[ j o u r n a l ]
The following online journal entries are from January 2001.
They are taken from my written journal and email updates to friends.
"...of course there is no logic to San Francisco generally, a city
built with putty and pipe cleaners, rubber cement and colored
construction paper. It's the work of fairies, elves, happy children
with new Crayons. Why not pink, purple, rainbow, gold? What color
for a biker bar on 16th near the highway? Plum. Plum. The light
that is so strong and right that corners are clear, crisp, all glass
is blinding--stilts and buttresses and turrets--the remains of various
highways--rainbow windsocks--a sexual sort of lushness to the foliage.
Only intermittently does it seem like an actual place of residence
and commerce, with functional roads and sensible buildings. All other
times it's just whimsy and faith...this hill and that hill...this
vista and that, always the hills, the curves, the maybe our brakes
will fail, the maybe someone else's brakes will fail...Always there
is something San Franciscan reinforcing all everyone has come to
think about the city, The City, they say--homeless people wear bathing
suits and do handstands on the sidewalk, and shamelessly defecate,
unmolested, on busy street croners. Activists throw bagels at police
in riot gear, bicyclists are allowed to choke Market Street traffic
but are arrested for trying to ride over the Bay Bridge....The
buses are attached to strings or wires or something, and driving
behind them requires often waiting, having reading material on hand,
for these busses do not for long stay attached to the strings or
wires--suddenly there will be a spark, and the bus will stop and
the driver will get out, walk to the back of the bus, and yank on
the string or wire, smiling cheerfully, oh ha ha, because here
there really isn't that much of a hurry, for anyone, anywhere,
least of all for those who take buses. There are eighty-year-old
twins who haunt Union Square, and the alleys breathe urine, and
teenagers slum in the Mission, the Haight..."
--Dave Eggers, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
[ 0 1 . 2 5 . 0 1 ]
Thursday. 12:09 PM.
An addenum to the update I sent to people earlier this month:
Given the curmudgeony beginning of this year and the equally
grouchy, grumpy, sneezy, sleepy, and dopey first update letter of
the new millenium, I thought that a follow-up would be in order.
In part to further develop some of the thoughts I was having and
am still having and in part to provide some sort of perspective,
distance, and recuperation.
This month is almost done and I can hardly believe it. Time seems
to be moving so fast. I barely am used to the idea that it's a
new year. I keep looking for the brakes but all I can find is
either the accelerator or the clutch. I guess if I don't want
to speed up, I need to shift gears.
Living in San Francisco during the winter months is a curious and
almost paradoxical experience (particularly for this East Coast
boy). Mainly because the Pacific northwest weather confuses my
ideas about the seasons. It gets chilly here in SF -- not cold by
any stretch of the imagination -- though it is a wet, seeping,
soak to your bones cold unlike the dry cold of snow. But, with
the rain comes the green of the trees and grass because during
the summer and fall months it's generally dry and everything turns
brown. Part of me keeps expecting to see leafless branches and
icy puddles. It still amazes me to see songbirds, albeit hardy
ones that haven't fled to less rainy climes.
But the weather isn't the only curious and paradoxical experience.
I think from the many update letters I've sent over the past two
years, I have written about the constant push and pull, the love
and hate ebbs and flows of culture, politics, city dwellers, public
transportation, romance, and friendship.
I am still deeply empowered by the very fact that I live in San
Francisco -- this very suburban, this very Taurean, this very safe
individual thrown into a new city, a new way of living, and a new
set of challenges. I am very proud of myself for taking the leap
of self and for struggling to make ends meet. And sometimes I
really don't give myself enough credit in that regard. And I
really need to recognize and emphasize those moments when I feel
a connection to this city. For instance, last night, I was coming
up the escalator from BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit - our Metro) and
was looking up out of stairwell up into the night sky and the tall,
reflective buildings of downtown SF. The air was chilly and smelled
of rain and subway. My gaze returned to eye level and watched the
BARTgoers riding the down escalator. And I knew it was clearly a
city moment. I was headed to POW for a drink or two and their 80s
night called "D.Volution" -- my friend Margaret spins new wave
vinyl while we watch Tron or Labyrinth or
Heathers or some John Hughes film with the sound off.
