Saturday, May 17, 2008
The place being San Francisco, and the time being the halcyon net-addled days of 1999, the clients whose accounts I worked on were all Internet or other Hi-tech firms. This was all very heady, and I liked it tolerably well, but I never felt entirely comfortable with it. Promotion and all it involves didn’t seem like an instinct that came easily to me. I felt the same way with professional self-promotion. I remember milling around at various young tech business networking events of the era, trying to summon up the energy it took to interject myself into a conversation in progress or hand my card to a complete stranger and start hyping myself, thinking, “This just isn’t my thing.”
In all fairness, as a more-introverted-than-not, more-sensitive-than-baseline type, aggressive self (or other) promotion isn’t a natural strong suit. But I’ve come to realize since that a lot of this feeling had to do with right livelihood. (Apologies for not signaling in advance the abrupt shift into Buddhist discourse.) That is to say, projecting business interests with passion did not come naturally because my natural passion does not lie in business interests. It wasn’t the right focus of energy for me. No quarrel with that as a passion by the way, for some people it is their thing, and you can fairly see the energy of it come crackling off of them, which can be an inspiring sight.
My passion, which was largely dormant at the time but kicking to awaken, is for creative endeavors. And when it comes to promoting my own creative projects, or those of others that I admire, or just generally hobnobbing with creative types and hearing about what they’re up to, lo and behold, the needed energy and confidence is there. Case(s) most recently in point:
I’ve been working on this film, Echo’s Wonder (http://www.echoswonder.com/), that’s going to be screening at the Victoria on June 1st along with other films from the same filmmaking group I’m part of. The director asked me this week if I could take a stab at writing a press release to try and maximize turnout and interest. Also this past week my roommate/musician/budding producer Alex Mikes (http://www.myspace.com/alexmikesmusic) asked me to work on a mission statement for In Bloom, the independent record company he’s starting.
I have wanted to be involved with film and music for literal decades, and it’s so gratifying to harness the energies of my natural bent for writing in promoting these activities. Although they have nothing to do with my day job (financial analyst for a non-profit), working on these two ventures was the most energizing, satisfying work I did all week.
Three cheers for right livelihood!
Tuesday, May 06, 2008
It’s been a few months since I last sent out an update, because; A) There was a lot going on in my life and I was distracted; and, B) There wasn’t a lot going on with my writing, so I figured I had nothing to report. Now I’m thinking that it’s the other way around. Maybe there wasn’t as much going on because I wasn’t reporting it. In the name of reverse-causation magical thinking, I hereby resume monthly updates on my creative endeavors.
Film- I’ve continued with local filmmaking collective Scary Cow (http://www.scarycow.com/), working on Echo’s Wonder, which will screen at the Victoria Theater at 16th & Mission on June 1st along with other films from this four-month round. I’m not as involved writing-wise as I was on Carson Larson, but this film is written and directed by one of that film’s co-writers, Alex Winter, and I believe it will be highly worth seeing. In the afterglow of his brilliance you can appreciate my work as script consultant, production assistant, dialogue-free extra, and (this is the one I’m really excited about) Best Boy! I’ve been waiting 37 years to have a film credit like that. Yes, since birth. Seriously.
Poetry- Red Pulp Underground has put out a print anthology entitled Zygote Extract that includes my poem “Young Karl Marx” which they published last year in their online journal. You don’t have to buy a copy. Really. I’ll read the poem to you, for free, on-demand at any time. But if you truly feel inspired to, you can buy it here: http://www.rpwriters.com/Affliiates.html
Novel- Several publishers are at least vaguely considering my novel, tentatively titled Out In The Neon Night, based on my agent’s queries over the last few months. Thus have I heard. The kinds of things can take quite a while, but then again, when things happen they can happen quickly. I’ll let you know more as the story develops.
