Dec 26, 2008

She and my wife see each other once a week. Every other month we go to their house for dinner. We used to go back and forth but they haven’t come to see us in more than a year, not since her husband was badly injured in a head-on collision. The accident happened on the Golden Gate Bridge, in a terrible fog late at night. As a result he suffers from relentless headaches and hallucinations and rarely leaves his wheelchair. He spends a lot of time in his chair, out in his garden, all bundled up. A few weeks ago he wheeled himself out after dinner and literally spent the whole night outside. His wife fell asleep and forgot that he couldn't get back in the house by himself. When she found him at first light he was still asleep. She woke him up. "I've been with angels," he said. "I have. I've seen them."

This couple lives in Sausalito, above Richardson Bay, in a 70-year-old wooden house covered over in Navy blue bougainvillea, and with a crow’s nest view of Angel Island. Off to the right, Alcatraz. This is the metaphor for the woman’s life. She lives alternately on the summit of Angel Island and in ‘the hole’ at Alcatraz. She’s always felt that, her life is either high or low. And after her husband’s collision she felt she’d been thrown permanently in the hole.

His care has been intensive and expensive. They had no proper insurance. They talked about it, they looked into it, but they never signed on a dotted line. Now, it's too late. And then after thee crash on the bridge there was the crash on Wall Street. All their investments “calved”, as her husband put it, thinking of the times they used to take the inland cruise up to Glacier Bay to watch glaciers sheer.

And now, as often happens in this situation, the rotting undercarriage of their marriage is exposed. For example, after the accident she suddenly felt the dead weight of his presence. For years he had belittled her in public or ignored her in private, or talked about how 'we' had done this or that, referring to their finances, when actually she had done those things. She had always excused these things, hadn't seen them against the camouflage of endless activity. Now all of a sudden she sees every- thing and she's become openly bitter. When she looks into his face and sees his jaw agape — that look older men get when they see death coming and turn into children — she can't help but turn away and pull away. It's not only seeing his fear but feeling her own. And she knows that, and she compensates for it. She's very wise. But a starving heart, no matter how wise, can’t exist on humanity, alone.

A few months ago she took a lover. Two of her friends, including my wife, encouraged her. Absolutely, they said, just what the doctor ordered. Get laid, you’ll feel great, it’ll be much easier to deal with your husband and we won’t have to feel sorry for you. Off you go.

But it wasn’t so easy. This woman is still a sexpot, everybody would tell you that, but she hadn’t had sex in 10 years. You assume she must have been exaggerating, but apparently not. And you’re thinking, ‘you mean she couldn’t even please herself?' Apparently not. Even in the imaginarium all God’s creation had become extinct. Or so she claimed.

The other problem was that despite appearances this city has a low inventory of qualified heterosexual lovers, married or not. This was not always true but it is now. Actually, I think it was always true, but the standards have always been low What’s left is elderly runners, neuters, men in their 30s who want you to tell them bedtime stories, museum guides, bar hoppers from the Spanish American war, psychologists — and their patients and those devilish little dervishes who call themselves realtors, not to mention an army of men who prefer virtual women to the real thing.

So it took some time. Also, our friend didn’t want to go with a stranger. She didn’t want to go to bars. She was deathly afraid of disease. Her two confidantes told her it was probably best to find a married man, for a lot of reasons, but they weren’t willing to volunteer their own husbands even for a night and they didn’t seem to mind if this meant undermining some other family.

She thought of handy men but there were no handy men. Just ‘mental men’. She didn’t want a professional, but she was also reluctant to go off with an ‘artist.’ She wanted to have conversations she’d never had before. She was introduced to a book seller and for a moment that seemed promising but he was not that interesting phsycially and finally she didn’t like his book store or the people, largely from Berkeley, who came to the poetry readings he organized. She wanted someone who was both different but also grounded and earthy.

Suddenly, out of the sky fell a stunt pilot. That’s how she described him initially, but upon further inspection he turned out to be a Navy washout, from the Vietnam era. After the war he got work as a crop-duster for an agro-business down in the Central Valley and may have done some barnstorming and once he claimed he put the plane on auto and went out on the wing and sat in a chair. Somehow, he got the money to start a little flight school up in the wine country. This was in the 1980s. He’s been a one-man band ever since. Then he got his hands on some old gliders. On weekends, he gets engineers from Silicon Valley up in the gliders and he stuffs matrons and their children into an old bi-plane and buzzes the mud baths.

And that’s how they met. Her husband suggested they go up beyond the vineyards for a mud bath and then after lunch they saw a glider being pulled down the runway at a small grass field. "You’ve got to do that," he told her. She was reluctant. He insisted, and so while he sat way down there in the parking lot, looking up from his wheelchair, she went riding off in the thermals.


By the way, her husband is a painter. He does those abstract paintings you find in corporate conference rooms and outside the bathrooms in banks and insurance companies. For years he did commissions for Wells Fargo. He also has some paintings hanging in the corridors of Goldman Sachs, in New York.

“A lot of money to throw around in those days,” I said to him the other night after one those spectacular drops in the market. “And look what they did with it
.” Then it occurred to me that might sound like a criticism of his work. “That lifestyle those people lead,” I added.

“The money was good.”

“I’ll bet.”

“It was all another time, wasn’t it? Just living. So much fun and didn’t everything seem prettier to you?”

The man’s mind is gone. What do you say?

“What do you think of Ms. Palin, speaking of pretty”?

“Isn’t she the best? I love her.” He can’t enough of Sarah Palin.

“But doesn’t it bother you that she for example she’d never heard of the Bush doctrine.”

“I don’t know what that is.” He shrugged his shoulders. “I couldn’t answer that question. But you have other people for that. But don’t you think she’s sexy? She’s really sexy.”

I suppose.

“I’d like to spend the night with her.”

He was far too sincere and seemed oblivious to his wife right next to him cutting up a roast.

“But what’s the sexy part?” I asked. “She doesn’t seem that smart.”

“She looks a lot like my first wife,” he said and went on to describe his first wife in far too much detail.

His second wife stopped cutting and just let the knife rest deep in the meat. “Well, I think we can get her back,” she said, “but isn’t she in a nursing home somewhere?”
“She’d take better of me that you ever did.”

“Really? Really. Well you haven’t seen anything yet.” And now she was eviscerating the roast.


So here is a woman who after ten years is having sex again. She’s back on Angel Island. But what good is it doing? She used to be the kindest, most thoughtful woman you ever met. Do anything for you, do anything for her husband. Never a mistaken word. Now, she’s like a puppy. All she can talk about is the stunt flyer’s stunts. They’ve become ‘The Insatiables.” Three times in a ‘session.’ And now he’s trying to get her to do it in the bi-plane. She says her nipples are always hard. Thank god she doesn’t have children to take care of. Thank God for long afternoons, particularly when her husband’s Swedish nurse comes.

And this is the pillow talk the have. "Did you hear that Sharon Stone was going to have her son’s feet be filled with botox to stop foot odor? Amazing, isn’t it?" They laugh and laugh and then he’s spreading her legs all over again. Later, they talk about McCain and Obama and how Palin is such an idiot. And she’s delighted to hear he thinks Palin is homely. Then out of one conversation into each other and then into another conversation and out of each other. Over and over. She cannot believe the pleasure. It’s as though they were children all over again. It’s as though she’s no longer tied to earth. It's as though the material world, this house where once she wanted to finish out her life, is all now absolutely nothing. Even as her husband sits by one of his paintings, his hand gnarled, his eyes fixed, panting, as though it were a hot day. (to be continued)

Nov 11, 2008

Isn't it perfect? Isn't it just what you would expect? Bush's aids have been ranting all day about how the President was betrayed by leaks from Obama, following their meeting yesterday. And what was so secret? That Bush is willing to exchange his support for a GM bailout in return for democratic congressional support for free-trade agreements with Columbia and two other Latin American countries. A bailout is fine for his chums on Wall Street, in the financial sector, but not the companies employing thousands of blue collar workers. Save Wall St.; let Main Street smolder.

Or so it would seem. Meanwhile, who knows where the bailout money is going. Who knows how certain companies are being rewarded, others not. It's the divving up in the backroom, before the place is raided.

In the end, it really wasn't that Bush sat on Cheney's knee, it was that Bush had no moral sense or moral courage to speak of.

Nov 10, 2008

Of course, now there is all this hoopla. Finally, we can feel good about ourselves as Americans. But it's not all good. Already, something is starting to happen. Have you talked to women lately about their dream life?

Here's what's happening: they're all dreaming of Obama. They're massaging his back, they're walking with him off down the beach. Or, although they're reluctant to say this, they're making love to him. And you think, 'well what about Michelle?' These women don't give a damn about Michelle. Sure, they like her dresses, but they want her man.

And you understand, the dream is not about fucking him; it's about making love to him. It's about having his babies, it's about consoling him after a bad day at the office. This is what we're talking about. What's happening is they're falling deeply in love. For some, it's the first time in years. It's beyond Freudian. It's beyond matinee idols and icons. We'll need a new term. The Obama-fication of the American woman. Or maybe you could say, the refeminization of America. It means that American women have been won over, made over, and taken over. Even the ones that voted for McCain. You can hear it in their voices and the glazed eyes when they hear him. If he's anywhere in your house, on TV, on a magazine cover, if someone says so much as "oh, I think I'll switch on the light..." They hear that "O" and they're suddenly all tuned in, all the rabbit ears are up.

I'll bet you any money this is going to be a campaign issue long before the next election cycle. Hannity, el Rushbow, Brian the 'whether man' and the boys in white hoods, they'll have a word on this any day now. And you see how insidious it is: if you make so much as a peep, if you saying anything at all to a woman under the trance, even just a passing joke — they cut you off. "Why don't you go play tennis." Or, "Why don't you go work in the garden?" Or, "Isn't there a football game on?" They can't stand the sight of you. You've been erased and replaced. Rich or poor doesn't matter. It's like a sci-fi movie. It's like Obama is a pod person who has penetrated the female psyche.

