I used to know them. Possibly all of them. Sometime after moving to HelLA, when Google Earth was still a new product, I made a flythrough of all the places I’d lived. A few were approximate, and I’m sure I started only notionally in HelLA before the litany of addresses in the Bay and UK – Unit 1, women’s co-op, Dwight, funny summer sublet that the dead guy from Sublime had rented, Piedmont/Oakland, MLK couch, the Mission, Ward, Warehouse, Fyfield, Iffley, North Oxford, (redacted), Goldhawk Rd, West Ken, LES, UWS, West Village, East Village, Brooklyn, aaaand back to WeHo. And then the list continued – midcity, Silverlake, Echo Park. And now, my ultimate fear, back to the suburbs. As if all the in between places didn’t happen. (Apparently, I do in fact know them all still. But that’s not my point.)

Which of course isn’t true. This isn’t the leaving of Ox, or even the leaving London despair of present and future purpose (though return still looks slim). This is a move cross-town to save time, lots and lots of time, for people large and (more importantly) small.

The tangible scars of my past can live again. Not the burns or pierces or tattoos – the BOOKS. No longer in boxes in the basement, the selves that rose and fall, lived and died, and folded tens of thousands of pages over to varying depths. Who failed to read, and failed to fold, chastened, even humbled, by the staggering expanse of unread pages. On bookshelves, freshly ordered for delivery in 10 days.

A walk up in the wet from a bar I’m fond of, but never lived at. A last hike tomorrow, I think, more meaningful, a thousand loops later. Likely without the 35 pounds, though. Toddlers don’t experience nostalgia, I don’t think, in the ways I do.

Though, I think we’ll come back to look at the mustard flowers.

Friday March 09th 2018, 12:34 pm
Filed under: exit,family,HelLA,himself,leaving,nextish Tags:

A new bed, assembled. Small, really, but large. A blue crib disassembled. The days spent sanding and priming and lovingly painting two coats of that saturated blue, not really knowing the person it would be for. A long weekend spent doing the room, while YCT and the dogs were in Santa Monica. Music loud, paint stained jeans, the familiar rhythms of blue tape and cutting in and rolling out. Labor of lifetimes ago, foundational and fundamental competencies in self-righteous opposition to paternal incompetence, to a self that inhabited the life of the mind easily, the world less so. Years of painting walls and caulking bathrooms, of repairing things and building things.

And now, building a small bed, with small hands helping. He’ll never stay in it, of course, so new exhaustions await. And I doubt a week is enough to help him settle in to it before the Big Move happens. A move to the suburbs, really, something too close to the places you will be from. And he won’t remember, not really, the lake and the ducks and the hike. Hundreds of hikes. We’ll shape a different life, of course, and anything that involves 8 more hours a week of living, not driving, can only be a good choice. Inhabit the space differently. Push the angles and round the curves differently. Discover the small sites of possibility. Ignore the dread.

Dread, though, leavened with the small voice of himself, “thaaaaank you, daddy,” tucked up in his new spot, blankets and animals overflowing, blue eyes bright and improbable hair flopped to one side. Anything.


[Update: the last real comments to this ridiculously indulgent nonsense-filled endeavor of mine, were to the post “20 weeks” in August 2014, the weekend I painted the room and the crib. And Helen, saying “congratulations.” Just yesterday I packed the Chagall book you gave me when I left Oxford, following a farewell party at that funny flat. It was your father’s, you said. I had forgotten the inscription, saying I would be missed. Now you are missed, rainbow friend.]

oh, lympics
Saturday August 06th 2016, 10:47 pm
Filed under: Boozy,leaving,memory,obits,reminiscence,summer Tags:

I remember the late afternoon I decided to quit. I remember lots of wood in the room – bunk beds for a corner room, though I had it to myself, but the exposed 2x4s and 2x6s and a cedar-y smell. Possibly the sandalwood incense I burned along with the marlboro reds. A stereo – ?Koss – with its three CD changer. I don’t remember the music. Jane’s Addiction? That was a summer of falling asleep to Arvo Part every night, so perhaps Berliner Mass? Dead Can Dance? Tori Amos? 1994. I wrote it all down, but that journal got lost in the mail. I’m sure there were tears, and ash, and sweat, as I wore black paint-spattered jeans, unlaced doc martins (surely with the leather thongs for laces), and a fencing mask, as even in the darkest moment of (?contrived) despair, I didn’t want the blade to snap and blind me. Safety first, kids, when you’re trying to make the transition from doing a thing to not doing a thing.

I was good. Not that good, but good. The details are a bit blurry, but I was certainly top 10 in my age group. Probably top 30-ish overall, which sounds impressive until you realize the gulf between the guy squeaking through at 32 and the top 2 or 3.

