Monday, June 22, 2015

On This Longest Day

Inside a CT scanner is like being in a space capsule. Col. Chris Hadfield, I thought of you as I held a perfect rigor mortis formation, toes pointed skyward, as if in prayer. The capsule spins within its own orbit, humming to the universe, a song of the electro-magnetic spectrum. I chanted X-ray, gamma-ray, all the way to man-in-the-moon marigold in the color spectrum, the color of enlightenment, noting the red laser beam cross etched across my chest. I'm dissected, scanned and disassembled within minutes, then put back together into wafer-thin slices. Hosanna in the highest. The secret inside passages of my body, from hip to toe is made visible by invisible light. And tangible on the CD the imagist hands me on this first day of summer.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Scanning Photos on the Solstice & Father's Day

For the Solstice and for Father's Day I scanned and posted some photos on Facebook of my father. Some were photos that I had never seen before, as I had packed away his photo album soon after the funeral and never looked at it again (my mother died soon after, in 1994). I never really knew my absentee father so Father's Day is not something I've ever celebrated. Ever.

Photos forgotten until I decided to scan all my family photos. A momentous project I never meant to take on, but when my uncle began throwing out old photos when we cleaned out my grandmother's house, something needed to be done to preserve the past. So I collected and sorted and saved boxes of photos.

Back in March, during the Equinox, I began scanning my grandmother's photos, then I scanned my aunt's photos, then my mother's photos, and finally my father's photos on the Solstice.

I was surprised by the composite five-generational story that emerged from filing the separate photo albums of family members. The first album begins in the 1890s, with my great-grandparents; and the richest albums by far, are the old black & white photos up to the 1960s. My personal favorites are the photos from the 1940s and '50s. That's where I enter the picture, so to speak.

We are together again in family photos like we haven't been in decades, as the lynchpins (my grandmother and her siblings) have long since died, the massive family parties have all but fell away, save the odd funeral and fewer weddings.

But the next generation that followed mine doesn't have the perspective, nor the inclination, or the links to connect. The matriarch are all gone, and now there are few souls left from my parents' generation. The remaining aunts have cancer again. So I am racing the clock.

The photos that span California and Ireland, have been a link back in time, illuminating the past. Like the sun striking the lintel at Newgrange. A moment of divine illumination. Solstice. Longest day, shortest night. Memory.

I've been posting photo scans up in a Family Photos album in Dropbox, and I've made links to our Facebook Family name group pages where I occasionally highlight an event. Photos bring the family back together. Gathering us in, as we dissipate to the four winds. Second cousins forming new friendships from Manchester to Bantry to San Francisco and beyond. Will it hold? All that light and shadow, emulsion and silver on film resurrecting the past. And time present.

Joe at The Grove Dance Pavillion, Guerneville, 1945.

Hot August nights. My dad, Joe, at The Grove, in Guerneville 1945. He's only 18. I would love to know the backstory. Did they rent cabins along the river and party? Who were his cronies? Who had the car? I guess everybody looked the other way when it came to underage drinking It was the era of big bands and cocktails. In those days, everyone fled the city to spend summer nights on the Russian River, watch the stars and the firefalls on Fire Mountain.

Legendary bands played along the Russian River. Every town along the Russian River had its dance hall or pavillon. Big bands included Ozzie Nelson, Phil Harris, Harry James, Woody Herman, Benny Goodman, Les Brown, Horace Heidt, Harry Owens and His Royal Hawaiians, Phil Harris and Glenn Miller.

