I should have prefaced this photo when I posted it earlier, but, this is the house that I grew up in. It was built by my grandfather, I”m guessing in the late 19th or early 20th centuries. There, he and my grandmother raised nine children, my mother, and my aunts and uncles. When I grew up there, the house was surrounded by mature trees with thick pine groves on the north and west that served as wind breaks. There was an apple orchard and grape vines and a huge garden. The place was always alive with cows, hogs, chickens, horses, and visitors who drank beer and lemonade on the once broad front porch or had dinner in our dining room. Now, only three or four trees and a few of the old farm buildings still remain. Deserted, it stands as a stark monument to what once was, as does so much of our modern life which finds the old ways, old things, old times, something to be disposed of, destroyed, and forgotten. The darkening sky portrayed my feelings at seeing my childhood home, now most likely close to being knocked down and buried as is so much of our history, in order to gain another few acres to be farmed with environment destroying herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizers, all complements of the corporate thugs: Monsanto, Cargill, Tyson and all the other corporate rulers of industrial farming, farming that now poisons the land and water, all in order to produce toxic food for the masses that they are buying cheap healthy food in urban grocery stores.
Deserted it stands
against a darkening sky.
All love now long gone.
The day was a perfect balmy California day. People started arriving around 3:30. I made myself a vow to behave and watch my alcohol consumption. Hanna was pulling me around to meet everyone. I remember when she told me that she had an eclectic group of friends and they were all there. I met Mike and Ronald who were planning their wedding. Then an older couple, friends of Meg and Frank, who were from Turkey. He was an artist and she taught international economics at Berkley. I met Chloe who was partners with Nadia, both arriving on their Harleys. There were people of color. There were artists, musicians, writers, designers, all creative types. It was a group of people I would never have imagined ever being with. They were super nice and made me feel like I was their long time friend.
I was talking to Mike and Ronald. They were funny and two of the nicest guys I had ever met. Ronald said, “God, Russell, you are so cute, Hanna is so lucky and I’m so jealous.” Mike shot him a dirty look and Ronald just laughed, “I’m getting another drink, Russell, your hands are empty, what can I get you?”
“Ah, nothing. I’m trying to behave and act sensible tonight.”
“God, Russell, don’t be such a tight ass. Enjoy. It’s a fucking party. Let it go.”
She saw my confusion and said, “What do you think?”
I stammered, “I’m not sure. I don’t know what to . . . or — ”
Meg smiled, “It’s abstract art. There’s no recognizable image and isn’t meant to depict anything other than to illicit emotions, feelings. Don’t try to see anything representational. Most people see a painting and expect a recognizable scene, or person, or something they can identify. Just look at this and let go of preconceptions.
“Early painters up through the late nineteenth century worked on portraying the world as it was, realistically, many times incorporating fantasy, mythology religious icons and such. The French Impressionists felt that representing what they painted as reality, like what everyone was doing, was not what they wanted to do. They were the first to start abstracting reality. Then Pablo Picasso and Georges Braques pushed abstraction even further with what they called Cubism. Then there were the Dadists. And now we have total abstraction that elicits pure emotion rather than any representation. There is still representative art and always will be. But I chose this genre and have done well with it. Sometime I want move away from this pure abstraction and to something else, but for now, this is what I do. It has served me well.”
I noticed her as she had turned, talking to me, how she cocked her head and twirled a loose strand of her hair, exactly like Hanna did. It was very sexy.
City Lights was another San Francisco landmark, established in 1953 by Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Peter D. Martin, Martin who left after two years. The store specializes in world literature, arts, and progressive politics. The signs in the upper four windows read: ‘Open Door, Open Books, Open Mind, Open Heart’.
Inside, Frank went to talk with the manager, something about his book. I roamed the main floor, then the upper, and then discovered a basement. I wanted to read everything here. Frank found me down stairs.
“Hey, Frank, what do you recommend? Anything about what you talked about earlier?”
He motioned me to follow him to the philosophy section and pointed out several books on Existentialism and Deconstruction. Then he said, “I have these back at the house and you are more than welcome to read them, if you’re going to be around, that is?”
“Thanks. We’ll see. If so, I’ll take you up on your offer.” I had already picked up a novel and another book on Buddhism.
We left and drove back to Sausalito without talking. I sat back, enjoying the city sights and the return trip across the Golden Gate Bridge.