he never noticed me reaching for my phone to capture him until the second after I’d snapped his picture. A turn of his head, a quizzical look, and then his engines roared and carried him halfway down Cutting, and I was turning off onto Marina Way, laughing at the image I was sure I’d taken away.
I’d gotten used to looking for the taco truck that likes to show up behind the newsroom bureau. But it wasn’t there when I wandered out of the office and past where I’d parked my car. I can’t remember if I decided to go all the way around or just to retrace my steps. But as soon as I made it back to the front door, I just looked up by accident, and there it was across Marina Way South! And that’s how lunch was served. I got my burrito, and the day was saved.
When they call you at home and send you to start your day at a press conference, that’s one thing. But when it’s the latest moment in a story like this, well, that’s another.
I talked to his bandmates, his mother and stepfather, his fianceé. I listened to Oakland police spokespeople. I stood outside the club where he got shot. I held my phone out and filmed tears and pleading and images.
I got a little bit of a sense of what this guy was like from the people who drove up and down highways for hours in vans with him to play punk rock in far-flung rooms to tiny, roaring crowds. When I playback what I recorded and look closer at the notes I took, that seems to be what I dwell on the most: not so much the moments he was onstage, pumping out slabs of sound or twiddling knobs on studio gear, but the times he was cracking in-jokes and balancing ambition and amiability, energy and enjoyment, and all manner of love and loves and loving.
There’s no cure for sore legs but more walking. Sure, you can be serious and talk abut rest and ice and compression and elevation. You can even joke about adding a little bourbon to the ice. But my legs figured walking were the work that might help the aches and pains lingering from last Friday’s walk in the woods. Nothing like a little labor on a day made to mark its practitioners, from Haymarket to TaskRabbit and maybe back again.
My goodness, we rolled up on Lafayette Reservoir at a little bit after 10 a.m. and the place was packed. We waited at least fifteen minutes for a parking space, and we couldn’t stop bumping and elbowing those run-strollers out of the trail path, which was just throbbing with footfalls and baseball caps and sunglasses and workout wear.
Afterward, we went and found a deconstructed burger joint and feasted, then drove home and laid low all afternoon before rallying to satisfy dire clothing shortages at the neighborhood laundromat, also humming and packed full of all-ages activity.
Today was odd, being my first day back at the gym in a minute, and a pleasant respite from what’s been way more activity out in the world than usual. I biked around my side of Lake Merritt, locked up, walked in, scanned my pass, and suddenly decided I couldn’t bring myself to one more bout of stretching. Motion of some kind is the only salve for lack of motion, which, of course, is not the same thing as stillness or even idleness.
So, to sit on the stationary bicycle, and adjust the straps and seating, and tune out the psychedelic children’s-cartoons programming on the screen, and take Jamie XX’s “In Colour” for a ride turned out to be a good and just and worthwhile thing to have done. It stayed with me that evening on my first shift back, looking out for BART Transbay Tube progress and signs of information about the Whole Foods Market beating and a cyclist’s death in East Contra Costa.
I got showered and dressed and I took her out to the bar. For the dive over on Park, I might not’ve put on a shirt and tie. Then again, I might’ve done it just for me.
She has mentioned liking rum from time to time, and not liking much else in the way of brown liquors. That just made it all the cooler when the bartender did something amazing with Bailey’s Irish Cream and cinnamon.
Me, I was easy. I liked a drink they had on the menu a year and a half ago, and I’ve just kept showing up and ordering it. Usually there are three bartenders behind the counter when I walk in, but it doesn’t seem to make a difference: any two of the three is usually able to turn it around quickly, with a high degree of quality and potency.
Excellent drinks, excellent music (spun by a vinyl-toting gentleman who started out the evening with Ramsey Lewis’ “Sun Goddess” and was starting in on the Blackbyrds’ “Rock Creek Park” when she and I left) and excellent company meant not even a fellow with the cheese-eating grin elbowing his way and his companion’s way into a chair’s-width space to my right could irritate me for long. I didn’t even get mad when the fellow tried to ask me if I was from around here. I just wish I’d had the presence of mind to tell him something like it ain’t where you’re from, sir, it’s where you’re at.
