Ms. Shirley Landini Campbell

I was hanging out in Dad’s garage last Sunday evening as the sun was starting its descent in the west. I said it was to do laundry, but actually it was to hang with Dad, who nearing 90, may not be around too much longer and my nephew Geoff, who nearing 28, may just get up and leave one day. I liked to pull up one of the green plastic chairs, sit in the last remaining light so that the dying rays would hit me square in the face and listen to my two male relatives.

 

Dad didn’t do much in his garage, but there were remains, evidence of prior activity in the abundance of tools hanging from the open beams of the garage construction, all kinds of slicers, wipers, saw blades, drill bits and t-bars. The workbench built from weathered planks had a Jim Beam Bourbon feel about it, accented by the world map stretched above with red pushpins stuck in previously traveled places. Don, uneducated but curious loved to get around and marked each spot he had visited with a red pushpin. He loved to take out a pin and tell a story about what he had seen or done at that exact spot. He was a man of few words, so that when they came they seemed to have more weight than if they had been spoken from someone like my nephew, who spoke like a waterfall, an abundant waterfall.

He came out of the house, settled in another green plastic chair and not bothering to preface his words said, “Well, she was pretty lively today”, (referring to his second wife, Shirley), as he knocked the ash off his Marlboro into the dull amber prism cut ashtray, the cigarette smoke blowing in his face.

“Well, she almost got away from me…” Dad continued describing his day with Shirley where she resided at the assisted care home. “She had to get to the bathroom, and all of the sudden she just jumped up and almost ran as if she was on fire.”

Shirley, a once bright, vibrant, talkative woman had married my father after they had both lost previous partners. Shirley had moved in replacing my mother’s identifiable signs of décor with her own walnut antiques, and small family portraits of her sons, her sisters and one portrait of herself with her father, a New Hampshire farmer. But it was in the rear garden area where Shirley’s presence was most felt, among the succulents she patiently raised from cuttings and then transplanted to luscious ceramic pots. She mixed colors and textures of the succulents so that her garden took on the tones of a Monet painting. When visiting, Shirley seemed to float out of the house and descend into the garden like Loretta Young, her arms out in greeting, a soft serene smile on her face and noting your new blouse or new haircut, would enquire about your offspring and offer a drink, a refreshment, gently chiding her husband Don. She got the drink, though forgetting if it was wine or iced tea you had requested. She was forgetful, but he hadn’t noticed, hadn’t registered the extent until she forgot where she lived one day. Her sons suggested that she move to an assisted care facility, because it just might get to be too much for Old Dad.

 

“It was better that way,” Dad said. And now it was he who daily drove down Clayton Road to see her, where she resided in a small room without even a container of ivy or a carnation in a bud vase. It was the equivalent to a 5 star hotel with a spacious welcoming lobby, where one could sit with a cup of coffee, a cookie and views of the comings and goings of residents, visitors and staff.

“Well, I almost lost her”, Dad said, his hands clasping before him as if re-living the moment when he had tried to keep Shirley up, on her feet in the bathroom.

“She just slipped out of my hands,” he muttered his eyes glazing over as I saw Shirley, her body spilled out on the floor, as I reached to retrieve my glass of wine by my feet.

“What, you almost lost your wife?” Geoffrey said, his arms on his bent haunches as he rocked back and forth yogi style on his bare feet.

“I hope I never get to the point where I can’t hold onto my wife, that she just slips out of my hands and falls to the floor,” said Geoff, his voice rising like the slight breeze from the west, his voice held tight and wailing like spirits who were listening to what had happened to Shirley.

“Yes, I had to hold on tight to her, and grab her by the back of her neck”, old Dad said. I released my breath as I saw Shirley held like a pup in mother’s mouth, and looked to the sun, which was haloing Geoff’s left shoulder. I moved my chair even further past both to catch the very last rays of the sun and held it tight.

 

 

 

 

It’s not the Same

Walking past the homeless men and women lined up before the United Nations Plaza, I wondered when would we ever stop seeing people stranded on the curbs, alley ways and street corners. I gave up and just acknowledged the man sunning himself by leaning on a parking Meyer and turning his face to the sun or the other in his tiger stripped pajamas walking over to get a cup of brew.

Bali Bird Goddess–a symbol of spring March 20

UnknownBird Goddess from Bali—March 16, 2015

I had gone out to get a plant. I wanted something alive around my workspace—something green, vibrant ever changing to keep out the juju of wasted lives. I was wasting my life, living a lie. I had no intention of teaching anyone, or of making anything better for any one individual!

