25 Ways to Find Love in San Francisco

lalalovela1. Go to a taqueria and buy a burrito for the person behind you in line.

2. Go to The Mint karaoke bar and sing anything by Neil Diamond. Use the musical break in the middle to tell a story. Someone in the back will notice.

3. Take the N Juda and smile at the first person you see who looks interesting. If he smiles back, follow him home. If he doesn’t get scared when you confront him at his front door, ask him if you can come inside.

4. Pay close attention to the sidewalks. If you pass a house that has a handprint pressed into the concrete outside, check under the blue flowerpot.

5. Give the next ten Uber cabs you order five stars and unlock the special weekend chariot. When it shows up sit in the front seat instead of the back and drink the free water.

6. Go to the De Young and stand in front of a painting you just don’t get. After two hours, look harder. After three, blink three times and scratch your head. After four, begin to feel faint. After five, look around to see if anyone else is seeing this. After six, you’ll begin to understand.

7. Go to any local bookstore and write your name and phone number on page 37 of Tales from the City.

8. Next time you pass a discarded pile of clothes on the street, check the pockets.

9. Memorize a poem, any poem. Get drunk at Vesuvio and and stand up on your stool as you recite it to the whole room. Even if you’re too wasted to get the words right, someone will buy you a shot and ask you where you’re from before the night is over.

10. Go to Bourban and Branch and tell them you have a reservation under Neroda. When you get to the back room find Ricardo and ask him to make you a drink that’s bittersweet. Drink it all, wait for the ice to melt, then finish that too.

11. Bring a red bottle to Blue Bottle Coffee and ask them for a drip. If they can figure out a way to make it work, offer them the first sip.

12. Get a red Sharpie pen and draw a heart on the sleeve of your favorite denim shirt. Keep your eye on the first person who notices. She might be the one.

13. Write your three favorite adjectives on the palm of your hand. Share lunch with the first person who fits two out of three. The third will come with time.

14. Don’t bring your lunch to work. You’ll never find it that way.

15. Go out into the fog and remember that it is only a cloud that has touched the ground. If you happen to bump into someone while wandering through the mist, ask them if they’d like to get lost with you.

16. Wear a scarf. Everyone in San Francisco loves a great scarf.

17. Tell a stranger thank you. When they ask what for, tell them everything.

18. Next time you’re in a crowd, close your eyes and listen. There will be a lot going on but if you wait you’ll hear it. Don’t worry, it’s there.

19. Next time you’re at your local bar draw a picture on a coaster and give it to the bartender as a gift. If he puts it on the wall next to the cash register, keep coming back.

20. Walk home and look in every window you pass. Knock on the door of the house with the best art on the wall or, if you’re shy, just stand outside and enjoy.

21. Give up your seat on the train to someone who is young and healthy and standing. It’s nice to be asked and they are more tired than you know.

22. Go to the ocean. As often as you can. Put your feet in the water, no matter how cold. Never, ever wear shoes on the beach. Whatever you do. That’s just wrong.

23. Find someone who doesn’t speak your language and tell them a secret.

24. Stick your tongue out at a small child with her mother. If she sticks her tongue out back, cross your eyes at her. If she crosses her eyes at you back, let her win. Most young children don’t know how to cross their eyes yet.

25. Smile. Sometimes that’s really all it takes.

Oh, Lord Byron, you’re my favorite of all the heroes

Today’s poem is a selection from an old favorite…

I have not loved the world, nor the world me,–
But let us part fair foes: I do believe,
though I have found them not, that there may be
Words which are things,–hopes which will not deceive,
And virtues which are merciful, nor weave
Snares for the failing; I would also deem
O’er others’ griefs that some sincerely grieve;
That two, or one, are almost what they seem,–
That goodness is no name,
and happiness no dream.

From Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage by Lord Bryon

(Please note: This blog post was originally much longer and more interesting but I accidentally deleted it and I’m sorry, but I can’t write all that all over again at the current moment. The poem, however, is still very nice.)


