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Smoke and Mirrors

Today I’ve got a bunch of photos with captions.  Each caption is above the corresponding photo, as opposed to below the image, which is where I often put them.

Sylvia and I saw the Stones concert at Levi Stadium in San Jose. I got StubHub tickets on the last day, and the seats were pretty close to the stage, and at a decent price. Sylvia was glad. We’ve seen them about five or six times over the years, going back to 1972, when we went to Madison Square Garden with our pals Fran and Jim Carrig. Jim’s dead, but I always think of him when I see the Stones.

The “Sympathy for the Devil” performance lasted about fifteen minutes, we got lost in it, and it took me away, which is one of the things I really want from music. That’s good old Mick there. Back from the valley of the shadow of Death. He didn’t whip the stage with his belt like he did in 1972. Jim Carrig and I used to do that with our own belts after we saw the 72 performance, merry, callow youths that we were..

These days I worship Keith even more. The blues. They had really great video screens on the stage. By the way I recently watched Scorsese’s Shine a Light, which is about the best Stones movie out there.

Rudy Jr.’s company has bought an immense warehouse in the Oakland flats for their operations in the East Bay. A really big room with a concrete floor and a timber ceiling. He’s still figuring out how to divide it up. Mainly they want to have their Oakland office there, and storage for a stash of the antennas that Monkeybrains delivers to their customers’ houses.

V. Vale and I did a reading in the very chapel of Beat, the upstairs room at City Lights Books in North Beach. He’s promoting a book of his photos, Underground Living. I happened to write the intro for Vale’s book. And ‘m promoting Million Mile Road Trip and my nine new Night Shade Books reprints.

For the show I read most of my subversive story, “Juicy Ghost.”

Our friends Lee and Susie Poague visited…we know them from our days in Geneseo, NY, where I had a job in the State University math department. Lee was in the English department, teaching Film and Journalsm classes. He’d get these huge rolls of film mailed into to show his classes — pre-video — and sometimes we’d watch those in his living-room, which was great. That was 45 years ago.

Before that, Lee and Susie went to San Jose State and actually got married in the campus chapel on the SJSU quad—50 years ago. Below is a shot of them by the chapel.

At Geneseo, Lee and I both knew we were going to be fired—the state university was in a “retrenchment” mode, which basically meant laying off faculty and hiring more administrators. Lee and I were constantly obsessing on the dangling carrot of “tenure”—our wives got tired of hearing about it.

In the end, of course, it was good for us that we left—in the wider world, things worked out pretty well.  And I got tenure at SJSU when I was fifty. In Geneseo, I never imagined I’d end up being a computer scientist in California. Moral? Hang in there. You never know.

Califor-ni-yay. I love all the palms here, and their shadows. This is by the Fairmont in downtown San Ho where, as usual, the sidewalks are so empty you could fire a cannon down one without hitting anyone.

The other day I went out to Three Mile Beach north of Cruz with my friend Jon Pearce. Totally deserted, but in nature that’s a good thing. I think I once read that in Yellowstone park, 95% of the tourists never get more than twenty feet from their car. It’s really nice how deeply into wild nature you can get in the SF Bay Area if you drive about half an hour and walk for fifteen minutes.

Below is a good clear view of one of our state’s numerous faults. I recently read John McPhee’s book Assembling California. Talk about big picture.  Our state piled up from ocean bottom sliding east and mountain range sliding west…about a hundred million years ago.

And meanwhile I’m obsessed with global warming over the next twenty years.  A bit of a disproportion there.  Not that I want to minimize the current crisis.  But the scope of geological deep-time history is kind of staggering. Compared to ten million years, one year is the last millimeter of a timeline that’s ten kilometers long.

Two old men on the beach, that is, Jon and me. Last week, Sylvia and I went to Jon’s seventieth birthday party in a park in Santa Cruz. My friends and I  never imagined we’d get this old—although staying alive has its rewards. Jon was my office-mate when I was teaching Computer Science at San Jose State. I was there eighteen years, and now it’s been fifteen years since I retired. The older I get, the faster time goes, which is exactly the opposite of what I’d want.

I haven’t been shooting as many photos as usual of late. I think it’s partly because I’ve been focused on writing short stories. First I did “Juicy Ghost” this spring, and I wrote two more in the last two months, “Everything is Everything,” and “The Mean Carrot.” I’m sending them out to magazines, and if all else fails I’ll post them online.

Seems like all of my stories these days are relating to commercial telepathy tech, and to storing backups of your personality in the cloud. This pair of themes feels like an SF trope that’s opening up, with a lot of possible angles. I might stay with it and write more stories in this vein over the coming months.

The photo below is in a parking garage in Santa Cruz. I was attracted by the pattern of light and shadow in that triangle at the bottom. But there’s so much else to look at that I didn’t crop it down. Going for more of a wide-angle Winogrand thing, although minus the people. Of course if you’re a hylozoist, like I am, you think that everything is alive, so there’s quite a chatty cround in this pic.