Blog- Throughout 2005 I worked on San Francisco Daze, a (nearly) daily reflection on life in San Francisco in prose and poetry form. Since the beginning of the year I’ve been releasing it in monthly installations on my blog, and I’m excited to finally have a venue to publish it in. People kept telling me I should put it online. Thank goodness they didn’t keep telling to me I should jump off of a bridge… In any case, you can find the continuing installments of San Francisco Daze, and all my latest blog activity, at any of the following three locations: http://chris-west.blogspot.com/, http://chrisw-insf.livejournal.com/, http://www.myspace.com/chriswest_writerinsf
That’s it for now- back in June with all-new updates!
Monday, May 05, 2008
It’s taken me the best part of the last 14 years to realize that I wasn’t imagining things. I’m not normal! And now that I finally know what that means, I’m pretty excited by it.
Sayeth the oracle known as Wikipedia: “In behavior, normal refers to a lack of significant deviation from the average.” Which brings us to… “In mathematics, an average, or central tendency of a data set refers to a measure of the "middle" or "expected" value of the data set.”
Not being normal seems horrible, because “they” tell you it’s horrible. But you know what they are? Average! Which sounds awful to me, but we needn’t pejoratize that term either. All that all of this means, mathematically, is that if we took a group of one hundred people and measured them according to Trait X, 85 of them would line up one way (“normal”) and 15 another (“not normal”). And while people think much more in terms of “good” and “bad” about this as it applies to personality, it’s really no different than when it applies to eye color or blood type.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this recently as I’ve been reading Elaine Aron’s The Highly Sensitive Person (http://www.hsperson.com/ ). Her basic contention is that some people are naturally (get ready, this is shocking) more sensitive to external stimuli than other people. This being a minority trait, these people often feel overstimulated by the world, and react to it differently than the not as sensitive norm expects. On the positive side, these people are often the first to notice when things are happening, draw connections between disparate sources, and because they withdraw into themselves more, produce a lot internally.
Keeping this in mind makes my emotional and social life make sense in the same kind of way that suddenly realizing, “Duh, I’m left handed!” would make the world make more sense.
It’s also brought to mind for me having the same feeling over the last few years upon reading Sasha Cagen’s Quirkyalone (http://quirkyalone.net/ ) and Anneli Rufus’ Party of One: A Loner’s Manifesto (http://www.annelirufus.com/index.html ). It turns out there are a lot of us who aren’t like everyone else, and while it may not be normal, it is a different way of being with deep roots
So there you have it- I’m not a normal girl. Maybe you aren’t either. Don’t despair, because it can be fun. As Maggie Estep says:
I’m not a normal girl/ I don’t think I’ll ever be a normal girl/ But still/ I’m terribly popular
Friday, May 02, 2008
Continuing to bring San Francisco Daze, a series of daily observations of life in our fair city that I wrote in 2005, finally out into the light of day. With a little bit of non-SF contamination in this one from a trip to Seattle. The Soviettes, FYI, have since broken up. This is very sad, but my love for Sturgeon remains undiminished…
How Do You Write About A Place in Its Absence? (VII):
Last night in Seattle, and tonight I went to the Fun House to see a passel of punk bands, headlining in the Soviettes. Who advertise in Kitchen Sink, one of my favorite local journals, and Alyssa, my Yahoo! Personals contact who has her own music blog loves them, so I figured they must be worth checking out. And they were. The place, first of all, was spectacular. The juke box was all punk, metal and honky-tonk, which confirmed my suspicion that Seattle is full of kindred souls. The place had a long wooden bar, full of the tattooed and pierced and dyed. Not much seating, but a lot of standing room, especially near the back where the bands played. And the stage— an inch off the ground and a foot away from the crowd, well there’s no better way to see a band. The first few bands were fun, in the amped up but repetitive way that punk bands are fun. But the Soviettes were something else entirely. Three girls and one guy, with songs that bristled with energy and personality and an actual fun lyric or two. I was so enthralled that I bought both of their CDs, and embarrassingly gushed to the band members as they circulated through the crowd after the show. On top of that, I fell in love with their guitarist, Sturgeon. I am not fucking kidding— I would bear her children at the drop of a hat. Come to me, oh tall rock goddess with the pixie-cut and the alluring grin!
