Category Archives: my own past

My Life in HD

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The view toward Alcatraz as I can see it today. In fact this photo isn't as detailed as my present vision.

I never thought that a simple trip to Safeway could be so enjoyable! I could see every detail of every automobile, every sign, every person, stood out in vivid detail. This was my life in HD. All because of a simple lens inserted into my eye, and the removal of those pesky cataracts which had given me a blurry existence for several years. Those cataracts very likely cost me my job, and this time around I had no intention of allowing them to cost me another job. As I type this on a very white screen, I see ‘floaters’, little scraps of eye-stuff floating around inside my eye. They were there before the surgery, and there doesn’t seem to be more of them, so I am not very worried. Also my retina got checked out yesterday and it looked fine. Still, floaters make me nervous. The white screen makes them very visible. But back to the good news!!! I can see at a distance with almost perfect clarity. I can return to my walks throughout San Francisco, enjoying the scenery and the buildings, like I used to do! In fact, I can see better than at any other time in my life. My vision without glasses, as far as distant vision is concerned, is better than when I had glasses and hadn’t yet developed cataracts. I call it HD, high definition, vision, because it reminds me of the way HD television is overwhelming at first, providing the brain with too much detail.

I am primarily a visual person. I enjoy music and the sounds of nature and even the urban cacophony doesn’t bother me. But the look of things, the architecture, the beautiful women, the lovely landscape, the ocean. I relish everything I see. It was a profound disappointment not to be able to see clearly. It made me inward, more serious, and a bit depressed. Now, I am having to deal with some delicate adjustments associated with the healing process, but I am also thrilled with my new found cornucopia of visual delights. I want to check out everything! Go back out to Alcatraz, take a stroll through Pacific Heights and ogle the mansions, and just take in everyday things in a new way.

I am reminded of how delicate we are as physical beings. A simple blow to the head could cause my retina to detach, leading to almost instant blindness. My heart is dependent upon the stints in my primary artery to the heart. I depend on medications to regulate my blood pressure and cholesterol. We are fragile beings. I do try to be careful, but at the same time, you have to live your life. I can’t just hunker down and live my life in fear of mishap. Life is risk, as I coldly advised myself before this surgery. You have to deal with it, whatever cards are dealt. Someday I will face other health crises, and someday my physical journey will reach it’s end. I will cope as best I can. I am adjusting to my new situation, the inconveniences and worries that accompany the healing process, and the thrill of having my sight restored. With each thing that happens, adjustments occur, even after death. With each adjustment there is fear, uncertainty, a deep dark chasm of the unknown. We each enter this place by ourselves. We can do so courageously or kicking and screaming the whole way. Either choice is a learning process.

 

Compare this post to this past one: MY LIFE IN 2-D

looking towards alcatraz, as I see it.

I had a good morning. I paid off my rent, thanks to the help of friends, one of which I ran into as I stood in line at Wells Fargo.  She looked cute in her stylish hat. It is nice to have friends.

But enough sunshine and daisies, I had wanted to bitch on this post so here goes. I love San Francisco. I came here partly because of it’s unique beauty, and now I can’t really see it! My vision is shot to hell. I don’t care if prospective employers see this, they would figure it out soon enough. I can still do a job. I’ve learned how to compensate. I am still a wise investment. I’ve got a brain and I know how…..Ok Ok!! I’ll stop trying to sell myself. But, anyhow, as I walked down Polk St. to the bay, checking for help wanted signs, and other places where I might work, I was unable to enjoy the city I love. No more 3-D. My life is now in 2-D. Not literally of course, but that is how it feels. Out of focus, with a bit of double vision. I gaze out on the bay at fuzzy dots. Are those boats? It is more than enough to make a cheerful guy like me pretty grumpy.

My life is flat and dull. I don’t have all those sharp edges anymore. It isn’t just because of the cataracts. My brain is dull as well. I have come to accept a lot of things that used to drive me up the wall, or leave me in a deep depression. I thought I would never get used to losing my sight in my left eye. But I did. I accepted that fifty percent of life would be shrouded in darkness. I simply lived my life to the right. There is no left as far as I am concerned. (and I think the same is true of Barack Obama). Unfortunately, when I first began living my life on the right, I was still driving. I almost side swiped another car on the interstate. I was unbelievably close! The other guy’s eyes were so wide! Scared the shit out of me! That guy was living his life on the right and left. So I gave up driving. Once in a while I accidentally ran into somebody. I mean, I literally ran into them. They look at me like I am a total jerk, and it usually doesn’t do any good to explain. I was in the wrong. Even though my left is in darkness, it is still there, and I have to take it into consideration.

The uncertainty and fear I feel could be considered a part of that dark left side of my life. Rather than let it lie in darkness I need to bring it over to the right, so it doesn’t just fester, grow mold and poison me. Awful things can happen in the dark.

