Saturday, August 25, 2018

That City by the bay: by any other name


During a TGIF moment, a woman named Erika posted a whimsical iPhone photo of the Transamerica Building, replete with sunspot bubbles, on Facebook, and called it Frisco. People lost their shit. It was a landslide against. But old monikers die hard. 

One reader said, "frisco, the word that sounds like a brand of lard, sucks. everyone is entitled their opinion. You can be an outlier, but just know that people will make fun of you for it. Sorry not sorry," 

 I get weird connotations too: Frisco/Crisco, Friskies with Crisco.

Another reader tried to establish a quasi terminus post quem by stating that Frisco, Texas was...
So named because part of the Frisco rail line, originally incorporated in 1876, ran nearby. Care to guess which city's name is in the full name of the line? Frisco is in Texas only because it was here first. You do realize that the place in Texas was so named because part of the St. Louis-San Francisco Railway a.k.a. the Frisco line ran through the area."
True, Frisco, Texas was named after a railway line, but wasn't named after the city of San Francisco. Frisco, Texas was called Frisco City. And the train system never left the Midwest. Not only that, it was named after another San Francisco landmark, a name of a mountain range that predates the founding of San Francisco. 

That same someone who headed up an unsuccessful campaign to rename the Bay Bridge after Emperor Norton, then tried to call in the race card, saying it was a class system. He said only the cocktail set call it by its full name, while the African Americans in the Divisadero, and the Latinos in the Mission call it Frisco. 

Well, I beg to differ. Nothing is ever as simple as it seems. Besides, the Mission was Irish, it was not always Latino. That came much later. It is not a class thing, it’s more about old San Francisco vs the influx of outsiders that began arriving during the 1970s.

He said
A 175-plus-year stream of San Franciscans have addressed their city with this term of endearment. What also is true, though, is that the longshoremen of the 1860s and the African-American residents of the Fillmore district, a century later, never were going to have the approval of the cocktail-party set. Antipathy to "Frisco" often has been an index of class snobbery."

Well, speaking of presentism, lifting a theme from today's social milieu and blanketing the past with it—about all we agreed upon that people from outside SF called it Frisco—primarily sailors who didn't live here. A frisco was the place where you got your boat repaired, it was not so much about the city's name. Frisco stems from an old Icelandic term for safe harbor. And equally for 175 years, people have been objecting to outsiders calling it Frisco. Nothing to do with demographics, or cocktail party sets, as he put it. Not class snobbery either. But if it fits his agenda....

He said:
"There are number of theories about the origins of "Frisco." Peter Tamony's little article, "Sailors Called It 'Frisco,'" in the July 1967 number of the journal Western Folklore, is worth checking out. No agenda here. It's fine that many have been schooled to have a distaste for "Frisco." But, they should be honest enough to admit that it is, in fact, an issue of taste. When they step into language policing, to say that it is objectively wrong to say "Frisco," they are out of their depth."
So you know I looked it up, only to find, he lifted it out of context from an article. Tamnony was merely strengthening the sailor reference. How folklore works, is what's passed down. More people grew up with the full name vs. using the moniker Frisco. It had nothing to do with working class vs the hobnob set. It's not a matter of taste, status, or even language policing, it's a subcultural trait. And it's not cut and dry either.

JL said:
To the contrary, Mo, it is precisely BECAUSE preferences about the name of the City are "passed down generationally" that these preferences become, and are, a matter of taste, status and language policing. I don't challenge the point that "more people grew up with the full name vs. the moniker Frisco." I simply am saying that THAT FACT, such as it may be, does not give those who weren't trained to tolerate "Frisco" the right to badger those who do use "Frisco" into some kind of submission, as though the "Frisco" crowd is "doing it wrong."
So, according to JL, those who say Frisco are allowed free reign, and a pat on the back because they feel justified in calling it Frisco, but those of us who learned it as San Francisco must stay mum because he says so? De gustibus non est disputandem; call it what you will, but expect a reaction.

