In Which I Have Stuff, Stuff For Sale

Now and then I prattle on about all the stuff I have and that needs to go. Today I’m deliberately missing out on all kinds of social fun so I can deal with some of it. And I’m writing about it because that’s what we do.

(Social fun. Well, people are over at a hidden beach by the river and I know it’s an incredibly fun and relaxing scene because they are all beautiful people BUT I AIN’T GOT TIME FOR THAT. I’ll just keep telling myself that. I’m feeling very isolated today. Nothing special going on tonight. Argh.)

Item the First

DL1I acquired these thin film delay lines when designing a clock system test board for some computer chip or other. I didn’t know exactly what I would need and so ordered an assortment. I don’t remember if I used any of them but somehow they wound up in my personal collection. Fifteen years later I really want to make space but I really don’t want to just throw them away. None of the electronics component resellers want them. Today I wrote to some guy who advertised that he bought shit like this, or at least didn’t say he didn’t. But he didn’t want ’em either. I’ll, I dunno, keep ’em. Maybe they can be glued onto a hat.

2016-07-23 11.33.42Related crap for potential “art” are these development systems from just before the smartphone era, when we were marketing a concept called a Mobile Internet Device. It was just a little over pocket sized and was able to connect to wi-fi and do internet. At the time, it seemed pretty neat. We thought maybe folks would actually want to carry internet access around with them. Then one of the engineers came in with his brand new iPhone. Not being a gadget guy, I thought, eh, another gadget. But of course what it really meant was our business model was completely wrong. The company never did recover that lost opportunity, despite several years of hard effort (of which I was a part).

Item the Second

Edo_printMy grandmother had this print for twenty years and my dad after that, and then me. I like it but I can’t keep everything. I just put an ad up in Craigslist. But frankly I can’t be bothered with shipping something like this, so if no one local wants it, I’ll just store it away.

It’s a lithograph of an 18th Century Japanese silkscreen depicting the arrival of the Portuguese.

Item the Third

CD3Dad took BBC Music Magazine and collected a boatload of their CDs. The local CD-buying stores are not interested in them. I’ll see if anyone else is and if not, well. I dunno. They take up space and once they’re gone I’m not going to regret losing them. I love classical music, but really. There’s 236 of them.

Their value is reduced even further by the little white sticker you see in the corner. Dad catalogued all his music, every record, tape, and CD. Stuck a number on it and entered it into a spreadsheet. Some of the records that I could have sold were actually rendered valueless by this. When he first showed me his system, rather proudly, in say about 1982, I suspected it was something I would never do, but I didn’t say anything. Now I know it’s something I would never do and am annoyed that he did it. But it made him happy. If he had a bit of the OCD then many such things made him happy — after he was gone, I found a Kodak paper box full of perfectly sharpened pencils — and happy is a good state, so I’m not THAT annoyed. Just, you know. Geez.

Item the Fourth

I have an ancient Allied Chemicals box loaded with the lab glassware my father used when getting his PhD in the early 1950s. Someday I have to catalog the contents and find out online what they’re worth. A friend said they were worth a lot more during the crystal meth craze, but I missed that one.

Item the Fifth

In 1979 my father bought an Apple ][+ computer and I have it and it works and it takes up too much space. For years I thought I’d use it someday in some weird techie art project but technology has advanced so far that it would be far more work than it’s worth. Once I go through the box and catalog exactly what’s there, I’ll find some retro Apple enthusiast — hopefully.

Item the Sixth

stairsMy father was with his second wife when I was from ten to eighteen years of age. After that he was happily single for 35 years until he died. Before she died a few years ago, his second wife lived not too far from me. One day she took me to her storage unit and had me take away all her old slides and 8mm movies. I was collecting my father’s at the time too, and my uncle’s, and both my grandfathers’, and had this idea that within a few years I’d be going through them all, cataloging, digitizing, discarding, etc.

May never happen. Meanwhile hers were in my storage until  I emptied it, and then in my attic. It gets ridiculously hot in there so I took them out today. Stacked them outside my office and went shopping. Came back to find the two top boxes had tipped over and tumbled down the stairs, strewing slides and negatives and movie reels all the way down to the bottom floor. I just finished putting them all back in their boxes. I’m sure my ex-stepmother had stored them in a very neat and logical order but that’s over with.

I don’t want them anymore. I will write to her three daughters and see if any of them want them. If not, well. It’s really hard to throw shit like that away. Someone … somewhere … ?

In Which I Consider Facing an Endless Train Wreck

At Light Motifs, Paula Light said, “I sometimes protect myself from people by regarding them as characters in a novel instead of real beings.”