And also that I love you and that I want to die

I went to a Litquake/Writer’s Grotto event tonight called Regreturature and it was so funny I ended up laughing so hard I was crying a bit. Maybe I was just in the right mood but it really was a great event and the authors all did a good job reading the embarrassing journals and poetry and letters they wrote as children. There was a letter to Nixon, an English presentation, journals of course, but one even had teacher’s comments… So yes, it was great.

Quite naturally, I ended up coming home and pulling out my old journals. And, yes, I was so inspired by Regreturature and the fact that it’s National Poetry Month that I decided to share some of my most embarrassing and horrible writing here with you.

So here it is, from the long lost journals of Megan Murray (or as I liked to call myself at the time, Megan Fucking Murray), a small selection of tortured love poetry…

 

I’ve got stars in my eyes when I look at you
Their spiky points stab with pain
They make me cry
As hard as I try
I can’t get these damn stars out of my eyes
I don’t know what to do
But I can’t stop looking at you
And I can’t stop the pain

 

I love you
Okay, I admit it
Maybe it’s puppy love
But it feels so real
I love you
I love you
I love you
And as much as I hate it
It’s there
I hate you
I really hate you
Why did you do this to me
Look at me
I’m writing poetry
What’s wrong with me
I love you
That’s what
And I hate you for it

 

Fuck you
Fuck me
Fuck me for loving you
And fuck you for not loving me
Fuck Fuck Fuck Fuck
Fuck me
Fuck you
And fuck love

 

You’re on my mind
You’re in my mind
You’re all over my mind
You’re inside my mind
Get the hell away
Just kidding you can stay

 

I’m gonna grow up
I’m gonna be tall
I’m gonna be hot
I’m gonna be fucking hot
You’re gonna want me bad
I’m gonna work on my English
You’re going to want me bad

 

Right when I figure things out
I figure out I don’t have anything figured out
That’s okay though
It means I’m not dead
And also that I love you and that I want to die

 

 

Loving everything that increases me

Since April is National Poetry Month I decided to grab a book of Raymond Carver poems I bought a while back to read on the train this morning and… well, they’re beautiful and simple and perfect in their own real way. It made for a dreamy morning of sipping coffee and smiling at the page.

Image

It was a nice day in the city today, but kind of sad too. I got my wave from The Waving Man on my way into work but he waved slowly like he was sleepy or slightly dazed. Later, while getting coffee with a coworker, an Etta James song came on and we both felt suddenly melancholy listening to a dead woman singing about a heart wrapped up in clover. He said he used to feel the same way every time an Etta Fitzgerald song came on but that it eventually goes away. Somehow that made me sadder. That fading. Then tonight on my way to get dinner a homeless man working on a crossword puzzle was mumbling to himself how he couldn’t find the right word. Maybe I’m just being sensitive but it all seemed like it should mean something. Ha, of course I’m being sensitive but still… It did all happen.

Just a perfect day for poetry I guess. Here are some of my favorites from the morning  ride…
Where Water Comes Together with Other Water 

I love creeks and the music they make.
And rills, in glades and measdows, before
they have a chance to becomes creeks.
I may even love them best of all
for their secrecy. I almost forgot
to say something about the source!
Can anything be more wonderful than a spring?
But the big streams have my heart too.
and the places streams flow into rivers.
The open mouths of rivers where they join the sea.
The places where water comes together
with other water. Those places stand out
in my mind like holy places.
But these coastal rivers!
I love them the way some men love horses
or glamorous women. I have a thing
for this cold swift water.
Just looking at it makes my blood run
and my skin tingle. I could sit
and watch these rivers for hours.
not one of them like any other.
I’m 45 years old today.
Would anyone believe it if I said
I was once 35?
My heart empty and sere at 35!
Five more years had to pass
before it began to flow again.
I’ll take all the time I please this afternoon
before leaving my places alongside this river.
It pleases me, loving rivers.
Love them all the way back
to their source.
Loving everything that increases me.

from Radio Waves

When I came out here I was trying to get away
from everything. Especially literature.
What that entails, and what comes after.
There is in the soul a desire for not thinking.
For being still. Coupled with this
a desire to be strict, yes, and rigorous.
But the soul is also a smooth son of a bitch,
not always trustworthy. And I forgot that.
I listened when it said, Better to sing that which is gone
and will not return than that which is still
with us and will be with us tomorrow. Or not.
And if not, that’s all right to.
Can you imagine somebody thinking like this?
That it’s really all one and the same?
What nonsense!
But I’d think these stupid thoughts at night
as I sat in the chair and listened to my radio.