The Grove, the largest dance pavillion in the Redwood Empire, featuring a 14-piece orchestra nightly, and two cocktail lounges. Armstrong Woods, Guerneville, Ca. Post WWII era: big band, dancing, drinking. Mirabel Park and Rio Nido had a dance pavilion too. During "the ‘20s and ‘30s, that nearly every village and town along the River had a dance band all summer long. They were college bands from around the Bay Area. Reg Cole and his group were a fixture at Guernewood Village Bowl, and Larry Rapose with his band at The Grove in Guerneville.Rio Nido bands held sway at The Dance Hall. It was an open-air pavilion that spanned Fry’s Creek. Returning seasonal bands were Pete Horner, a professional musician in the late 1920s, next was Chuck Dutton for ’30 and ’31, followed by Lee Searight through the mid ‘30s. In 1938 the hall was roofed over by local contractor Jack Shatto. Interspersed with the summer-long bands were the one-night stands of The Big Bands of the 1930s, ‘40s and ‘50s. The names are legend: Ozzie Nelson, Phil Harris, Harry James, Woody Herman. The list goes on." —Rio Nido History
"During the 1930s and 1940s, some of the biggest summer nights swayed beneath the resort’s iconic winking moon sign as big bands led by Harry James, Buddy Rogers and Glenn Miller played as the Harris family’s Rio Nido dance hall. By age 18, Harris was helping run the ballroom, collecting 25-cent tickets every night."
Linda Burke (Burke's Canoes) "Before she was born, her parents ran the Mirabel dance hall that held 2,000 people — the largest ballroom north of San Francisco at the time — and booked top performers including Duke Ellington, Helen Forrest and the Dorsey Brothers." —Sonoma Magazine

"I have wonderful memories of dancing to the music of Les Brown and his band renown at the Grove." (late 40s, early 50s) —Owlman
"By the turn of the century, the timber crop was exhausted and now railroad lines criss-crossed the area providing easy access. In the past, wives with children in tow had come to the area during the summer months to be with their hard working husbands. Now, since cabins, campsites, hotels and resorts were already in place, San Franciscans from all walks of life replaced the timber workers with tourists.
Guerneville and the surrounding area continued to thrive even through the Great Depression and both World Wars. During the Big Band Era of the 1930s and 40s, several local dance halls boasted the biggest performers of their time. A paddle-wheel boat named the "River Queen" could be seen running up and down the Russian River loaded with excited people visiting the area." —Guerneville

The Grove, named after Armstrong Grove, predates the Hexagon House (aka The Woods in the 1980s) complex, built in '47. The Hexagon house was supposedly designed by Walter Gropius (and built by Frog Pond owner, Gordon Herr). I remember walking across a wide expanses of pavilions, with tree in the middle of the dance floor.

But I've conflated two places, because a photo from the 20s, shows the entrance to The Grove on Main Street in Guerneville. (Both pavilions had a tree in the center, decorated with lights. The Grove tree was decorated with canoes! It was later closed in, no more dancing under starlight. 

The original Grove Dance Hall. "Dance palaces such as the Grove and Rio Nido Lodge attract vacationers to the Russian River. Well- known bands appear, including Horace Heidt, Harry Owens and His Royal Hawaiians, Harry James, Phil Harris and Glenn Miller." —Sonoma County History

"After the introduction of the railroad into the Russian River valley in the late 1800s, thousands of San Franciscans flocked to the region each summer. Soon, many of the famous big bands started to provide dance music at packed outdoor venues along the river even into the 1950s. Woody Herman, Tommy Dorsey and other famous names were frequent performers during the Big Band era. Hollywood stars were also frequent visitors." —Wiki

An aside: Up the hill from The Grove was Pond Farm, an artists' colony founded by Gordon Herr and his wife. Famous Bauhaus artist Marguerite Wildenhain was resident potter. Marguerite may have been carrying on with Walter Gropius, but the backstories have such raveled edges. Never going to find them in the official guidebooks.

My first boyfriend of seven years, "Sweet Old Bob" (Robert Bruce Hamilton), a potter i met at College of Marin, was a huge fan of Marguerite, and we visited her at Pond Farm during the mid-1970s. 

She taught pottery classes until 1980. I used to see her in her puttering garden whenever Lee Perron and I went up to Austin Creek Park. I waved, but never stopped, as I was forever done with Sweet Old Bob after he got the seven-year-itch. I was done with scratching. 

The photographer who taught me darkroom technique (I was his apprentice at The Paper), also student of Ansel Adams, Phil Osborn, coincidentally worked for Marguerite, as a potter's assistant during the '60s and '70s. The state of California used eminent domain to force the owners out, but Marguerite Wildenhain lived there until here death in 1985.