No ordinary working class woman, I was only concerned with myself, the minute details of my own progression, instead of the cries from a nest of babies, their throats held open by invisible cords, stretching their tendons tight vibrating in rhythm.

“Feed me, feed me they all seemed to say at the same time.”

I was starving to death and there was nothing to give. I was done giving—my hands manacled behind my back. I said no more! A reversal of St.Francis of Assisi, I had vowed to stop the care giving of the masses. The provision of the right verb to insert, or the provision of the most perfect definition of a noun, the correct conjunction, the most speculative adverb so the sentence sang, rose up from the mundane and shot through to where all those great things hung by stellar hooks, dangling like ornaments on a tree.

It was time for a new teabag; mine had grown cold, ochre brown it left a stain on the porcelain cups. I was detoxing drinking dandelion and licorice root tea for a fast of 3 days before I would rise again pick up the pen and paper, shove bag over the shoulder, assemble clipper card, water bottle, emergen, packets of almonds, lip balm, and the latest edition of New Yorker and began the procession across the bay to the school academy where the fledglings resided in placial condos, specialized dorms, next to nob hill or other prime real estate in the vastly turning techno city—the finally realized pearl of the pacific city.

I was tired (we know) the spirits along the street seemed to nod and nod.

I was tired of it (we know) they sputtered.

But the mouths of the speechless babies clamoring for their daily fix, their mantras inserted into their music boxes, their batteries recharged and fired up for the day, their sights fixed on a prize were waiting, were sitting in their classes waiting.

It was tiring keeping it all going. I longed to pack it all in, to put it in a capsule, trade my life to someone else, so they could untie it, resume my place in line, pick up the bag, the lunch box, take the place behind the computer where the decentra palm now sat, to the head of the class where the fledglings clamored, “feed me, feed me”.

I looked up from my phone where I had been reading the ubiquitous Facebook almost knocked over by a wave of nausea, what was wrong I muttered. It wasn’t my stop but I got off anyway, knowing I could leave the station and grasp some air push the molecules down my throat. I sat on a bench as the nausea clamored to be heard. Realizing it was difficult to walk, I waited until the hordes finished their ascent of the stairs and made my way up the stairs as if an anachronistic insect grasping the nonexistent rail, not bothering to conceptualize what I must look like, a grey brown woman hunched over with the burden of bags, two on a shoulder and a lunch bag on the other, trying out one leg after another praying they would support me as I made my way to the top level. I walked to the edge of where the wall met the floor and slumped down on the smooth floor. I sat cross-legged; my bags in front like an alms bowl, begging people to meet my eyes, to meet my unspoken plea for help. As they walked by I picked the ones who might feel my message, oh, she might hear—she looks nondescript, solid, plain, she might help as I watched a middle class, black unformed woman walk by, but no she didn’t look. No one met my eyes, no one came, and no one heard my plea. I so wanted to make human contact, reach someone with an unspoken plea and not have to use my cell phone in my hand and call 911, no I wanted to reach another human being but I couldn’t as one after another human walked past unlooking. Gradually feeling better, not dying as I had first thought I gradually made my way up the stairs like a Lazarus making it this time to the surface.

At the office, I watered the plant. It was spring, so houseplants were on sale at local groceries. Its roots took in the liquid; it needed a bigger pot, it needed more soil, but I was too tired to get it. I was dying, each day a test, a will of survival. My blood pressure was high; my cholesterol levels high, nearing diabetes’s danger levels. I wanted it to thrive, grow, get big, and rise to Amazonian heights, it was a habit of thinking, we grew thinking we had all the time, but maybe my number was next?

I liked to see the potential in everything. I could see what others couldn’t. I could see faces where others saw rock. I saw faces with deep set eyes, an aquiline nose, at an old Indian burial ground where my daughter and I camped one brief summer weekend. Too tired to make reservations, we had just shown up at a national park, had gotten out of the car, had just walked around in a daze until the camp steward showed up in a pick up truck and gave us this dazzling campsite spot, which I’m sure he had reserved for himself but when hearing that we were from the Bay Area, he knew we needed it bad, real bad, much more than him.

I saw animal silhouettes, ghosts shuffling past into their own business, while again my daughter and I tired leaving the Bay Area for a brief camping trip, this time in the giant redwoods. They knew what they were doing, they had their business in line, and they knew where they were going.

I was tired of looking. I was exhausted from trying. I was burdened with knowing.