I pointed out that there are 14 place names called Frisco, or Frisco Station, or Friscoville, none of them were originally called San Francisco, then shortened to Frisco, and they're named after a St. Louis, Missouri train route that didn't even go to San Francisco. Ever. "Despite its name, it never came close to San Francisco." It never even left the Midwest.
For the record, there's a town called Frisco, aka Fresco, in Alabama, Frisco, Arkansas (no train), Frisco is a Colorado mining town, as was Frisco, Idaho (no train), Illinois, Friscoville, Louisiana, Missouri (trains), Frisco, North Carolina on Hattaras Island (too watery for trains), Oklahoma, Pennsylvania (no train), Texas (train), Tennessee, Utah, a  mining town named after Frisco Peak in the San Francisco Mountains, named BEFORE San Francisco was founded, I might add; and Frisco, Virginia.

Yes, dahling,
calling San Francisco Frisco is a bit problematic. It could refer to some place completely different. If you want to live in Frisco, consider moving to one of those states. Then it won't be an issue.

JL
went on to say:

"The narrative that San Francisco natives and residents never have, or don't, call their city Frisco is both tired and false. The term has a long, storied history here dating back before 1850."
I repeated: The only problem with your train story, is that it never came to SF. And not once did I say that San Francisco natives and residents never have called their city Frisco. I said, it wasn't a class issue, that was too cut and dry, because many working class people, my own family included, never called it Frisco.

Many of those Frisco place names were derived from other places: In 1629, Spanish friars founded a mission at Oraibi, a Hopi village, in honor of St. Francis, 65 miles from the San Francisco Peaks. The Franciscans gave the name San Francisco to the peaks to honor St. Francis of Assisi, the founder of their order.

The San Francisco Peaks, and the San Francisco Mountains both lent their names to several hamlets. Frisco Mountain, Washington, got its name from a mining camp, as did Frisco, CO, UT, etc. Frisco Coloradans are quick to defend their town's name, saying it's NOT named after San Francisco, CA, but that it's an acronym.
"Frisco, CO, wasn’t named after San Francisco. The name Frisco is desired from the letters associated with the St Louis- San Francisco Railway company. You have the FR from Francisco, IS from St Louis and CO from Company!" Frisco Colorado History Facts
So, the point is that the moniker, Frisco, did not originate in San Francisco. It's an exogamic term. Accretion. Like those barnacles on the ships.

The name of our city, San Francisco (est. 1769), was derived from the Latin, San Franciscus—full name: Mission San Francisco de Asis (1774), which was later dubbed, Mission Dolores. And it brought much sorrow for the Ohlone and Coast Miwok tribes.

Saint Francis of Assisi was a Frenchman. Frank, France, or Francis means a "free man." Oui! San Francisco's first European name was Yerba Buena. Good herbs. The island we now call Yerba Buena was called Goat Island. What, goats?
San Francisco was also called The Golden City, after John C. Frémont dubbed it Chrysopylae in 1846, before the Gold Rush. It was also called The Golden City, or The City, probably because nobody could pronounce Chrysopylae. The Yelamu Ohlone names are lost. One candidate is Ahwaste, "place at the bay."

San Francisco was also called the Barbary Coast, and coined Bagdhad-by-the-Bay by Herb Caen. Though we refer to SF as a she, and Francisco may be a masculine name, in the City, gender is fluid. 

Herb Caen, the Pulitzer Prize–winning San Francisco Chronicle columnist, was adamant that no one call his "fair city by such a sliced-up moniker." Herb Caen, "the voice of San Francisco," wrote a a sequel to his 1949 loveletter to his multicultural adopted city, Baghdad-by-the-Bay, entitled Don't Call it Frisco in 1953, "named after a local judge's 1918 rebuke to an out-of-town petitioner ("No one refers to San Francisco by that title except people from Los Angeles")‍." He said “the F word” as “a salty nickname, redolent of the days when we had a bustling waterfront.”

Caen's column appeared in the SF Chronicle for nearly sixty years (with a brief defection to The San Francisco Examiner). Everyone turned to his page first, then, read the news. "Herb Caen" (archive) was the longest-running newspaper column in the country, until Caen's death in 1998.

Caen also coined, or popularized the terms Beatnik, hippie, and Beserkeley. A thousand words a day with Caen's trademark ellipses "three-dot journalism banged out on his "Loyal Royal", defined our city. June 14, 1996, was designated Herb Caen Day. He had that much influence. He didn't call it Frisco.

