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4 February 2002  (Link to this entry) (Comment)

Yesterday was warm and beautiful.  I had an appointment for some tattoo work at a South of Market studio and I decided to walk home afterwards.  I wandered down some streets I’ve never been down before, ending up on Market Street next to some antique shops.

I learned to type on a manual typewriter – the kind that you have to push the platen back and forth and use little bits of correction tape to fix errors.  An old boyfriend used to have such a typewriter in his kitchen and his guests would type little bits of poetry or silly phrases.  I’ve been thinking about getting one to use to compose fiction with, I fancy that doing so will be easier than using a computer.  I spied such a machine in the front of an antique shop.
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It turned out the typewriter was too old and worn to be of service but a row of old clocks on the wall really caught my attention.

On the mantle in the house where I grew up sat an electric clock.  It was a wedding gift to my parents from someone I never met.  It was a simple affair with Westminster bells; I learned to tell time by their chiming.  The back of the clock had a door and you could open it to watch the machinery inside.  It smelled of oil and ozone.  The electric motor and turning gears emitted a constant low growl.  If you watched long enough, the tiny hammers would rise and fall on the chimes in perfect order.  I vaguely remember looking inside the clock was not encouraged, but it was a magical thing and I waited for opportunities to peer inside of it.  To this day I could draw you a picture of the inside of that clock.  Of everything my parents own, it’s the one thing that I’d like to have when they pass. 

Two years ago, on a visit to my parents, they announced they had asked all their children – there are five of us – to go through the house and put a tag on anything they wanted when my parents die.  My brothers and sister had been given eight months head start and the clock was already claimed.

I hadn’t thought about that clock in a long time, but the row of clocks in the antique store brought it to mind.  There were many ornate clocks on the shelf, some with marble, some with brass, all showing the character of age, but the longer I looked the more I wanted one like that simple, plain electric clock that chimed every fifteen minutes for my entire childhood. 

I only felt this way about one other object in my life – a small, purple bottle shaped like a violin that sat in the window of my grandmother’s house.  I was in the Navy when she died and that bottle disappeared.  I never told anyone how much I wanted it, and I still have a perfect picture of it in my mind, resting on the window sill, the sun shining through it, reflecting off the glass and turning the sill violet.

I left the store having decided I’d keep looking for a clock just like that one.  Someday, I reasoned, I’d find it.  But having written this, I think I may call my brother and talk to him.  He might understand and let me have the clock.  He might not, but maybe we can work out a visitation schedule – summers with me, winters with him. 

It’s odd how some things come to carry so much memory and emotion; little bits of the past, artifacts of people we were or people we loved.  I’ve known some people who are roving museums of the past, their lives filled with articles that have no value to anyone but them.  I don’t completely understand the phenomena.  But then, I step inside an antique store and remember carefully placing a clock back on the shelf, back in the same place it came from, careful to disturb no dust or cobweb, so my mother wouldn’t know I’d been peering inside again.

5 February 2002  (Link to this entry) (Comment)

There are four things to talk about today:  Diane Whipple, big waves, glass bottles and beautiful women.  If you are only interested in beautiful women, then skip to the end.

First, in checking the web log today, I discovered a large number of people are visiting this site after having searched for “Diane Whipple”.  If you are one of them, you can find that entry here.  This discovery motivated me to move the search engine form from the bottom of the screen to the top so people can find things a bit easier.  I don’t particularly like it in the new location, but it will stay there for now.  Suggestions?

On my way to work today, the sun was shining and there was an off shore flow.  The waves rolling in on the Pacific were perfect, each one held back a few seconds by the wind and then crashing into the one before.  Rather than go directly to the office, I went to the beach and the fishing pier.  I suspect you’ll see many pictures from today in future entries, but here is one.  As a special bonus, clicking the photo today will allow you to see video of the waves.  The waves don’t translate perfectly to digital video, so allow your imagination to embellish as you will.
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Yesterday, having written and posted about my grandmother’s violin-shaped bottle, I was suddenly struck with the realization that the bottle was green, not purple.  I pondered this for a few moments and I realized that my mind recalled the bottle both ways.  I could recall it being green and I could recall it being purple.  In the years since I last saw it, somehow this piece of the memory has changed, lost its original focus and my mind fills in the spaces of the image that no longer exist.  It made me sad at first that so treasured a memory had lost part of its authenticity. 

What I came to realize is that the bottle was completely unimportant.  It was simply an object with a surface porous enough to capture all the emotion that was my grandmother’s house.  Grandma was my father’s mother, and my father was the only one of her children to produce offspring.  She lived in Michigan; we lived in Arizona.  Lacking funds, we rarely visited.  In my life I saw her house perhaps five times.  The bottle sat in the dining room, the kind of formal dining room people used to have.  Next to the dining room was the kitchen where my grandmother would bake batch after batch of cookies for us.  She had so many different recipes and my favorite was a chocolate cookie, topped with a marshmallow, and topped yet again with chocolate sauce and nuts.  Every time we visited she would send us home with an extra suitcase filled solely with cookies.  Grandma was diabetic, so she never was able to eat those cookies, but I think she loved that we did.  Grandma taught me to swear in Dutch and how to sneak candy into church.  My grandmother died while I was in boot camp.  The bottle disappeared, so did the recipes for her cookies, but I still recall what it was like sitting in her kitchen and having tea with orange juice. 