 

I saw her first. She stood out against the other countless Buddha’s, Green Tara’s, and other spirit figures– the arch of her throat, the angle of her wings; it was hard to say what had really changed; the light seemed intangible but it wasn’t, instead it was the pull of her beauty that pulsated, that pulverized the surrounding environment—the azure grey sedated galleries of the Asian Art Museum. My fledglings and I were in the Asian Art Museum surrounded by the spring holiday masses viewing the art from Southeast Asia countries. I turned from my fledglings to read the inscription—Bird deity of the Hindu, made from wood, Bali Indonesia.

She wore a cap, she was in profile, wings stretched, the steadfast glare, the intensity of the gaze, but with the paradoxical lightness. She could have been a sparrow, a hummingbird in her nutshell nest, instead she took off like the goddess she was perching up to the refurbished Arts and Crafts ceiling where the broad beams painted with gold vines twined between red and green flowers. She threw back her magnificent wings and flew out the window leaving all of us with gaping mouths.

Tarot cards predict the descent of Don Draper’s Mad Men

Don Draper, in post-coital bliss lunges off lover-wife of heart surgeon- to open Season 6, of “Mad Men”, answers his mistress’ question: “Don what do you want for this year,” to which he utters, “I can’t go on like this anymore!” She may be thinking he is referring to his adultery but we know Don is referring to his life as a fraudulent lie, as a counterfeit as an adulterer to his true self, Dick Whitman-son of a whore, and an alcoholic farmer.

We know this to be the beginning of Don’s demise through the reading of the tarot card symbols, when character Anna Draper asks Don to pick a card. He reluctantly taps the card, “The World”, and asks what it means? Anna smiles and says, “All is within your grasp if you will just embrace it”, season 2, episode 12. Don responds by lunging into the Pacific Ocean where he embraces “mother” and re-emerges back to his advertising firm to acquire a new wife, a new partnership, a new house and just rewards.   What Anna leaves out is the mastery implied by the “World” card, which is another symbol for Saturn or who is otherwise known as Chronos. Chronos or Father Time rules the wheel of fate or karma implying that Don has some lessons from the past that must be mastered.

Leading us to Don’s descent is character Lane Price’s suicide, symbolized by another tarot card – “The Hanged Man”, season 5, episode 12. Perpetuated by Don’s lack of sympathy at Lane’s forgery of his signature, Don tells Lane to prepare a graceful exit and move on. Lane does so through his suicide and symbolically shoves Don’s nose into his own descent into the underworld. “The Hanged Man”, tells us to listen to our inner self or to surrender to a higher force but also comes with a warning of victimization and disillusionment.   Don as if in a hangman’s noose, opens season 6, with his infidelity and a plea to stop the deceit as if he is in Father Time’s hands and not his own.

Don’s descent and journey in the underworld through his eventual release from his company, work, wealth and wife is his symbolic bottom, but is it? Matthew Weiner slowly begins Don’s ascension from underworld through Don’s compliance with his company’s rules, control of alcohol and women, end of season 7, part 1, but I predict Matthew Weiner has another ending for Don than a rosy ascension to embracement of what he lost, for the tarot cards tell us that in order for Don to embrace the world, he must self actualize. Therefore, in order for Don/Dick to emerge as the hero, the fake the counterfeit Don Draper, must surrender (The Hanged Man) and Dick, the farmer hick, the son of a whore, the pimp must emerge.   Don/Dick must advocate his partnership, sell his penthouse, divorce his wife and perhaps move to California and return to Anna’s homestead, a small bungalow by the sea and write a book.

Sweating it on bart
I saw a man drop to his knees and lick the street clean with his finger.
Mineral salt it’s good for you. We all have to get our salt somehow or else we’ll die. I was about to enter the sweat box called Bart. I wanted to offer something to the man on his knees licking the concrete. What could I offer him that he didn’t already have?
I mean he was the salt of the earth.

Homeless get cleaned out of Powell St

Bart is cleaning up the homeless. They don’t want any lounging, stretching out or sleeping in its long corridors. The long corridors in the Bart stations are being cleaned of the homeless. No, it doesn’t look good for the suburban and international visitors to see poverty in this expensive city.

After one day of tripping through the city, most outsiders would understand why so many are homeless. So much money is spent on just finding a place to rest, to sit or to think.
Not to mention to eat or reside.
Maybe we should join in and reclaim our humanity by lounging in Bart?

Tip from, “17 Things Extraordinary People Do Every Day!”

After reading, “17 Things Extraordinary People Do Every Day at http://www.inc.com, I’m writing haiku poems to share where I’m at, as part of my daily practice!

 

               So So Writing

               Sew me up quickly

               Sequins like a field of protoplasm

               Cross off one date

               Chasm opens

               Something else