So even though I live in a 2-D world, it could be worse. How about 0-D? So I carry on. At some point I will likely get an operation to remove my cataracts, even though I risk total blindness. Seeing well was an important part of my life. I want it to be again. Otherwise all those beautiful sights in San Francisco are going to waste!!

My Father and I

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A little time travel was required. That's me on the right, Dad on the left.

What would he have thought

I wonder.

At my face and his face

And the inevitable passage of time?

Would he warn me

Console me

Or just be happy to see me?

Happy to see that it all worked out

I’m just fine.

It all happens too quickly my father said

Not long after this meal we shared

You take a breath, thirty years have passed

And everything moves full circle

As the child becomes the father to the man

As my Father and I

Have breakfast together again

Coming to Terms With Racism

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Why don't I have any African-American characters in my stories?

I was touched by the beauty of this photograph and put it in my collection of interesting or captivating photos in iPhoto. But mainly I put it in there because I realized I had no photos of attractive black women. Not celebrities. I had photos of Vanessa Williams, Beyonce, Rihanna, and many other beautiful black celebrities, but no non-celebrities. I have noticed a couple of African-American women who follow my blogs, and I think about how I could make my work more relevant to them. Of course they don’t expect some old white guy to speak to the black experience. But it got me to thinking. Why don’t I have any African-American characters in my stories? I have Hispanics and Asians, but no Blacks. That is because I was raised a racist. In my childhood I was taught a lot of garbage which lies in my subconscious. I am afraid that some of that prejudice might show up in my writing unwittingly. Or I might convey a stereotype, instead of creating a real human being. I was afraid I might have done that with my Asian characters, but one was based on an actual friend. Still, I suspect there was more than a bit of stereotypical behavior in my stories. Therefore I have shied away from portrayal of blacks, especially men. I have to immerse myself in black culture and understand it before creating a believable black male character. I used to despise hip-hop and rap, I mean I would actually get angry over it. Now I have about twenty hip-hop or rap albums or more on iTunes. I love it now. Some of it is funny, some of it is angry, some of it is sad. But I have learned how to relate to it, Given that I have always been very poor, I understand the perspective and because I tend to be brutally honest and down to earth, I can relate to the humor and the ‘word’. I can think of at least two black women in my past, who were attracted to me. I know this because unlike white women, these women were not very subtle in expressing their attraction. A black woman isn’t afraid to look you in the eye, or touch you. As a result of those experiences I am attracted to black women. So why haven’t I written about them? Good damn question. I feel considerable guilt over things I did when I was six years old. My parents were totally racist, and I’m sure I got my ideas from them. When I was on the bus one morning, I asked the little black girl next to me why she smelled bad. I noticed an odor that was different from anything I’d smelt before, but then I must have recalled something my father said about blacks smelling bad. Even though that probably happened in 1959 or 1960, and I was only six, I still remember the way that girl looked at me. It was awful. She hated me, and I’m sure she felt horrible. Here she was on the bus dressed in her nice pink dress, and some kid asks why she smells bad. That stayed with me. Even though I was a kid, I knew I had done something terrible. I remember I apologized, and she wouldn’t look at me, but said “that’s ok” or something. I’m not sure she responded, and my memory may have added the apology to make myself feel better, but I think I did apologize because I remember how awful I felt. That early experience has shaped my feelings towards black people ever since. I feel ashamed of myself, and think that there is no way to make amends. I have no difficulty understanding why black people hate white people. I don’t like to think about race, but it is a fact of life. It enters into every relationship between races. I think my Vietnamese friend has a charming accent, but she is very self-conscious about it and thinks I am being racist when I imitate it. I worked with a Filipino and once I got upset with him. He thought I was angry with him because he was Filipino. I clarified by saying “I don’t dislike Filipinos, I dislike you!”. Later we became friends, but there was always an undercurrent of suspected prejudice that I had to stay aware of. I have often felt that I was treated differently because I was white. Conversely, I have had many friends that I think of as individuals first and their race second. Their ethnicity isn’t a huge part of our relationship. But it bothers me that I haven’t welcomed blacks into my imaginary universe, so I will think about what sort of black character or characters I want to introduce. It is my feeling that all of us are not that far apart. We can appreciate each others’ perspective. I love to immerse myself in cultures other than my own. As a matter of fact, to be honest, white culture is my least favorite, because I grew up in it, and saw it’s ugliest side.