Regarding other beautiful women....

I sold my television many months ago.  If you’re the kind of person who is nervous talking about God, then you may laugh when I say that I felt led by God to get rid of it.  It was a bit of an adjustment not to have that instant escape from the world.  With time, I felt as if a toxin had been removed from my life, that I had removed myself from the mainstream in a significant fashion.  Not having a television has one significant downside:  it makes conversation with the average person very difficult when you can’t reference the current popular show or event.  Television gives us a common language to avoid dialogue about more substantial subjects.

Having lived without television for several months, I was in the airport one day taking a friend to his plane.  The waiting area was surrounded by televisions, their noise piped through overhead speakers.  It was impossible to avoid.  My attention was caught by an interviewer asking a cover-model:  “So what do you think is sexy this year?”

I thought about this for several weeks afterwards.  It’s an odd idea, really, that what is sexy would change from year to year.  Human beings don’t change that much, we’re pretty much the same creatures we’ve been for thousands of years:  two eyes, two ears, legs, breasts, penises and vaginas.  Some are thinner, fatter, shorter, taller.  This question, “What do you think is sexy this year?” really has nothing to do with us as humans.  It only has to do with what we wrap ourselves in, the bits and pieces of cloth that we sew together to cover the bodies most of us have some shame about.  In this endless pursuit of sexiness, we lose track of what really constitutes attractiveness.

I’ve been surrounded by beautiful women for much of the past year.  They are women of such beauty that I sometimes consider how wonderful it would be to have a life with them, what it would be like to have a family and raise children with them.  Most of these women wear no makeup and dress very plainly.  They are the women at the Quaker Meeting House.  Women have held roles of importance in the Quaker tradition since it was founded, and their important remains vital to this day – I’d argue that it is one place in western society where men and women truly stand on equal ground.  The Quaker women have a quiet elegance, born of simplicity of lifestyle and spirit that rises up from a place deep within them and shines through their pores. 

There is a deep and often unconsidered problem with a society that places such heavy weight on our outward appearance.  It encourages us to hate who we are and aspire to be something we are not.  Riding home on the subway today, I looked at the people around me.  They were average people, unremarkable in nearly every way.  As the train pulled into a stop, through the windows peered ads filled with amazingly perfect humans that looked nothing like the people surrounding me.  The ads said “this is what you should be” and we flock to buy the products, even though we know they will fail to make us into the image of the poster.

So, my answer to the question “What do you think is sexy this year?” is very simple.  It is that which has been sexy from the beginning of time.  It is the sexiness given to us by our creator, the attractiveness that comes from an understanding we, and those around us, are children of the divine and that our existence is no less a miracle than any other contained in history.  We emerge from our mothers as beautiful and sexy creatures, but we conspire to make each other ugly.  And we often spend the rest of our lives trying to feel beautiful again.

6 February 2002 (Link to this entry) (Comment)

I make my living as an executive coach, consultant and trainer.  Much of my work is filled with making people understand it is okay to be human.  It’s amazing how much judgment we carry around inside ourselves.  I carry it too, so I have first hand experience in addition to work experience.

There are days when I’d like to write about my clients, but to do so would violate the integrity of our relationship.  Here is a central lesson about life:  most of our suffering, most of our sadness both at work and at home can be resolved to a single point -  there isn’t enough love in our lives.
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Love is like food, water and air.  It’s essential to our survival and thriving as human beings.  Years ago, I knew a doctor who had spent much of the 1960s and 1970s taking care of orphaned babies in Africa.  The orphanage had an extremely high mortality rate, babies simply turned their faces to the wall and died.  The doctor ordered the staff to begin picking the children up, cradling them and holding them.  Each child was to receive as much time with an adult as frequently as possible.  Children stopped dying and started living.

As adults, we still need that love.  Unfortunately, our own defenses and the toxins of our culture stand in the way of our giving or receiving it.  In our own way, we turn our faces to the wall and over time bits of us die off.  The results of this run throughout our society:  depression, anxiety, divorce, obesity, violent crime.  Stop by your local prison and ask an inmate about their life, I doubt you’ll find a story of love.  When I encounter people who resist this concept, they are often suffering great depravation, and admitting this point would point to painfully at their own condition.  People who experience real love never disagree with this argument.

Human beings have a remarkable ability to generate colossal amounts of love.  People who are really good at it often change the world.  I believe giving and receiving love is a bit like meditation – we grow better through practice and consistent application.  Over time, it becomes such an integral part of our being that we no longer make a conscious effort, instead it flows from us without reservation.  I also believe that love is a spiritual practice similar to meditation.

