My first post

Saturday, 03-02-13, I woke up different.

I felt serenely awake. I opened my eyes a few minutes before the alarm went off, my preferred way of waking up since it is a gradual surfacing from, well, sleep. No, no artsy passages, metaphors to describe it. Not yet, anyway. I love to write, because as Stephen King said in his stellar love letter to his craft, On Writing, it is all about the words. I love the words, language, how they are crucial to weaving a good story. One of my professors at SFSU, Luiz Barbosa, once explained that all forms of communication, even scientific formulas, are stories. I never forgot, often repeating his words to my own students who were trying to improve their writing.

I went through my prayer ritual. I greeted the day, saying a heart felt “Thank you.” Three times. Hey, it is my ritual, makes sense to me, so. Then came my Padre Nuestro, Ave Maria, and Maryanne Williamson’s “Our Deepest Fear.” I then meditated. I usually sit at the foot of the bed, both feet flat on the floor, my hands resting on my laps, palms up, my thumbs and pointing fingers enclosed, a circle. I set my smartphone’s timer for 10 to 20 minutes, never the same time. I try not to see how long I choose. What did we do before smartphones? I went inside myself, then inside ourselves. Felt the commonality, our greater presence. Then, ever so lightly but progressively louder, with two lesser known actresses singing in the background, Cary Grant brought me back: “Insanity runs in my family. It practically gallops.” It is one of his many great lines from the darkly funny, classic screwball comedy Arsenic and Old Lace. I have several quotes from this and other films, coincidentally quite a few by Cary Grant, in my phone as ringtones/notifications, switching them up every so often.

On to my next ritual, I went through my Tumblr feed and Facebook, my therapy. Sometimes it takes me up to 30 minutes, but I do not care. Took my time. I get such a rush seeing what others are up to. Sharing thoughts and jokes and art and life. Life. To thrive, I learned a while ago and keep relearning, I need to keep reaching out to others, to connect. I need others’ thoughts and jokes and art and life.


Going to Target was next. I wanted to buy a new shower curtain and two new pillows. I picked up the Zipcar I rented for an hour and drove over. I connected my smartphone to the car’s radio, choosing to listen to my music stored in the Google cloud. I hit shuffle, like I usually do, so I had no idea what I would listen to. No idea is right. The first song was Tony Perkins’ rendition of “Why was I Born.” You know him as Anthony Perkins. He is, sadly, unanimously remembered as the crazy killer in Psycho. The song, the lone piano and his quavering, painful questioning, touched me. I was not saddened. I was touched by the beauty of his public self-questioning, the kind so many of us hide and many of us rarely do. I was touched by the irony that his public self-questioning was probably not heard or understood in the way I heard it and understood it because when he was a young performer, when he was originally crooning the questioning, his sexual orientation was hidden. “Why do I want a thing I daren’t hope for?” I was touched because while his angst was palpable, perhaps as he was singing he might not have been able to face the source of his angst, he may not have heard or understood his “hope.” I listened and from the rearview mirror I saw his homosexuality, never allowed a natural expression, never allowed to surface freely. His song was making me so grateful for my ability to simply be me, although it also made me aware that at times there are repercussions  still, for my exercising that luxury. Then the more universal thought hit: Do any of us have total freedom? I embraced that question as the Zipcar embraced the 113 overpass, curving onto I-80 east. I felt so grateful for what I have.

While on that 90 degree curving trajectory east, the next song made my shoulders shake and my hips sway a little. It was La Orquesta de la Luz, the Japanese salsa band the late, great Tito Puente put together. The song, “Flores y tambores,” is a love song to the Orishas, offering gratitude and love.
On that curve, I soared.
I cried while playing the steering wheel, while shaking my butt in the seat.
I soared, driving east on I-80.

Next song.
It was a 90s techno-dance favorite, “Headhunter,” by Front 242. Inside I was dancing freely, letting the music take over my body, just the way I used to on the dance floor. I kept soaring while I drove, like I did when I danced to “Headhunter.” Soaring differently, though soaring the same.

