Don’t Call It Frisco

I finally sat down to begin a long-overdue reading of my friend’s first novel, SoMa (I’m on a virtual tear with this reading thing). I’m only about 80 pages in so far, but so far it’s a wonderful read. Finally someone managed to create a “believable bisexual”. Yeah, I suppose I do have a bit of a prejudice about Kinsey 3-to-4s, but there it is. He’s convinced me more than any other person—real or fictional—has managed. I buh-leeeeve! I buh-leeeeve!

Another prejudice I have is in favor of San Francisco, which I suppose many consider to be equivalent to prejudiced-against not-San Francisco. Contrapositives only work in grossly, uninterestingly simplistic versions of reality…those who depend on the Either-or Fallacy or whose mental meanderings and purposive trains of thought inexorably lead to a single Ultimate Statement: God did it.

I was reading along at my pokey pace, feeling a vague discomfort with the transient, itinerant and intransigent characters’ lives. In other words, I’m fully in-story with the writing. I like that a lot.

It is for the most part set in SoMa—South of Market—here in San Francisco. Somewhere in the pages I’ve read so far is a perfectly situated instance of someone referring to our San Francisco as “Frisco”.<br/> <br/>-shudder-<br/> <br/> Even typing that makes my skin crawl. I know why, intellectually, but I also don’t really understand why on any other level why that word produces such a nasty assault on me. I even shudder when someone mentions they’re from a town actually called that!

I acquired a nominal respect for San Francisco before I learned that “Frisco” was bad, even before I discovered that it’s standard protocol for San Franciscans to reject most any abbreviated form of the name. How? I read in the paper years and years ago (at least a dozen) an article whose title was the inspiration for the title of this entry: Don’t Call it ‘Frisco’. It was story about how the police knew something was fishy about the couple of men they pulled over for speeding. When the police enquired where they were headed, the driver responded something like “home, to Frisco”. It was enough of a gaff that the policeman looked up their identities to discover that they had escaped from prison and were on the run. I read it and the very word hit me like a slap across the face.

It’s one of those things that makes a San Franciscan feel more like an ethereally-knit community: arriving at the same reactions to the same things independent of others. We have more in common here than a love of San Francisco and a vigilant dread of the next earthquake. We have this “thing” about us. Whether that is a quality imbued on us naturally or whether we acquired it here is not for me to say. Post hoc, ergo propter hoc, indeed.

Such is the feeling of inhabiting-while-reading this book. It’s here. It’s home. There are alien experiences, characters the likes of whom I have never met, but the characters in San Francisco are very…um….San Francisco! And the girls from Concord are so…..not.

Again with the wishing I were reading faster because I’m impatient to see what happens next.

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Harry Potter and the Torpid Reader

There are certain things about which I have OCD. Even before I owned a car, I was computing fuel economy. I still do that, these—yikes!—30+ years. My Audi A4 gets about 24 mpg. My 2-stroke 1979 Vespa P200E gets about 40 mpg. I can type up to about 110 words per minute on a full-sized QWERTY keyboard, up to about 30 words per minute single-finger-tapping on my iPhone.

My reading speed was always a constant…fluffy, easy prose about 100 pages an hour. Technical stuff, much much more slowly.

The brain stuff has beaten that down. I just finished the final Harry Potter (Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows, just in case you hadn’t heard) and I don’t know if I should be happy that I got 18 hours of entertainment out of a $40 purchase, or if I should be upset that I averaged 40 pages per hour of easy prose. I’m tending to put more weight in the latter.

I knew from a very early age that I’d never ever read all the books I wanted to read in a lifetime. As time-remaining crests that hill of less ahead of me than behind me, I wish I could just read faster and faster.

Moreso, though, I wish I could stop wishing. Apologies to The Tubes.

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A Note from Your Holy Faux-ther

My Children:

It is with a heavy heart that I confess the Evangelical Irony in taking an evil page from the evils homosexuals (I ask God’s Forgiveness for the redundancy) and bring the Holy See out of the closet and into our Churches—our True Churches.