And so what will happen? The therapist's office are going to be filled with a flood of dispirited, angry, jealous, and frustrated men. If you thought men were in decline, if you thought their best day was past, just wait. You remember the movie with the title from that Hopi term, Koyanaskatsi, "Life out of balance". That's what's happening on a vast psychological plain. But you won't realize the consequences until it's too late.

Now my wife is talking about starting "Obama's Mammas", a philanthropic group that would meet regularly to take on well meaning projects. Creative projects, of course, and launched with the hope that maybe she'll get to go to the White House one day. And once she gets in to those quarters, watch out. It's the good liberal gone berserk.

Get him out of there!

Head shot

Head shot
Originally uploaded by macnamband

Photo by Jacobovitz (

Nov 5, 2008

After Ohio came in I went down the street to get a bottle of champagne. On the corner of 46th and Judah, a woman and a man stood at the bush shelter. In their 40s give or take. As I passed, the woman stopped me. She had glass in her eyes. Meth maybe or just dope? "Have you got..." she started to say. I cut her off and asked if she'd voted. "McCain," she said. I nodded and turned.

She followed me and grabbed my hand. "Who did you vote for?" I told her.

She was dressed up. She looked over her shoulder. The man with her was standing a few yards away, in the shadows. He was not dressed up. He was skinny, poor white looking. He wore thick bifocals and low sneakers. "My husband doens't know," she said.

Know what?

"Actually, when I got in the booth I went for Obama. My husband's a big McCain fan, he made me promise."

Did you?

"Yea, I did, but you know when I got in there I just had to pick Obama."


"Because he's smarter. We want someone smart, don't we? My husband listens to that Hannity and those people and he's got all this misinformation."

How do you know it is?

"Oh, I know it is."

I didn't believe her.

"He listens all the time. Every day. He'll drag me to the radio and make me listen too. He's like a fanatic. I can't stand it anymore."

The husband was looking our way but I couldn't tell how much he could hear."

Was she a trick, I wondered. The glass in her eyes was clearing up. She asked my name. I asked hers.

"Diane," she said. "It's gonna be better isn't it? With him."

I said it was. I turned the corner, dropped in the Korean place, and got the best bottle of champs they had, which wasn't saying much.

Nov 3, 2008

You are in an old rambling house used as an office for a family-run newspaper. The house is chock full of furniture and books and debris. The floors groan. You're being interviewed. This is the second time. The last time everything went smoothly. You're talking with the editor who is explaining what will be asked. The problem is that this is not your subject. You try to explain it. This doesn't make sense, you're saying.

When you were here before you were sleeping with a dark-haired woman, who suddenly left last night. You think of her, stretched out on a divan, so sexy, so sure of herself. She was everyone's one night love. And then suddenly she's betting on love with someone from long ago. You're thinking that as much as she thinks it will work out, it won't. She'll be back to her old tricks. But you keep remembering her nostalgically.

Meanwhile, the interview is about to start. You are going on camera. Thank God, it’s tape so if you make a mistake you can correct it. You imagine how you will look in the camera. There is a problem with your clothing. The editor-in-chief is an environmentalist. He’s wearing a hat with a claim check in the brim. Like an old-fashioned bookie. After the interview, you go for a stroll in the gardens around the house. Not unlike Rodin's house. There are sculptures here and there.

There’s also a sailboat in a canal. The boat must be 40 feet. A sloop. You’re looking at some plants along the bank. Then, you’re in the water, standing waist-deep in the canal. It's a sulky, gray afternoon. The water is pitch black and cool. There are people on the boat. Suddenly, it catches fire. There's an explosion. But was anyone killed? Maybe just sound and smoke. Someone on the bank to the right has a loudspeaker. They’re explaining to the survivors that they will now experience a series of torments: plague, pestilence, date-rape drugs, rattle snakes in their beds, cutting remarks, things from the devil's trunk.

You get out of there, get to the front of the house. There's a road, traffic going by. You step out and try to stop a man in a low, burnished-steel sports car. This is just tin you think as you get up to it. Just tin. How could you drive this? The man is bald and wearing glasses. You need a ride. You commandeer his imagination with your fear. Ok, he says. Maybe, he doesn't even say that. You jump in. You keep looking at the tin dashboard. The car is like an old MGB. How odd. Must be a collector, you're thinking. Then, Thank God. There's a policeman/soldier on the side of the road. He's got a machine gun with a scope. He's dressed in blue. You hop out and approach him....

Nov 1, 2008

Down at Philz Coffee on 24th Street. Saturday morning. A homeless man hiding under a blanket, on a torn-up leather sofa. Just the man’s face: scared, dreary-eyed. He looks like a GI on the cover of a winter issue of Life in 1944. Next to to him, a shin-high, white short-haired dog licks the floor. In among the hiss and belch of the coffee-maker and the chatter, Philz's got his music going: violins, accordions, a Lebanese singer. Ya-habbibi. I’m 13 again. I'm in the backseat of a taxi running down the bluffs above Ababa. At the far end of a life later I’m here, a face in someone else's memory of magazine photos. The neighborhood is lining up at the counter. Tattooed, dread-locked kids, mostly.

Phil is at the maker, dealing out lattes and medical advice: coffee cures all. No money, drink coffee. No boyfriend, drink coffee. It will give you the self you’ve been missing, it'll get you back on the road to success. He spots me, takes a break. He’s wearing blue jeans; button-down, striped shirt; a detective’s harrow brimmed hat. Like they wear in Queens. He’s small but broad shouldered. Fearless body language. You wouldn’t want to fight him unless you had to. His employees know better. When he’s not behind the counter he’s in what was once a freezer, now his office, big enough for two and a TV with four different camera views of the cafĂ©. He watches his employees carefully. He sees everything. Once he saw me do him good turn. He never forgets a good turn.

I ask him who he’s voting for. The answer is a smile, a slinty-eyed, souky smile. He shakes his head. It’s all charm, no answers. It’s in his blood not to say. You never know who might be listening. And of course it’s not good business to say such things in public. Phil’s family got here in the early 1900s, from the West Bank. When did he get here? I don’t know. He doesn't say. But a thick accent. He knows all the Palestinians in the neighhood, including Mustafa and his brother over at B & W garage. There a lot of small businesses around the city run by Palestinians. The DA courts them closely at reelection time.

I press him on his political choice. He shakes his head. I berate him a little. Why be coy? What’s to figure out? He leans forward; he’s going to tell me the truth. I lean in. “Do you see this girl over here with the tattoos on the back of her leg?" He flicks his head. I see her. She’s fat-calved and up all night, and not a good night at that. She’s trying to drink the coffee, get back up to the road to success, but she can barely hold the cup. She looks like one of these Amy Winehouses not wanting to go back to rehab.

"She's famous."

"But who you voting for?" I ask again. He shakes his head. "Oh then you must be voting for McCain."

He leans in again. The smile is gone. You don't want to fool with Phil now. "You don't know who I'm voting for. I could be voting for Obama. But I'm worried about what will happen to him. You know what I'm talking about."

Yes, of course, I'm thinking. Of course. I know what you're talking about.

Oct 25, 2008

During the White Coat ceremony for the class of 2012, held in the Unitarian church on Federal Hill in Providence, the dean of the medical school assures students they will be both challenged and rewarded, and that this is not the same conventional preparation you find at certain other stodgy old medical schools. He won’t name those but students believe he is referring to Harvard and Stanford, where he has been and which are focused on research rather than practice.

The next speaker is an adjunct professor of Community Health. He offers a reflection, which is that the White Coat is finally a pretentious reference to a hierarchical, and patriarchal approach to medicine that is no longer useful or appropriate. And yet the coast symbolizes a commitment to the higher virtures of the profession and oneself.

After the ceremony, 98 of the 99 students in the class of 2012 receive their short jackets, with an italicized name sewn in and a gold nickel-sized medallion with the image of Hippocrates. The missing student has been acting strangely it’s not a great surprise that he is missing. Each student has his or her photo taken with the dean. This is to go in the personal file and to be used in promotional materials. When the dean puts his arm around the candidates some of women follow their first instinct and put their arm around his waist, but then they quickly sense inappropriateness and withdraw.

After the ceremony there is a reception across the street in the

Oct 24, 2008

You have a plane to catch; the cab is late. In the Internet ad the company promises to be prompt. 'We're always on time.' Now they're late, coming on 10 minutes. You get in, you let the driver have it. Maybe too much. In a flash he turns around, he's screaming: "Get out of this cab. Get the fuck out, get the fuck out of my cab." And he makes a move to get out and come around the throw you out.

Have I gone so far to get this, you think. Should I get out? No, there isn't time. The cabbie is still on fire. 'Look,' you say, 'taking out your cell phone. Here's the choice. Either I call the police and talk about old times or you take me to the airport. It's your choice.'

You have the phone open, you're ready to push buttons. The driver turns back to the road. His eyes are in the rear view. The light changes, he's off. But not finished. "You fuckin' assholes — Obama, McCain, you're all part of the international conspiracy. I know your game. You faggots."

He actually mentions the UN and black helicopters circling above the city. I'm happy that we've gone from late-rage to multinational conspiracies. This is something I can deal with. And wasn't John D. Rockerfeller involved? And didn't this somehow include the Masons? Mohammed V is a mason or so I read. For a moment I'm back in Morocco; everything is alright.

You ask the cabbie if he really believes these things. He absolutely does. "And Paul Pot; that's where it all started. He was one of them."

The 'killing fields' you think. And then you look at the eyes and yes those could be Cambodian. This is all about Cambodia. All these things are adding up.