Then Target. That was just Target, just getting a few things.

I drove back home in silence. Figured in the silence I would soar, fueled by the present moment, by the drive. I often drive, when I do drive, which is rarely, in silence. Soaring.

After dropping off what I bought and returning the car to its parking space, I went to Mishka’s Café, a local groovy spot frequented by my kinda folks: geeky grad students and other academics. I sat outside, proofreading my dissertation’s chapter, drinking coffee, which I rarely do anymore. I was making time, about 45 minutes, before going to see Amour next door, at the Varsity. Just sitting, reading, making notes, sipping coffee. Kinda feeling like I fit in. Not self-conscious. Calmly soaring, really.

Then I looked up. Across the sidewalk from me I saw this young man, and yes, I am old enough to call him a kid, but I do not want to be condescending, although at my age, just about everyone is a kid. I was immediately fascinated by his clothing and his demeanor. He was casually immersed in his own reading and note taking, very natural, very Ivy League looking, but geek chic Ivy League, wearing a very personal, almost clashing interpretation of preppy. I wanted to take his picture. I had my camera, so I got up, walked over, and asked if it was okay.

Let me repeat that, so you can let it marinate.
I wanted to take his picture. I had my camera, so I got up, walked over, and asked if it was okay.

I talked to a stranger.

I walked up to a stranger and asked to take his picture.

WTF does not begin to cover how earth shatteringly difficult approaching strangers is for me. But this Saturday was different. I inhaled Tony Perkins’s wistfully crooned, unnamed pain, his love for an ethereal, unthreatening, epicene “you.” While a Japanese woman used her voice to encourage me in Spanish, I shook up my soul as a brief salutation to the Orishas. I then just danced in my soul to some heavy, synthetic percussion. I was having a day of selfness, of wholeness and allness. (Not a word, I know, but it should be. Well, now it is. Allness.) Then this. WTF Let me spell it out. What the fuck. It was really, “Who the fuck?” As in, “Who the fuck am I?”

This is a question I often ask myself, usually in moments of total surprise, of total lack of self-recognition, like that one.

I told him I liked his geeky look and wanted a picture. He laughed, said yes. Then he said he would sit, pretending I was not taking his picture. I said I just might not. Laughed. Thanked him. Sat down. Took three pictures. I published the best one on Tumblr with a brief narrative about the incident. Got several likes. (You gotta love them Tumblrs.)

But I asked a stranger if I could take his picture. And yes, I have done it a couple of times before, but this time I did not even think about it. I just. Who the fuck?

At 2:55 p.m. I went to the Varsity and waited for the film. It was exhilarating. It was sad. It was funny. It was life. Technically very straight forward. No background soundtrack. Serenely elegant cinematography. It was life. It was death. It was love. I floated out of the theater, though I must admit, the rest of the theatergoers were in a different mood. It was reminiscent of the audience’s reaction to The Hours. They room was dense with oppressive sorrow.
The story ended.
The titles ended.
The lights came on.
No one moved.
No one talked.

I guess everyone else was momentarily depressed? Stunned? Freaked? I was just gathering myself emotionally, since I was still trying to make sense of the unexpected roller coaster ride. By the way, I would happily get on the same roller coaster ride again, Amour was that good. However, the rest of the audience did not walk out with the same bounce in their step. I sensed no joy. I heard no one talking. Not certain anyone was breathing.

I was serenely happy. Soaring.

I went home and must admit I settled into my routine, but I was not disturbed. I let it happen. I watched TV and wasted time, I guess. I felt different and the same. I was living another day that was not another day. I guess I was balancing. I guess I was living.

Saturday, 03-02-13, blended into Sunday, 03-03-13, my mother’s 86th birthday. I called her later in the day, after I woke up from a sleep that started around 6:30 a.m. on Sunday. Night owl, that is me.

Sunday, 03-03-13, I woke up different.

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