I feel that in our world of questionable morals and unquestionable depravity that the Church reasserts Its Rightness and, frankly, Its Exclusivity on the Word of God. This is something we have taught since Time Immemorial (i.e., circa 0 BC/AD ± 4-6 years), but Now is the time to remind the defective, non-True-Believer so-called Christians that we Catholics are the only followers of Christ who are on His Actual Path.

I should also confess, since it’s too late to do anything about it now, somethig that we did a long long time ago in the beginnings of the Holy Church when we got our first 15 minutes of fame and the Jews—Hebrews back then—had been relegated to a small dusty population who unfairly squatted on Our Holy Land (yeah, we spun that one, too). We took Holy Action and sent in that era’s version of James-Bond-but-much-crueler-and-far-more-homophobic-than-even-I-am, Saint Paul, to do our Holy Work: We erased the Eleventh Commandment.

PopebenedictHow did we manage such a thing, you ask? Well, don’t ask—I’ll get to why you shouldn’t ask. Well, ok, I’ll tell you (I can never say no to my precocious children!). That blessedly lost commandment? Thou shalt not question. The fact that all religions with power got that power by using the Eleventh Commandment before and after us is beside the point: we invented it.

But you’re saying “Pope? Why did you hide the one thing that made you so successful?” Well, here’s the thing: it’s not that we don’t want people to question the One True God, it’s that we don’t want them to question us. Not that there’s a difference, of course, because I have God’s Holy Ear. We’re practically the Same Thing.

But suffice it to say, we did what was necessary according to the One True God’s plan for the Church, his Bride. Eliminating that entry on Moses’ tablets ushered in an era of enforced Holy Tranquility that endured for a millenium and a half until we got our Holy Asses handed to us on a Communion plate: Martin Luther, that bastard, led a rebellion. Clearly, he was going against Us, which meant going against Him. Just as clearly, therefore, it follows that everyone who followed Luther away from Us followed their happy asses away from Him.

All those bastard non-True sects cropped up like infections in the open wound where Luther cut us. This isn’t open for debate, as I am Infallible. Oh, admittedly not in all things (and boy, doesn’t that stick in my craw), but in all things ex cathedra (which is a fancy way of saying “in matters of religion”), and damned if this isn’t all about religious matters.

Ex cathedra is Latin, by the way, which is God’s One True Language. Any you better bet your Holy Buttocks we’ll get getting back there, too. Trust us. It’s better when you don’t know what we’re saying.

Yours in Christ,

Pope Beneful VI

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Nerd Alert!

So the remote control to the crappy Comcast DVR has two distinct sections to it, and from the side it evokes the profile of the U.S.S. Enterprise from Star Trek. Minus the warp nacelles, of course.

Yes, I know such terminology, and even more. I admit it. I will go even further and say that I “flew” the remote around, mimicking the various shots from the shows and movies. FTP and I talked about this a couple of days ago, and so I’m here to tell you that he’s as nerdy about it as I am.

It’s an overriding kind of thing, my nerdiness about Star Trek (and the classic Enterprises, especially), because I never got into building models of cars or planes or jets or boats, but I have had no fewer than 4 or 5 model kits to build one Enterprise or another. Three of those are still in boxes in my closet because I never got around to actually building them. But I have them, and that’s plenty good enough.

See what I did there? Marrying a love of Star Trek with being naturally subject to static inertia?

But the online Star Trek Store arrives to put the two together in a better way: pre-assembled Enterprise models!


They have the “Khan” version, as seen above, and the original-original Enterprise, arriving soon:


Oh, sweet baby Jesus.

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Does This Blog Make Me Look Pervy?

The World Wide Web, like Christians making a point or FOXNews talking heads fashioning a rebuttal, has no semantic qualities, no context-specific meaning.

