The Wonders of Life

“Beauty plus pity—that is the closest we can get to a definition of art. Where there is beauty there is pity for the simple reason that beauty must die; beauty always dies, the manner dies with the matter, the world dies with the individual.” -Vladamir Nabokov

This quote doesn’t have to do with much in my life right now but I think it’s pretty and true and a little bit sad so I included it. The picture is City of Books by Ma Chevrette—a print I got off her etsy the other week. I think it has a lot to do with my life right now. But then, books and art always do. And a city made out of books? Well, that’s just too perfect.

I wonder if she pitied the books when she turned them into buildings. And I wonder if she pitied the buildings after she created them.

But I’m feeling oddly poetic and a little dreamy at the moment so I’m wondering a lot of things.

 

This is a picture of my car with a missing tire:

No tire

Ha, with a missing tire. As opposed to, without a tire. I don’t know why I chose to say it in just that way, but it goes to show that when you lose something you gain something. I may have lost a tire but I gained a missing tire. And a story to tell. An old friend of mine once said, “Isn’t that what life is all about? Having stories to tell?” I’ve always remembered it.

This particular story is simple:

I woke up.

I walked to my car.

It had a missing tire.

It had a missing rim as well.

I put on my spare tire and drove to the shop.

I got two new tires and a rim.

Now I park my car closer to my apartment.

The end.

Ha, it’s a cautionary tale I suppose. Don’t park your car next to shady characters. Wasn’t it just a few posts back when I was talking about how excited I was to find a good place to park my car? I think I may have even used the words shady characters. Ooops. If I was capable of reading my own life the way I read a novel, I might have been smart enough to see that one coming. It’s such obvious foreshadowing.

 

I went to the symphony with my good friends Laurie and Scott. I’ve never been to the symphony before and I’m not the most knowledgeable person when it comes to classical music but it it was wonderful. It makes a big difference when you’re there and experiencing the music live, when you’re surrounded by it, and with other people.

Scott told me how the main violin player, essentially the first violin, of the San Francisco symphony gets to play this violin that the symphony owns that’s over 300 years old. Could you imagine? Playing something with such a history? And having something that was built in such a real and lasting way that it survives 300 years of existence? And not just any existence, actual use? That kind of stuff just blows my mind.

I have to say, going to the symphony for the first time felt like how I imagine some people must feel going to a baseball game for the first time. (There is so much history there–in the building, with each player, instrument, composer, each sound and note, and even the owners and operators. It’s just like baseball…only it’s so much older.) So yes, I loved it.

 

I’ve been running more lately and, even though I try to look up and take in my surroundings, I tend to run with my head down. (I’ve always done this–spaced out and looked at my own feet when I’m running or walking. I feel like half of my day is spent reminding myself to look around me instead of just watching where I’m going.) But it was during one of my city runs, with my head down, looking at my own feet, that I started to notice all the messages people had drawn into the sidewalks.

There are a ton of messages and art and hands and pictures and just random stuff drawn into the concrete on the sidewalks of San Francisco. The first thing that really made me take notice was the scene above. The Wonders of Life. I mean, come on, how can anyone with even an ounce of romance in their soul not find that completely delightful? They even drew a sun, and stars, and flowers. Clouds and birds. Very nicely done.

So yes, I started a tumblr: http://somethingconcrete.tumblr.com/. Thanks to one of the many wonders of life, new technology, if I happen to find a fun message or picture drawn into the concrete I can snap a picture and post it right away.

 

I’ve been watching the Ken Burn’s documentary on jazz. In addition to listening to Louis Armstrong and The Hot Five all weekend, I’ve been obsessing over this quote from Sidney Bichet:

Whatever kind of thing it was, whenever it happened, the music put it together…What it is that takes you out of being just a kid and thinking it’s all adventure, and you find there’s a lesson underneath all that adventure–that lesson, it’s the music. You come into life alone and you go out of it alone, and you’re going to be alone a lot of time when you’re on this earth–and what tells it all, it’s the music. You tell it to the music and the music tells it to you. And then you know about it. You know what it was happened to you.

There’s so much that’s beautiful and perfect in that.

One of the men in the documentary was talking about Louis Armstrong and described genius as the ability to hear something that isn’t there, something that doesn’t exist, something that nobody else can hear. Louis Armstrong heard a sound that didn’t exist, and then he made that sound. It’s incredible when you really think about it. Reminds of how Galileo saw stars nobody else could but it’s more than that. It’s not just seeing stars nobody else can see. It’s creating those stars. It’s constructing realities. Whole new sounds and ways of hearing. It’s changing the world. It’s the stuff you talk about when you’re young and up late at night, drunk and a little crazy with ideas and learning and loving and making mistakes. It’s genius.

My brother once told me that music is freedom. I’m sure he wasn’t the first one to say it, but it was the first time I listened. I’ve always remembered that too.

 

Despite the fact that he looks sweet and innocent while napping in the sun, Rupert is now a full-blown killer. He kills birds and mice and tortures them. And he gets very upset when I won’t let him into the house with his new toys. One night last week he stood outside my back door meowing this creepy meOOOOooowwphfff, that was really him trying to meow with a huge mouse in his mouth. That was actually kind of cute. You know, in that meowing with a huge dead mouse in your mouth sort of way.

He is averaging one kill a week.

Earlier this week I got home and a bloody wing was sitting on my back porch in front of the door. I don’t want to know what that’s foreshadowing. Sometimes these silly things happen and it seems like such an obvious symbol that it’s hard to remember that in the real world a bloody wing doesn’t mean anything other than my cat killed a bird.

I’m totally using that in a story some day though. And then it will be symbolic of broken dreams or, I dunno, destroyed innocence or something like that.

 

I went to SFMOMA again, not this weekend but the last, and there’s a new installment by Klara Kristalova that I really liked. She works with ceramics and her pieces play on different fairy tale and folktale traditions. Some are more whimsical while others are more creepy.  I really like her style though. It’s childlike and rough and that’s exactly why it works. Here’s a sample:

Kind of different for me, but I like it. The pictures don’t do her justice, so if you’re in SF and get a chance you should check it out.

 

My friend Victoria had her first Banned by the Bay event for Banned Book Week today. It was a great kickoff at the San Francisco library and I’m stoked for the rest of the week.

So there’s more fun to come. More adventures to be had. (And under the adventures, lessons to learn.) Ha, all the wonders of life–300 year-old violins, a bloodied bird’s wing, ceramic owl heads, and a city of books.

There are so many beautiful things to pity these days.

(heartfelt sigh goes here)

Beautiful meaningful lies…

We had dinner at my house, and the summer night fields and softness and great stars bending close-pack’t, and odorous darkness, and flowers and hidden gardens, and the whole universe melting and falling down the skies all crumbled and soft, all blurred and transcendental with milky light, all immortal, all sacrificial and sighing, all too impossible to keep and bear so beautiful and so sad. I wonder why our life must quiver between beauty and guilt, consummation and sadness, desire and regret, immortality and tattered moments unknowable, truth and beautiful meaningful lies, knowledge and the genius of illusion, love and chagrin, “Time” and minutes, what-we-do and what-we-want–or other poles quivering elsewhere in greater softer darknesses.

- Windblown World, collected journals of Jack Kerouac