Rain

Woke up this morning with
a terrific urge to lie in bed all day
and read. Fought against it for a minute.

Then looked out the window at the rain.
And gave over. Put myself entirely
in the keep of this rainy morning.

Would I live my life over again?
Make the same unforgivable mistakes
Yes, given half a chance. Yes.

Of course all life is a process of breaking down…

Of course all life is a process of breaking down, but the blows that do the dramatic side of the work — the big sudden blows that come, or seem to come, from outside —  the ones you remember and blame things on and, in moments of weakness, tell your friends about, don’t show their effect all at once. There is another sort of blow that comes from within — that you don’t feel until it’s too late to do anything about it, until you realize with finality that in some regard you will never be as good a man again.

-F. Scott Fitzgerald from The Crack-Up

Wow. Amazing. I read this the other day and it was so beautiful and sad and true that it completely depressed yet enthralled me at the same time. I have to take a moment right now and be a complete great big mushy mess of a dork but can I just say…

I. Fucking. Love. Great. Writing.

Maybe that’s not so mushy (throwing an f-bomb in there certainly helps things out) but it is me overflowing with awe.

I love it when you come across a piece of writing that so perfectly and adequately portrays a piece of the world or an experience of it, an emotion or a feeling, a moment in life, that you recognize and come to understand something you never had before.

For instance…

Maybe you have begun to feel this vague unnameable pain but can’t explain where it came from or what exactly it is. Maybe it is something so small and so subtle that you barely take notice of it. Maybe it is almost nothing, maybe it is the smallest of sensations like an itch or a limb that has fallen asleep. But then, ah, but then… But then this beautiful perfect horrible little passage comes along and spells it all out for you and you realize what it is you have been feeling. Suddenly your pain is not so vague. It is specific and real, it does not have a name but it has words and an explanation. It has been made personal and universal and has connected you to this great big mass of people who have experienced the same thing. Who have read the same thing or written about the same thing, talked about it and created art about it, and really it is put so beautifully and perfectly that it’s not painful at all. It’s just real. It’s just art. It’s just life and art interacting and overlapping and, fuck ya, I love that shit!

Ha, so yes, obviously I’m being excessively poetic and dramatic tonight. Sorry about that but it’s how I feel so too bad for you.

One of my favorite lines about the desperate power of writing comes from a short story, My Hustlers by Edmund White:

My writing would turn all this evil into flowers.

Writing, a certain type of great writing, can turn something evil into flowers. Or something painful into beauty. Just by putting it into words and arranging them in the right way. It’s such a simple yet completely complicated thing. And then there are other moments, other pieces of great writing, that turn flowers into evil. Or something beautiful into pain. It’s amazing to me sometimes. A great passage in a book or a great piece of art can be completely humbling in the same way the ocean or a mountain range can. There’s a power in great things like that. I haven’t quite gotten far enough in my personal development (or whatever it is you call this growing and progressing as a human being thing) to know exactly what it is I’m trying to talk about, or what exactly that power is. Ha, but I have a vague kind of feeling.

So ya, I’ve been reading a lot of stuff lately. It’s been good and it makes me crazy and awake and just a little bit drunk on words and writing.

But it’s getting late and I’ve probably had too much. Ha, and said too much as well. And if I read one more chapter I just may pass out.

Hmmm… that sounds kind of nice actually. I think I’ll go do that now.