What keeps you from loving others?  What keeps you from accepting love from others?  What would your life be like if you improved, even a little, in each of these areas?  How might you make such improvement?

7 February 2002 (Link to this entry) (Comment)

Tonight is my monthly bingo game, so I’ll be busy planning and running the event.  With little time to write today, I thought I’d share a quote instead:
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Our Gracious Creator cares and provides for all his creatures. His tender mercies are over all his works, and as far as his love influences our minds, so far we become interested in his workmanship and feel a desire to take hold of every opportunity to lessen the distresses of the afflicted and increase the happiness of the creation. Here we have the prospect of one common turn all that we possess into the channel of universal love becomes the business of our lives.”-   John Woolman (1720-1772)

8 February 2002 (Link to this entry) (Comment)

There won’t be much writing today.  A giant stained glass window fell on my hand at the bingo hall last night, doing a fair bit of damage to one of my fingers.  It’s currently swollen to about twice it’s normal size, which makes typing both difficult and uncomfortable.  So, in the interim, please take a tour of past scratchings.

Of course, I can still cut and paste one of my favorite quotes which seems appropriate:

Healing - the healing of a cut or wound of any kind is an experience of personal miracle.  The healing moves from inside out and takes as long as it needs to knit the rupture together.  It may take days or weeks...that is why we do not see it as a miracle.  But it is a job of inner work doing its work with patience.  We often overlook the mystical work of own bodies.”  - Robert W. Edwards

8 February 2002 - Several hours later

Well, it’s a fractured bone – now fitted in a big splint on the fourth finger that makes typing very, very difficult.  There also appears to be some nerve damage that may result in a permanent loss of sensitivity in the fingertip.  Considering the size and weight of the window, pretty minor damage really.  Goodness knows people will really think I’m butch when I explain the splint is from playing bingo.  It took five minutes to type this, so long scratchings will be rare for the next few weeks.  I suppose this is a good excuse to write less and read more. 

10 February (Link to this entry) (Comment)

I was the youngest of four boys.  I sometimes wonder if by the time I arrived my parents had experienced enough of raising children and figured I’d do okay on my own.  Watching my older brothers, I saw how much my parents loved them.  I wished they would love me in the same way, but somehow I disappeared into the background.  My father spent endless hours teaching my brothers to work in his shop, to build model rockets, and constructed treehouses that were the envy of the neighborhood.  I was always too young to participate, and by the time I grew old enough, my father had no interest.  I was an immensely lonely child.  When I graduated high school, no one asked when the graduation ceremony would be and no one commented that I didn’t attend.
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Three years after I left home, I told my parents I was queer.  My mother cried and said nothing.  My father said many things, none of them I want to write.  Shortly thereafter we stopped speaking altogether and we didn’t see each other or talk again for five years.

My parents moved to a city just a few hours away.  They frequently travel to see their other children in more distant cities.  Sometimes they come to San Francisco, but only once did they call to say they were in town and for too short a time to see me.  I’ve visited them for a holiday; we spent awkward hours talking about the weather and my father’s aversion to national health care.  I drove down several months ago after my mother fell and broke her hip.  Walking to my car in the parking lot of the recovery hospital, my father said: “Well, we have a lot of history, but we love you.”  Although this sounds more bitter than I intend, the comment held the sincerity of Marilyn Chambers crying “yeah baby” for the video camera. 

I have a friend who talks to his mother nearly every day.  They talk about his life and her life, nothing is sacred they talk about it all.  She tells him constantly how much she loves him and he tells her the same.  I hate him like I hate every other queer person whose parents love them and march in parades and call on birthdays.  I don’t wear jealousy well, but I keep it tucked nicely inside.

This is the central sadness of my life, really.  In all the joy I have in my life, there is always this little corner where part of me wishes that my mother and father could love me the way I watched them love their other children; a lifetime of watching the parade from the curb, wanting to join in and never being allowed.  It’s that little kid who says, “Hey, remember me?  I’m here, too.”

I used to be angry, anger turned to rage, rage burned until I had no more energy and then came forgiveness.  Forgiveness removed the anger but didn’t take away the sadness.  I can see my parents clearly, who they are, where they came from, and how things worked out at as they did.  Sometimes I feel no emotion at all, and in other moments I feel a deep sense of grief.

My mother celebrates her 65th birthday in two weeks and my father sent a request that I pen a note telling her how special she is to me.  I sat with this for a not insignificant period of time and I still have no answer.  I feel nothing, no need to respond, no need to write.  What I want to write is this:  “I loved you, but did you ever love me?  I turned out pretty good, you know.  Someday I hope you’ll notice or even just come to visit.”  Somehow I don’t think I can find a Hallmark card with that sentiment. 

11 February 2002 (Link to this entry) (Comment)

I didn’t realize how much the last entry needed to be written until it was done.  There was a fair bit of sadness that needed to fly around the room.