Pygmy Twilight and my first video editing venture

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I did this great little video project at City College of San Francisco in the fall of 2009 in Wendy Fong’s multimedia class. So it is fair use of copyrighted material, you can see Forbidden Planet, Super Friends, combat footage from Afghanistan, a speech by Obama, and Earth vs the Flying Saucers, plus Mr. Bean dancing. The music is Frank Zappa’s Pygmy Twilight. I am pretty happy with it. It makes some kind of crazy sense. I really enjoyed that class, it was my first taste of Photoshop, Illustrator, Flash animation, a little bit of HTML, and video editing. It introduced the students to the whole gamut. I haven’t looked back since. Obviously, from looking at my animation (basically a slide show) that I did for my other blogs, I forgot a few things since 2009, such as how to put music onto the animation. Actually this video above was done with Final Cut Pro video editing. It was the final for the course. Below is a very short video which was my first bit of video editing for that class, and my first video editing ever. It is kind of avant garde in that I shot video of the class itself, of the computer screen with the video editor showing a scene from Wizard of Oz. You can hear the instructor, and then it fades into the combination of Wizard of Oz and Snow White. I used my iPod to record the class. Short, but nice.

Since then I have focused on learning more about web design. But struggling with unemployment sapped a lot of my energy. Then I got involved in blogging, and got away from the web design which I need to keep working with. I find if I don’t keep working on things I lose what I have learned. I don’t remember all of the things I learned about Photoshop for instance. I need to bone up on all of that. But I am starting a job on Monday so it will be a challenge to stay engaged in learning, and keeping up my blog. I may end up leaving this job for a job as manager of a bookstore. I have an interview tomorrow for managing a small bookstore. That might be more satisfying for me, but also more demanding than the other job. So things are changing for me, thankfully in a good way. So I will do my best to stay engaged in becoming more creative all the time, in continuing to write and create interesting collages and animations, and stories. And also make my living at the same time.

A Young Man With An Older Body

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This is how I look inside

I am a young man with an older body. I am forever 21. I have never been married, and have no kids, so that allows me this luxury. Although it doesn’t always feel like a luxury. When I was younger, I never understood what older people meant when they talked about how quickly time passes. At that time in my life, it crawled. I was impatient to become…..I wasn’t sure what, and adulthood could wait. I had plenty of time. But your body can’t wait. It becomes an adult without your permission. It grows old without consulting you. As I grow older and suffer some of the physical and emotional consequences, it becomes even more important to remain young inside. I refuse to become resigned to my fate. You may as well shoot me if that ever happens. I can remember how I used to treat older people with a degree of disdain. What could that old codger know? He has probably lost most of his marbles anyway. I often forget how old I am, as when I am writing a fantasy about a relationship with a much younger woman. It is sad to write from the perspective of a 58 year old man, and even sadder when I am even older, I am sure. Because all the good stuff is in the past. It hurts to write about tender kisses that I felt thirty years ago. It reminds me that I have no one, except my cat, and I ain’t kissing him! I was still planning on what I wanted to do when I grew up, when suddenly I had not only grown up, but was past the point of being grown. I was beginning to wilt. Now I fully understand what my father said about his life lasting only for an instant. Now I am painfully aware of the passage of time, a week gone by in a second it seems, and soon it will be over. Not enough time, not nearly enough time, to live what I had wanted to live. All of the experiences I never had, and certainly never will.

A slow, mournful violin should be playing at this point. If not, you can at least imagine it. These are not an old man’s regrets, they are a young man’s regrets, who never had the opportunity to be a true adult. I never grew older inside, I stayed the young rebel, with his whole life ahead of him, and now I am paying the price. But I have no interest in dwelling on the past, like many older persons. I choose to be young in the present. I listen to the music younger people listen to, watch the films they watch, laugh at the same comics. I even talk as younger people talk. I want so much to be them. But I am not. I am much more than that. I can be them more fully than they, because I have 58 years of being young and can appreciate every nuance, every aspect of what it means to be young. They squander their youth, not realizing how precious a commodity it is. I would give anything to trade my body with theirs, and have that vitality, to be able to simply walk down a street without my body complaining. Maybe, if those who believe in reincarnation are correct, I will have the opportunity to do this thing again, and this time I will jump into life with a greater vigor, and seek out every experience in the little time I’m given. Or perhaps I would squander it yet another time. Such is the lesson learned by a young man in an older man’s body.

 

Love

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It is Valentine’s Day. Have you gotten a valentine? I have always felt like Charlie Brown when it comes to Valentines.

I often sat in the classroom, when in grade school, daydreaming about Susan McNeel. She was an adorable girl in the same grade as me. I gave her a ring for Christmas in the first grade. She was my first unrequited love, at least I think it was unrequited, I never asked her how she felt about me. I was a very solemn brown eyed, round headed boy, very much like Charlie Brown. I was so caught up in my fantasies I could easily have done what Charlie does in the cartoon below.