The cab arrives at the terminal. Being the passive-aggressive you are, and heavy on the aggressive but now remorseful, you apologize. You are very sincere. You see now that he is a tall man and his eye are Asian but not necessarily Cambodian. Who knows what he is.

"My father died last week," he says but provides no details except that he ran the taxi company. Now you feel like cold shit. You keep apologizing. You're older; you try to play the role of wise elder.

What's the fare you ask. You've already decided to give him a big tip. But then he tells you the fare is nearly $10 more than what was quoted on the phone when you made the reservation. You pay it plus a tip. Maybe, you got it wrong. Maybe this is not the company you called. You get out. Now you don't know. Maybe it was all a sham. Your sentimentality betrayed you again. But there's no time to worry about it; he's back in his killing fields, you've got other plots.

Oct 15, 2008

Six weeks ago someone stole the Vote For Obama sign in front of our house. The sign was one of those wire-hanger frames that you stick in the ground. One morning we noticed the sign had disappeared and later found it torn up and thrown in a neighbor's bush. I talked to her. We stood in front of her house. She's also an Obama supporter. She wondered if there might be a connection with a group home recently established down the street. She pointed at it; there was a kid out front. Did he live in the house? I don't know. He was black. If he did live in the house, why would he steal an Obama sign?

I repaired the sign and set it up again. Then yesterday it disappeared. This time I couldn't find it. A small thing but unsettling. A political crime, of passion. But who would care? They must have heard the race was tightening, I thought.

Then it occurred to me that it might have been one of the Vietnamese families on the street. On either side we have Vietnamese neighbors. On one side, an older couple. He was in the South Vietnamese military; he told me that. Very distinguished. His wife, also very distinguished. Often, in the backyard I see her on her deck practicing her golf swing. She's very accomplished. Very fluid swing. And powerful. Once, she advised me where to plant some things. She's used to power. They drive an older black Lexus. Not long ago am ambulance and firetrucks pulled up. I didn't see what happened, but I'm guessing he may have had a heart attack. Whenever I talk to him he says he's for Obama. Who know? I like him. I don't think he did it. I can almost say, he didn't do it.

But on the other side the Vietnamese are evidently poor. The kids own Hondas: motorcycles and cars. They repair them late at night. Their friends come over to get repairs. I told them once that at 11 p.m. it would be nice if they could stop reving their engines. They stopped. Once, the grandmother was out sweeping tree leaves and seeds off the sidewalk. I thanked her, but I don't know if she got the message, she didn't speak English. Another time the man of the house, if that's what he was, said he wanted to cut some branches off the tree that goes with our house. So there would be fewer leaves and seeds on the sidewalk. It's nearly the only tree on the block, I think of it as gold. I told him I would do any cutting. He said, well what about the landlord? I said, I'll do any cutting. He got the message.

A woman used to come out of the house in a terry cloth bathrobe and smoke cigarettes. She had a small dog. She would stand out at night or in the early morning smoking. I smiled, she smiled. Once, in the backyard, the owner and I had another little disagreement. He was putting up a new fence and let some wood and bricks fall on some plants. It's hard to grow plants here because the soil is so bad. It's just sand. He cleaned up the debris. He said something about how wasn't I happy he was putting up a new fence. I said, wouldn't it be great if everyone had an opening in their fence so we could all walk through each other's gardens. He thought that was funny.

Not a day goes by I don't find cigarette butts in our yard. He stands up on the roof sometimes, he's going to add a room. He smokes and I'm assuming flicks his butts down on our yard. It's nothing to him. Or maybe it is. Maybe, it's like spitting at someone's feet.

But then lately I keep finding pennies all over the yard, particularly near his fence. Pennies? Good luck, I always thought. But maybe it's something else. Pennies as in several dollars worth. They've become particularly noticeable since the rains have returned.

Then, I read about Vietnamese support for McCain. He knows their pain. He knows what Ho Chi Minh could do, when he wasn't reading Jefferson and Lenin. I don't know. Could be this man. And so the challenge is not to press my suspicions, let it go. Whatever it is.
On Monday night, when Eric Wright picked off Eli Manning and took off for a 94-yard touch, the width of your nose from the sideline, like he was Nik Wallenda hustling down a high wire, and then the last five yards doing the old Deon Sanders carrioca prance, with right hand up in bebop mock protest and look-at-me delight, I went right back to 1999, when Wright was on the San Francisco Seahawks, the pride of the Filmore. Coach Greg was God to those kids and they'll never have a better coach. D was split out to the right, and second Q, and you can't believe how those kids ran the table, right to the Western regional championship in Reno. They shucked the bejesus out of a team from Alaska. 42 to 7, something like that. D caught a touch and I think threw for one, to the starting Q, or maybe it was just a great pass over the middle. Memory doesn’t serve but caught and threw is the point and Eric Wright probably got the game ball. I assume he did, although they had some other great players on that team.

The night before the game, in a cheap room high up over slotland, they all had a pillow fight and on the way up 80 in the bus, D, who was one of only two caucs on the team, won the football trivia contest. One of the questions was not, ‘What was the pop song the 49ers listened to in the team bus over and over on the way to their first super bowl?’ “This is it” by Kenny Loggins is the answer. But it was like that. After all, the bus is the best and worst of playing sports. It was the best that trip.

And the end of an era. The 49ers went 3 and 12 that year. All the greats had left the year before. The old expectations were being quietly discarded. Still, the dotcom bust was out of sight. Those kids from nowhere were still going down to Mooses’ and buying $350 bottles of wine, to go with hamburgers and fries. It was all cool and selfish. Just like now. And Da Mayor was getting the Chinese girls to wash his hair and sometimes caught a blow job from an available blonde in the backseat of a limo. He was also getting City Hall guilded up to look like the seat of the empire. And even then you didn’t have know Ozymandius to know how this was gonna turn out.

Now? Sentimentality is settling in. D is experiencing his first ‘last’ and the awful realization that something you once took for granted is now gone, something you would die ten times in a row to get back is gone. Meanwhile, another bust is in the air. The city is wobbly and nervous.

If you want to see how far the place has fallen, speaking of football, look at the 49ers. The Yorks have run the franchise down a rat hole. From top to bottom it’s gone amateur. JTO’ isn’t going to bring back this franchise. He'll give you a series, maybe even a game, but that's it. No more promise than roma girls with their good fortunes on neon signs out in the avenues. The city is quieting down and you think, well maybe it’ll do it some good.' But I doubt it.

And all the while I’m remembering playing tennis with my father on Samuel Goldwyn’s tennis court, that last time, in the late afternoon, in the smog and splendor, and afterwards he ate a quart of vanilla ice cream and out on the patio, on the rear deck of the Titanic, as he would say, we drank martinis like it was going out of style.

Oct 9, 2008

At the congressional hearings, among the craven faces of financial Wizards done in by bad spells, was the kisser of Tony Mozillo, Tony-Tony-Tony — say it as fast you can — Mozillo, who took home $140 million in compensation, while the company he founded, Countrywide Insurance, lost $704 million.... It's the face of Vegas at 4 a.m., lips off the face of a deep sea bass, eyes off a man who died five minutes ago, the tan, leathered skin you find at resorts like Cat Cay and the Palm Spring Racquet Club. A face known to hookers and waiters and limo drivers and all the 'little people.' It's a face that makes the face of Dick Fuld, that most fashionable executive of Lehman Brothers, look distinguished and animated.

Oct 7, 2008

Tonight, when John McCain says the likes of, 'Senator, the fact is we don't really know who you are, you're a mystery, all we know is that you've hung around with terrorists, felons and special interest groups.... "

If I were Barack Obama, I would reply...

"John, enough people in Michigan have decided they know me so that you've stopped running in that state. And enough people feel they know me in 'red' states across the country that your campaign is now trying to turn the public's attention away from the greatest economic calamity since the Great Depression and attack my character with the most scurrilous lies.

"The difference between us is this, John. We both believe in free markets, but I believe freedom comes with responsibility and this is one of those times in American history when we need to find our balance.

"You have a long history of favoring unregulated markets, not least when you tried to help your good friend, Charles Keating whose fraud lead to the collapse of 747 savings and loan institutions and cost taxpayers $3.4 billion. It was the most expensive bailout approved by congress in American history.

"Until now.

"And all along in the last 8 years you've endorsed the administration's position, that the 'fundamentals are strong', that the last thing we need is regulation. Even now you've surrounded yourself wth the very people who created this crisis. Your economic adviser, Phil Gramm, is still in the wings. The man who said this was not a crisis but a delusion. A whine....

"The difference between us is that you're running out the clock on an agenda whose time has past. A time when the interests of a few were put above the interests of many. A time in which a culture of greed was not only accepted but mindlessly, oddly encouraged.

"But now that's over and we begin again, in a new direction."

Oct 6, 2008

Pundits on the radio; John and Sarah Doe; fools on the Thorazine ward keep asking, "well yes, it is to hell in a hand basket and I'm already living below my means. But I don't feel anything; what's it go to do with me?"

It's Cuervo time for the cockroaches in Almogordo, in the still branches of 'fat cottonwood', when all of a sudden the big banjo will play, and the earth will start disemboweling itself, but right now it's that second before the wall's vibrato and all things disappear.

In that second, in Akron, a 90-year-old woman shot herself, twice, in her mortgaged chest, rather than be evicted. Neighbor came in and found her, looked like she was asleep on her bed with a long barelled handgun at her side. Touched her shoulder. "Then she kind of moved toward me a little and I saw that blood, and I said, 'Oh, no. Miss Polk musta done shot herself,'".

She had. And that was before the woman in Redwood Shores, on the sidelines of a U-15 soccer game, on Saturday. She turned to her friend and said, "I just can't spend the money. But I know it looks bad so we've decided to do the minimum. You know, $10,000, just to make the front (yard) look decent and leave it at that."