How Do You Write About A Place in Its Absence? (VIII):
In the airport now, headed back to San Francisco, after my week in Seattle. At last, the story can be told. These were the songs that were the first thing that popped into my head during each day of the trip:
Sunday- Hurricane (Bob Dylan)
Monday- Landspeed Record (Tanya Donneley)
Tuesday- Something in the Way (Nirvana)
Rock & Roll All Night (Kiss)
Wednesday- Could You be The One (Husker Du)
Thursday- Old Lady Behind the Counter in a Small Town (Pearl Jam)
Friday- Folsom Prison Blues (Johnny Cash)
Saturday- Iron Man (Black Sabbath)
Egad! What happened to this week? No daily observations at all. I guess in spring a young man’s fancy really does turn.
The pink blossoms in the brick courtyard near work were as big as buttercups today.
Yipes— final bus stop on the BX, and they are upon us. The Swarm. The Human Wave. The contingent that must stand because all the best seats are gone. My ride was guilt-free until now, the few spare empty seats that dotted the bus guaranteed expiation. But now, seats gone, standing room only, one must wonder— is some little old lady going seatless because of my ease and comfort? Perhaps a nun even. A nun leading a group of school children. With kittens. I’m probably clear on that one— I would hear the noise of the kids and kittens, even here in the back of the bus. Who I actually see standing in front of me is a tall young guy in jeans and a suede jacket, listening to his I-pod. Beyond him, fading into the hazy distance of the midsection of the bus, some vigorous looking young ladies. Still a twinge there, gentleman sitting while ladies stand and all, but modern bus etiquette is clear on this matter. And anyway, I don’t see any other men giving up their seats. So I’m off the hook for now. But still, I do so fear the onrush of the crowd each time it comes.
I live at the base of a mountain of parrots. Okay, actually, I work there. But it really is a mountain of parrots. And those parrots, the parrots of Telegraph Hill, scream like flighty feathered madness in the morning. They swarm like yellow and green lunacy at lunch time. They migrate like clucking tittering insanity in the evening. Pets, let loose on a lark a few decades ago. And now they are always with us.
The building says
in gold letters
peeling salmon paint
on the way home
from my office
to the bus stop.
have I not seen it
That’s what she said after she got on the bus. It was hard to take your eyes off of her, she was rail thin, clothes tight and yet somehow worn and loose, hair matted and dirty, eyes bloodshot and hollow with that kind of hollowness I’ve sometimes seen before in my own. Hard not to stare, but of course you don’t want to be rude. This leads to surreptitious glances, by their very furtiveness drawing attention to the fact that one is looking. Which no doubt is what led her to say, to noone in particular, while staring straight ahead from her seat by the window, “Don’t judge.”
She was silent for a while after that. Then, as she stood and made her way to the door several stops later, the torrent started.
“Don’t judge. You ain’t got no right. You don’t know. You don’t know a damn thing. So keep your judgments to your own damn self.” And on and on in a similar vein, loud but not angry, as her frame lurched in a jerky off-balance way.
Just before leaving the bus, she looked at us, smiled and laughed, raised one arm above her head in a move that somehow reminded me of a prima ballerina, and said, “Have a nice day. Gosh dang!”
And then she was gone.
A Lost Weekend. No writing, but clearly do I recall Jen’s lackadaisical voice, Valkyrie build and cute round face framed in curved blond hair. That and the puzzling African safari theme revealed in the flickering firelight of Piazza Orgasmica on Clement Street, which is, after all, a Brazilian-owned chain. Most curious.
A blustery spring wind blew through the city today, whipping leaves around, rattling newspapers and sending my hair flying in golden strands that I had to keep gathering together and tucking back behind my ears.
The back side of the fountain in Yerba Buena Gardens, cool marble corridor memorial to the Civil Rights movement, where the waterfall pelts you with cool mist, will always be the first place I kissed her.