Herb Caen articulated it best.
You don't call New York, York do you? Nor do you say Kong. Or Angeles. Or Diego. Maybe Moscow should just be 'Cow. And while we're at it, let's cheapen St. Louis to just Louis. Why should San Francisco be shortened?
For the most part, only people from out of state, the recently arrived, or the tragically hip call it 'Frisco. There are exceptions. But it still draws ire. And it's also an old saw. There's even a sitcom called Don't Call it Frisco.

You also need that apostrophe BTW, as 'Frisco is a contraction. Otherwise it could refer to those 14 other cities legally called Frisco.

I found this 2006 story by Sean C., a frequent contributor to Trip Advisor:
"The city is named for Saint Francis, one of the most loved Catholic saints. Apparently, that word was shortened to "frisco" and was used by sailors to refer to a place where a sailing ship could be scraped, repaired, and refitted. The Court of Historical Review convened to decide if such a nickname was acceptable. The court ruled that the name of the city was San Francisco and that no nickname should be tolerated."
LOL it's the law!

Pancho (or Paco, Chico, Cisco,) is a diminutive Spanish baby name for Francisco. But Ess Eff is not a baby. Then, by way of parallel structure, in English, we oughta be calling The City St. Frankie, San Pancho, but not 'Frisco.  Just don't call it San Poncho, or San Pacho! SF may be free and easy, but nothing is ever truly free. One way or another, there's always a price to be paid, la mordida.
Absurdum infinitem.

Can you imagine Tony Bennett singing, "I left my heart in Frisco"?


Me neither.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Mae the Moonshiner and the Revinoors

Mae Sullivan Crean probably made that entire outfit including the hat.

My great-great aunt Mae, was a Sullivan from Gort-na-Screena, a farm in Drimoleague, on the Bantry peninsula, She married Ed Forbes in San Francisco, by way of Home Ranch in Nevada. But he died in the great flu epidemic, along with their young daughter, leaving the widow alone, in a foreign country, if I'm remembering the story right.

During the Prohibition, Great Aunt Mae (my grandmother always called her mother's sister Great Aunt Mae, though she was technically my grandmother's aunt, thus conflating my mother's generation with mine own...unless, of course, Mae was just great anyway, which is more likely the case. She was one of those women who broke the mold.

Anyway, Mae made some mighty fine bathtub booze. There was always a steady stream of customers, San Francisco's finest coppers, firemen and priests paid their due respects at the house. Not a dry eye in the Forbes house. She did right well, indeed.

They got an early wind, a small bird uttered a warning that a raid was eminent. May and her nieces hid the coil and still, dumped the mash down the toilet but very nearly got caught by the Revinoors when the mash plugged up the plumbing and the toilet backed up, hiccuping potent 30-proof burps.

They manage to dump most of the stash, except for one jug, so she lay down on the bed with the baby, the jug between the baby and and her rather ample breasts, and feigned sleep.

When the Revinoors came into the bedroom, seeing her in disarray, with her hair tumbling from her chignon like wildfire, stepped back, She let out a proper banshee screech, the bebé began wailing in earnest. The coppers were most apologetic and slowly backed out of the bedroom like dumb draft horses without continuing their search, saying Sorry to disturb you, ma'am. Sorry, Sorry.

Great-great Aunt Mae with her nephew, a young Daniel Sullivan?
The two sisters in the back, Julia and Kitty, are Mae's nieces.
I love the fake car and the painted backdrop.

Ten years a blogging


Today is an anniversary of sorts. Not only is it my grandmother's birthday, it's also the birthday of my blog. True, I've been on Blogger since January 2007. That's when I created this blog. But I let it lay fallow for more than a year. I was terrified of committing to prose and so, the blank page stayed blank. However, I didn't begin actually begin blogging until August 20, 2008, on my grandmother's birthday—as a way to honor her—because I had stories to tell, after all. It began with the family stories. The crazy family tree. The stuff under the rug you don't want to talk about. And then it branched out to include stories that interested me. From memoir to journalism, with a hefty poetry garnish. What a long, wild ride its been. I still don't know where I'm going with all this, but I do know where I've been. I'm up to 3000 blog entries. Wow. (I have more than 3 dozen fallow drafts in the wings which I need to liberate. I can now add a slew of travel journal entries, now that John Oliver Simon's gone.) Ten years a blogging. Who knew? Happy anniversary, dear Blog, mine own timelne. A chronicle of a life lived. One way or another. Not the life I necessarily wanted. But it's done. In the past. Will I even get another ten years of blogging under my belt? Neither of my parents made it to 70. Where will it go? What format will it take? Only time, that great bogarter, will tell.