I’ve written this all before. What disturbs me, after watching a day of women’s epee in Rio (!!!!), is I don’t remember why I quit. Not exactly. I probably didn’t know exactly. I could have taken the summer off after nationals, started up again in the fall. Hell, 2 years later I’d move 8 blocks away from the club in San Francisco and celebrate how fucking cool I was for living in the deep Mission in 1996. Rather than resenting the walk to BART and the train there and back again once? twice? a week. If I’d had a car, would I have made the same decision? Or, was the answer just female – now-lawyer and some-of-us-are-bugs? A general fear of missing out, on the 5th floor (before they left), on college itself.

I don’t know what i wrote in the black bound book that day, with the sweat and the tears and the loud music and the cigarette ash. Possibly some candle wax. Had i stayed on, I might have squeaked through to the Olympics, only to get my ass handed to me, coming home a proud 119th in the world or something. Maybe in the 220s. Dunno. And don’t know what the opposite was – what was I choosing? What did I _want_, beyond what it was I no longer wanted to do? Still unclear.

Friday March 15th 2013, 11:08 pm
Filed under: Berkeley,family,friends,leaving,New York,nextish,Oxford,tired Tags:

It’s too much, really. Last week’s trip marking progress and stasis, old friends, older responsibilities, newer choices. But between an old friend (the red hoodie and shiny shoes of Saturday, December 6, 2003) and the work of work (newly less work filled, situated on a continuum from Part I exams to retirement by a man freshly retired, another old man on the other side of cancer, and still a third old man, not there, on the other side of a stroke and scared as fuck), part of the trip involved confronting old ?wrongs? mistakes? ?obligations? None quite, really. A man-child, ultimately. And I did as right as I could in the hours there were, not necessarily to make sense of lifetimes, but to be real, to be me now and connect to him now and acknowledge that time has passed and mistakes made and not made, and what nexts. But part of that was always going to entail talking about it. And there, amidst grief I cannot begin to imagine, always that shifting logic, those words that impel compel repel, seduce confuse confound, persuade perdure perform. “What happened to the days of wine and roses,” ask the Wild Colonials, about whom one could ask, “what happened to the Wild Colonials” (or the subsequent two EPs that were promised)? To bed, to brunch, to work, to high school musicals.

[Update a few minutes later, in response to a text to which I will not respond: the door is _not_ open. Those 5 years were not without context; it was I, not my father, who told you I was getting married. Nor did you have PTSD; it was a bad breakup, nothing more or less. Nor are needle biopsies a fucking treatment for cancer, so stop fucking saying that you had cancer. No one reads this, and that’s for the best, but I refuse, absolutely, to do this. I will not go back down the rabbit hole.]

they walked
Saturday June 11th 2011, 11:56 pm
Filed under: damn,departure,exit pursued by a bear,leaving,memory,seasonal,teaching Tags:

I didn’t, not in the way that matters. And she gave birth to a healthy little girl (mazel tov), and I didn’t. All these passings and passages and rites thereof, speeches and words and photos and moments you’re supposed to remember. And I don’t, really. Or worse, I do, to the letter, but not the why, not the part that made you want to remember it in the first place. Significant for the process, the experience, not merely the symbolic. “What I am to you” says the music in the background. I’ve never known, but perhaps I thought I knew then. ….[update]. In Spite of Me the next track, all too apt in its all too aptness. Perhaps not far off what I feel for these not-really-kids. Another annual rite of passage, tomorrow, as my father sacrifices himself on the altar of his own mediocrity for another year, while Mark Sandman and I are hanging, late tonight, in my living room.

Regularly scheduled

Tonight’s regularly scheduled Nostalgia-Fest(tm) has been delayed due to eminently foreseeable circumstances. A contract offered, yesterday, an early morn and the closure of an exam today. One to London, one to New York, one here for a bit before heading to San Francisco, one to the Air Force and another back to his baby boy. They don’t tell you, not the places you’ll go, but the people you’ll say goodbye to as they go to those places. And so, flint (as is apparently the case with my Reading Abbey wall fill rubble) to the tinder, movies of promise and regret and loss before it’s lost to spark the few bits of fuel not already consumed.

Adventures, anew
Sunday January 30th 2011, 12:01 pm
Filed under: departure,friends,leaving,seasonal Tags:

