From my 2010 Arts & Jazz Festival internal monologue :
Hello TWU parking lot, old friend, old pal, old trustworthy precarious holding space for my metal box of transportation while I peruse art and jazz for a few hours. The moon only half exists tonight, the other half is lost in some strange reality where some random boy in the street wanders and wonders “where’s the other half of the moon?” A tree in a yard, covered with vines and moss and leaves that are not its own, rises and rises as a giant green tendril to the sky instead of a wooden hand with colorful fingernails. Point upward, tree, point us to the sky, the universe, the direction we’re going and falling towards as our planet (Greek for “traveler”) plummets onward in its orbit and the solar system hurtles through space and our galaxy rockets onward.
Hot sun sunburns remind me not to be out in the perfection too long or else I can lose myself and my skin, letting my spirit fly too free. “Be grounded,” the burns say, “be of flesh and bone as well as soul spirit. Be everything.” A reminder. Thanks sun. Patches of clouds swim overhead, periodically shielding us from her light so we remember the value of cool springtime wind. Patches of clouds meet the next hill and even though memory knows what’s on the other side, the young part of me goes “what’s on the other side of that hill?” Explorers in the New World for the first time.
From my 2010 San Francisco internal monologue :
Haight has many of the same shop, different name where American hippie trinkets and clothes are mass produced and sold at these stores. Watch the tourist busses to see what people are taking pics of so I can do the same, but some of them take pictures of me. Maybe they like my shirt, or maybe they realize I’m a god of light and refuse and must capture it on film instead of rush out to meet me in person, because the recording of the experience is more important than having the experience, isn’t it? River of me flowing through the river of people flowing through the sidewalk chatter, street musicians, distracting colors, beautiful bikers, dirty exhaust air, graffitti of many shapes and colors, biting cold bay wind, sauteed onion smells. In some spots I walk over the small patch of dirt which anchors the trees only so I can exchange the feel of harsh regular concrete for softer slope of dirt.
In the distance a radio tower’s shape grabs my attention. Eyes focus on the cris-crossing top and I lose perspective as a wisp of cloud floats by at rapid speed, the whole scene becomes that of a sky ship, a longboat with a white foam wave rushing past. Vikings in the heavens, Ra in his sun barge making his way across the day.
Unremarkable lunch at a random taqueria, except that I catch the gaze of a lovely brunette as she catches mine. Though I sit in a distant and secluded area, she comes to sit by me, but an open window pours cold wind in and she decides to sit far away instead. Tiny interactions that could have led to other lives blown out of our hands by a single gust of wind. This is how all things go.
Further down Haight there is green and as I crest the hill there is lots of green but as my eyes get closer there is lots and lots of holy fuck that’s a lot of green to have in a city. Pile of garbage in front of the sign that golden states “Golden Gate Park” and I bask in the juxtaposition of the ensemble. Footsteps on soft grass carpet and blasting ice winds whooshing through the treetops where leaves sing a chorus of invitations to soar in the above blue blue cold dynamic flow, so I do my best to flow into their open arms, into their request. Playground full of kids frolicing in the how the fuck are you not freezing wind. World’s largest seagull stands alone on a massive field of grass as small pigeons and other birds keep away from its gargantuan whiteness against the smooth green green. Up the hill a child asks me for a smoke and I want to take him by the ear for a lecture, open his ear and soul so the words sink in, stop the trading of clean for the dirty, but instead just tell him that I don’t smoke, never have, and walk on. Just walk on, Ben.
Through the trees there is a white dome in the distance. Curiosity needs it, so up and down hills at odd angles, across streets to other fields where people play with dogs and a larger hispanic man juggles a soccer ball with his foot, silently telling his tale to me – he was a soccer star in another life, he was a god with that ball, and it danced on the grass and air at his whim, a dragonfly that darted to and fro as he willed it. On the way up a hill a pretty woman stops and asks where the flower conservatory is. “Sorry, I’m not from here. I don’t even know where I am” I tell her, because I don’t know where I am, even when I have a map and a GPS and people telling me where I am. I don’t know where I am, so I tell her this and walk on. Just walk on, Ben.
Ahead I see the massive white dome, at first think it’s a government building of some sort but the front lawn has flowers, their purples, reds, yellows shaped into the lawn in patches so we can walk in the between. To the right musicians improvise, some with improvised materials – one uses sticks to beat on his bicycle seat while another uses his lack of a shirt to recite poetry to the bongos and electric guitar. I watch / listen to the flow for a moment and take pictures, then move to see what the building is. Conservatory of Flowers, a massive white greenhouse, the language of which makes me stop and wonder how I’ll describe it to people. Admission is 7$ but 5 if I can fool them into thinking I’m a student, but instead I turn away, not thinking I’m very interested in flowers, but then turn towards it again because of the randomness of it. Inside water mists from the above down upon the plants to drink and rain the excess down upon us…
…Back into the city, Sam texts “out of class, where are you?” The smartass answer goes “Good question!” “Do you want me to pick you up?” So I look for an identifying street name but only find “Irving.” Stop inside a tea shop for chai, where the proprietor pours every spice and then some into my cup, then tops it with foam and cinnamon. Outside I sit in the icy wind and hot chai spiced with all of creation looking up and down the street smelling cinnamon and car exhaust as a pack of kids smile past me catching my own smile back to them while earphones give me Rosana Eckert’s funk and oh shit I’m flowing off into the infinity above but wait no it’s flowing through ME. Fuck. Horrific ecstasy. Make it stop but no, don’t ever stop. It’s too much, but please don’t let it end. I laugh for no reason, uncontrollably. Life is good. It’s fucking good. Just flow on, Ben.