See the backstory at Cybernalia and LITERRATA or Veritas and the art of Memoir if you must... or When This Blog Really Began—Aug 2008

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Pupfish sightings

FIRST DRAFT
Ash Meadows, Amargosa Valley

My first introduction to desert pupfish was in the early 1970s when I wandered across the saltflats from Badwater, Death Valley, following a dry salt stream, when I got to the other side of the saltflats, beneath Telescope Peak, there was a nascent aster-choked stream, Salt Creek, with tiny minnow-like fish. But some were as blue as peacock feathers, they were busy attacking my toes. So I had to know what they were. 

For years, I thought there was only one species of pupfish. Cyprinodon salinus. Ya seen one, ya seen 'em all. Was I ever wrong. There are actually two subspecies in Death Valley, once the pluvial bed of Lake Manly, Cyprinodon salinus salinus, and the northern subspecies, Cyprinodon salinus milleri.

Devil's Hole, Amargosa Valley
The Mojave Desert (SoCal & SW NV) is home to at least five species of pupfish, maybe more: Death Valley pupfish, Cyprinodon salinus, Cyprinodon nevadensis, Armagosa pupfish,  Devil's Hole pupfish Cyprinodon diabolis.  Owens pupfish, Cyprinodon radiosus, and on the other side of the Sierras, Desert pupfish (Cyprinodon macularis).

You're probably wondering, what the heck is a pupfish? A pupfish is a relic species from another epoch, left over from the Pleistocene era when the greater American Southwest was lush, and vast lakes and wetlands dominated the landscape. When the waters began to recede, leaving behind what we now call the Mojave desert, the pupfish survived by retreating into fossil water seeps and springs, many of which are saline hot springs. 

Pupfish survived in isolated springs for millennia and diverged from the original Cyprinodon genus. There are 49 species and ten genera of the family Cyprinodontidae of ray-finned killifish in isolated hypersaline hotsprings and lakes in North, and South America (from Florida to Potosi... I probably unwittingly swam with other pupfish species in the saline cenotes of the Yucatán, Laguna Salida, and San Ignacio,  in Baja Sur.)

When the pluvial habitat disappeared, the diminutive fish lost their homes, and they also shrunk in size, to about an inch, to a whopping inch and a half long, and they became isolated from eachother. Pupfish were named for their squatty shape and for their playfulness. Someone compared them to chunky little puppies frisking in impossibly saline water. More like corgis in girth, and chihuahuas in temperament. 

During mating season, the males turn bright with lemon-yellow tails are fiercely territorial ankle-biters. They play hard because they live fast—typically only a year, but a few subspecies live as long as three years. Pupfish live on blue-green algae, detritus, tiny insects and snails, and occasionally, they will cannibalize each other's eggs. (They're also excellent midge and mosquito hunters.)

Desert pupfish (Cyprinodon macularius)—Wiki

Desert pupfish (Cyprinodon macularis), once a common fish throughout the Southwest, now survive in the small tributaries in the Salton Sink Basin, Palm Desert, Anza-Borrego, and Mexico's Laguna Salada Basin.

At one point, there were probably three, or more separate species of Desert pupfish (C. macularis), Sonoyta/Quitobaquito pupfish (C. eremus), and Santa Cruz/Monkey Spring pupfish (C. arcuatus), but they hybridized when the CA Dept. of Fish & Game rounded up several populations to help save the critically endangered fish due to extreme habitat loss, and from the introduction of non-native fish. None of the pupfish species have survived in Arizona, but some were reintroduced from the Coachella Valley.

The Owens Valley pupfish, Cyprinodon radiosus, was once so abundant that the Paiutes scooped them out by the basketful and dried them for winter. The pupfish population plummeted when the Owens River was diverted to Los Angeles. They were considered extinct by 1942, but a small population was rediscovered in 1964 and were moved to safer lodgings. Of the six colonies, only four remain today, but predatory non-native fish remain their biggest threat.