I spent three hours hugging trees. I can’t say it made me feel much closer to nature. When you’re surrounded by it, you don’t have to work that hard. As it stands, the trees were the only thing keeping me upright on the gnarled, root-riddled trails threading through redwood stands and under cool green leafy canopies. Everyone else seemed to speed past in fluorescent sneakers, spandexy athleisure outfits and clouds of conversation about image interpersonal disputes, the impact of Central Valley fracking and plans for later regional sightseeing back.
I’d brought my ask to study and ungainly Timberland boots, but forgotten to take my daily antihistamine pill, left my sunglasses back in our car, and taken nearly the full contents of one of those tiny red slimline bottle-shaped Coke cans to my face. Her laughter was the easiest I’d heard all day.
Then the can slipped out of my front pants pocket and landed about six feet below the edge of a trail we were on. She climbed down to get it, ignoring me when I said I’d do it and risking further slides, poison oak and who knows what else was in the crumbling loam. I wound up crawling on my belly in the dirt half a mile later after the mini-tripod in my other pocket decided to try and make a run for it.
We managed to clamber back down and out of the park, covered in dirt and bracing for the impact of tomorrow’s oncoming soreness. The route back home across the Golden Gate Bridge and Presidio Parkway, then along Lombard, Van Ness, Broadway, Battery and First Street to the Bay Bridge was smooth and fast. And if I play my cards right, I won’t have to anything like that home again for weeks or months.
I had a brief moment, after arriving at a brunch in Redwood City today, where I couldn’t think of an icebreaker for the slight lull in conversation after I’d settled into a seat. Then I remembered a couple of fellow brunchers from a previous gathering, and asked them: “So, have you read any good hard sci fi lately?” One of them said he’d been spending more time with fantasy, before lamenting his general lack of free reading time. Later on, he added that he’d been pursuing podcasts and mentioned one he particularly enjoyed. The other bruncher recommended “The Three-Body Problem,” describing it as a spare, minimal, translated-from-Mandarin take on an alien invasion of Earth via videogame with a fair amount of China’s Cultural Revolution and a day of Three Gorges-type geo-development projects. I promptly downloaded it, before wondering where one finds the time to read these days.
Then I answered that question by going to see “The Imitation Game” for my third time in four months at the local indie cinema house. The first time, I just let the story go by, and tried to weigh my enjoyment against its similarities with other genres and studio films of a certain pedigree, as well as friend’s disappointment at its lack of biographic fidelity. The second time, I noticed the script, and listened more closely for its pacing and rhythms. This time, I spent most of my time thinking about how data won a world war, but led to ever-increasing levels of personal and business innovation, automation, and surveillance.
I woke up in time to have coffee and conversation at Woody’s Cafe with author, activist and musician Nia King about growing up back East, finding fulfillment in creative pursuits and both the futility and the necessity of reconciling tensions between career choice and motivated mentorship. Before I realized what was happening, Nia asked me how I’d spent the last twenty years, and somehow I found answers, followed on hard by insights as they came to me. In turn, I learned she favors a full five-piece drum kit (heavy on the toms), misses picking apples when the seasons change, and can laugh at jokes about news coverage involving politicians inappropriately fondling bags of money. It is instructive to look at the work she has taken on documenting her communities of interest, and I think she’s got lots more work coming that will be worth checking out and paying for: see to it if you get the chance.
I’d almost forgotten about getting out of my seat last night during the awards banquet and sneaking over to the window in the rear of the room. I realized I was ten stories up in San Francisco, close enough to see the last bit of the sky overhead and a couple of streets intersecting below.
But I remembered at the end of a long day chasing paperwork and filing taxes in Walnut Creek, and then waiting on burgers and beers and watching people drink and eat and saunter along the sidewalks of the Lakeshore District. So once A. and I got home and had dinner and sat down in the living room, I had a look at it again.