On 47th Avenue and Judah, outside 7-11, in the nightly drizz, just last night, a homeless man and woman huddling with a fake baby. He would like some change, and in his tone you could hear that the business of being homeless is getting serious.

And so the president is going to tell people: go out on a shopping spree. Buy anything you can! Ross will fill up and there'll be a couple of people in the sweaters aisle at Macy's. Some people will buy an extra large popcorn before the movie. I'll buy a five gallon container of Lupine.

But then there was this story from last weekend...

"This is a perfect American family behind me that has absolutely been destroyed," said a chief from LAPD, standing in front of a house at 20644 Como Lane in Porter Ranch, a gated community in Northridge, where the earthquake was, in a two story house, Spanish-stucco-beige, probably with a kidney-shaped pool and a garden filled with succulent ambitions. The family was Indian. The sheriff went on: "destroyed apparently because of a man who just got stuck in a rabbit hole, if you will, of absolute despair, somehow working his way into believing this to be an acceptable exit."

And he added, "It is critical to step up and recognize we are in some pretty troubled times."

They got the counselors up to the neighborhood to explain to kids how these things happen and it's okay, the guy was troubled, because these are troubling times, but you mustn't despair yourself, don't believe what you imagine, because you can get caught up thinking about how that could have happened, how the father would decide what the order of slaughter would be. Did he start with his oldest son? That would make sense, threat wise. The boy was a sophomore at UCLA. And then his mother-in-law, and finally his two younger children who he loved to death, as it were. And then himself.

Everybody said he loved those kids and how's the counselor going to explain that? They were all smart people. Sure the guy was a little unstable, a little intense and then you wonder him going over to the next door neighbor telling her to close the windows on the side of the house next to his. He said he's heard there were burglars. He knew fear would work and she closed those windows and he killed everyone sometime between Friday night and Sunday. No one knows for sure. Hardly anyone heard the shots.

And so is this one of the lessons of troubled times? The ballad of smart people. And now the world is left to the stupid. How will you ever trust smart people again, no matter where they went to school or what their SAT scores were.

That's Palin's real appeal. Not the fuck-me wink, America's Mary Magdalene willing to take all the men, and women, in the country if that'll do the trick. Don't-cha-know'd it! Smart IS dangerous. Stupid IS safe.

Sep 29, 2008

Yes, it's true. That thing, which his generation fled like a runaway dog with a foul smell, is back at the screen door. From "Black Tuesday", October 29, 1929 to "Black Monday," September 29, 2008. But for another month and a year you'd have an exact replica. You'd have 80 years on the nogan.

Meanwhile, if you wonder why all these things are happening you understand. The man yelling at you from his shiny black Escalade, calling you a selfish fuck because you parked too close, is not himself. The road rage is everywhere, all the time.

Look at this woman wandering down the middle of Haynes Street in Hillsborough. She's in a house robe and slippers. Perhaps, she went out to get the newspaper and something happened. Or else, she is mildly demented. She has the look of someone who may jump out the window, or off the bridge. She has the look of someone who will die soon. The eyes are enlarged and rounded. According to a recent study, this is the shape of eye, in a young woman, who wants sex. And perhaps this woman wants some sort of carnal contact with God, with a priest she remembers from childhood. Considering what's happening, the problem must be her accounts. She or her husband must be losing everything. There must be some threat that seems unmanageable.

Whatever it is with her and the man in the Escalade the 'only thing to fear is fear itself', is back in town. Someone was saying what a good thing it is. Time to beboot. Reimagine yourself. But it's also a calamity. Don't forget that. The woman on Haynes Street is now running down the middle of the street. She's blond, forties or fifties, her robe is coming undone. She's lost a slipper. She turns away, off to the curb, we pass and she's gone.

Sep 18, 2008

There is something about the right wing radio pilots that I find endlessly compelling. Sean Infantity, Linda Engrammatico, and the locally dangerous, ‘I’m a great American, you’re a great American’ — Big Bri-anne Suss-man, the ex-'whether or not I’m a Man', and the Boys in the “White” Hoods…

I listen in streaks. Mostly in traffic on the way home. I listen until I can’t stand it. Sometimes I call in. I write notes as a patient in the Santa Rosa Mental Health Center. "You fucking idiot", I’m saying. "How can ignorance become such arrogance?" I realize how much I miss William F. Buckley and Gore Vidal.

Once, I got on the air and argued that the US should consider withdrawing from the Bejing Olympics to mark the invasion of Tibet. I pointed out that the 1938 olympics were used to validate the Third Reich, even though Jesse Owens ran Aryans into the ground. Sussman disagreed and shut off the discussion.

He does that. They both do that. Get opposition, then hang up. But if Georgia from Freemont calls in to ask whether Obama is going to win simply on the basis of all the money he’s collected, it's a great question and she’s a great American. Or Jake on a red blood cell in his nose calls to say that with Obama you’re gonna get fascist youth police coming into your home to see if you’ve got frosti freeze shaped light bulbs. "Great question, you're a great American. And I'm glad you brought that up. This is really going to be a problem.”

Today, on Hen's titty, T Bone Pickens got on the line. Sean was trying to get him to say that 'drill baby, drill' was meat and right so to do. But T Bone wouldn’t say it. Well, we need more refineries, said Sean. T Bone pointed out most of the refining is being done in Saudi and in the gulf. "There was no reason to build more refineries, and as it was they were operating at about 87 percent anyway. Even if you dug up another million barrels a day you wouldn’t go above capacity."

This is not great American stuff I'm hearing, T Bone.

Sean persisted. "Well what about all the drilling we could be doing?" Yes, said Pickens, there is a lot drilling we could be doing but Big Oil isn’t buying up the tracts at auction. He pointed out that after one recent auction, 90 percent of the tracts were unsold.

The fact is, Big Oil doesn’t care about drilling as much as politicians. Because the know that by the time they get money from developing offshore they'll be fossil fuel themselves.

I wanted to hear more about that. But Infanity didn't like the Boone's direction and ended the call, curtly.

Sep 10, 2008

I received this email from a good friend who was sending it on in turn. Perhaps, you've seen it. I cannot vouch for its authenticity.

Here is an introduction by the friend of a woman named Ana who described an encounter she had with John McCain in 2000.

"I am sharing this with you because our "life" literally may depend on getting the word out. I was initially shocked and was sure this letter was some sort of a spam. It is not! I have known Ana for a long time and went to business school with her husband Ravi. After Berkeley business school, Ravi got his MBA from Chicago and has started and sold a number of successful companies. He currently is a Managing Director of a successful private equity firm in the bay area. Ana has a Ph.D in psychology and has a private practice in San Francisco. I am giving you their background so you know that Ana and Ravi are not political activists and are simply two level headed individuals with no axe to grind. In addition, they are among the top 3-5% of our population who will benefit from the McCain tax/economic policy. Therefore, they are speaking out against their economic interest for the benefit of all of us."

My Holiday with McCain

It was just before John McCain’s last run at the presidential nomination in 2000 that my husband and I vacationed in Turtle Island in Fiji with John McCain, Cindy, and their children, including Bridget (their adopted Bangladeshi child).

It was not our intention, but it was our misfortune to be in close quarters with John McCain for almost a week since Turtle Island has a small number of bungalows and their focus on communal meals force all vacationers who are there at the same time to get to know each other intimately.

He arrived at our first group meal and started reading quotes from a pile of William Faulkner books with a forest of Post-Its sticking out of them. As an English Literature major myself, my first thought was “if he likes this so much, why hasn’t he memorized any of this yet?” I soon realized that McCain actually thought we had come on vacation to be a volunteer audience for his “readings” which then became a regular part of each meal. Out of politeness, none of the vacationers initially protested at this intrusion into their blissful holiday, but people’s buttons definitely got pushed as the readings continued day after day.

Unfortunately this was not his only contribution to our mealtime entertainment. He waxed on during one meal about how Indo-Chine women had the best figures and that our American corn-fed women just couldn’t meet up to this standard. He also made it a point that all of us should stop Cindy from having dessert as her weight was too high and made a few comments to Amy, the 25 year old wife of the honeymooning couple from Nebraska that she should eat less as she needed to lose weight.

McCain’s appreciation of the beauty of Asian women was so great that David the American economist had to move his Thai wife to the other side of the table from McCain as McCain kept aggressively flirting with and touching her.

Needless to say I was irritated at his large ego, and his rude behavior towards his wife and other women, but decided he must have some redeeming qualities as he had adopted a handicapped child from Bangladesh. I asked him about this one day and his response was shocking –“Oh, that was Cindy’s idea – I didn’t have anything to do with it. She just went and adopted this thing without even asking me. You can’t imagine how people stare when I wheel this ugly, black thing around in a shopping cart in Arizona. No, it wasn’t my idea at all.”

I actively avoided McCain after that, but unfortunately one day he engaged me in a political discussion which soon got us on the topic of the active US bombing of Iraq at that time. I was shocked when he said “if I was in charge, I would nuke Iraq to teach them a lesson”. Given McCain’s personal experience with the horrors of war I had expected a more balanced point of view. I commented on the tragic consequences of the nuclear attacks on Japan during WWII – but no, he was not to be dissuaded. He went on to say that if it was up to him he would have dropped many more nuclear bombs on Japan. I rapidly extricated myself from this conversation as I could tell that his experience being tortured as a POW didn’t seem to have mellowed out his perspective but rather had made him more aggressive, and vengeful towards the world.

My final encounter with McCain was on the morning that he was leaving Turtle Island. Amy and I were happily eating pancakes when McCain arrived and told Amy that she shouldn’t be having pancakes because she needed to lose weight. Amy burst into tears at this abusive comment. I felt fiercely protective of Amy and immediately turned to McCain and told him to leave her alone. He became very angry and abusive towards me, and said “don’t you know who I am” and I looked him in the face and said “yes, you are the biggest asshole I have ever met” and headed back to my cabin. I am happy to say that later that day when I arrived at lunch I was given a standing ovation by all the guests for having stood up to McCain’s bullying.