I believe less and less in coincidence as I get older.  Saturday evening I allowed the grief to come out and Sunday was filled with a generous dose of love.  The morning was spent with the Quakers, about the most generous or compassionate group of people you’ll ever find.  In the afternoon, I ran into an old acquaintance who now lives in Vermont.  He was back for a visit and brought much good news.  Eating dinner by myself in a restaurant, an old lover appeared from the ether and we had a good laugh together.  I ended the day feeling wrapped in the love and warmth that comes from possessing a life filled with good people. 
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Later, laying in the dark and drifting to sleep, I was awakened by the buzzing of a mosquito around my ear.  I waved it away and pulled the sheets closer around my head.  Moments later it returned, the annoying buzz a precursor to a nasty bite.  I waved it away again.  It returned again with its high-pitched whine.  Irritated, I switched on the light and saw the noisy offender on the wall.  I took a book from the nightstand and smashed the mosquito.  I laughed this morning when I saw the title of the book was “Encounter with Silence”.

12 February 2002 (Link to this entry) (Comment)

I spent three hours on the telephone today attempting to resolve an issue with Pacific Bell that has plagued our business since last summer.  This is just one of numerous such calls and the situation is still not resolved.  The summary of the situation:  Pacific Bell mixed up my business telephone bill with another company with a similar name and the nightmare has yet to be sorted out.  Big companies drive me crazy, especially when I don’t really have any choice other than to use their services.  This situation is so tied in knots that it’s likely we’ll end up filing complaints with the government and perhaps taking Pacific Bell to court.  I cringe at that thought.  I generally don’t believe in suing people or companies, and having been a witness in a courtroom  I don’t want to subject myself to our legal system.
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It’s generally accepted in our culture that big corporations can abuse their customers with no consequence.  I prefer to do business with little companies where I know the staff by first name and a real person answers the telephone.  I willingly pay a little extra to work with smaller firms, in the end it gets paid back in customer service, direct access and friendly encounters.

I wonder about the sustainability of any system that places profits over the needs of people.  In popular dialogue, economic growth is supposed to benefit our society.  But, increasing profit often requires action that works to the detriment of humans, whether it be environmental, interpersonal or otherwise.  What value is economic wealth when by every other measure the society is impoverished? 

On an entirely different subject, the San Francisco Chronicle ran a story recently on the declining number of nuns in the Catholic Church.  Some local activists, including at least one person I consider a close acquaintance, seized upon this to point fingers at the Catholics and make some rather disparaging comments about the nuns.  Whatever feelings I may have about some of the positions held by the Catholic Church, I have the utmost respect for the women who have undertaken this noble profession.  For decades, nuns have run hospitals, fed the poor, housed the homeless, lobbied for corporate responsibility and economic justice and provided models of selfless dedication to community.  Name some people who have been heroes for our time and Mother Theresa, a nun, will rank near the top.  Unlike priests, nuns often must finance their own convents, medical care and retirement.  Dedicated one’s life to spiritual and community service is an admirable calling. 

In my childhood, one of the most loving people in my live was a Catholic nun named Sister Margarita Jimenez.  She drove a giant motor home and had what my father referred to as a “lead foot”.  Somehow she always managed to charm her way out of speeding tickets.  I always felt loved when Sister Margarita was around. 

So, a special thanks to all the women who have given, and give, their lives to service of others in this world, whether you are a nun or not. 

14 February 2002 (Link to this entry) (Comment)

I’ve been unable to write a cohesive entry for two days.  I have plenty to start with, but it always turns to mush about two paragraphs down and coming up with a closing paragraph rests outside of reality.  I’m going to steal a little bit from David and just rattle off the various things I’ve been thinking about.  Maybe someday I’ll return to write more about them.

  • I’m uneasy about the John Walker Lindh trial.  I suspect this legal experiment is less about fact and truth and more about emotion. 
  • John Spann is not a hero and the CIA is debatably one of the most contemptible organizations this country has ever fashioned.
  • As wicked and loathsome as Milosevic may be, he’s right.  The international tribunal is biased and legally questionable.  If we were truly interested in international justice, Henry Kissinger and many other American diplomats would be safely behind bars.  The arms of international justice are just short enough not to reach all the way across the Atlantic.
  • George Bush is cloaking more and more of the government’s operations in secrecy.  Very few people seem troubled by this. 

  • Receiving an unexpected call from a friend who has a spare ticket to a show starring Ann-Margaret is an unexpected surprise.
15 February 2002 (Link to this entry) (Comment)

I decided it was time to let go of several old projects.  I held on to them long enough.
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I worked for a private investment bank when I first moved to San Francisco.  I lacked sufficient work to keep me engaged, so I fashioned my first website.  It became a successful effort and for a time generated revenue and profit.  I very nearly lost a job when a former employer learned about this site; he didn’t approve of the ideas it contains.   I lost interest in the site over a year ago but with the traffic the site receives, I couldn’t bring myself to shut it down.  So, I worked with a friend to automate the content and the site runs now without much supervision.  Strangely, the changes in the site have increased traffic more than ten percent.  I’m hoping someone will come along and offer to buy the site from me.  Until then, it operates on auto-pilot in cyberspace.  If you have some spare cash and want an established site with traffic of over 25,000 visitors a month, let me know.