I wouldn’t want to be faster or greener than now if you were with me

I’ve been reading some Frank O’Hara lately and, I must say, he’s my favorite kind of poet. He can say something so simple and yet it’s so packed with meaning. His poems offer up a piece of the world, or maybe just an experience of it,  in such a concise and beautiful way. I dunno… It’s a good poem. It’s a small simple thing and yet that’s precisely why it’s so beautiful.

Animals

Have you forgotten what we were like then
when we were still first rate
and the day came fat with an apple in its mouth

it’s no use worrying about Time
but we did have a few tricks up our sleeves
and turned some sharp corners

the whole pasture looked like our meal
we didn’t need speedometers
we could manage cocktails out of ice and water

I wouldn’t want to be faster
or greener than now if you were with me O you
were the best of all my days

What I’m reading… And thinking about and looking at…

Who Would Dare
by Roberto Bolaño
from The New York Review of Books

“After that, after I stole that book and read it, I went from being a prudent reader to being a voracious reader and from being a book thief to being a book hijacker. ”

“What I remember best about my visits to those bookstores are the eyes of the booksellers, which sometimes looked like the eyes of a hanged man and sometimes were veiled by a kind of film of sleep, which I now know was something else. I don’t remember ever seeing lonelier bookstores.”

“What book would you give to a condemned man? he asked me. I don’t know, I said. I don’t know either, said the bookseller, and I think it’s terrible. What books do desperate men read? What books do they like? How do you imagine the reading room of a condemned man? he asked. I have no idea, I said. You’re young, I’m not surprised, he said.”

I’ve read Bolaño’s The Savage Detectives and the collection The Last Evenings on Earth but it’s been a while since I’ve picked up something of his. This short essay on books and thievery and the dim light of Mexico City nights made me remember why I love him so much. His writing is so simple and yet so poetic at the same time. It has a beauty to it that doesn’t seem forced or flowery but real. I always imagine if I ran into Bolaño on the streets that he would talk just like he writes–which probably isn’t true but maybe that’s the thing about good writers, they write so convincingly that you don’t care if it’s true or not. That truth doesn’t really matter anymore.

Anyway, something about Bolaño gets to me. I dunno, his words and his stories, his short descriptions and how he floods his writing with lists of the authors and poets that he’s devoured over the years–like they’re all a part of his history and his country’s history and all of our histories. It’s powerful stuff.

Postcards to My Peeps
by Carolyn Sewell’s
A fun flickr of postcards she created for her friends. Here are some favorites:

The Imperfectionists
by Tom Rachman

But I assure you of this: news will survive, and quality coverage will always earn a premium. Whatever you want to call it–news, text, content–someone has to report it, someone has to write it, someone has to edit it. And I intend for us to do it better, no matter the medium.

I’ve been wanting to read this book for a while now but was able to hold out for the paperback edition to come out. I must say, I’m glad I waited.

The book is a collection of stories about a world newspaper that’s based in Rome. Each story focuses on one member of the staff and then there is a series of short one to two page explanations in between each story about how the paper got started.

There are some stories that are really great. The first two are my favorites–one on the Paris correspondent and one on the obituary writer. The inside look at the newspaper business is fun to read about and I like the setting of a busy office and the details of copyboys and staff politics and the way business decisions affect what we report on. I like the commentary (like the passage above) on where newspapers are headed. But…

For me, nothing is very exceptional about this collection. Overall, the writing just isn’t as strong as I wanted it to be and certain paragraphs and sections of dialog sound almost immature–like something from a cheap paperback.

Unchanged: this is how she thinks of herself. Fresh as ever at forty-three, legs long and strong under the business slacks, tight midriff under tight waistcoat, lustrous chestnut hair with only a couple of strands gray. She takes unearned pride in her looks.

Really? Uck… I hate these types of paragraphs–where an author feels like he needs to give you a quick summary of a character before he dives into the main story  so he does it through clichéd descriptions of the character’s physical attributes. Sure, these descriptions have their place–in the first page of a romance or a male adventure novel for example–but to find such a passage in a book that I felt should have held itself to higher standards was disappointing.