For those searching the web, it can range from frustrating to hilarious. Frustrating in that “Eats [,] Shoots [,] and Leaves” kind of way. Hilarious because, no matter what, the human mind needs to forge meaning out of any randomness. It’s the cognitive version of my matrilineal side’s compulsive cleaning genes (which I lack).

The watchdog sites that I use to gather metrics from this blog (for no other reason that Linda Kauffman’s “all data is good; good data is better” philosophy) can show you data from all sorts of angles. An interesting one shows which search words “guided” a user to my humble site.

Hilarity ensues:

  • “miss daisy” riding porn
  • chris pontius dick
  • riding a bicycle hurts anal leakage
  • coo coo for cocoa cocks
  • overweight medical dummy
  • omnivores secret handshake
  • good moral story about biscuit in the airport
  • j.k. rowling breasts
  • dubya sidious
  • 3d wolf fog moon
  • prevention of jowels
  • mei bdsm
  • all men are created equal except jon stewart
  • “redwood city” blowjob
  • masturbating the war god
  • anodizing aluminum jiminy
  • “root hog or die” meaning

Another metric is the summary. Sort of opposite in meaning would be those search phrases which are used both multiple times and also reliably lead a googler or yahooer or asker. It’s one thing to take wild stabs at esoteric porn sites, but quite another when so many people go looking for the same—sometimes very weird-ass—things:

Click on this shorter list to see more:


I love the intarwebs.

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Gloria! Gloria!

So Dee lent me the first three seasons of Alias on DVD because, well, it has Bradley Cooper in it.

I’m like that. Don’t you judge me. You don’t know. The geek in me can justify the gawker in me by speaking to the entertainment junkie in me. What does a comedy about chefs and a thriller about double agents have in common? Yes, Bradley Cooper. So the horndog tendency of loving to look at pretty faces gives me a way to watch things I otherwise wouldn’t. I’ve been doing this on netflix for some time, and have discovered plenty of amazing things.

Doctor Who comes to mind, by way of The Producers and various broadway DVDs all because of John Barrowman.

So I’m watching Alias and I gotta tell you, it’s schlocky as hell and full of plot holes and my ability to suspend my disbelief strains at the sloppy dialog and overuse of deus ex machina, but there was a scene in season one (I can’t tell you which episode), where the finest trinity EVAR appeared in a single frame: Victor Garber, Michael Vartin, and yes, Bradley Cooper.

Oh My God Becky.

Bradleyco Eric 14576778 400Victorgarb Kambo 7000131 400Michaelvar Ausse 2321044 400

* bonus points for whoever can tie together the title of this entry with the content.

The Date

Almost twenty-four hours ago iCal, the Mac’s built-in calendaring application, popped up a dialog and sounded a morosely quiet beep. I had instructed it to do this days ago, because I was afraid that I would forget. Schizophrenically and simultaneously I was also dreading that I would remember. I came down on the side of inevitability: The Date was going to happen one way or t’other, so I should note its passing.

I hope I am not overstating this. After fourteen years, this being the thirteenth revisit of the day, the grief is not sharp nor without mercy. My remembrance of Allen—yet again—is something I long ago made peace with as a recurring, anchoring, stabilizing thread that stitches itself into the rest of my days. In other words, it just is and so I occasionally trot it out here to obtain deeper understanding, better perspective and, like all remembrances, a chance to inhabit in the present a thing from an increasingly distant past.

It is now 12:15am, technically Friday, July 13, 2007. On Thursday, July 13, 1995, at 12:30am, Allen died.

That timestamp is a bit of a conceit, manufactured by me for official records because after more than two days of him being unresponsive and after much more than two days of my having any meaningful interval of sleep, he died when I wasn’t paying attention. In a strange sense, it’s something he would have done for me, to spare me, had he been there consciously. Is that a comfort now? There’s no real need for comforts, but time offers up an answer anyway: of course it is…was…whenever.

Perhaps it’s what gave me some sort of continuity that was orthogonal to any live-a-day life as he stepped out of Time but remained a constant to my memory.