I’m stepping down as the webmaster for the Sisters’ website, too.  Sister Hedra and I have run the site for nearly three years.  It’s time to let someone else do this work.

I’m also putting this site into the guillotine.  It was an idea that I never took the time to fully develop.

I find it curious how things that don’t exist in the physical world can have such weight.

I’m turning my attention to new projects:  I have at least one book to write and one foreign language to learn.  I want to start painting again and learn to play the piano.  By the end of this year, I will have accomplished two of these things.  Oh, and I need to take a writing class, too.  I’m sure you’ve noticed my grammar and punctuation skills could use a little work.

There is a time to gather stones and a time to cast them away.  If you see me standing next to the ocean and skipping rocks, you’ll know they’re just recycled bits of the past being cleared away to make way for the future. 

16 February 2002 (Link to this entry) (Comment)

Despite the threat of rain, the Castro was filled with hordes of people today.  The intersection of the International Bear Rendezvous, the Imperial Court elections, the impending local elections and President’s Day Weekend brought an eclectic mix of people to the street.  Drag queens stood on street corners with bull horns, bears wandered through stores and congregated outside coffee houses, political activists waived signs and banners and tourists watched the entire melee with amusement.
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San Francisco lost a lot of its artists and political activists in the last few years.  Rising rents and evictions were a prime reason for the exodus.  It was a loss that you could feel, like an elderly loved one slowly losing precious memories of the past.

It felt like some of that energy returned today, borne on the shoulders of people who have for too long been held indoors by rain and cold weather.  Perhaps I’m just feeling the end of winter and the beginning of spring.  More predictable than robins, the first sighting of a drag queen in daylight must portend good things to come.

16 February 2002 - Moments Later

Clarification about yesterday's entry:  I'm not closing  You can see the other sites I refer to by clicking on their links.  Thanks to everyone who sent emails and asked!

19 February 2002 (Link to this entry) (Comment)

Richard Nixon resigned his presidency after he was linked with criminal activities, some of which took place at the Watergate Hotel.  Since then the word “Watergate” has become pseudonymous with corruption, obfuscation and scandal.  In popular culture, adding the suffix “gate” to any word implies the parties involved acted with intent to deceive and that once uncovered, the magnitude of the action will be outrageous.
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Unfortunately, nearly every new scandal rapidly becomes dubbed “gate” and few, if any, live up to the insinuation implied by the nomenclature.  As our popular culture adds more and more “gates” from Whitewatergate to Lewinskygate and perhaps even Enrongate, the importance and collective comprehension of the original Watergate scandal drifts into a sea of misunderstanding, half truths and distorted historical perspective. 

This jargon is a result of a certain cultural laziness, the desire to understand in a superficial way, avoiding the difficult questions and thought required to reasonably respond to a situation.  We expect very little from our media, and they deliver exactly what we expect.  Instead of asking the difficult questions that would create a truly informed citizenry, the news media drives to entertain us, to keep us watching long enough for the next commercial break, reading past the next full page ad or clicking past a few more banners.  In our drive to be entertained, such emotional phrases like “Lewinskygate” or “Mother of all [insert word here]” tease us with promises of dark, hidden secrets like stained dresses and hidden microphones where none may exist or if they do exist, their relevance is questionable at best.  Our hope for such excitement keeps us from looking at the broader and more important questions that face us as individuals and as a society.

This isn’t new criticism, people have voiced similar trepidation for many years.  However, as the United States pursues a war with no formal declaration, no discernable boundaries, governed by decisions made in secret and held fast from public view, we need to have representatives both in the public and news media who can and do ask the difficult, probing and comprehensive questions that lay bare the truth of the situation.  If we are the “beacon of light and freedom” for the rest of the world, then how do overreaching secrecy, deception and covert activities fit into this ideal?  Is our government still a government of the people or has it become so detached to no longer fulfill this ideal?  And if so, do we not have the right to demand a return of our control or an end of the government in its current form? 

20 February 2002 (Link to this entry) (Comment)

Complaining about spam is a popular internet pastime.  If you have an email box, chances are you’ve received at least some measure of spam, from the innocuous endless circulation of jokes to the increasingly vile HTML porno emails filled with pictures of things you might not want to see with your morning cup of coffee. 
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There is a certain powerlessness we experience with spam, it invades our psychic space and we lack the resources to effectively put an end to it.  Even so, I often find the level of anger and outrage over spam to be disproportionate to the real impact.  A stroke of the delete key banishes it from our domain and filtering software can often eliminate much of it before it arrives on our desktops. 