At USF Sam and I part ways and I look out over the hill. Come to me, City Lights, come to me, and walk walk north and east as I can, without a map or real sense of where I’m going, only a direction. Headphones, mp3s, music swells about me as I march in time to beats, Morphine, Course of Empire, Massive Attack play anthems for me – MY anthems, because this day is mine. Stop to try to call her so we can figure out what’s going on tomorrow and I can tell her about the baby, but her mailbox is full. Fuck. Guess she really IS that busy. Just walk on, Ben…
…”Buddhist” catches my eye as Freddie Mercury sings about wanting it all, so I stop my flow and look. Before me is a Buddhist temple that I almost missed entirely. Look up to the heavens and see illegible cursive lettering and above that tells my eyes I’m at the Macang Monastery. Holy shit. A woman beckons me inside so I pull the earphones and follow. Tami is a small Chinese woman (is there any other type?) who tells me that they practice and celebrate all forms of Buddhism here in the now I’m being reincarnated as something that understands for once. In the back she shows me a giant statue of Manjusri Bodhisattva which I try to take a picture of but she informs me there are no pictures allowed inside. My imagination explodes : why? I ask, clarifying that I’m not trying to be defiant or outraged, but I’m so curious to know why they don’t allow photography. She doesn’t know, and the question churns in my mind for days, probably will forever. Tami asks if I’m familiar with Buddhism so I tell her I wrote a few papers on it in college and had some personal experiences with it indirectly, and thus the Tripmaster Monkey story flows from my mouth, which she answers with “oh so it was like karma!” Fucking wow, and she’s right. Everything works out in the end, doesn’t it? This will be a grand day indeed if this is how it opens. I walk on, smiling and looking back at the Steiner street monastery. Almost missed that place but instead karma has put a smile on my face for the day. Everything is alright, at least for the moment. No earphones for now because I want to hear, feel everything in the everything. “Submissive to everything, open, listening.”
Columbus is the fun diagonal street that slants across San Francisco’s regular square blocks and I smile as my foot hits the sidewalk and I grow closer to the alley in question – Jack Kerouac Alley. Dark skinned bum sleeps in the alley, a reincarnation of the author, while tourists gather at its mouth talking and talking so I take pictures of myself standing underneath the signpost. Jack. How can I not end up like you? Was that a negative statement or a positive one? Yes, but no…
…Downstairs I find the BART and figure out how to work the clunky self-ticket system, head down more stairs, and find empty tracks. There is a strange emptiness down here, not necessarily a bad one like an empty heart or the broken soul of a place, but an odd in between mechanic organic-ness. Trains whoosh in regularly like a great heart somewhere has pumped them along the rails and into the station, people board, and then they fly away again and leave me in the emptiness with the other people in the same emptiness wondering where the world and everything else went, as if the train somehow represents all of creation and we’re just stuck in some between, but really the people on the train are in the between, right? Right?…
The Colorado River.
Winding through eons of rock, it doesn’t stop. Through treacherous rapids, hot days, freezing nights, placid straightaways it doesn’t stop. Onward and onward, the river stops for no one and no thing. Plans are made and un-made by its flow, its “yes, but no” current that tells me to “find beauty in the things that were meant to not be.” Approach the speed of light but never attain it, so red shift into the future and find that there actually isn’t life anywhere else in the universe, but it’s somehow still not empty, because it wasn’t meant to be, so, beauty. Ra in his sun barge makes his way across the sky, causing air to heat and separate, making gusts of wind that change interactions between people – wind and a fistful of sunlight. Leave the softball game laughing, or at least smiling, and you haven’t lost, and there’s no shame in losing when you’re up against the entire universe and destiny itself. “Oh so it was like karma” she says, that maybe I deserved all of this, that I’m paying off some load of shit from another life and that’s ok because if that’s the case I think I’m doing pretty well setting up my next one, because sometimes I wonder if in a past life I was Jack Kerouac, the flowing poet asshole drunk womanizing dharma bum on the road to enlightenment and Hell, “loop a flaw” so that history and the karmic cycle repeat because I never learned from my mistakes until this life so the only way out is THROUGH, where in the next life reborn to newborn status I’ll have people welcoming me to the river, always welcome, now get out there and wheel yourself and your belongings all over creation, relishing every single fucking footstep, watching the current carry your ripples downstream, sometimes transforming them into tidal waves as it and I both transform myself, because it doesn’t wait, it doesn’t wait, I don’t wait, just move on to the next dream, the next illusory mission, the next hill to climb, the next ship to Penelope, wave goodbye to this island because life goes on in the flow onward.
Just flow on, Ben. Just flow on.
And yet still, here I sit in my hot apartment all alone, remembering one specific bit of Kerouac’s advice – “something you feel will find its own form.” How true Jack, how true. Fantastic voyages coming to an end always get me down, and this was perhaps the most fantastic one I’ve had yet, despite all the not sleeping and the romantic rebuke – the greater you climb the farther you fall when it’s done, but it’s not like I fell back to Earth back into some depressing monotony because I’d be lying if I said I don’t have a fucking great life (if a little weird) and wasn’t happy 95% of the time, but this is what I felt at the time so this is the form it found – the narrative is the flow of that moment, not this moment. Things change and I often change with them, so the color of yesterday may not be the color of today. Change is the nature of life, not stagnation, but transformation – a trickster game…