Although I have shared my McCain story informally with friends, this is the first time I am making this public. I almost did so in 2000, when McCain first announced his bid for the Republican nomination but it soon became apparent that George Bush was the shoo-in candidate and so I did not act then. However, now that there is a very real possibility that McCain could be elected as our next president, I feel it is my duty as an American citizen to share this story. I can’t imagine a more scary outcome for America than that this abusive, aggressive man should lead our nation. I have observed him in intimate surroundings as he really is, not how the media portrays him to be. If his attitudes toward women, and his treatment of his own family are even a small indicator of his real personality, then I shudder to think what will happen to America were he to be elected as our President.

Sep 2, 2008

No story better catches the nature of Ms. Palin's judgment, and ambition — and finally that of John McCain as well — than the one about the Waslia librarian, a Ms. Baker, who "Sara-dipity" threatened to fire because of certain objectionable books. The new VP has a history of firing and threatening opponents, long before the matter involving her former brother-in-law. No matter. But it's one thing to be a political opportunist and whether genuinely or not, support the NRA and the teaching Creationism in schools, and quite another to fiddle with the content of public libraries. That alone disqualifies her for any serious public office.

And so the McCain candidacy is cracking up, and all the microscopic inspection of nuance and other scenarios can't hide the fact.

But underneath the daily bread of the chattering classes, and I'm one, there was a throw away story, barely believable on its face, about a Dutch spy being recalled from Iran because the Americans are within weeks of launching an attack. The story, as you can see is thin ... ... Nevertheless, if true, this is one more indication. Certainly, the Israeli media has been hinting for months that something is coming, quite apart from military exercises and huddles with Ms. Rice.

Of course, if you're a cynic you might suspect a GOP-inspired effort to inject enough fear into the body politic that McCain will snatch the presidency at the very last moment. Or you might suspect Bush and Chaney of making one last effort to become bronze images on horseback in the square.

Whatever the justification, you can't miss the foreboding underneath.... An attack on Iran is necessary for so many reasons.

Aug 28, 2008

Here's another bit of news, this from an inbox at the Parallax Corporation.

What I tell you now is true, to the best of my knowledge. Perhaps better to say, this story was told me by someone who is a 'credible source', a family friend, and although I cannot give a name, suffice to say, a business professional. I talked to this person for a long time and asked many questions. What took hours to tell me can be condensed to a few sentences. Make of it what you will....

Toward 6 p.m. on Friday, August 8 — the night John Edwards appeared on ABC News and admitted having repeatedly lied about an extramarital affair with a 42-year old campaign employee named Rielle Hunter — my friend received a call from someone identifying themselves as a detective with the Los Angeles Police Dept. They wanted to know if my friend would be willing to answer a few questions about a client. The client had had some dealings with Ms. Hunter years before.

My friend was just going off to a long anticipated event and asked if the conversation could be put off until Monday, and added that they didn't really know anything.

The detective said it was important to meet and perhaps he could come and chat for a few minutes. My friend agreed and in less than 15 minutes five men arrived at the office door. There were two uniformed policemen and three detectives, who showed identification, although my friend doesn't remember seeing badges. There may have been a badge but memory doesn't serve.

The men asked if my friend would come "downtown", and ever anxious to please, my friend agreed. My friend was lead from their office to the street where there were two black and white patrol cars and a nondescript black car. My friend was driven to downtown Los Angeles, but not to 1 Police Plaza, rather nearby and down into an underground garage that seemed "endless".

Eventually, the car stopped by a glass doorway with a carpet. My friend doesn't remember any signage on the doors. Then to an elevator up several floors to an office / conference room, which was itself surrounded by glass. Some people were visible through the glass, although not many presumably because it was Friday evening. They were not wearing uniforms.

Two men appeared who identified themselves as being with the DNC. At first, my friend thought that might be a government agency: the department of something or other. Then the idea occurred, the Democratic National Convention. "Is it that?" my friend asked. The men shook their heads. "Or the Democratic National Committee." The men nodded. My friend quickly got the idea that the men would not lie but would not volunteer any information.

My friend was asked countless questions, but knowing so little the conversation didn't go anywhere. The same questions were repeated over and over. "How did your client know Ms. Hunter?" "What service was performed?" "How much was paid?" "Was there any other work your client was involved in for Ms. Hunter" "Do you know Ms. Hunter? "Do you know where she is?"

To the last question, my friend shook their head, although my friend did know where Ms. Hunter was and did have a phone number. However, my friend has never spoken to Ms. Hunter and most of their knowledge of the "Edwards' affair" is from the media.

At one point, the questioners said that my friend's phone records showed that there had been many calls to the client around the time the story broke, some weeks earlier... "Phone records?" My friend began to become both afraid and wary. The men also asked if they could have access to my friend's computer.

My friend spent from 6 p.m. on Friday until 5 a.m. the next morning being questioned. And questioning only ended after my friend finally asked, "Do I need a lawyer for this?" One of the men responded, "I don't know. Do you?" "Well," my friend said, "we'll see. Here is my lawyer's name and perhaps he can help straighten all this out." The lawyer's name drew a reaction, "a flinch" as my friend put it, and shortly afterward the interview ended.

My friend was driven back to their office. Whether their computer had been examined during the 11-hour absence isn't clear. My friend's home, which is near their office, was unlocked, although whether locked or not would make little difference in such a cas.

Who were these men supposedly from the DNC? They showed only modest identification. What was the information they were looking for? How were they able to use LAPD officers in their quest? Where was my friend taken? On whose authority were phones tapped?

And so many other questions....

My friend spoke to people who can, with some authority, speculate the answers to such questions. These people speculated that the visitors were either from the RNC or possibly "Clinton operatives" wanting to gather information that might affect the choice of vice president. Or else, a third possibility, a government agency working on some other tact altogether.....

Aug 22, 2008

Six years after having gone to prison, Marjorie Knoeller stood up and was taken off to prison once more, for the same crime. She did not look back. And not out of determination. She wasn't saying,"Look at me, how strong I am." Rather, it was as though to say, "I don't exist. But even if I did, who would be there to receive my look?"

Actually, there was one person who would have received her look, given a gracious smile in return, and shouted out,"It'll be okay, Marjorie. I'll come and see you as soon as I can. It'll be okay." That would be Anna, who arrived in a black dress, at first glance a party-black dress. She had her gray hair just done, had it curly and glamorous, and she wore big dark wraparound glasses, the way movie stars do. She had Henry Miller with her, with his red sweater, walking listlessly and panting, not looking good frankly, head down, dragging his hips. You wondered who was more blind, Anna or her guide. As the dog passed one of the pretties made fun, made little animal noises and scoffed.

And that was that. Marjorie Knoeller, who when she arrived had the expression of a plastic blow-up doll, was lead away like a stray cow to permanent pasture and the victim's partner and sister, and friends and acquaintances, all sighed with relief, and cheered underneath their breath. "Yes," they said and looked across the aisle at the press and other perceived enemies. You'd have thought you were in Argentina with the mothers of "the disappeared."

This colloquium of victims was last seen at the first sentencing hearing in March 2002, but six years later they looked no different. And the mood and look was the same: all in J. Crew and long hair, freshly trimmed, beauties every one, no make-up, no earrings, no body paint. When one looked to the left to see who was on the other side of the courtroom, it was as if they all looked to the left. Militarily, on parade, as one. It's the kind of distingue-beauty and precision you see in a group of anything that's has come of age, that's worked long and hard together to be seen as more than just acceptable. If amazons could be doctors and designers and the celebrated creators of black market derivatives, that's what they were like.

Sharon Smith, the 'lead victim', as someone in the gallery said, did not have her mate with her. For good reason; that would have muddied the moment. Sharon appeared as the aggrieved widow, somberly dressed; in every detail, appropriate and sympathetic. Yet there was something about her demeanor, or the idea of all that had happened, which undermined her dignity. If you knew that she had collected a sizeable settlement from the building where the manslaughter/murder took place. If you knew that she took up with her new partner not long after the death of Diane... If you listened to her speaking to reporters, saying in effect, "No one knows how difficult it has been for ME for the last six years." "Me" was the focus. Nothing about Diane. No abstraction about the crime or the punishment. And no explanation of why it was important to send Marjorie the Hollow back to prison. No cry to deter these kinds of crimes...

No, here the drive seemed for revenge not reform. But why?

Remember, this wasn't a crime-wave crime. Of course, there are many cases in which people don't mind their dogs who then go off and injure or even kill someone, and making owners mindful is a good thing, particularly with the increasing number of 'war dogs'. But those cases are inevitably treated as 'accidents.' Or at worst, manslaughter.

In this case, the jury voted for second degree murder, for the idea that the defendant consciously used their pet like a night club bouncer or a body guard. To intimidate, and in a sense, to project a force that the owners themselves could never possess.

If you have ever seen some of California's other famous victims, you notice the contrast immediately. Think of the great heroes of the victims rights movement in California: Doris Tate, Sharon Sellito, Harriet Solarno, and many others, even Marc Klaas. All lost blood, daughters or brothers, but they turned grief into something else. Now of course you could say, "yes, but isn't there always a desire for the limelight among these crime victims? Isn't that always part of it?"

Perhaps. In my experience, grief sometimes becomes an excuse for men to follow their rage, to indulge an anger long repressed. For women, it may be the opportunity to seize an identity, to have real power.

On the other hand, I think of my stepmother after the murder of her only daughter, and in a way that was even more horrendous than this 'dog mauling.' Knives instead of teeth, for one; a long drawn out kidnapping for another. But my stepmother never did anything in front of cameras, and she's an actress, she could have used the moment for all it was worth. Instead, she hid out. She became invisible. The pain was too great and it never let up. Ever. Still, she has hosted events for victims to raise money to help other victims. For years she went to Doris Tate's, not to hear Doris communicate with spirits from the other side, but to help other victim's live day to day with the unimaginable.