It's moments like that when I feel the most liberated, the most
involved. I hadn't planned on going out last night. In fact, I
generally don't go out on Monday nights. I guess some of that
"it's a school night" conditioning still has a hold of me. But
I wanted to get out of the apartment. I wanted to be social but
in a familiar place. And I think I just wanted to do something,
be active for myself. So, why not spend a few hours playing
PlayStation "X-Men," drinking a couple of Black Velvets (otherwise
known as a Snakebite), which is Guiness and cider, and talking
to your friendly neighborhood bartender?
I had spent this weekend being very angry. It is an emotion that
I don't usually entertain for very long. My MO generally is to
internalize everything and feel sad and at fault about it all.
But, for some reason, this weekend, I was mad. Whether it was
healthy or not, I just knew that I was fed up by conditions in
my home life, my personal life, my social life, my emotional
life, my profession life, and my creative life. I really wanted
to act out, to lash out, to have a down-and-dirty fight with someone.
[ 0 1 . 2 5 . 0 1 cont. ]
I most definitely am angry with Sarah. The grief has turned
and now I'm upset, disappointed, frustrated, resentful, and
peeved. And the fact that she prevents me from having any sort
of interaction, articulation, confrontation, explanation, or
thermonuclear war with her makes me even more cantankerous. It
seems to me lately she's always resolves her conflicts by
avoidance and hiding. Of course, I want closure and her denial
of me of that just rankles me to no end. All I can do is sigh,
take deep breaths, and try to ground out the energy. But our
home life is definitely impacted. Though I seem to now have run
of the entire apartment since she predominantly closets herself
in her room, sometimes I'd much rather be someplace else than
have to deal with not *dealing with* her.
I am also angry at the fact that Josh (not my next door neighbors),
whom I dated a bit last fall, has started seeing a mutual
acquaintance of ours. And I know this is predominantly jealousy
at work, but I still feel bad. He broke up with me because he
said he was not ready to be in a relationship. And now he is it
seems. It's always hard to see someone you've been involved with
begin a new relationship.
I think I am generally resentful of the fact that I continue to
lack a strong, close group of friends here in San Francisco. And
that I get angry at the people who are in my social circle for
not recognizing that I am needful or hurt or sad or angry or
excited about something. I constantly press for proof of
investment and generally get very little water out of stone.
And I know I need to quit seeking affirmation and just let
sleeping (if not wayward and at times oblivous) dogs lie.
Finally, I think I am angry over my friend Nick's death. And
that grief often transmutes to anger over loss, over abandoment,
over pain. And by extension, I am still angry over the death
of my mother. Nick's viewing and funeral were excruciatingly
difficult for me. I was genuinely surprised at how close that
pain was to me. Even seven years distant, I was brought right
back to the moment like being visited and transported by some
Dickensian ghost. Friends of Nick picked me up for the viewing
two Friday's ago. We arrived at the funeral parlor (a term
that seems so Victorian and ugly) around 5 PM. There were a
number of people in the chapel-like room complete with pews
and stained glass. It took me three hours before I would
approach the casket. I sat in the back of the room and could
see just the crest of Nick's face above the edge of the coffin
like pale, first arc of light of sunrise. I couldn't believe
the grief. So present, so cruel, and so collapsing. I remember
just crying and saying to myself, "I don't want to do this
again." It was only my second funeral in my thirty years.
But, finally, with the company of Nick's friends, I made it
up to pay my respects and to say goodbye.
Running with the theme of living paradoxes, the encounter with
death is full of mindbends. It is said that death is the heart
of life. And I really continue to believe that our culture
doesn't face up to or own up to death at all. We want
immortality, eternal youth, and euphemistic living. When we
are confronted by the scythe, we are too afraid, too unawares,
too ignorant, and even too proud to act with grace. I certainly
hope that we don't reduce our conversation about death to a
Bill Moyer's special on PBS and in turn reduce our conversation
about life to a five-minute 'Remembering Your Spirit' segment on Oprah.
[ i n d e x E D ]
© 2001 Edmond Y. Chang. All original material. All rights reserved.
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