Every week I receive several deliveries of real-world spam from the post office.  Mass mailings from supermarkets, stores and insurance companies, catalogs and circulars that I never requested appear in my mailbox.  The mail I really want is often mangled and smashed among the pages of the stuff I don’t.  Unlike electronic spam, this postal box mess creates real waste.  Thousands of tons of paper are used to create it, and thousands of tons of waste are generated by its disposal. 

Once I tried to stop the real-world spam that accumulates in my real-world mailbox.  I found the telephone number for Advo, one of the largest direct-mail companies and the company that most frequently sends me reams of paper I have no interest in.  I politely asked for them to stop sending me their unsolicited spam.  I was told, in relative terms, that it wasn’t possible.

I also recently learned that the US Postal Service sells your address information to marketers when you fill out a change-of-address card, something I’ve done four times since moving to this city.  And watch out if you ever buy a house – the volume of second mortgage offers, refinancing deals and plumber advertisements will require you add a second room to handle the mail sorting person you have to hire.

Both electronic and real world spam are the byproducts of a “free market” system that encourages corporations and people to create wealth at any cost and without regard for the people impacted by their efforts.  If the percentage of responses I get to any mass mailing generate sufficient profit, then the waste, anger or ill feelings I create in others is immaterial. 

As we feel angry with those who fill our real world or virtual mailboxes with irksome solicitations, we have to consider the larger questions.  Do we value the society as it has become and therefore endure the symptoms of the pathology we choose to be part of?  Or do we want to live in a different kind of society?  If so, how do we create it?

21 February 2002 (Link to this entry) (Comment)

The Stonewall Riots are regarded as the start of the gay liberation movement, a moment when queers tired of police raids and gay bashing stood up and fought back.  On June 27, 1969, when I was less than a month old, Sylvia Rivera, a drag queen, threw the first bottle that started the riot.  She died Tuesday at the age of 50.
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“In 1969, the night of the Stonewall riot, was a very hot, muggy night. We were in the Stonewall [bar] and the lights came on. We all stopped dancing. The police came in. They had gotten their payoff earlier in the week. But Inspector Pine came in - him and his morals squad - to spend more of the government's money.

“We were led out of the bar and they cattled us all up against the police vans. The cops pushed us up against the grates and the fences. People started throwing pennies, nickels, and quarters at the cops.  And then the bottles started. And then we finally had the morals squad barricaded in the Stonewall building, because they were actually afraid of us at that time. They didn't know we were going to react that way.

“We were not taking any more of this shit. We had done so much for other movements. It was time.” – Sylvia Rivera, July 2, 1998 Workers World News.

Sylvia Rivera went on to create a safe house for homeless queer youth.  It lasted three years but failed after Sylvia became addicted to drugs. 

“That's how I ended up homeless. So I moved to a pier in the West Village. That first winter was one of the worst, with all the snow and everything, but we survived. I was the typical mother to all the children living out there -- everybody came to Sylvia when they needed advice or comfort. I guess it comes from not having a mother or not having any love when you were a child and always being told that no one wanted you. When I see someone that's alone, and the person is hurting and they need some comfort, my heart opens up. I can't say no if they need a little help. I lived on the pier for about a year and a half. Now I live in Transie House in Brooklyn.” – Sylvia Rivera, June 27, 1999, New York Magazine.

In her last years, Sylvia ran the Food Pantry program for Metropolitan Community Church of New York.

“I am proud of myself as being there that night. If I had lost that moment, I would have been kind of hurt because that's when I saw the world change for me and my people.

“Of course, we still got a long way ahead of us.” – Sylvia Rivera, July 2, 1998 Workers World News.

Change often comes from the efforts of the most marginalized corners and crevices of our society.  As years pass, what was once radical often becomes mainstream, and the voices that started a movement get washed away under the waves.

Sylvia, may the arms of the Divine hold you close and welcome you home.  You are a child of God.  Thank you for the gifts you left for those who came after you, a generous gift for many who will never know your name. 

22 February 2002 (Link to this entry) (Comment)

It is an amazingly beautiful day.  The weather just barely calls for short sleeves, the air is clean with just a touch of moisture.  My office sits on the side of a hill, the ocean below and the crest of the high hill above.  Most of the hill is a state park, grown thick with tough green bushes and grass.  Almost every day you can spot a herd of deer grazing on the far hillside.  It looks like there are three fawns this year, but it’s difficult to tell.  There are coyotes, too.  Sometimes they wander by the office windows, curious and sleek. 
Sister Betty's garden
My new apartment overlooks a hidden garden, protected from the city by other buildings.  The frogs have been croaking all night, it is a wonderful sound.  I opened the sliding glass door to the fire escape and stood brushing my teeth, listening to the frogs and feeling the morning air.  One of my cats tentatively sniffed the air and carefully poked her head beyond the open door.  The other cat ran deep into the interior of the house, fearful of the influx of new air and odors.  Nearly all of their short lives were spent on the tenth floor of a high rise building where glass defined the boundary of their world.  Now, the glass removed, they struggle to grasp the concept they can move beyond it.  One cat carefully sniffs, not going too far, the other runs away entirely.