I never knew my father played the piano.

Joe at the original Pop's Bar on 24th St. in the Mission, SF, 1950 (practicing his descent into the first of several glasses) In those days the Mission district was a real Irish enclave—especially Boston Irish.

Later, my father frequented the 3131 Club in The Mission, where he grew up. The few times that I ever saw him, when I was young, he took me to his bar hangouts to meet the bartenders. In those days, kids could go into bars. One of my earliest memories is making a sprint crawl down the length of Speck McAuliffe's mahogany bar, amid drinks, liar's dice, and ashtrays, my mother chasing after me. It was incredibly boring to watch my dad nurse a drink & suck in smoke.

In hindsight, my father probably had no idea what to do with me. Needless to say I only saw him a handful of times. I know so little about him other than he was a CHP motorcycle cop, worked for the Coast Guard, and was a street sweeper for the City of SF, armed with a sheaf of terminal DUIs.

Young Joe, jr.,  on a pony, probably in Oakland, CA, he was born in SF, his father, in Weymouth, MA.
Joe's mother, my grandmother, Viola Heaney Hurley as a baby (in San Francisco), ca. 1906. I didn't know I had a photo of her, until I took it out of the album to scan, and I saw her writing on the back: a postcard never sent? No adult photos, she died young, she was alive ca. 1935, but wasn’t on the 1940 census. My grandmother said, suicide. Joe was raised by a sadistic uncle in SF, No love lost. Probably explains the early drinking pattern.

My mother Maureen Reilly (l) with a gleam in her eye; my dad's got an arm around another dame. Pop's Bar on 24th in the Mission, 1951.

Pop's's Bar was a popular watering hole with my family. My uncle Bill knew the owner from the Navy. That's my uncle Myles standing. There's more to this photo. I may post it later.

People say I look like my mom. That's me in the  early 1980s. I never saw the resemblance, but then, I never saw these photos before either. They were in my grandmother's basement mouldering away.

My mom willowy in a daring 2-piece bathing suit, My dad at the crossroads, probably at Hoberg's Resort in Middletown, Lake County, ca. 1951, it was the Big Band era. 

 Hoberg's Resort, Middletown, Lake County, CA, 1951. 
Mom & Dad at Hoberg's in Lake County, 1951. She looks like she swallowed the canary and he knows something's up. A former Apple employee is one of the new investors of the historic resortMy mother's cousin, Patricia D/Arcy reminisced: a good friend, Diane Eggers at St. Peter School, whose aunt Pauline married one of the Hobergs. He had been a paratrooper and sent a silk parachute so she could have a bridal garment made from it. We thought that was so romantic.  

Social life revolved around smoking cigarettes on the couch...
...followed by some serious snogging (it must have been a case of those Lake County "diamonds" working their magic—and it looks like I'm well on my way...) Ugh. ashtray kisses.

And there they are, chillin' in a SF bar circa 1953. Yes, the easy smile, a little harder to paste on. Already they're leaning a little bit away from each other. He's married to the bottle. He just doesn't know it yet. They moved to Lagunitas when my grannie's house was sold on Third Avenue. I remember we lived next door to (Frank) Speck McAuliffe's daughter, Pat Decker. The bar was within walking distance. They must've split soon after, because I was living with my grannie full time in Forest Knolls by the time I was five. Before that, we all lived in my grannie's house in SF. Aunt & uncle in the downstairs apartment, My mother & Joe, and my aunt Canice upstairs. I had plenty of babysitters so I hardly noticed my parents comings and goings.

Me at four months, Forest Knolls.

And there I am, little miss fattycakes in an itchy dress with a kelly green sash and little red cherrios. I'm so fat, I can barely sit up. The doctor will need to put me on a diet. Why I'm fat is a mystery, as I'm allergic to most food, I'm covered in hives but I can eat oatmeal. and apparently, plenty of it. I'll be shipped off to my grandmother's in a few years. She will fix oatmeal for breakfast too. This photo was incredibly damaged, I cloned out most of the stains and tears.