Another goodbye. To a friend, long-known but really only a true, close friend in the last few years since I moved back to this ridiculous, preposterous city of my birth. He’s off, to Japan, for adventures. For a new life. For an uncertain future. With admirable courage, he looked around his life, after the death of his father and the ending of a long relationship, and said ‘Fuck this. There is better to be had, more to be done’. And thus, a ticket to Tokyo, the outlines of a dozen plans, any of which (or, none, but I’m rooting for any) can make it all work, set the stage for the next stage. Another friend, his friend, my friend, the friend who was annoyed he had two friends who clearly should be friends but weren’t friends, he, too, has adventures up next. Money saved, longtime job left. Mountains to climb here, mountains to climb there, and then a planned motorcycle trip across continents, South America, maybe Africa, maybe Europe. An almost unimaginably vast adventure, where everything is always ahead, and even looking back is a looking forward, to the next thing encountered. Adventure as facing not only the unknown or unexpected or unexperienced, but as the freshness brought to that forward-looking state. And friends looking for work, one to fly east for an interview next weekend at a small liberal arts college, the other returning to the UK to finish, finally, his grad work, having overcome insane medical adversity to get there. And I? Are all my adventures past? Found a job, found love, found the yuppie track and have several olive oils and several more vinegars in a cupboard somewhere. “I want to live where I can buy duck”, someone said to me a few weeks ago. I guess I do, even if it’s never occurred to me to buy duck, nor to measure the civilization-quotient of my residence by its availability. What’s next? The clock ticks, the answers will arrive sometime in the next 18 months ago, but the answer isn’t to the ultimate question, “Should I stay or should I go now”, but rather, “You can stay or you can go now”. Certainty of choice, not of solution. And would I be happier if the choice was taken from me, adventure thrust upon me? And would I be happier if, given the choice, I chose the road never taken: thanks for the life/style and the vote of confidence, I’m off? And is it about ‘happier’? Is that what matters most, of the choices on the table? Do I still care about what it al means? Whatevs. Long ago, I wrote a farewell to a friend who went to Zimbabwe on these pages, tears in my eyes and doubt and grief in my fingers as my own uncertain future lagged a little behind his. 6+ years on, I know that thousands of miles don’t fuck with these friendships, that run ever so much deeper than distance or time. But, you will be missed, Japan-bound friend. You will be much missed, but you have made the right choice: the sky is higher, there, the horizons clearer, brighter, more meaningful. For once, the weather here matches my mood, the sound of rain on a roof and clattering down a poorly-cleared gutter. You will be missed, but you remind the rest of us that stasis isn’t the only choice.

Wednesday December 15th 2010, 10:37 pm
Filed under: damn,exit pursued by a bear,leaving,something new,Work Tags:

The mind balks, really. Because ive done it before? Because it will need doing again, probably twice, before it’s done? But even as I fight off the anxiety and stress of the next rounds to come, trying to bask, however briefly, in the oh fuck i did it glow of the now, well, yeah. Last time it seemed in doubt, also. Last time everything was riding on it, also. Last time, the stakes were only everything, the future entirely contingent, the release not untroubled by the consequences. Then of going, now, likely, of staying. But I’ve been here before, as it were, almost exactly five years ago, and 8 years before that, and 4 years before that. Transitions, they happen. So grab an a440, tune up, and make em work. Once more, with feeling.

wisdom words
Saturday September 13th 2008, 1:08 am
Filed under: Boozy,change,leaving,Miscellaneous, Truly,Rubbish,self-indulgent,Work Tags:

An (ex)colleague with words of wisdom, “always wise to let the job say no, rather than decide for them.” He’s right, of course, and knows that I want it for all the wrong reasons, and knows, too, that it’s extremely unlikely that I’d ever get it, and knows, too, what it is to want to be somewhere else. I don’t have the radical contingency of only three septembers ago, Sept. 2005, living in NY, working a crap job, knowing my work was better than anyone else’s but not how to sell it. I fucking learned how to sell it, and sell it but good, to exactly the people who were buying. Which connects up to the fear of doing this again – I don’t have a whole lot more work, so what exactly am I selling? Is it about the work or the reputation, the perks of a job that fucking rocks in North America, or the job done right, and exactly how much suffering goes into any of that? It used to be all about the work. That didn’t work so much. So, resting on that, I made it all about me. That worked, but the work got a bit lost. What’s left, what’s next, and what’s so awful about the ‘sure thing’ of jumping through the right hoops for the next 3 years, and seeing the other side of tenure where I am – a top 25 R1 school, public, where the weather’s lovely and you can get Ethiopian food at 3 in the morning if you really fancy. Hard to be the victim some days, ladies and gents, but so it goes for your not-so-humble narrator. Knock back the last of the wine, fingers sore from the guitar strings and a profound lack of callouses. Good sign, that, the making beyond the criticism, condensed to and represented by a review for a major journal I’m supposed to be writing. What we talk about when we talk about criticism….

return, reverse

Coming to the West Coast used to be a visit, a destination of excitement and desire, frustration and elation, promise, release, and a certain drawing out. Hit the ground running, a radical shift from “my” life to “my life”, if that makes any sense, which it really doesn’t, but I’m none too fussed about the matter as no one really reads this, and I’m jetlagged regardless. Returning to England meant workworkwork, clear out desires and distractions, and return to the work that was always at hand. But this last trip, this last return (to where?), clarifying. Back here, recommendation letters to write before the end of the week, comments on papers delayed since June, articles to write and book reviews and page proofs to check and a class to prepare. Workworkwork. Jumping through hoops I’m unconvinced by, knowing I (we! oh lovely we.) desire to return, to move to England, to stay there, to return, as I promised myself, in triumph, not hamstrung by visas and limitations, but properly. So it’s 9am and it feels like early evening contemplative hour; it’s time for a second pot of coffee, but a drink feels about right. Warning: Travel May Clarify What You Want.