An odd thing to say, really, because when I close my eyes I don’t see his face, I see the many versions of his face: full, healthy, soft, sharp, angular, gaunt, ghostly, skeletal and then immobile. But the Who He Was that made that little lucky return while I was sleeping may very well be the singular notion that handed me the ability to hold him as both an anchor of When and a pleasing background hum that is the sound of me impelling me past him. Past us.

It is now 12:25am, and time is everywhere and only here, refusing to move at the right speed—moving too quickly or too ploddingly—but demanding I note it at every small step. This is not unlike how it was that night. By that time, my world and notion of ‘someday’ were so small and impossible, respectively, that clock served as calendar and calendar was an absurd contrivance.

This is how Now is playing for me. The clocks are different and there are strangely many more than there were then. The room where he died is a room that has changed purpose and appearance several times since then, my own microcosmic Number Three Beekman Place.

It is now 12:30am, and right now I would have been asleep for some time up to 25 minutes: 12:05 was on the clock face when I dozed off, having spilled yet another morphine bolus into a body that was increasingly cold at the periphery. Death spreads inward.

So cold at the hands, feet, knees, elbows, in fact, that I regularly touched the neck, the flank—not to be sure if he still lived, because the labored sound of breath passing vocal cords that no longer held muscle tone was a macabre sort of clock in its own right. No, I just needed to—

I don’t know how to finish that.

It is now 12:30am, the time on his death certificate: we “split the difference” of the time I fell asleep and the time, 12:55am, that I woke up to an unwelcome new world. Odd that I am so acutely aware of this, because a week ago in a therapy session with Ronald I sheepishly admitted that I had some kind of memory block as to whether the actual Date was the 13th or the 15th. I had to find his death certificate for my own certitude.

It is still 12:30am. I would have been asleep for almost 25 minutes, and I would remain asleep for another 25.

I awoke without a start. Silence.

I was the only one breathing. I was the only one in the room, something that happened to be true for more than forty-eight hours by then, but nonetheless it was somehow more true. Biologically true. Medically concluded.

My autopilot continued. I woke his sister Patty. I called the coroner’s office. When they arrived, I ushered the crew to the bed and insisted—according to my sage mother’s strong advice (“he’s not there anymore and they have a brutal job to do and you don’t need to see that”)—that I would not remain in the room while they did what they had to do. The crew chief nodded with a solemnity that was unexpected, given that this was routine work for him. He said they’d take him out of the back the house—the logical choice, but he said it out loud anyway. He said they’d take care of everything. He said he’d close the glass door with enough force that I’d know when they were gone.

Patty sat next to me, saying nothing. I answered the deputy-coroner’s questions, then supplying 12:30am as the time of death.

I heard the glass door slide shut.

I pulled all the schedule-3 narcotics from the shelf and watched her catalog and then empty each bottle down the kitchen drain.

To my direct observation, the absence of these medicines was the first objective change to the house. Tincture of opium was one of them, I remember, and remember finding it odd to think of some velvet- and damask-heavy era where tinctures and elixirs and powders were the standard conveyances of medicine. Why was I not in the present, in full?

I also knew in that moment that my lack of focus would haunt me in the coming days and weeks and…

I didn’t know how to finish that thought.

When the coroner left, I asked Patty if she was ok. She nodded yes, with a look on her face as if she were afraid that making a sound would precipitate some awful avalanche; though I didn’t know her very well, I knew she was trying to spare me. As I look back at it, it seemed to be a Howland family trait.

I spoke first, telling her that I needed to call the airlines. I told her I needed a haircut. I told her I never got around to getting the black trousers—bought specifically for this very time—hemmed and what would Vivian think? She smiled a little bit when I mentioned her mother and that was all the answer I needed. She still hadn’t made a sound.

That marked the second objective change to the house: up until Patty spoke, the house was silent save the sound of my own voice. And I knew that I’d have to adjust to that.