I once heard a story of an experiment where a piranha was placed in an aquarium with a goldfish.  A glass partition separated the two fish.  When the piranha went to attack the goldfish, it slammed into the glass.  After some time, the glass was removed, but the piranha never went beyond where it had been.  It would swim right up to the edge and never beyond, allowing the goldfish to live in a protected world that no longer rightly existed.

I think as humans we do the same thing.  Once we have formulated our idea of how the world exists, we seldom move beyond that formulation.  Our mental boundaries become boxes in which we spend our existence.  We feel an assured safety, a comfort, within those boundaries; we know what lays inside, the territory we inhabit.  If evidence arises that indicates the walls of our cage are uncertain or non-existent, we often struggle to negate the input, preferring to stay in that place of great comfort.

Whether or not staying within the boundaries is a reasonable decision is not mine to say.  But, there is a difference between being entirely unaware such walls exist and the ability to choose to stay within them.  Do we negate new ideas and concepts because they truly have no merit?  Or do we set them aside because they might cause us to question the world as we see it?  Do our boundaries constrict our world to a narrow definition, a place of safety?  Or, are we willing to embrace the world as a messy, complicated place in which we must rely on each other for our well-being? 

22 February 2002 - Much later

The monthly bingo game I created and run is featured tomorrow night on a local television show.  They've posted the video on the web here.  Perhaps the highest compliment I've ever been paid is contained in this clip:  "It's like regular bingo crossed with the Rocky Horror Picture Show."  I may have that made into a shirt.  Becky, can you crochet that into an afghan?

25 February 2002 (Link to this entry) (Comment)

Saturday evening during dinner at a restaurant, I ran into an old acquaintance.  We served together on the board of a large neighborhood church several years ago.  As we discussed the church, the conversation soon turned the corner and we realized that nearly every person who served on the board of the church left the church shortly afterward.  This led to a conversation about my joining the Quakers.  At the end of our conversation, I invited him to join me the next morning at the Quaker meeting.

Sitting in meeting on Sunday, I suddenly was taken by the concern that I had failed to adequately communicate an important point about Quakerism, a point I felt was vital to fully grasping what Quaker meeting is about.

In my life I have attended a great many religious meetings.  From Pentecostal churches where people speak in tongues and roll about on the floor, to Catholic churches with latin incantations and ringing of bells.  I’ve seen Buddhist rites in Asia and Muslim prayers in Bahrain.  In the United States especially, I’ve generally found it’s easy to grasp what a group is about by attending the Sunday service.  It has been my experience that many people define their faith by what they do on Sunday – that the church service is a requirement like visiting an elderly relative in a nursing home – and that the rest of their week is at best marginally impacted by the faith community they ally themselves with.  This is not to judge any particular sect or religious tradition, but rather to illustrate a fundamental difference.

In the Quaker tradition, my experience is that our meeting is not the focal point of our spiritual practice, rather it is a shared experience that enhances what we do outside of the meeting.  Personal spiritual practice outside of the Sunday meeting is the center of a Quaker life, rather than the reverse being true. 

When Quakers meet for worship, they meet in silence, patiently waiting for the presence of the divine.  It is a form of group meditation.  From time to time someone may rise to speak, but there is no clergy, no program and sometimes no speech at all.  To the outsider, it might appear as a room full of silent people with nothing much happening.  In truth, the Quakers are deep in meditation, with God moving fully in that silence.  For the visitor, especially those used to the more energetic Christian services, it can be an odd experience, one they may not fully understand or grasp. 

There is much more to Quakers than simply sitting and meditating, and perhaps I will say more about it in the future.  What I can say is this, in that silence, in that meditation, I have found my deepest experiences of God. 

26 February 2002 (Link to this entry) (Comment)

In the past 24 hours, I have received a series of email messages that are the most odd notes I can ever recall receiving.  There are two actual sets of messages, each from a different person, neither of whom I have ever met or know.  Both sets of messages began with someone using my contact form.  One is rather entertaining, the other one is odd and a bit of a cause for concern. 
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Although I make my living assessing and offering guidance to clients in certain matters, I generally do not do so via the internet.  It has been my experience that to truly understand a situation, I need to gather data that cannot be fully or accurately represented via email or other electronic communication.  I generally avoid even trying to gather this data via telephone.  When others are relying on my professional input, I believe it is my responsibility to fully explore the situation before I provide any response and such exploration almost always requires a face to face interaction.  In especially difficult situations, I often take time away from the client to completely reflect on the information before I respond. 