I tried to take this itchy dress off at the studio. So it was mostly up over my head. Probably a funnier photo. My mother loved dressing me up like a little doll. I had nice, if uncomfortable threads. I also had a ready smile, with fists at the ready. I was born a redhead. I just found a swath of my baby hair. At the age of three or four I gave myself a haircut, my left braid cut off at the ear. My mom flipped out. Gave me a pixie that went south, and then a trip to the beauty parlor for a perm that went poodle (my hair melted) I wouldn't step into a beauty salon ever again. But it turned dark when I was 16.

Tucking into my first birthday cake with gusto. Four-point face-plant to follow. My mother is charmed, my dad is looking dubious. 1953.

My dad holding Towser the boxer pup in SF, ca. '53, or '54.

My dad at Shafter's swimming hole above the Inkwell, Lagunitas. I'm on the shore learning to walk. 

Too bad I never really knew my dad, so I'm not so enthusiastic over Father's Day. TMI? Cogito ergo sum.

My mom was a wanderer. All over SF. She charmed the famous to her feet, with her brilliance, and talent, she was a freethinker, way ahead of her time, so through her, I met a lot of cool folks: Tommy Smnothers, LLoyd Bridges, Sterling Hayden, Lew Welch, Bob Kaufman, Bobby Darin. She'd drag them home to meet my grannie, who served them Irish soda bread and tea. Oh the stories I heard...I didn't know it at the time, but they did profoundly impact my way of thinking.

During the 60s, thanks to Timothy Leary, my mom was groovy, but then it paled. Turned sinister. My mom was crazy. went all the way to electro-shock therapy. Stelazine, thorazine, you name it. I remember visiting her in the SF Psych ward, scared out of my gourd. I kept silent, the usual children of AA, NA is the code of silence, etc. I live the life of fear that I would become my mother, so I was afraid to do anything.

My mom also survived breast cancer for 17 years, but it came back behind the implants...she was part of that lawsuit for leaking silicone implants, but died before she was able to win the class-action lawsuit. 

My incredible Irish grannie was both mother and father to me. So I honor her this day as well as the father I never knew. He died in the dark of the year, on his birthday, Sagges, we. Like my Grandpa Reilly, whose birthday I was born on. My mother followed my father, nine months later, right after her own birthday on the Autumn Equinox. Guess they had to work something out after all that time. In the past I always kept mum about all this family history. The children of AA  practice silence. Now I no longer care to hold the facade up. Too much work.

It was fascinating to lay out all these newly scanned photos only to find they told a rich backstory I never knew... This is a homage to my parents and those who raised me. 

Happy Solstice.

See #ValleyFire Alas, Hoberg's is no more.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Cortisone shots to both knees

Double Cortisone shots to both knees yesterday, feels like I've been knee-capped with  a baseball bat by the Mafia. I don't feel so great. Nauseous. And this is supposed to make them better? Someone said I may be experiencing a "cortisone flash."

I'm icing it, taking it easy. Relief is not instant. And I can't take pain pills. Knees are bloody killing me. At least I now have normal range of movement and can keep the muscles toned.

6/14 Better today, rocky day yesterday. The pain sapped all my energy. I did a little work and clean up and am now paying for it today. I paid for it all night long. Funny little bruises remind me of where I was jabbed. I'm amazed that the Cortisone shots will even work. It's not exactly the obvious relief that most people seem to get. It may take a bit of time to work is an understatement.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Killing off Adobe Flash

I can't open Messages. It used to work fine. A reboot may solve it. Nope. Tired of the Facebook slow dance and a wonky DSL, I deactivated Adobe Flash completely (a Firefox extension) and now Facebook loads right up, with less scrolling lag, fewer blue spinning balls and tractor gears with stalled pages and stuck screens. I get why Steve Jobs had a vendetta against Adobe Flash. Mildly annoying not to be able to watch videos on FB, but I can load Flash when needed, elsewhere.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