Working on my personal pupfish bucket list, in 2014, I made a pilgrimage to aptly named hellish crevice, called Devil's Hole, in the Funeral Mountains, in Nye County, Nevada, to see the endemic Devil's Hole pupfish, Cyprinodon diabolis. The smallest and singular species of pupfish, they have big heads, and no pelvic fins. It's estimated that the rarest fish in the world has been incarcerated in Devil's Hole for about 60,000 years. (There's a mesh gate over the hole to keep people from throwing bottles in the water.)

The Devil's Hole pupfish have been hovering on the brink of extinction for decades, due to farmers pumping out artesian water during the 1980s, thus drastically lowering the water level. The pupfish population has never fully recovered from that atrocity and the extant school plummeted to just 35 fish in 2013. Genetically speaking, that's the equivalent of species crash and burn. Today the Devil school hovers around 150-200 fish, down from a historic population of 450. There's a backup colony of Devil's Hole pupfish at the Ash Meadows Fish Conservation Facility. Just in case.

In addition to being the Amargosa Valley's highest geothermal spring (at 93°F), the steep limestone cavern of Devil's Hole is so deep (some say it's more than 500 feet deep), that distant seismic activity has sloshed pupfish right out of the water. Surf's up! 

The shelf, the entire universe of the pupfish of Devil's Hole, Amargosa Valley

We also visited Ash Meadows, the largest oasis in the Mojave desert, in 2014, and the Ash Meadows pupfish Cyprinodon nevadensis mionectes have it made in the shade with ten palatial springs to frolic in. Ash Meadows is one of my favorite desert oases ever. Extraordinary clear water reminded me of the fictitious James Bond grotto, the Tears of Allah, in Never Say Never Again.

Ash Meadows too suffered a population plummet to 29 fish from rampant pumping of groundwater. Since the groundwater is no longer being pumped, the population is now stabilized at 100 fish. Thriving, but the Ash Meadows pupfish are not out of danger yet.

The pupfish at Lake Tuendae, an artificial pond in Zzyzx (or the last remnant of Lake Mojave, or the massive Ice Age Lake Lahontan), are introduced Saratoga Springs pupfish, a subspecies of the Amargosa pupfish, from southern Death Valley. 

They're closely related to the Tecopa pupfish, but they too are similarly struggling to survive against enormous odds. As are the endangered Mojave Tui chub. But they're under the watchful eye of the Desert Studies Center, a biological field station for 7 CSU campuses. The center, once Zzyzx Mineral Springs and Health Spa, is now an exclusive spa for pupfish, chub and desert mudhens.

The Tecopa Pupfish, Cyprinodon nevadensis calidae, was listed as extinct around 1970. They were accidentally flushed out of their cozy outflows below two hotsprings when resort owners remodeled the pools, built bigger bathhouses, and channeled the water. And that was that. They were gone. Forever. Whoosh! They couldn't survive the combined hotter waters (but one can hope some survived. Crazier things have happened.)  

Apparently there was also some hanky-panky when the channels were merged, and the Amargosa pupfish hybridized with the Tecopa population.

But I've also seen the male peacock blue pupfish frolicking in the rushes below the bentonite hotsprings at the relic lakebed of Lake Grimshaw, between Shoshone, and Tecopa, too. How closely related are they? I am guessing they are Amargosa pupfish, Cyprinodon nevadensis amargosae, as the Grimshaw lakebed is also the bed of the Amargosa River. Or are they Amargosa-Tecopa hybrids (but they're a distance from Tecopa. In the desert, even a mile is another universe away.

They could also be displaced Shoshone Springs Pupfish, Cyprinodon nevadensis shoshone, from the upper Amargosa River. But that's kind of far for a pupfish to travel. I wasn't about to yank one out of the water to check how many pelvic fin rays it had (less). Whatcha got there? Hmmm?

Grimshaw Hotsprings between Shoshone and Tecopa, Amargosa Valley

Circa 1972, there was still water in the former Lake Mojave, or, rather, in the last remnants of the Mojave River. As you entered Zzyzx (Soda Springs), there was even a Chinese teak junk floating alongside the road. But the damming (or the damning) of the Mohave River to create Silverwood Lake in 1971, and the flood control project, Mojave Forks Dam in 1974, pretty much killed what was left of the poor river, and the fish along with it, so, artificial or no, Lake Tuendae is about as good as it gets for the former Mojave River. 