I don’t list it on my “who is” page, but I am also a licensed minister.  There is a careful distinction I need to make here.  I don’t believe in ordaining clergy and I hold as part of my faith that each person has an ability to directly connect with God.  We don’t need the permission of humans to access the divine.  At the same time, under our rule of law, there are certain legal permissions granted to those with such credentials such as the ability to perform weddings and to have certain conversations protected from disclosure in a legal venue.  I use my ministerial credential to perform weddings for couples who might not normally have access to a minister, such as gay and lesbian couples or those who choose not to worship in a church.  Offering spiritual advice to another person is a weighty matter and not to be undertaken lightly.  I would undertake such a venture only with the counsel of others around me who I trust, and only if I believed it to be the will of God.

In response to the concerning set of email I received, I responded to the author as best I could, and I don’t believe the author fully heard what I said.  Given the weight of the issue, I am placing this here and it must be my last response on the subject.  I can only gently advise you seek the professional advice of a licensed therapist or trusted spiritual leader, preferably the first.

27 February 2002 (Link to this entry) (Comment)

The weather in San Francisco has been especially nice this week.  A friend flew in from Alaska on Monday night, and I planned to take yesterday morning off to have breakfast with him.  The day was so nice I chose not to work at all and we spent the day wandering around the city.  It turned out perfectly – it’s too early in the year for many tourists to be about; the locals were all at work.  Aside from a mistaken turn down a crowded street in Chinatown, we had the city to ourselves.
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Eating lunch at a corner cafe, my friend commented on how diverse the city is.  After living here for so long, it’s easy for the diversity to become just another quirk of the city that one stops noticing, like the odd multitude of bay windows, the staircases that are called streets or the streetcars rumbling through intersections.  I have an enduring love affair with this city and from time to time I’m reminded of wondrous things I slip and take for granted.

Much later, this time eating dinner with a different friend, I noticed one of the new electric Muni buses roll by.  The new buses are emblazed on all four sides with the slogan “Emission Free Vehicle”.  I wonder how many people look at this and take it at face value.  More correctly written, the slogan would read “Emissions Exported to Somewhere Else Vehicle” or “Emissions Created in Poorer Neighborhoods Vehicle”.  Electric vehicles are not zero emission, their exhaust just comes out of a smoke stack we don’t see rather than a tailpipe that we do.  In San Francisco, this smokestack happens to be connected to a very old and very inefficient power plant, located in the poorest neighborhood where residents have reported related health complications for many years.  I wonder at what point advertising moves from obfuscation to lie.  Why do we demand high standards of accountability and honesty from those we are in relation with and not the same from the society we participate in? 

Finally, today a very minor question:  In writing this, I suddenly realized that I wasn’t certain whether the plural for “bus” is “buses” or “busses”.  Both looked reasonable, so I turned to for an answer.  It held both are correct.  Any opinions on which one is better to use?  Let me know.

28 February 2002 (Link to this entry) (Comment)

Titch from the UK provided the first authoritative answer to my question:

“Concise Oxford suggests 'busses' as the plural of bus.  Bus is an abbreviation for Omnibus, for which there appears to be no plural so I wonder if 'buses' is not more likely!  I can't find any use of the plural immediately to hand but my gut reaction would be 'buses' despite the dictionary.”
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Edith provided another authoritative answer:

“According to "The Elements of Style": "Common nouns ending in s, sh, ch, x, and z form their plurals by adding an es to the singular if an extra syllable is needed in pronouncing the plural." However, they also make it a point to call our attention to the fact that both "buses" and "busses" are correct.”

Other people offered their opinion, and no there is no consensus opinion on the matter.  Either way, it seems my usage is correct.  Any further ideas?

I spent the evening helping my friend from Alaska look for an apartment.  Apartment hunting in San Francisco is a dismal affair – nice apartments cost a lot of money even in the current economy, a number of landlords and building managers are rather questionable and apartments often aren't as advertised.

Walking to the MUNI station after viewing one apartment, we stumbled across a building with a “For Rent” sign touting both a one bedroom and a studio.  Since either would work, we called and the manager invited us in.  On the elevator, the manager extolled the virtues of the apartment and offered his opinion that the rent was $300 under market and, he added, likely to go very quickly.  The apartment was at the end of an endless hallway lit by fluorescent bulbs reminiscent of a passageway on a submarine.  The manager launched into a second sales speech as he opened the door to the apartment. 

By San Francisco standards it was a large unit, but clearly decorated in the early 1960s and not remodeled since.  As I stood in the bedroom, I noticed the floor was vibrating heavily and a loud humming sound filled the room.  I inquired to the manager as to the source of the sound.  “Oh, the neighbors must be doing laundry,” he explained. 

“Are there laundry machines in the unit below?” I inquired. 

“No, there is a shared laundry on the third floor,” he said.  We were on the fifth floor. 

“Imagine what it must be like on the fourth floor!” said my friend as we left.

“Make sure to call soon!” the manager chimed in our wake. “This apartment won't last long!  It's $300 under market!”  With an amenity such as built in floor vibrators, he might be right.

28 February 2002 - Later

A number of people seem to be searching for the Diane Whipple entry.  You can find it here.


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