Not receiving a valentine can be very bruising for a little boy. I think this accounts for my cynicism regarding the holiday today. I can remember giving a beautiful red hat to a woman I was madly in love with as an adult. It didn’t fit her, and I couldn’t return it. I don’t remember what happened to it. Yet another Valentine’s Day gift tossed into the dustbin of history. I read in the paper today about a museum devoted to the artifacts of broken up relationships. That hat could have gone there. An artifact of a stillborn relationship. But I also recall a friend of mine sending a valentine to a woman he was infatuated with. I had been trying to get him to approach her and ask her out for many months. He started to send the valentine without his phone number, but I persuaded him to add that so she could call if she wanted. He was close to crapping his pants, but he did it. She called, and they even went out. I will leave the memory there, while it is still wonderful. I seem to recall valentines I received which were kept for years, until it reached a point where I could not refresh the thrill I felt when I received it. However, as I recall, in grade school little girls could be very cruel to little round headed boys. My self-esteem was pretty tattered after getting through first grade. Although I never opened myself up to ridicule to quite the same extent as Charlie Brown in this final example of childhood angst.

So there you have it. Love. How is it possible in this modern world of irony? Young people often think of Charles Schulz as conservative and out of touch, but he was ahead of his time in expressing the reality of childhood. When you have the courage to put your heart out there and express your feelings you can’t expect tenderness in return. Everyone is on their guard against such tenderness. They have been hurt far too many times in their lives. Yet Love still beckons, even for the hardest hearts and those who appear to have given up on life. We secretly yearn for that thrill of discovery. The discovery that you are truly loved, not for anything you have done, or you have, or because you look a certain way. Because you are. Nothing more. Our likes come and go throughout the day, depending upon our mood, or how our body feels at the time. Sometimes we can be pretty cruel, especially to strangers on the internet. But Love is something else. Like is a caprice. Love is forever. Love is commitment. Love is why we even bother. We like vanilla. or we like chocolate, but we Love the whole astounding magnificence of it all.

What does it mean to follow Christ?

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That was the question posed on a website LiveandLaughwithJesus, a site I would normally avoid at all costs! I could imagine Jesus and I having a few beers and an awesome pizza (no anchovies though, Jesus doesn’t care for anchovies). But I received a comment from that blogger and she invited me to check out her blog, so…anyhow I came across that question and decided to give an answer. I surprised myself. I am a Christian, but before you start jumping to conclusions about that, you should read the comment I left.

For me, being a true Christian is an enormous challenge, and that doesn’t really begin to describe it. Jesus makes it quite clear that you must devote yourself fully to being a Christian. It is the first priority, above family, above your country. However, before that devotion is given, you must establish a genuine relationship with Christ, on the most intimate level. So Christ can literally speak to you. He asks a lot of a Christian. You must give all of yourself to whoever is in need, with no hope of anything in return. You must love without conditions, all life. You must leave the judging for God, and do not presume to be God’s spokesman. The requirements are so extreme that I doubt many people are capable of being a true Christian, but the good news is that Jesus understands that. Jesus is more concerned about your making a sincere effort with all of your faulty heart to be a true Christian. That can be tricky, you don’t get to use your imperfection as an excuse. The Christian path is a Radical path. It is not about being comfortable, or smug in your self-righteousness. It is about a genuine self-sacrifice of your false self, which is the hardest thing for a Christian to do. But once you see you are sacrificing something that did not exist to begin with, it makes it better. All of this coming from a man who shudders at the very thought of Christianity! Jesus wants me to cop to the truth, that I will not deny him. I am a Christian in the way he intended. At least, I pray that I am.

The Jesus I would like on my dashboard

I am actually embarrassed that I wrote that. I don’t want to be a Christian. I despise most Christians. But I have to admit that I have a personal relationship with Christ. I have had the feeling that he was present in my life ever since childhood. However this is so far removed from the crap I see all around me concerning Jesus, that I hesitate to write these things. For me Jesus is a very personal matter. It is based upon the feeling that he is there no matter how bad it gets. That, in the final analysis, everything is alright, even when it doesn’t feel alright, or especially when it doesn’t feel alright. He is unconditional love. No judgement. That may be adolescent fantasy, or wishful thinking, or whatever, but it is my experience. I would love to be able to say with confidence that Jesus never existed, and Christianity is horse feathers, but I would be denying my own experience. I wouldn’t be true to myself. As unpopular as it is with many people, I am a Christian. I hate writing that, I really do! I don’t like it, I’m not proud of it, or bragging about it. It pisses me off, and confuses and perplexes me. I am not comfortable with Jesus. I wish I were. A lot of the time I wish he would go away, but I am often glad he’s there. Is it a figment of my imagination? Who knows? All I know is that my experience of Christ is a fact. It’s not something I enjoy writing about. I have nothing in common with the so called Christian braggarts that have monopolized the conversation regarding Christ. I am not by any stretch of the imagination a Rick Santorum supporter. But nevertheless I am a Christian. Who would have thunk it? Not me, that’s for sure.