But Sharon Smith's response is different. By some accounts she has worked for the empowerment of people, and for lesbians in particular, and all to the good. But there's been no effort that I know of to work on behalf of victims of dog attacks or to help victims of other crimes. Or to educate citizens about these dangers.... And so you wonder: why is it so important to send Marjorie Knoeller back to prison. This is a woman who belongs in an institution but not in a prison. And she may well serve a sentence, in addition to time already served, which will be longer than for a 'murder of passion'. Or even a convicted drunk driver who gets in a car and runs over someone.

The question deserves some kind of an answer, for her, if not for the rest of us. And so I would suggest that Marjorie symbolizes a more personal kind of villain. Look at Marjorie in this light, in all her banality, in all her ugliness, in all her arrogant ignorance, in the way she not only didn't mind her dogs, but didn't mind life itself; didn't distinguish, perhaps couldn't distinguish, between right and wrong... And in this way does she perhaps appear as the personification of all those people who have said or thought or conveyed the notion — as mother or aunt, neighbor or stranger — "I hate lesbians, I won't tolerate you, I hate what you look like and what you do with each other, and what you stand for, and how act so proud...."

Is Marjorie the whipping post more for what she conveys by her manner than even for her crime?

Meanwhile, Marjorie's husband, the true villain in the case, Robert Noel, didn't appear at the hearing. As always he is never where he is needed. I was told he would not be permitted into the court and was told to stay away. Who knows. In the end, de didn't do anything to help his wife. Not now, not at her trial. Not even when it was clear his sentence was fixed; he never filed an amicus brief; he never said, "I got these dogs. It was my idea from the start. Cornfed was my client. It's all my fault. I knew Marjorie couldn't handle those dogs. We fought about it often. It's my doing. Please don't take out all your wrath on her...."

Or something to that effect. But there was nothing and Sharon never addressed his absence.

As an aside, the court reporter looked exactly like Noel. And for a moment I thought it was a trick or else Noel had smuggled himself in, clubbed the court reporter and taken his place, to have a first-hand view. To suddenly stand up, a last minute Lothario and beg the judge on his wife's behalf. But that was not the case. Anna told me Noel was still out in Fairfield making horse bisquets. He sent some to Anna; Henry took one bite and got badly sick.

Aug 18, 2008

An open letter to El Rushbow at the EIB Institute....

"Mega dittos from the Santa Rosa Mental Health Clinic…. You’re a great America, I’m a great American, we’re all great Americans. We’re so glad when you take it to Obama like you did again today and of course it was difficult to answer that question about what’s wrong with America. We couldn’t answer that either, although partly ‘cause we’re all hopped up on Thorazine. But we’re all great Americans and when you’re making as much as you do, there’s nothing wrong with America. But that’s okay because you’re so much smarter than us. Dittos from Raymond, the head nurse. And if you couldn’t be the head of the Harvard Law Review, you can be on radio and hawk mattresses. BTW, we’d like to get some new pads on our walls. Can you help us? A number 5 mattress would about do it. Thank Jesus, you’re not a black street slouch like that Obama. How could you be? Think of all the charity golf you’ve played. What you’ve done to help people in your life... It boggles the mind. We just think of all the goodness you’ve done. THAT’s why you can’t think of any bad things America has done because you ARE America and we love you down here on the psycho ward. You can call us, we can’t call you…"

Aug 17, 2008

Here's a Michael Phelps story. He won his 8th Gold last night.

Went to that little hip-pocket mall off Sloat Boulevard. Along the trailing edge of the outer Sunset. You might not have noticed it. The retail line is this, "Buster-Big 5 Shacks up with his Radio-Ross and does Arby in her Dress for Less."

Woman coming along in a shawl. Hawaiian face or maybe Inuit. Holding some soup. A lot of clothes, a lot of layers. Not many front teeth still standing. Sun burned from too much moonlight outdoors. But absolutely clear. Not drunk or drugged. She sits down. "You see that dog?" she says. I didn't see it. She points with her shoulder.

"Found another magic coin."

I'm surprised.

"Yea, i'finds magic coins."

What kinda dog?

"Terrier kind. White, curly hair."

How'd do it?

"Birds. They make a nest, and I guess it drops out, and that dog pick's em up. Animals knows these things."


"Bill over in Produce seen it," she looks off, over her soup, across the mall at the Nob in the Hill. "Dog had a whole mouthful of gold coins."

What kind.

"Jesus coins."


"Got a little picture of Jesus."

On a cross?

"Nope, just standing there in heaven."

Wow. She draws me in. You live out in the Sunset, do you?

"Yea but they blew up my car and now the landlady won't let me back."


"Those kids. They put sugar in the tank."

That'll do it. What kinda car?

"'68 VW van. Runs real good, 'till now. But I'll go back to school."


"City College. But they won't let me go back. Mr. Franklin 86'd me."


What a shrug. "I'm a photo journalist.I like architecture and biology."

But not Mr. Franklin.

"I knew too much. I scared him bad."


"I have that effect. See I'm also an expert in submersibles."


"I'm a submersible pilot."

For a long time.

"Ever since I could swim."

You like water.

"Phelps got his 8th last night. You saw that?"


"I taught him those tricks."


"Actually, I taught his coach. His coach and my parents were close and I showed him how you could these things."

You have a part in history.

"I enjoy it in the subermsible, go under and over the water, for long distances at high speed."

Like whales.

"No, not like whales. I go like a coin."

She asked me if I had any coins. I gave a quarter. "See this?" she said. Then she stood up and skipped the coin down the side walk past Radio Shack, a shoe store and Arby's and two or three other places and then a little white dog saw it and ran after it.

Aug 16, 2008

Across from Absinthe, down in Hayes Valley, there's a trendy restaurant with a piano man, a polished bar, a black TV, seabass for $27, and a dozen tables. The woman next to me doesn't like a man playing the piano and a TV playing a football game. A restaurant is either one or the other, she's saying. Not both. I don't reply; frankly, I'd rather watch the game.

This is a birthday party but she doesn't want to talk about that birthday person, she wants to say that "the trouble with people these days is they all want to be 'special' but they don't want to take responsibility for the need of other people to be special." And then she goes on about her kids, how they want to be special. And of course you think, 'but where did they get that from? How could that be unless you didn't give them that long ago? And no doubt you didn't get enough of that yourself along the way, so now you're neurotic, you're absolutely undone by the fear that everyone is special except you.'

I'm listening. Her hair is the length of Marines three months out of basic training. She's a trial attorney, lives in Berkeley, has two sons, the husband, the big house, the extended vacations, and the good works, don't forget that — the runs, the benefits, charity of it all.

As she's talking to me I am imagining that she is a woman who, although married, prefers the less abrasive masculinity of other women. And her in her fantasy she finds a femme, a happy submissive in pants, whom she throws up against the wall and does.

Aug 7, 2008

At Ocean Pizza you can’t hear anything over the hum of the cold drinks refrigerator. You can’t hear anything over the screaming of the couple on reality TV. And just now the owners are having it out; a Greek couple. Something bad has happened and they’re snarling it up. You can’t hear anything. There’s only one customer, an old man sitting under a dirty mural with some tagging somebody tried to wash out. This place is not clean or well lighted. A waiter is sitting at an angle in a booth. If it weren’t for the noise you could hear him sleeping. BTW, the booths appear in good shape. The one new thing in the whole place. Everything else is worn. But the booths look like they’ve been redone. The plastic table tops are red to match, and some weird paisley design like there was just a surgery here and nobody cleaned up the blood yet. “Whatiya want?” the owner’s wife wants to know. The only customer gives an order. It's all he can do to get the words out. Pizza boxes are stacked up against the front window. Oven’s nearly covered over in newspaper clippings from Greek newspapers. There’s a fan set in a panel over the front door. The blades move, but just barely. Like the single screw of a disabled submarine. It’s also cold as hell outside. The waitress/wife is Sandy. Her sister is the psychic next door at Ocean Psychic. All the fortunes are good. “You’re going to get some money… You didn’t know that? It’s coming. I can’t tell you when without doing some more work? Can you come back tomorrow? This is serious. You’re going to receive a lot of money. You’ll never have to work again.” Sandy takes the order and doesn’t say, thank you, and she doesn’t linger. She puts the order down on the counter. “Those people are stupid you got,” she says to her husband in English. It’s a running conversation. It goes on all night. He picks up the order and says something in Greek. “I gotta go,” his wife says in English. “Where you gotta go,” he says in Greek. She tells her husband what to do. There’s only one customer. Wednesday night in August. City College is closed. It’s nearly 9:30. Brett Favre just got traded to the Jets. Man comes outta the kitchen. “No fuckin’ way,” he says. “No fuckin’ way. They’d give him $25 million not to play. Can you imagine? I’d take the $25 million and not play. You got everything, why would you play. You take the $25 million and play with that. Fuckin’ play with yourself and take the $25 million.” All of a sudden it’s time to close. Everybody’s speaking Greek. The last customer is rushed out. He doesn't want to go; he was hoping to stay in place, stay hidden. But they won't let him. You can’t hear anything but the place is definitely closing.

Aug 2, 2008

No popular film better describes America's obsession with fear, despair and veiled hopes then The Dark Knight. That the film is garbled and uneven, often just silly, doesn't dilute the rapture. This beleaguered Batman is, in his muddled way, quintessentially American, from a long legacy of cinematic heros such as old man Hearst in Citizen Kane; the John Wayne character in Red River; Butch Casidy; Cool Hand Luke. Or what about Patton, even Thelma and Louise. All films in which the hero or tandem is not only brash and contra but also reckless, sometimes suicidal.