Kincaid Room, Unitarian-Universalist Church on Franklin, setting up for a meeting. Defining features: hard plastic chairs, dirty chocolate milk brown and slightly Oreo-dipped white, in a circle. Concrete walls in prison gray. A cement inset in the ceiling, featuring six perfectly square Jackson Pollock-pattern asbestos spattered tiles in the middle. Simple standing lamp in the corner as befits Unitarians. Grade school black counter-top drawers in the back of the room. Tan carpet, square patterns in frayed disrepair. The pervasive smell of old couch cushions, though none are in sight. Dusky sun leaning through the slanted blinds, casting multiple dim shadows of my pen across the paper. Outside, cars roar past as Geary & O’Farrell split in two and flow around the church. Echoing voices, footsteps and creaking doors in the hall outside. Ten minutes to go.
There’s a little two-block stretch on the ride in to work (if you take the BX, that is). A little two-block stretch along Bush Street that takes in the mysterious stairway leading to the French Consulate, the glass front of the Goethe Institute German Cultural Center, the Taiwanese-run weekly-rate Hotel Astoria where I almost stayed one of the times LiAnne tried to kick me out and the red-gold-green gaudy magnificence of the Chinatown gate on Grant. All in two blocks, within a few blocks of the all-business no-nonsense Financial District. This city inspires such love in me.
Dusk came today with a green-blue fire over the Pacific.
South Van Ness is so unlike Mission, which again is unlike Valencia. Valencia is Roxie Theatre glowing on the corner, French crepe restaurant just up the street, well-heeled vintage stores and bars that straddle hip and dive. Mission the same, except it is also Pentecostal churches in Spanish, booming music from discount goods stores and the crack dealers and prostitutes that congregate around the BART stations at 16th and 24th. And then South Van Ness, and suddenly it’s auto supply stores, warehouses and gas stations. Three parallel streets that might as well be in different cities.
Gray stone birdbath
In the green grass courtyard
Of red brick
Saint James’ Presbyterian
Full of black soil
With seed that promises
A bright spring explosion
After getting through the whole day without incident, a half block from home, on the very corner where I live, I see a guy smoking a cigar, wearing pajama bottoms with horizontal stripes, a plaid blazer with vertical stripes, and a firemen’s hat loitering in the vicinity of the SF Weekly news box. San Francisco defends to the end her right to present you with the bizarre.
Telegraph Hill was awash this morning with hummingbirds, dragonflies and butterflies upon the face of the verdant emerald deep.
The bus ride home today was a festival of dialects. Big bountiful blond girl talking on the phone about the people at work with thick Russian English. Black girls reading out loud from the newspaper about “that guy who got shot in South City, and they killed his ass”. And a Chinese office ladies threesome engaged in nonstop Cantonese-Chinglish all the way home.
The sky was opaque white, pouring rain this morning on the way to the bus. But by lunch the clouds had piled up into big white and gray masses, scuttling across the baby blue sky as they skidded over the bay out of office window. And tonight, leaving work, the sky was transparent purple, with stars standing out in bright diamond relief.
The benches in the new Union Square have been designed to encourage the homeless not to loiter in this public space. Accordingly, they are cold hard steel, with straight backs, and left and right armrests dividing the bench into four person-sized seats. It’s impossible to do anything other than sit rigidly facing forward, unable to touch the person next to you, or turn and look in their eyes when you talk. Let’s hope that the whole city doesn’t end up this way.
I heard the most refreshing thing of the month today. Loitering around North Beach with time to kill before meeting somebody at the movies, I was directed by posters advertising “Art in the Alley” to Jack Kerouac Lane, tucked between Vesuvios and City Lights. The alley was packed with dyed hair, argyle socks, paintings and bass-string jazz notes. When I had my fill, I wandered into Vesuvios, thinking I might do some writing in Jack’s old haunt over a cup of coffee. When I ordered a latte (which, in my defense, had been suggested by the sign out front), the wiry white haired guy with a goatee behind the bar said, “If you want a latte, you should go to a café. I can’t make a good latte. I’m a bartender.”