I understand that, and I do that too, though I’m not sure it’s for self protection. Sometimes people are just more interesting to me if I see them in the light of being characters, rather than real people and acquaintances. Yes, there is a difference. I’m not sure what it is. And as I think about it, there are very few people whom I look at that way — people I’d as soon not know at all but are just too interesting as characters to walk away from entirely. Not many. In fact, right now I can only think of one.

I met Conjury in 2010 when my wife and I were preparing for our third trip to Burning Man. Our camp was very busy that year, and many summer days and nights were spent at the shop making octahuts and my Lurveseat and improvements to the Lighthouse, and bonding with our friends as you only do while partying and working and sharing sweat and effort.

Conjury was illegally living in her trailer in the storage yard next door. One night she looked over the wall to see a bunch of people making glow-stick shooters and playatech furniture. She could see that they were Burners, because she was one too. She came round to the front and came on in. Being an old-timer herself, she immediately found work to do and had endless skills with which to do it. She helped me with some things on my Lurveseat, among other things.

I’d guess she was about fifty then — I was fifty two — and not bad looking at all. A blonde, nice figure, a face full of expression, quick-witted, and strong sure fingers. Her life, though. She said she was in the storage yard because she was working with an attorney nearby who was going to get her husband out of prison. He’d tried to rob a bank. She didn’t deny that he’d attempted bank robbery. She thought he should be let out, though, because he was a gentle soul, would never hurt anyone — and besides, he didn’t get away with it.

She didn’t come around for very long. In time the owners of the shop mentioned that she was the sort that brought way too much drama. They were more experienced than I in the variety of people that are attracted to Burning Man, and I guess she was not of the more desirable variety. Drama is not a welcome quality, and I think they talked her into staying away.

I saw her again in 2011, at the Burn. I was mayor of our camp that year. She’d been kicked out of her camp — not a terribly uncommon experience, actually — and was angling for a new position. But the shop owners were my campmates and when they saw her, they were quick to pass me, as mayor, the job of telling her no, no way, not a chance. So I did. She took it well and went away.

Couple years later we ran into each other at random in the crowd as the Circle of Regional Effigies were set on fire. She didn’t act like we were long-lost friends. She acted like she knew everybody, and that happened to include me. A stupid argument flared up with a friend of mine, because somebody had stood in somebody’s way, and my friend threatened to punch her. Somehow I sent them away into the night in opposite directions, but I never thought so well about my friend after that. There are people who know her better than me and think less well of people than I tend to do, and it may be that in their minds she deserves distrust and threats. I don’t know, I can’t judge, but ugly behavior is ugly behavior.

I haven’t seen her since then, but Facebook has allowed for the occasional glimpse into her unraveled life. She is a very creative person and can write very well on the rare occasion she wants to. Her writing is usually hard to follow, being hampered by phonescreen keyboards and somewhat disorderly thought progressions. Yet there is message in there. You just have to look between and beyond the lines to see it. Why do I, you might ask. What is it that keeps this distant and damaged person in my consciousness? Here are some thoughts.

Maybe because sometimes her writing seems directed at me, since there are times I’ve left comments as though I’m the only person who’s figured out what she’s saying, and she naturally responds to that.

Maybe because many years ago she was a young dancer in a club on Folsom St. in SF and would engage Hunter S. Thompson in long conversations.

Maybe because she’s now homeless in West Oakland and uses free wifi to post under an assumed name, and I have a soft spot for the homeless and for people who interact on Facebook under assumed names.

Out of the blue last week she sent me a PM. She was headed to Gerlach and asked if I’d like to meet for coffee. I delayed an hour or two — don’t you hate how Facebook PM shows the other person that you’ve seen their message? — and then replied cautiously with Yes. But I’ve heard nothing since. I think she thought I lived in Placerville, and maybe my mentioning that I lived in Sacramento changed something. Or maybe her homeless state, her lack of access to her children, her history of getting everything stolen, the mysteriously hard-hearted comment I saw the designer of the Man Base direct at her, they’re all clues that she’s just not reliable. Y’think?

The Man Base is the Base that the Man is perched on at Burning Man. A very talented artist and architect designs it every year. I sang at his wedding in the shade of the Man in 2014. He wouldn’t know me, but I recognized his name when he commented on one of her woe-is-me posts about the difficult life of living among homeless families in West Oakland to the effect that maybe she should consider a lifestyle change. I thought that was mean until I realized he probably knew her a lot better than I did. Seems a lot of people do, and like her less because of it.

I have a strange affinity for birds with broken wings.

Anyway, the bird hasn’t contacted me and maybe she limped on past, bumming a ride from someone who was going to Placerville and wasn’t going to stop in Sac. Suits me, but I still wonder if I should have said Yes.