VIENNA, 1992

In a rat-infested box under the bed, I found an old photograph of me looking rather tired, perhaps sneering for the camera, with two horses, who were also pretty soured, I might add, from hauling mindless tourists. The cart owner, didn't want me to touch them, not that there was any love lost between them, but our Viennese hostess, Claudia told him, she knows horses. And all I could think of was that this is what happens to dancing Lippizanners who don't make the ecole grade, they wind up plodding along as carriage and cart horses. The only sound of music they hear is the honking of car horns. But every once and a while, they hear the strains of a Viennese waltz, and they lift their ears skyward, perhaps an ancestral memory shaken loose from the fetters of time.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Who murdered sleep?

June 8, 2015 at 6:34am ·

After a heavy clean up day on Saturday, yesterday was a lost day, with enforced rest and downtime for my knee. But it also allowed me to get some quality scanning time in. Hope I have more energy today. Non enough sleep. Woke at 3 AM. Augh. Who murdered sleep?

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Broken Crockery

Doors of the past are closing all at once and no time to savor the memories that are evoked by an old worn-out crocheted rug my grannie made during the 1950s, or the broken cake plates and teacups handpainted with flowers and gold rims. Mourning the loss of everyday things, I made a pottery wall gallery along our wooden fence as a tribute to the broken crockery of the past. On what fence shall I hang my poor broken heart?

Gems in the Basement

I've been cleaning out my granny's house in Forest Knolls. The only gems we found in the basement were old photos and even they were in bad shape. Someone got the bright idea to store them in the basement, but the windows broke, it rained inside, and it was a mess... Then the woodrats moved in and began a serious remodel job, building a new nest with old slivers of shingles. They found creature comfort in our prerequisite Jesus Mary and Joseph lithographs that once adorned the bedroom walls to keep us safe as we slept. The faces of the holy family was their flooring. We also found old confirmation and wedding photos as well. And anything shiny, of course—old Christmas ornaments were on their most coveted list. So hard to throw away those ugly old ornaments, that once embodied the magic of Christmas. So odd to think that it was always Christmas in the woodrats' household.

The Right Attitude to Read

After packing and cataloging books all day, I settled in for a good read. Alexander McCall Smith's The Right Attitude to Rain, was calling to me in the pile of unread books. It's a lovely first edition slated to be signed by Himself, but alas, I came down with the flu that day.

Alexander (aka Sandy), and I had corresponded via Twitter, he was writing pithy 140 character short stories on Twitter. No mean feat. Very spare prose. 

So with gusto, I sat down to read his descriptions of things most ordinary and plain, made beautiful by his prose, it made me weak at the knees. I swooned seeing Edinburgh depicted through his lens. But I found that I was also too tired to read, so I grocked the book and tented it over my face, making for a good sunscreen. Perhaps if I read it with the write attitude, it might rain.

Most people are familiar with Sandy's No.1 Ladies Detective Agency series, set in Botswana, and also a BBC mini series. If you haven't read his Portuguese Irregular Verbs, well, then, you're in for a real treat. I reread it every few years. But I refuse to finish the book because I enjoy it so much and I don't want the story to end. Most irregular, I know.

Why, in this digital age, is it so painful to part with books? Old friends, the ones I've read more than once, are the hardest to let go of. Such fond memories. And the marginalia! I feel like Proust in Swann's Way. Bring me some madelines and bring me some wine, as I sort books, using the Dewy Decimal System, but it's all written in Morse code.

I make parings of books like fine wine and cheese. Ah, but the sharp scent of old books, part dust, part mold, burnt paper and still redolent of printer's ink. (Probably all that lead...)

So many books to divest, my love of books has threatened to overtake me and I'm downsizing and needs must rid myself of them all. But I can't bear to do it. So I'm starting with the pulp fiction and working my way back to what matters most. Blue Shoes of Happiness, on the unread pile...I'm saving it for the dark time that is coming.

Now, if only I had a house....or some walls.

Saving Photos and Old Books from the Dross

I've been cleaning out my grandmother's house since November (100 years of crap). They only way I've been about to get through the process is by salvaging and scanning old photos and memorabilia, But I've been saving the bookcases for last, because parting with books is the hardest task. Such sorrow.

