Sitting on the airplane next to a tall, thin young man with narrow wrists and a nose that hints at having been raised well and thoughtfully. His skin is poreless, this much I can see. He orders a burger from the United cart and eschews the bun, taking big gobbly bites that say that eating is something he wishes he didn’t have to do. He seems embarrassed to partake. I imagine that he wants to get back to his device, a device of a size that tells me I know nothing of the ocean of possibilities in technology. It sits before him on the tray. He keeps his hands in his lap and his body seems so straight and yet comfortable and still, and I think, this younger generation. There is so much they know that I don’t.
This Summer has had me traveling, for work and to see family. When I am home I savor it, soak up the San Francisco fog and my beloved routines made more precious because I know I’ll be leaving again soon. I love my home.
I also love to bop around, and to play drums, and I love my family, so it’s been worth pulling myself away from the ocean air and the cool nights to get a little adventure in.
Last week, I was in Colorado, the new home of my sister and her family, and I got to spend a couple of days with my hysterical nephews and lovely brother-in-law and my sister, all of whom I love beyond words. Then, I headed to a music festival in the mountains above Denver to play a show and hang with my musical sisters for a couple of days.
I took my teeth to their bi-annual early morning cleaning, and walked back up through Chinatown. The day was one of those rare ones in which there were no appointments or pressing work to do, so when I passed Molinari’s I made a detour and landed in Caffe Trieste. It’s not my usual place, but I do admire its musical and poetical story. I ordered a cup of black coffee and sat at the back corner table.
The coffee was hot, so I sat and waited. The sun was coming in the transom-like windows at the top and the center of the room was beaming. Folks were lined up along the windows and the walls, reading newspapers, looking at phones or computers. In the center of the room there was a family, tourist-seeming, and the light was shining on the brown hair of the teenage daughter and son, who both seemed restless and irritated with their parents. The sound of the steamers was going, and the conversation at the coffee counter had a rhythmic rise and fall.
The band had three shows last weekend, ending in Olympia, Washington. On Sunday, I drove the gear back to San Francisco with a friend who flew into Portland. We dropped the van at 9PM, I caught a cab to SFO, and landed in Albany at 9:30AM Monday morning. Another cab ride to a little outpost of a Budget Rent-A-Car in a Sears lobby, another 45-minute drive, and I arrived to a workshop my mentor was giving in a 100-year old house filled with plants and stones and artwork from the Far East.
While I was sitting in this small group of women, tired but happy, I remembered A Wrinkle in Time, the book I loved as a child, and how much I loved the trio of the three witches: Mrs Who, Mrs Whatsit, Mrs Which. I loved that book. The misfit outsider narrator. The magic of uncovering secret knowledge. The idea of traveling through space and time. Saving all reality from darkness through the power of love. I loved that group of women.
A couple of weeks ago, the band played two nights in a row at a jewel box of a music venue in Marin County. A two-night run is wonderful for a musician. The second night feels luxurious. You get to the venue and the sound and light engineers and the stage manager feel like old friends, and your equipment is all set up and waiting for you, like a car that’s been warmed up on a freezing day.
At these shows, we had the honor of a superstar drummer attending, a friend of our guitarist’s, and she suggested we have him sit in for a couple of songs. The first night was great. We used the old, “Clementine is not well, is there anyone who knows how to play drums?” routine with the audience, as a ruse to bring him up. He played a song I always have trouble with, and it was great to see someone with his ability play it. It was a treat to hear my drums played by someone with such command.
Finally, the Summer fog is in. I didn’t mind the hot weather too much the last few weeks, but these dampened gray mornings suit me better. In the afternoon yesterday, the pug and I headed to the big park and when we laid flat on the grass we could feel the warmth of the sun and avoid the cool wind pushing the clouds back across the city from the sea.
Summer has always been my least favorite season. For me, it is the gloomy season. I have never gotten to the bottom of this pattern of thought. I think it has something to do with missing being in school as a child. Being bored, missing the social interaction of the classroom and the stimulation of learning. When I put myself back there long ago, I lie in my still room feeling the incessant breath of the air conditioner, listening to the mosquito buzz of a lawn mower or a plane chopping through the sky. Everyone elsewhere, everyone gone. It is a weight on my soul, the certain knowledge that humanity splashes gloriously in the warm sunshine as I sit in a prison of tedium.
Often, I feel like a broken record. In these blogs, I feel as if I’m starting to repeat myself. For instance, I use the same metaphor all the time, but it’s the best way to say it, at least that I’ve found so far. When I change perspective, I see my thoughts as a river, rushing slightly above my head. If I am able to sink underneath them, in meditation or other quiet moments, then I sit in still awareness until a thought throws down a hook, and like a fish I rise to the surface and engage with the thought. Maybe it is of something that will come in the future, maybe something that has happened in the past. Whatever it is, when the hook comes down, I leave this present moment and speed down that river as if there is nothing below, no peace.
Today, my walk takes me across Vallejo Street to the Lyon Street Steps. When I get close to the edge of the Presidio there, the scent of the Eucalyptus overwhelms me and I am filled with an old feeling of home. In one of the backyards of my childhood, big silver-dollar trees littered the patio with their dusty discs, and the smell was like this, with a little more menthol to them. It is a primary California scent for me, and here at the end of the street a whole forest waves the fragrance past the buttercream mansions and the immaculate vista. It is a warm, cloudless day, and the water of the Bay is a blue sky on which islands float. I come first upon a hummingbird, sipping from the pink and white salvia. I am an arms-length away, and he is lost in a dream of nectar, so I get close-up to his chubby body, his glittering copper head, and his impossibly iridescent green belly.
In the park. We lie for a while in a respectable manner. The pug is obsessed with other picnics and I finally get tired of his wanderings and begging for more treats, and we get up and ramble around the park. He snaps at a Huskie in the dog run area, so we take our business to the top of the park, where the big trees moan and squeak. There is a configuration of several branches that the wind sets to crying every time I am at the top of this hill; the white eucalyptus branches must be rubbed raw by now in this frictional embrace. Still, they seem to shriek with joy.
I think every time I stop midway along the drive from Seattle to San Francisco after a weekend of shows, “Here Comes the Sun” plays in the hotel restaurant.
I drive about 7 or 8 hours, stay in Oregon. I always pick a hotel with a restaurant. I drop the girls off for their morning flights and drive until about 5PM. Today, I lucked out on a last-minute booking at a hotel that gave me a room with a hot tub. Badass. I have several germaphobic friends who eschew any hotel room bathing, but I choose to trust that people generally do their jobs well and thoughtfully and give these things a good scrubbing between travel-worn bodies. I don’t have a good bathtub in my apartment, so any opportunity, I’m in. After four shows this weekend, hot stages, lots of driving and goofy sleep, there was no way I wasn’t getting in that tub.