Saturday, January 24, 2009

It’s Special
I was 27 years old when Barrack Obama became president of the United States. I stood with 10,000 Berkeleyans and listened to civil rights activists talk about the historicity of what we were watching on the big screen TV in front of us. The Chinese women next to me cried when the band played the Star Spangled Banner; the locals hissed when Dick Cheney rolled down the red carpet for the last time; the middle aged woman behind me muttered “thank-you” when a rainbow-colored man yelled “Queers too!” to Rick Warren’s affirmation that God made all things. We clapped and yelled and people exchanged hugs and rang bells and we had a new president.
I still think of our time here in San Francisco as a chance to enact another in our series of youthful feuilletons of heady atmospheres: pot-smoking hippies, bushwacking backwoodsmen, tree hugging ecologists and eventually Chinese interrogators and Turkic-Muslim interlocutors. Yet, despite the long-term avoidance of serious labour which underscores our decision to move here – we are also learning or relearning how to live with each other and the world.
For instance here in Berkeley – the epicenter of American Leftists – people take civil society so seriously that they avoid jay-walking – it seems that in their eyes the laws of the community are laws they themselves created rather than laws which were imposed on them by an impersonal man in an office somewhere downtown. Also, I’ve started mopping the floor every Friday, making me more like Jennifer than ever before. Jennifer started parallel parking (if the spot is big enough) and drinking coffee every morning and running with me every Saturday (on the downhills). It seems we are increasingly joined at the hip and walking in sync.

Monday, January 19, 2009


Happy animals

“You’re like an agile goat,” Jennifer suggested, as I sprang onto a narrow wooden bridge 45 minutes into our 7 mile descent of Mount Tamalpais on our weekly Californian hike. We were walking through groves of gnarled purple trees on steep hard mud trails by cascading streams surrounded by giant ferns. We ate our bread and cheese and bright green apples halfway through the climb in sunshine that made us peel off our long-sleeved shirt/sweater and drink our water out of Jennifer’s longsuffering glass bottle.

We met more big dogs and their tall outdoorsy owners than apartment-sized dogs and their little owners and we talked about what kind of dog we would want to have if we were wanting to have a dog. I would like to have an old one with extra skin that made him look sad and content to lay around in the sun and hoarsely bark on command. Jennifer says she would want a dark little dog with dark eyes and short hair that likes to sniff things and say nothing (something like the lab puppy we saw). Jennifer says she thinks I would want a bull dog. But then she said she said that only to hear me protest.

I do that too. I told her that when we get to bridges on the path we are like two pigs at a little trough rushing to get at it. She didn’t think so. Yesterday when we rested our sore feet by sitting around in the Golden Gate Park botanical garden and then watching the sun set on a bluff overlooking the bay and the bridge she said we had a perfect weekend. I tried not to think about our lives with tired clichés involving time and the ocean, or trees and light, systems and poetics, futures and histories, and just sit there close to Jennifer and be happy.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

In the Shower

In our new apartment in Berkeley we have a glass door on the shower that is perfect for scaring people. Jennifer and I do it all the time. Not that either of us has ever been really scared by the other but it makes us laugh every time. Maybe if you come visit us we could scare you too!

Jennifer drives herself to work now – enjoying the attention she gets from old obese men whose catheters hurt and our squealing alternator belt.

I started my Chinese class this week. Chun Laoshi is a drill sergeant. She screams at us when we makes mistakes – but only because we are wrong and we are in class. She’s actually really a nice person after class – jokey with a purple-tinged buzz-cut. She’s just an overbearing grandmother who screeches and calls us bad names. Our books are all in traditional characters so I’m scrambling trying to keep up. It’s good.

We’re really happy with our lives here. Now we just need to stop spending money.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

We’re here
We’re subletting a studio apartment in a city of ageing hippies. The other day while perusing aisles of organic guacamole and bins of granola an ageing white-bearded man asked me how to get plastic bags in the bulk food section. I showed him where they kept the bags, and he said “cool, that’s cool man!” He tottered toward the checkout counter using his shopping cart as a walker – his cane hooked over the cart handle.
Berkeley is full of hybrid cars and long haired women on bikes. We live to the left of a Tibetan restaurant, over an Indonesian-Singaporean restaurant, next to a Salvadorian papusaria. We get up at 6:30 every morning and drink dark roast coffee, peel local oranges, and eat them with our granola. I’m teaching Jennifer how to drive herself to work so we take our time getting her there. By 8:15 I’m running under gnarled branches dripping in moss, past young Douglas Firs (which are only a several hundred years old and high), saying “g’ morning” to regular dog walkers and breathing in the morning fog.
Jennifer works at a nursing home. She says her patients are “low level” performers so she spends most of her times doing heavy transfers and helping her patients keep their pants on. We like California a lot.
We like to have long evenings together, watching Chinese TV, eating good food, and picking at each other’s noses.