Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Back to The Land Of Dreams

This appeared on my computer this morning as my opening page. Another in a long series of synchronistic love notes from storypeople.

In eight hours I will be flying off into the wild blue yonder once again, Goin' Back to New Orleans. I'm leaving pieces of my heart and life in California and returning after eleven long months to pieces that I've left in The Crescent City... I'll be looking for the sunlight and listening for the hope.

It should be an interesting month.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

rewind... Reset... RETURN!


I have booked my flight, and as of this morning I have a place to live; I am moving back into the apartment that I slept in only once... the night before I fled from Katrina.

After eleven months away... I am finally returning to The Crescent City.

I will only be there for the month of May before needing to return to California for work here, but I plan on going back in July and then again in August, making this some sort of permanent (whatever that means in my life and this context) residence back in the city of my heart. I've struggled with this a lot. In the ensuing months since I returned to California last June, with the plan of being here for less than a month, I have been riding a roller coaster of confusion and indecision (those who know me well know that this is not a particularly unique situation for me, but something that was instilled in me at an early age) about what to do. I'm not feeling that any more.

On Thursday evening when I finalized my one way flight to New Orleans (much like the one I took almost two years ago, and flying uncharacteristically out of San Jose, the airport to which I last returned), I clicked the button to conclude the transaction and immediately started to cry. I dashed off emails to several friends in The Crescent City and then I put on Cowboy Mouth and danced around the room... and I mean that I DANCED AROUND THE ROOM!

It's all so very trendy these days (at least in California) to ask people the ever present and often annoying question, "What's your passion?" I regularly have a hard time figuring out an answer to that (though I am having less difficulty than I used to) and regularly I grapple with trying to figure out a true and honest answer (which frankly I think is the appropriate response...but that's for another blog). Well, Thursday night... and right now... I don't have that problem.

My PASSION is New Orleans!

I want to live there, work there, play there, party there, and even grow old there. Admittedly, I have other places I love as well... San Francisco will never be far from my heart (especially as long as my DDD is there), Ireland (and probably Dublin) is a place where I plan to make a home for at least part of my life, and New York, where I actually have a job interview on Tuesday (we'll see what kind of a monkey wrench THAT throws into the mix), holds its inevitable sway... But New Orleans, and everything about her... the cultural gumbo, the musical jambalaya, the slow and often maddening pace, the racial and cultural mix, my dear friends, the heat... and even the humidity, is the place that calls me home. Even with the painful chaos of the city post-Katrina, these things have written their name upon my heart.


Tuesday, April 17, 2007

A Toast to Love and Longevity

My friends Elizabeth and John celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary on Sunday and I had hoped to make it to their party down in LA (that's Los Angeles by the way... the OTHER LA) but circumstances once again intervened and instead I had to celebrate with them from a distance.

J & E had sent out invitations to their party and had requested that if those invited couldn't be present in person that they would at least toast them with RED (Ruby being the proper element for the 40th anniversary). Well, I pulled out my red Keith Haring superhuman shirt, because these two friends are indeed super human in my experience, mind and heart. I went to the store and picked up a few Red Rocket Ales to toast with and poured them into a red glass for good measure. I thought about putting on my red shoes as well, but by that point I was beginning to feel a little OCD coming on so I let my feet slide. After I gave them a call to wish them well, and I gave them my absentee toast, I put on this song and danced around the living room (even without my red shoes) to celebrate their sharing so much for so long, as well as to celebrate the fact that they have shared themselves (and their family) with me for 25 of those years. My far too infrequent interactions with John and Elizabeth are some of the great highlights of my life and they are two of my favorite people on the planet. It was a great delight to participate with them in celebrating their life together, even if I had to do it from a distance.

John and Elizabeth... here's to another 40 years (let's just keep it going) of more love and happiness for you and those with whom you share your lives.

You make my life lovely.


Friday, April 13, 2007

Running to Stand Fast

I got bad news when I woke up this morning. My application for the Dipsea Race was rejected because they had already given out all of their places before I had even mailed mine and I didn't have much luck at the lottery, but then that's not really ever been a strong suit of mine; I'm not much good at fishing either, except for this one time when I was a kid at a Catholic school carnival with my next door neighbors, the Gross's (yes, that was indeed their very unfortunate name). I went fishing in one of those gold fish booths where they hook some sort of prize on your line and I won a big ol' Pineapple Upside Down Cake (the first one I had ever seen let alone tasted) and proudly took it home to be devoured by the family. To this day Pineapple Upside Down Cake is one of my favorites and I'm sure it has to be because of that fishing booth. Now that I think of it, that entire experience might explain a lot of my concept of God, my devotion to religion for the 45 years since, and probably even my love for New Orleans, undeniably the most Catholic city in the United States, but I suppose that's really material for another blog (probably relegated to Butting Heads)... In any case, I woke up this morning to discover that I had not gotten into this year's Dipsea and I AM BUMMED.