This summer it's as though we cannot indulge our disillusionment enough. Can't get enough of failed heros barely making it, just as we are barely making it. In the last two months three hits (and the coming James Bond film seems on exactly the same tack) feature deeply disturbed men, which is its own subconscious story, men who are either ridiculously clumsy, drug-ridden or soul-ragged and thoroughly cynical. And for whom taking vengeance is always the temptation...

If Hollywood has a forefinger on society's neck, and you can argue the point many ways, then maybe the studios are getting a pulse here. But how exactly do you read it?

For sure the country has had it with conventional heroes, and now the spin cycle of revere-and-despise runs ever quicker, especially for those people who are supposed to be heroes: the presidential candidates. John McCain has gone from war hero to maverick to a senescent crackpot. Barack Obama, whose chances of becoming president always seem simultaneously locked and unlockable, has gone from underdog to 'the leader for our time' and now back down to, as Sean Hannity puts it — that AM matinee idol for the faint of thought — The Annointed One. Code for 'elitest nigger'. For Panther-X, pinko sympathizer.

Right wing sarcasticas have feasted on the idea that Sen. Obama would suggest Americans pump up their tires and get tuneups to defend against the oil shortage. Forgetting that it will take years to get oil out of American ground, that it will take time just to build the ships needed to drill. Hannity was deeply disturbed at Obama's suggestion and noted that he had never even seen what was under the hood of his Escalade. "Do cars even get tuneups anymore?" he asked.

As an aside Rush Limbaugh was entranced by the story of the Gulf sheik who flew his Lamborghini, the same model as in Batman, to London for an oil change: $10,000 for an oil change. Limbaugh is a big time car aficionado himself, but the reason he loved the story was because it pissed off so many conservationists. "Don't you just love that?" he kept saying.

Reagan conservatives howl when Obama describes McCain's candidacy as cynical, but how else to describe it...

But isn't it interesting how this Batman catches the vibes. Coming from a country that seems plum tuckered out from fear, real and imagined, and just too much reality IV. Now, everything and everyone is under suspicion; no perception or belief is secure. What you thought was true at noon may be the just the opposite by the time you drive home from work. How do you keep your balance in such a situation?

You don't. You assume everything is false, you become lost in the stars, you become paranoid, you become even more cynical than you were, or you pretend to be, all the time hoping that something real will come your way.

Meanwhile, Batman himself seems tired of it all. He's had to do a few flip flops of his own. He's become more and more 'political'. He's also become familiar and so derided. He has few people to back him up. No Robin, no girl friend. He has only his valet and a business colleague, who is up to here with Batman's willingness to suspend constitutional guarantees to get his demon. At the end of The Dark Knight, Batman reminds you of Orestes in Sartre's Les Mouches, forever pursued by flies, a criminal on the run from his incestuous relationship with truth.

The Nolans, the film's directors and writers, have invented a prototype of a new neurotically-efficient hero. It's not enough to have super strength or super intentions, the new hero has to sacrifice himself for the greater good, which is an image we can believe in, even if falsed up, made over; even if the image we believe is nothing behind it.

How cynical is that? Our new hero, to feel genuine, to us as well as to himself, needs to live the appearance of a lie in order to protect an out-of-hope society, so down on itself that it can be trusted only with an appearance. That's cynical. No?

One of the notable scenes in this film is a hospital blowing up, with the joker-terrorist standing in front of the Emergency room sign. The film's one virtue is just this scene and that message: there is no institution that will help you get healthy these days. If you want help, you're going to have to do it yourself, using whatever creativity and instinct you can muster.

Aug 1, 2008

"You could do it," he was saying. This was my friend I sometimes run into at the Polo Fields. Lately, he's been depressed. "You could actually do it," he kept saying. "What?" I asked. Usually, I don't take his depressions seriously but this time clearly something was the matter.

"What is it?"

He stopped to tell me. The dust swirled at our feet in the late afternoon as it does there on the track.

"I read an article the other day that those people who jump off the bridge, and survive obviously, have this moment of terrible regret. They realize the mistake and that moment of anguish is unholy."

I thought of those people dropping out of the World Trade Center, hand in hand.

"And I remember, do you remember this? The story about the orchid grower, the orchid man from South San Francisco, you know, worked in that place that sells orchids. I can't remember the name. And so he went to the bridge with his young daughter, threw her over and jumped after her. Can you imagine that? Can't you imagine the howling of that man. And the mother who jumped and her son who years later jumped. And that whole business about looking at the city instead of the ocean, because how could you face the nothingness of that, how could go through with it without the comfort of a city view. I know all that. I've read all the stories. I get it. And still. I have lately less to go on. You remember that man I told you about?"

I knew right away who he was talking about.

"Just got up early one morning and shot himself, with his wife upstairs and his son, everybody just about to get up, and what about the damage he's caused. If he knew that, he would never have done it. I know all that. I get all that."

"'But still' you're saying."

"'But still,' I'm saying."

"Talk to me," I said.

"I can't. That's the problem. It's no use. I can't."

So we just stood there, for a very long time. Everything going down. As though you were in the trough waiting for the bow to come up and the boat to follow. But it's the moment of not knowing, that horribly beautiful moment of not knowing whether it will come up.

Jul 25, 2008

What would you call it? An unease, a nameless worry. Even as Sen. Obama wraps up his trip, which would appear to be a great success — he showed he could play the role of statesman and in some way it seemed he already had the job... Still, the speech in Berlin seemed a little off to my ear. He made solid points, he added all the proper retorts to his critics, he made sure to balance criticism of America with his love for America, and he was almost back to his old glory toward the end in describing the challenge of working together toward a shared destiny. But the speech was no reprise of John F. Kennedy's speech. It did not match his Philadelphia race speech. It seemed flat, overly edited. Perhaps, this is because we've heard this message so many times before. But no, there was something else. A tightness. The fear of being ahead not behind. And then add the latest reports of how his press spokespeople have begun to alienate the press. If the choice for a press spokesperson is between acting as a bridge to the press or as a maxie prison guard, his corps has picked the latter. And that always backfires.

It's that football metaphor: how your home team, forever the underdog, is suddenly in the super bowl, and they're ahead by say 3 points, which is about what it is. But the second half has just started and you have the sense they've lost something, they're not making the plays, they're thinking more about what's at stake than how to play the game, how "to do all the things that got you here."

Jul 15, 2008

At the Moffet courts, he is the court pro, as it were. There is no official pro. The people who come there every day, the old guard, these old Chinese men and Cullen, who cut and dink and play every point as though it's their last, they don't like him because he seems haughty, because he can humiliate you and after he hits a winner he claps for himself.

He was awaiting a student and motioned to me to come on the court. He is slender, Vietnamese, in his 50s, perhaps. I couldn't say. He wore a white baseball cap and old-fashioned white tennis trousers.

He moves very well back and forth along the baseline and hits the way players did in the 1950s, the likes of Tony Trabert and Pancho Conzales and Hoad and Rosewall. He's from that time. He comes from the old Vietnam I expect. I'll bet you he grew up on a large plantation. He hits a backhand with one arm, not two. He drops the head of his racquet on his forehand but without much topspin. The comes low and hard. You have to be on your back foot to get a good return.

He works the angles as you would expect but never comes to the net. Whenever he hits a shot he grunts and many times yells out, "yea." And so whether you are rallying with him or playing against him every shot feels like a put away. When he hits a winner, he claps for himself, his hand against the strings. We rallied for a few minutes and then he said, in a high voice, nearly a scream, "You want to play." It was not as a question.

We began.

Jul 13, 2008

The other day I got a note from K, the ex-wife of a serial killer named D. He's been on death row at San Q for more than 20 years. I wrote about D years ago, trying to raise questions about his case.

K writes me from time to time and just the other day, with no seque, to say that she was "fascinated by the Jesse Jackson kerfuffle": "His comment, as far as I'm concerned, was bright green envy showing itself."

K got her divorce from D in the mid 90s. They were married on death row and divorced after nearly 10 years? Or maybe it was less. In any case, a marriage of convenience for both. The advantage to the wife, as that old prison adage goes, 'you always know where your husband is at night.' For him, she became his 'gopher' and go-to girl. She believed he was innocent and so justified the bargain.

I had also gotten involved with D's case in the belief that he might be innocent. Guilty of many crimes but not murdering 6 young prostitutes in the spring of 1980. I have told you this story. The trial was a sham. The defense attorney was too drunk to make the case. The jury convicted a man who seemed to be exactly what the prosecution claimed. But was he?

Was he the killer or the woman he lived with occasionally, Carol — a slovenly wreck of a woman, a nurse by day, a devilina by night — who had done the murders with her other acquaintance, Jack. In court, Carol was cast as a defenseless widow from the San Fernando Valley, in the clutches of a panting satyr — which was true about D. In fact, she was defenseless and in a separate trial after D's was convicted in the murder of Jack whom she shot, stabbed and decapitated. She admitted that and also admitted being in a car with D when he killed one of his victims. One of D's crimes involved a girl who had also been decapitated but no one did a forensic analysis to see if the two decapitations had anything in common. And then there was a bloody scalp in Jack's van... Who did that belong to? In the end, were the real killers, Jack and Carol, or D and Carol.

I interviewed Carol twice. She was down east of Los Angeles, in a correctional facility for women. She has since died by the way. Of diabetes. And general collapse. Her spirit is pressed against the bottom of a slag heap in some uninhabitable industrial area in New Jersey.

She and I spent two long sessions together. Alone, in a room. The second time we were abandoned by prison staff who went home at 5 on the nose, forgetting that Carol and I were in a small room off a far hallway in the administration building. This second time I wanted to get the goods on her once and for all, and it came down to whether she would confess that she had been in the car Doug claimed they were in, or the one she had claimed. The difference was vital. Even if she said she couldn't remember or changed her story; that would be enough to encourage efforts for a new trial, which was never had.