But then she did speak, saying she needed to call their mother to “let her know”. It was my turn to say nothing and the house was completely silent. She moved first, went into the guest room to call Holyoke, Colorado. I went into the back room and found pillows still arranged to prop his gangly limbs into comfortable configurations. Only now the pillows were a kind of morbid chalk outline sketching his shape and giving words to his fate: in this spot, Allen Howland died.

I was uncomfortable suddenly with sameness, silence and stillness: I grabbed all the pillows and threw them into a heap in a corner of the room. I stripped the bed and added those sheets to the pile. I couldn’t look at the pile, so I sat on “my” side of that big big bed facing away. And stopped. I breathed, labored, a weak echo of his last two days.

Again I needed change. I walked to the front of the house; Patty was still on the phone speaking quietly when she spoke at all. I remember her saying “I’m alright” and then “he’s alright, I think.”

I called the airline I’d already made tentative plans with and got us tickets back to Colorado with a “bereavement” discount. Patty and I drove a Mazda 929 rental car from Denver to Holyoke.

At the very Methodist, very compartmentalized, very linear wake/viewing and funeral services, I was Family, second only to its matriarch, Vivian. Allen’s sister and brother sat to my left, followed me. I remember the images of hands clasped in prayer, drawings on several places on the casket and in the linens. I would, days later and back in San Francisco, note: “Hands clasped together in prayer are more easily shackled.”

I’d wanted a funereal transition from material to ethereal, from body to soul to spirit to sky to space, but the Methodist service took it from body to corpse to box to ground to rot. But Family won out the day and I was comforted.

I went back to Colorado once a few months after that. Why? Because I genuinely liked Vivian. She reminded me of all the strong women in my own family tree. She was no-nonsense, including how she treated me: I was family. One takes care of family, but one is not effusive to family. Period. All else as trivia.

Without Allen, though, to situate and maintain the relatively young chute on the family tree, we fell out of touch. I found out a couple of months ago, starting with google maps, then google, then an obituary of Vivian’s brother from three years ago that Vivian had “preceded him in death”.

I didn’t know how to parse that phrase. Was that English, even? I could find no reasonable scansion. No one would be surprised—no one was surprised—that I mourned, loudly and damply for quite some time. But then I found a sort of closure because the “natural order” of things calls for parents to die first. During that last visit to Holyoke, that was the caption that described the empty space where Allen used to be. Vivian said it a few times, but not desperately. She’d lost a daughter, Connie, back in 1974 and that only added to her sullen acceptance that she herself remained behind. (Allen never did find peace with the idea that he would be, by his death, causing his mother so much more pain “ for losing another one”, he’d say.)

But I suppose she could see it on my face, too. The only family experience I have with a parent dying first was when my great-grandmother was “preceded in death” by her first daughter Mary, my grandmother, and that was in 1970 and I was 6.

Vivian’s death, with me unawares, was as sad as losing any relative who wasn’t directly ancestral. You feel in the blood a little less for it and you know the family is that much diminished, but whatever stabbing heartache there might be does pass into philosophical musings soon enough. In a way, now that she’s gone, and now that I’ve mourned for it and for myself, the world is a little more naturally aligned, with Mother, Father, Son and Daughter all gone. But I do feel for Patty and for her remaining brother Dennis because they are still family, no matter how little I know them, no matter how long ago it was.

I am as much older than Allen now as he was older than I when we were Mr. & Mr. Howland-Barbose.

I feel adrift, unstuck, afloat, but the river has a path, does not descend into any enduring chaos. We will all get to where we will, when we will.

And knowing this as time goes on, I am carried further and further away from where Allen left us all and, well—

I don’t know how to finish that thought.

Over and over and over again
The world only spins one way
The past is a distant flicker by now
And a lesson for another day

Now, my sad little boat floats on out to sea
And you’re almost out of sight
I’ll remember you
Please don’t forget me
I whisper with all my might…

Closer and Closer Apart by Mary Chapin Carpenter

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