I dunno, maybe I’m becoming more of a snob. I just felt like it was a good idea, and there was good content, but the execution could have been stronger and the book as a whole could have been a much stronger, more enjoyable, even powerful read if the prose were more… what’s the word?… mature? strong? better? Yes, that’s it more better. Ha.

But the collection is still worth reading and I’m not going to abandon it. I wouldn’t recommend it but it’s nice to have something light to get into (but not get into too much) before bed.

The Very Nervous Family
by Sabrina Orah Mark

She doesn’t like that phrase. Dead bolt. It reminds her of getting shot before you even have a chance to run.

Mrs. Horowitz gathers her very nervous son up in her arms, and gently explains that families who ice skate become the ice they slip on. The cracks they fall through. The frost that bites them.

I love this poem. There are some beautiful phrases but there’s also this great contradictory tone. Everything being said seems somewhat absurd–Afterall, they are a very nervous family. So things are exaggerated. Milk is not spilled in their house, or even dropped, it is killed.

All they ask is that they not starve, and now their only son is killing milk.

It’s such a ludicrous thing to say. And the parents come across as silly for thinking in such extreme terms. And yet, there’s something very real and disturbing about their fear that speaks to a reality that may not be in the poem itself, but lies just outside of it.

And oh, how I love that. I love it when poems do that.

The New York Trilogy
by Paul Auster

Stories happen only to those who are able to tell them, someone once said. In the same way, perhaps experiences present themselves only to those who are able to have them. This is a difficult point, and I can’t be sure of any of it.

What he did not know is that were he to find the patience to read the book in the spirit in which it asks to be read, his entire life would begin to change, and little by little he would come to a full understanding of his situation… But lost chances are as much a part of life as chances taken, and a story cannot dwell on what might have been.

To be inside that music, to be drawn into the circle of its repetitions: perhaps that is a place where one could finally disappear.

Oh man, I loooooved this book. I could easily have written out every passage in here and relived the entire thing again.

You may have noticed that I like to quote things. I keep a reading journal of my favorite passages from the books I read. I find it helps me remember what I’ve read but it, I dunno, helps me internalize things more too.

Either way, sometimes this habit of mine makes me think of Holden’s lament in Catcher in the Rye and how he never understood why people read books and highlighted certain passages and not others. Didn’t the author write it all down for a reason? Isn’t it all important and not just some of it?

My favorite books make me feel this way. I used to write in my books (I stopped because it annoyed the people I lent them too) and just about every single line in my copy of The Waves is underlined or starred or has brackets around it…because it’s all so good. It’s all amazing.

And The New York Trilogy made me feel this way. Though it isn’t my new favorite book, it is my favorite book I’ve read recently. Auster is just so, so very good. And every line, every word, is so packed with meaning and it’s all put together so perfectly. (Hmmm, maybe I shouldn’t have been so hard on Rachman up above since he’s what I read after finishing the Trilogy–a hard act for anyone to follow.)

But yes, I am completely devoted to Paul Auster now.

Stories: All-New Tales
edited by Neil Gaiman and Al Sarrantonio

And in talking, we realized that we had something in common: That all we cared about, really, were the stories. What we missed, what we wanted to read, were stories that made us care, stories that forced us to turn the page. And yes, we wanted good writing (why be satisfied with less?). But we wanted more than that. We wanted to read stories that used a lightning flash of magic as a way of showing us something we have already seen a thousand times as if we have never seen it before. Truly, we wanted it all.

I picked up this collection a while ago and have just started breaking into it. And, okay, can I just say this?…

So. Much. Fun.

In fact, these stories are so much fun I think I’ll get back to them now.

Hopefully, I’ll have more to say later. It’s been a rainy week here in Santa Cruz. The power went out one night, and though I didn’t read by candlelight (which would have been much more romantic) curling up in bed with my headlamp, a glass of wine, a scared dog, and an overly-cuddly cat was just as much fun.

Rain is good for reading. So are lazy Saturday afternoons. I almost hope it doesn’t let up.

Ha, almost…