And at one point she did seem to admit that the murder had occurred, if I remember correctly and I may not, in the Buick not in the compact. Her story had always involved the compact, and her story was that D was in the driver's seat with a prostitute giving him a blow job and took the gun from Carol who was sitting in the back seat. I always thought the idea that any man, much less D, would shoot a woman with his penis in her mouth, was madness. Especially, D who was a satyr and a coward. He worshipped sexual pleasure, loved prostitutes and was insatiable but not kinky to that point.

His story was that he was in the backseat getting a blow job, a birthday present from Carol, that much was kinky, and that Carol suddenly pulled out a gun and shot the girl. The body was never found. But Carol remembered the whole incident very well, and after seeming to cry for a moment about the murder, suddenly began laughing and purring about what "beautiful tits" the victim had.

There was no darker persona than Carol's and to be around her was to infect yourself with her broken personalities.

Nevertheless, in the end, I got Carol's very damaging story on tape. Carol sat there, trying to seduce me, promising me still more information, careening along with one lens fallen out of her glasses, and so the one eye was magnified, the other with no lens, tiny, a slit. The owl and rat, I always thought.

I got back that night and K insisted I give her the tape with this very damaging story. Later, that night she went to listen to it in her car stereo. Then left the tape in the player which was stolen before the next morning. The loss of that tape was a disaster, and all these years later, although I have all the rest of the interview, I can't remember the details of Carol's admission. I remember that she slipped up and that what she said was very damaging, but that's all.

For her part, K no longer cares about whether D is innocent or not. She last saw him in 1996 and that was enough.

Jul 10, 2008

As a close black friend said, and she was in no mood, "has it occurred to anyone that the reason Jesse Jackson might have said any of this was because he was exactly the kind of person Barack Obama was referring to in these sermons? Exactly the kind! Endlessly cheated on his wife, had a child out of wedlock with his aid — and then gave her $40,000 in cash out of rainbow coalition funds — and has generally been as irresponsible as a man can be. What is there to figure out?"

Jul 8, 2008

Another husband has been reported "unavailable". There's been a whole slew lately. Gone limp, eyes lost that oval look of anticipation, lips reduced to solid yellow lines. Apparently, he has been this way for the last ten years, which came as a surprise to me. I thought his warranty was still good. Who better lived the illusion of the endless bon vivant, drinking, carousing, from one end of the earth to the other. He's a travel writer by profession, now abandoned in the Sierra of his mind. He has arguments: a series of operations; various organs are on the fritz. Run down to his bed, left to listen to traffic and the gardener doing what was always his job. Left to hate himself for being infirm, for being what he always was.

So naturally his wife is disconsolate, with no illusion home. The last lovemaking is not still to come, which whether good or bad, would be memorable for that alone. Any promise has hope in it. But now the last time was so long ago she cannot remember any details, nor does she want to remember. And so what to do?

She has her devices, as she refers to them, and those have provided the jittery part of what she requires but nothing for the slower sensation of skin itself. Lately, she goes for long walks in the park, to keep her enviable shape and to seek refuge in routine. She begins and ends at the rose garden, where she re-examines all the varities, notes the irony of 'Love's Promise' and marvels at how all the roses resemble vaginas within vaginas. And always, like a dope addict, she inhales the scent of 'Marmelaide skies'. On the way out she pauses before the statue of Thomas Masyrk, her one link to an emmigrant past. She is always put off by his look. The bronze and shadow, with hair flat against the head, as though Thomas just got out of the shower. He looks like a 12-year-old boy just getting out of the shower, she thinks. And he looks somber, like her husband actually. He does not look like all the knowledge he discovered provided much hope. He looks like he could say something cruel as easily as something wise.

Her friends have suggested she take a lover. But who? There is the hunky handyman, but married. There is the waiter, around the corner on Lyon Street, but what if he's gay? A woman friend, who's had a lot of experience with this, suggests a certain website where it's easy to find friendly black men. She can tell you 'til the cows come home about black men, how only they know how to touch, how to move, how to prolong. This afficionado is single herself, just now bemoaning the marriage of her ex to a younger, and much worse — an exceptionally wealthy woman.

If this is the era when women are supposed to take over the world, I haven't seen it. Where's the gaiety, when's the party?

For this woman I'm talking about the idea of taking on a black lover is too intense. She doesn't have the cultural stamina for that. And of course what she really needs is someone to just hold her. For a month straight and then maybe some sex, well definitely some sex then. And from there she wants more than a casual affair. She wants to fall in love, to be a Lina and 'swept away in the blue sea of August.'

There was another similar story I heard the other day. From a much older woman. Fifteen years ago her husband ran off with another woman, a showgirl, a skier, a tennis player, who made it clear, there were no strings attached. Oh boy, he liked it that way, and so he never married her. But now he's 90 and the showgirl skier is in her fifties and she also wants another run down the mountain. Not to mention a little heritage fund, a little money for the help please, for the service of it all. I'm getting this, you understand, from the scorned. She describes how at parties, because she had children and they had children and so there are endless events, and when the other woman arrives filled with bangles and smiles, the old and older wife cannot bear the sight. But she wants me to know the secret glee she feels when she catches the trophy wife in a private moment, eyes falling on her trophy and thinking of how heavy it is.

Jul 5, 2008

We reached Nevada City in the late afternoon, and after tea in her garden, with a dozen koi in a pond, we went to the fairgrounds to see the fireworks. M wanted to show us where she'd sung in the local singing group the night before. The place was covered in bodies on blankets, everyone counting down the light. There were booths full of frosties and fries, a woman giving free hugs, an Elvis impersonator and kids darting every which way like ideas in an ill mind. People wore half clothes; they had thick calves and they were uniformly fat. A jabba-the-hut-of-a-man sat in his wheel chair, surly looking, with oxygen streaming into one nostril. We watched the Elvis become Roy Orbison but the songs were too slow, not 45 but 78. This is the country and slow is in, slow is good. Slow is what you need. We sat down on some bleachers and fell back on the empty row behind, M's 85-year-old head on my arm. Wow, we all said. Whoa! Look at that. Just before the show started a DJ with long scraggly white hair and a military cap put on God Save America and God Bless America and The Stars and Stripes Forever. A boy sped by on roller shoes. Girls tried to get each other to dance. There was some line dancing and then a pretty woman did the macarama all by herself, looking neither happy or sad or confident or embarrassed. M kept saying, wasn't this the way it was always supposed to be. Didn't we feel America's heart beating. I said, of course, but I didn't feel that at all. People looked half happy, just a little bewildered. How could it be otherwise with all the Yukons and F150s in the parking lot and local gas near $5. But then out of it all stepped a six-year-old girl, Marilyn Monroe when she was still Norma Jeane Mortenson, a rabbit out of a hat, so blonde, so wistful, dancing around with her American flag on a stick, and in the strobe light, a lithe creature of beauty and talent and possibility. A ghost. And then the fireworks, right over head, red glare and all, until finally an orgy of sound and color, what women are supposed to see when they climax, a truly magnificent expression of bombs bursting. And suddenly it all ended; the bodies drew up their blankets and disappeared.

Jun 30, 2008

Time machines on the loose

You could start this way, for example.... Just before the boss got stabbed, he stood on a soap box on 6th Street, running for his life, surrounded by lieutenants. "My office has not only prosecuted the violent offenders who have made this corridor infamous," he said, in that compressed sometimes whiney voice, and holding his right arm high sbove his head, which was very painful for him to do, "but we have also reached out to those who are the victims of crime." ...

Now, four years later, the corridor is quieter. The old DA's office has long been closed and succeeding businesses have come and gone. Instead of six cops up and down the street, there were two, having a smoke in a doorway, two young women, caps up, foreheads revealed, like Brodrick Crawfords on a break. "The baby shower on Tuesday," one was saying. Up the street, distinguished crackheads, in braids and bangles, with army pants and saddling up, an urban air cavalry bound for someplace or other. "We got wings, let's fly," they said.

The corridor seemed thinned out, and tuckered out. A couple of palm trees lended a glancing respectability. And the furniture still hangs on the sides of an abandonned hotel there on Mission. The arty side of downtown's noiriest enclave. The old bar where boss used to visit, in deference to some IRA types that gave to the fund is no more. The pawn shop was closed, maybe closed up, I couldn't tell.

I rounded the corner, to Market Street, turned south, southwest, whatever that is, walking along the west side of hte street, past the old strip-joint, house of dildo and cock rings. On the outside speakers, the most beautiful violin concerto you ever heard. My first thought was Chopin then Brahms. Went inside to find out what it was. The place was in that light of all adult places, neonic, pale, bad air, and that forever quality, as though all adult sex, men-on-the lam places are connected, every single one through place and time, from San Francisco to Times Square 40 years ago, one continuum, you can come up in a strip mall in North Dakota or a pleasure hut in Austin, one vast underground Dungeon-11 of tapes and magazines, paraphenalia, weapons, hurt-mes / hurt-yous, cum and comed and done and you'll be back, we're 24/7.

"What is that?" I asked. "That music outside." Bald man was reaching down behind the glass counter trying to get some feng shui going with the cock rings. A mutty little blonde man was closest. He was in the register. "What'd you say?" he said with a snarl. "The music outside, what is that?" He never looked at me. "Jazz," he said. Not in here, I said. Outside. "Outside? How the fuck should I know?" He's counting gold in the drawer. "The corporation," he said. "What corporation," I said.

"I don't what-the-fuck corporation, you wanna buy somehtin'?"

Channeling George Carlin, I thought. Well that makes sense. He's in the air still. On a Terry Gross retrospective that played the day after he died he said he was never afraid of anything once he decided that everything had come from a single atom, a single element. Therefore, everything is related, therefore everything is yourself. Therefore, why would you be afraid of yourself?

Something like that.

"No, I don't want to buy anything," I said. But that was what I was trying to remember: When the corridor had some attitude.