Mobile; in which I blog arbitrarily  

Five minutes and I’ll be out of the tire store. Glad I got here early. Long line now. 

Then to stop by some new friends’ house to get a cell phone left at a party. It was a nice little gathering that went till late Sunday morning. We don’t do those all-nighters as much anymore but these were just lovely people.

Then home to regroup and gather some children for a trip to the State Fair, which opened this past weekend and takes place about ten minutes from my house. Me and another dad are going to buy the kids wrist bands and go shopping for wine. I’m told they will open the bottle for you and give you plastic wine glasses. This gentleman is a Burner (gawd, who do I know isn’t?) and among the country’s premier magicians. It’ll be a good day. 

The party people included a klown DJ who’s also a software engineering consultant  for Google, an amazing Leo alpha mama in long dreads and lovely tattoos, a digital artist whose father knew the Shah, a stone fox who came from Brazil five months ago and was most comfortable wearing almost nothing, a —

Time. Car is ready. On to the next thing! 

Tuesday

One should be prompted to create a title after writing, not before. So I suddenly remembered that old Moody Blues song, you know, the one on the record with the London Symphony, which, because I was nine, I thought was pretty cool.

This blog has about one and a half readers and they’ve been wondering if I went to Juplaya. I did not. I’ve been there before. It’s in a vast extinct lake bed that works well for Burning Man but outside of that timeframe is more of a pain in the ass camping-wise than up with which I am willing to put. Instead I did some writing and bought some solar panels and removed some shrubbery from a garden bed I’m going to cover with a deck. This was a great improvement over driving deep into Nevada. I am evidently becoming less adventurous.

Did you know that writing is a lot of hard work? Betcha didn’t. At the three-hour shut-up-and-write meetup on Saturday I diligently edited a chapter and expanded on a couple character sketches. But I did not enter a creative space from which to spin more of my story’s universe. That’s hard to do. Requires a lot more peace and quiet and solitude than I– *SMACK*

NO EXCUSES!

I helped my mom buy her first flatscreen TV, a little thing for her sewing room on which she can watch Endeavor or Giants games. We had dinner too. She likes my company more and more. I don’t think this is only because everyone else she knows has died.

Then I was called down to a street party in Midtown. This is what we call the part of the city built on a mid-19th Century grid, letters B to Y one way, numbers 2 to 30 the other. There used to be a Z, but it was renamed Broadway. There used to be an X, but it was torn out in favor of Interstate 80. There used to be a 31st but it was renamed Alhambra — the numbers continue upwards from there but that part of town (East Sac) isn’t quite as interesting. And I imagine there used to be a 1st Street, but the river meanders down that way and where it would be is instead called Front, while 2nd only exists as little bits and pieces that didn’t get swallowed by I-5.

This travelogue was brought to you by the letter A, which doesn’t have a street because they put the Transcontinental Railroad on top of it. There’s only a few blocks of B, same reason.

In the street and the park next to it (on 21st between the railroad and C, now that you’re wondering), under the nighttime shadow of the railroad berm, I found three or four dozen twenty- and thirty-somethings and their young children playing soccer in the twilight, hooping, spinning fire, drinking, and listening to DJ sets emanating from the organizer’s driveway. He had all his neighbors on board and despite all the noise, blocked traffic, and public drinking, nary a cop was called. It was a warm gathering of mostly strangers to me, but there were a few artist types whom I knew, and the poi spinning and fire roping and all that were fun, and the music was not completely awful. I’m a big fan of atmosphere, and just the fact that the neighborhood houses looked to have been built in the 1880s with some fill-in during the 1910s, and that the trees, as in most of Midtown, were fully grown and arched over the streets to meet in the middle above, this made me happy. So did a drink or two (no more — I don’t drink much, I just enjoy what little I do). So did a nice dog to pet.

Yesterday, the Fourth, I knocked about a bit and wound up at Sutter’s Landing with a different set of twenty- and thirty-somethings, most of whom I knew. This park by the river was named for the first European round these parts, who established a settlement in the 1830s. In all my decades living in this area I’d never been there. There was insufficient parking and no cultured pathways to the riverbank, so I just crashed through the sycamores to find people lounging about under their easy-ups, drinking and smoking and dousing their children. It too was very sweet.

When I was young, social gatherings were awkward for me, but while I have changed, so have the times. Back then, people seemed more hostile and competitive, especially the males, and I never found a place to fit in. Nowadays they’re all so loving, very quick to get intimate (I don’t mean sexually, but there’s no reason to exclude that), fully accepting, and generally, from my perspective, a happy crew. One of these days I’ll figure out what I have to say about that, why it’s happened, where it hasn’t, etc.

I do not regret not going to the desert. This statement may be axiomatic.