All that said, one particularly positive thought did cross my mind and that is that I've been steadily reevaluating the wisdom of my Big Sur Marathon plan over the last couple of weeks with the thought of moving my marathon goal to the San Francisco Marathon at the end of July. This would have the advantage of both giving me time to train more effectively AND to raise more money (being that most of you people have not really been holding up your end of this blogging bargain). It would also allow me to go to the first weekend of Jazz Fest which has been grinding on me a lot. The one downside of the San Francisco Marathon has been that, being on the other side of the rather precarious Dipsea, I might have sprained my ankle or broken my leg prior to having the chance to run. So I decided to take my rejection in stride (this was aided by my daughter's suggestion that she might actually run Dipsea WITH me next year) and consider it a confirmation of my new marathon plan.

SO... here's the new plan.

Instead of running (really mostly walking) The Big Sur Marathon on April 29, I will be RUNNING the San Francisco Marathon on July 29. This holds an extra little perk in that August represents the 30th anniversary of when I moved to San Franicsco in order to attend seminary. In addition the race is three days away from the second anniversary of my move to New Orleans, and my subsequent exile back to California.

To really make this inspirational (for me if not for you) I am launching two very audacious goals. One is to run this marathon in under 4 hours which will be a significant record for me (and about two hours faster than I was imagining I could run Big Sur). The other is that I am upping my fundraising goal. I plan on raising... drum roll please... $26,200 ($1000/mile) for New Orleans charities when I run this race.

I'll be letting you know more about that here, and I will be putting up an informational website on the fund raising shortly, but if you'd like to get on the mailing list for info and updates, please drop me a note at

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

More Fun Than An Easter Egg Hunt

There's a reason that "city people" live in cities. This past Easter Sunday was one of those kind of days for me. Getting a chance to catch the 7th Annual Bring Your Own Big Wheel on Lombard Street was definitely a highlight of the day. This is the kind of event that reminds me why I chose to live in San Francisco in the first place, and why despite the fact that I presently reside 45 miles to the north in Petaluma, I am always trying to get back there. It also tells me precisely why the other city that I call home, New Orleans, is so close to my heart. BYOBW is the kind of event that would take place in New Orleans if New Orleans only had hills.

The day began with a bus ride into the city to meet up with my daughter for the really big show at Grace Cathedral, a grand and glorious celebration that Jen and I have been going to together since she was in high school. When the bishop walks up to the big steps of the Cathedral and pounds on the door with his staff and they open those doors for the entourage to enter the cathedral and proclaim "Christ is Risen!" I feel like I am transported back through the centuries, joining in with the millions of believers throughout history who have pinned their lives to the tail of the stupid little donkey riding into Jerusalem on the Sunday before. To stand there with orchestra, organ and choir ringing loudly and to be there with my daughter... it is one of the highlights of my life... every single year.

After church Jen and I went our separate ways and I headed down to North Beach for Banja Calda and a glass of Chianti at The Stinking Rose. After lunch I stopped for a beer at my favorite table upstairs overlooking Columbus in Vesuvios, where I like to commune with the spirits of writers, poets, and artists from San Francisco days gone by.

After that it was back up to the cathedral for the 3:00 pm Jazz Mass, the rare opportunity to hear great jazz played in the incredible acoustic cave that is Grace. This year the performers came from the SF Jazz High School All Stars, a group of remarkable players with a true jazz sensibility. They were a great great delight, and the perfect prelude to the final event of the day, BYOBW on Lombard.

You can catch more of the Sunday Shenanigans here. If you have the time to watch, this 8:27 video is almost as good as being there. After I piled through the crowd to watch the three races, I climbed Lombard back up (and then down) to Fillmore where I caught the bus out of the city and home to Petaluma. The only grim part of the day occurred while I was making my way up the hill; a young man, looking remarkably like Lenny Kravitz (and wearing a killer pair of red and black bug eye sunglasses) stepped to the side to let the old guy pass. "Excuse me sir..." he said politely, then eyeing my suit, he smiled and said, "It looks like this is your neighborhood." I laughed and shook my head. "I wish," I said. As he passed on down into the crowd and I moved up and on, I thought to myself... yeah yeah you wait until next year buddy! This old guy's gonna grab a Big Wheel of his own, and he's gonna SMOKE YA BUTT!

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Why Do You Seek The Living Among the Dead?

Normally, most mornings I try very hard to be alive before I turn cyber. That can be hard to do since my computer sits right next to my bed. On Sundays I also try very hard to take a "digital sabbath" and stay away from the computer altogether.

But this morning my brain was cracking alive and jumping like popcorn and I got up early to think through the ideas skipping around in my head and I happened to pause at the computer, where I found this daily story from the story people. I had to get on and post it. What better story than this for Easter?

It seems to me that this is exactly the experience that most people have of God; it is often the experience that I have of God. Wouldn't it be nice if we could just pin that amazing formless energy down to something specific? Wouldn't it be great if we could harness it for ourselves: for our own agendas, our own prejudices, our petty arguments and horrific wars?

Yeah... it would be great! And it would be dead.

Instead God comes to us on a crisp spring morning and says... "Hey... how about we change it up?"

That's the message of Easter to me. Jesus refuses to simply lie down and be predictable... and dead.

As far as I can tell, he expects the same thing of all of us; he expects the same thing of me.

Happy Easter!