So much water damage. The only treasures were old photos and even they were in bad shape. Someone got the bright idea to put them in the basement, but the windows broke, and it was a mess...

When the woodrats began a serious remodel job, they found creature comfort in our prerequisite Jesus Mary and Joseph lithographs, and old confirmations and wedding photos. And anything shiny, of course—old Christmas ornaments and beer caps were on their most coveted list.

Fire ants have burrowed and nested inside all my old childhood books in the basement—honeycombed, all that was left in most cases, were the covers.

And during May, I've also had to do the same excavation process to my cabin in Forestville (still working on it), which has has literally fallen apart (the floor buckled), and I have been tossing out most of that stuff. No time to say a proper goodbye to my clothes, and memorabilia. Carpenter ants and rats at work all these years in an empty cabin.

I was able to save my photos, and poetry books, but they too, have to go. I still need to scan, and archive all my papers there too. Letters from famous poets (Seamus Heaney), and musicians (Dave Brubeck, lots of poetry books. What to do with it all. What university would want my archives? I've a call out to Jim Carmin, poet, and special collections librarian in Portland, Or, for ideas.

As to my cabin, the landlord will remodeling it. Meanwhile... I literally have no place to go. My partner's been crazy weird. Going off his meds was a huge mistake. And I was hoping for a short respite. I'm compromised with my knee injury. So I've a limited shelf life before I easily tire. And I can't carry much, even with dual knee braces strapped down tight. I'm taking baby steps with these first books, lining them up in banana boxes. But it hurts, oh, it hurts. They say all good things come in threes. I guess it's equally true for bad things as well.

A cousin who lives in his car, writes on my Facebook page: Books are history, as opposed to digital media; they're tangible rather than someone one reads on a screen. Yeah, he's right. Visceral. They stink of old dust and vague mustiness. But their tangibleness is a hefty weight.

I'm making separate piles. Celtic Studies stuff to UC Berkeley; Literary works to SFSU Poetry Library, etc. But I've also got a lot of literary memorabilia and letters from famous poets, etc. Back in the days when we actually wrote letters! Sure, I could scan them, but what to do with the originals?

I had to laugh that generations of fire ants had nested inside all my old childhood books in the Forest Knolls basement—honeycombed, all that was left in most cases, were the covers. To think they pooped out all those storied words: Robinson Crusoe, Heidi, Black Beauty, Where they therefore the forefathers of literate generations of ants?

I can't remember who said in a poem, I am in love with books but I am uneasy with my love of books—Galway Kinnell? Anyway, I made a vow years ago to buy no more books, but they've managed to find me anyway.

Yes, I've had a life built upon a solid foundation of books that have shored me up during tough times. And otherwise, have brought me delight through the decades, even if I never read them again. Bruce Chatwin, Paul Theroux., Barry Lopez. Larry McMurtry, Edward Abbey, Alexander McCall Smith.

So many doors closing at once and no time to savor them, or write about it, the memories that are evoked by rotted memorabilia—an old worn-out crocheted rug my grannie made during the 1950s, or a broken cake plates and teacups handpainted with flowers and gold rims—are astounding. I made a pottery wall gallery along our wooden fence as a tribute to broken crockery.

It's a sobering thought to see how stuff accumulates. And culling my stuff was on the menu, but just not this soon. It seems all I've been doing is sorting stuff since November. The end is not quite in sight. Divestiture. Yes, taking photos of things. And letting them go. All my clothes are done, and bagged. I am running on naked.

Also, I want to scan and otherwise document all that other literary stuff, and let it go. And I'm so tired. Part of it is my knee, constant pain....which I block as I can't take pain killers, or Advil anymore. Supposed to get knee replacement. Guess that won't happen now. Fingers crossed (not the knees).

Ah, but the sharp scent of old books, part dust, part mold, burnt paper and printer's ink. Vellichor. But I f'ound a Peet's Free Tasty Beverage coupon in one book! Now where did I put it?