I always feel it’s too obvious to photograph signs, but I liked the light on this truck by that parking arage. Also, as I say, I’ve been away from photography, and if I have my good little Fujifilm X100-T along, it’s like everything I see starts looking like a potential photo. Something I like about carrying a camera: it opens my eyes. “Seeing photos” is a special mental process I’ve learned.

This next photo is more of a trophy than anything else, although I do like the pattern. I have a cloth hammock in the corner of the back yard, with one end tied to a tree, and the other end tied to this 4 x 4 that I embedded in a bag of concrete in a posthole-digger-dug hole twenty years ago.

Slowly it rotted, and recently it expired with a huge crack, the last time Rudy Jr. was in it, not that he’s portly. So I managed to root out the remains of the broken stub and put in a new 4 x 4. For me, accomplishing this kind of home improvement task is a triumph. For me, even knowin the phrase “4 x 4” is quite an accomplishment.

Note that Sylvia and I have a metal R and S from the kids in the underbrush there, but you can’t see the S.

But you can see an S below, a post of a post in Rudy’s new warehouse. I love planes of color, and architectural meshes of posts.

Another abstraction from the warehouse below. That’s a puddle on the floor reflecting the ceiling.

Sylvia and I took the grandkids to the Ed Hardy tattoo show downstairs the DeYoung museum in Golden Gate park. The show was a lot more interesting that I’d expected—the highlight was a 500-foot long by 4-foot high continuous scroll of Tyvek material decorated with two thousand dragons painted on by Ed, in a varying freestyle style, int the year 2000, on this 2000 squae foot scroll. Ed did scads of little dragons as well as the big ones, in order to get the population up. That’s a big one below, near the end of the scroll.

And here’s Pig Elder with one of the larger dragons.

Hardy’s scroll painting was inspired by a 13th Century scroll by Chen Rong called “Nine Dragons.” I have a little section of it below, but I also have a big, zoomable image of the whole scroll online. It’s kind of like that timeline thing. We think we’ve come so far in art in modern times…but look where Chen Rong was nine centuries ago.

And here’s a tiny cute dragon with polka dots.

Somehow Rudy got hold of an old non-electric pachinko machine, where you fire little balls up into a grid. A little like a vertical pinball machine, and a little like a slot machine. They’re very big in Japan. If you end up with a large number of balls, you can get money for them, even though cash rewards at pachinko parlors are “illegal.”

The way it works is that in the parlor, when you return your balls, if you have more than you started with, they give you a package of Zippo lighter flints. And then you go down a tiny alley behind the pachinko parlor to a window in the wall, and the woman there exchanges your lighter flints for yen cash. My grandson Calder plays pachinko with his foot. Clever lad.

The city finished building a new arena for the Warriors to play b-ball in, it’s called the Chase Center—and why oh why can’t we have permanent and non-commercial names for the monumental urban structures that we subsidize with our taxes and our attendance fees?

Anyway, there’s very cool sculpture installation by the Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson. It’s on the Bay side of the building, consisting of 5 (as in 5 players) spheres (as in basketballs), and each sphere has one side shaved off to make a mirrored plane, and they’re arranged in a pentagon, mirrors facing the center, and you get awesome multiple reflections.

You can see the back of my head (wearing a pale straw hat) five levels in. And to top it off, there’s always ships parked there in the Bay…they have, like, a ship-repair spot there. Note that the sign is mirror-reversed…because I’m pointing my camera into a mirror. Fabuloso.

And here’s a traffic mirror in the Monkeybrains warehouse, from when the earlier owners—who provisioned ships—had little fork-lift trucks rolling around. I wear a new striped T-shirt from Gap. I’ve always liked striped T-shirts, first of all because I had a drawer full of them when I was about seven, and also because the holy Saint Andy W. wore them.

I drew the figure below for a story “Surfers at the End of Time” that I wrote with Marc Laidlaw about a year ago, featuring our recurrent transreal characters, the surfers Zep and Del. Time travel can get complicated. I redrew the diagram ten times while Mar and I were working on the story. I was a little surprised how complicated it turned out, but that’s where the logic led.

In the diagram, you’ll notice five names at the top, and these names correspond to the five worldlines below. Gother and Sally are women that Zep and Del meet, and Lars is kind of gnome called a murg. As you can kind of see, Lars has a closed-loop worldline. Just now, I won’t get into explaining any more than, but I will say more when the story comes out, in the Nov-Dec, 2019 issue of Asimov’s SF.

I’m hoping to start another story soon, but today I’ll go out in the back yard and paint.

One Response to “Smoke and Mirrors”

  1. Richard Gaylord Says:


    “Seems like all of my stories these days are relating to commercial telepathy tech, and to storing backups of your personality in the cloud.”

    i’m sure you realize that this is due, in part, to our ‘advanced’ age and your awareness of your inevitable ‘non-being’ as it approaches. when i’m having a bad day, dealing with my disability and the limitations it forces on me, i think about that, myself.

    “naive theorist”

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