Lake Tuendae, native California Washintonii palms,  Zzyzx

I've been fortunate enough to observe three species, and a few sub-species of California and Nevada's pupfish. But several subspecies have disappeared within my lifetime. And all of the pupfsh hover on the brink of extinction, from the threat of global warming, and the continued loss of artesian, or fossil water. Multinational Nestlé continues to suck dry the San Bernardino aquifer for Arrowhead Water, despite the fact that the entire southwest is suffering from an unprecedented prolonged drought.

Here's hoping that those
Saratoga pupfish, Cyprinodon nevadensis nevadensis are still thriving and haven't become snacks for the Tui chub. And just maybe, someone will find a surviving population of the Tecopa pupfish, like the Owens pupfish. Sometimes miracles do happen.

Old teak boat from when the Mojave was still a navigable lake, Zzyzx.

Monday, August 13, 2018

My world falling apaprt


Gee, this meme is a sign that I should be wearing stapled to my forehead. I can safely answer yes, that today I'm experiencing symptoms to all five of these questions. Sometimes, Facebook is my only "normal" activity. And even it doesn't suffice. I keep thinking there's gotta be some light at the end of the tunnel. We're all so very fragile these days. Every little thing is another wound. Everything caving in. Sometimes I find myself crying over silly Facebook memes. I keep thinking will this darkness never end? 

UPDATE: I am in need of storage recommendations, as I am losing my home of 20 years. Doing # 3 and the last one today. Migraine precludes...

Awoke with sharp neck pains and a headache at 3 AM, went back to sleep only to awaken with a full-blown migraine. Ugh. Will the Advil never kick in? I felt a bit better after I ate, but then my stomach went all squidgy and queasy on me. My mom used to get migraines all the time. I get them occasionally. And I'm not sure age has much to do with it, as I got them more when I was in my 20s, than now. They're always humbling. AS in flattening. Thank gawd for the fan, a breeze is always lovely during the dog-days of summer!The air is sharp with smoke. Yeah, the penny didn't drop until I wrote that sentence!

Saturday, August 11, 2018

On Publishing


Despite having a great track record, with hundreds of poems published, and garnering dozens of literary awards, I got so tired of being rejected, or coming in 2nd place to 3rd Honorable Mention on book contests, I gave up on ever publishing a book. Then a freakish car accident stopped me dead (well, nearly dead) for a few years, and I got out of the habit of submitting. I don't miss it now that I'm old and grey... but still....so, most of my work is right here on my blog. I guess it'll have to do at this august hour. Now I'm far too poor to even enter poetry contests, so it's the odd poem here and there that gets published, usually only by vociferous request.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

CALIFORNIA BURNING


The carpenter hears me coughing,
hands me some sinus medication,
a miracle, I can breathe clearly now.
The house reeks, even outside,
I can still smell the black mold
emanating from the floorboards.
He wears a jumpsuit & twin respirators
like a Mad Max footsoldier.

Outside it's smoky as a BBQ.
My mouth tastes like an ashtray.
The Air Quality Index shifts from good
to dire, with warnings to stay indoors.
I'm stuck outside for the duration.
Can't win for losing.

Sky is bluish, but you can see smofog
whitewashing the corners of the sky.
That orange tongue of hazardous air
licking the sky from the east
is blocked by the Berkeley hills.
Until the air pressure changes.

Smoke rolls in, sky turns leaden, 
as if overcast, and the light shifts 
from a soft golden glow to amber alert.
At least the air in the Bay Area
will revert to normal during the wee hours
so we'll get some relief from the smoke.
Not so, for the rest of CA.

8/9/18

DYSTOPIA


I always pass up those free dystopian sci-fi e-books,
who wants to read about apocalypses & failed futures?
Then it dawned on me—dystopia is here & now.

(Ironically spellcheck assumed dystopia is misspelled.
What does that tell you? 1984 has come and gone
but we're reliving it anyway. Groundhog Day.)

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

NIGHT BLOOMING CEREUS


During the total eclipse on the Big Island, 
I found a night-blooming cereus blossom, 
but because morning was an extended night, 
it stayed open all throughout the day, 
it didn't wilt, so I wore it in my hair, 
the fragile blossom was the size of a saucer, 
and the narcotic scent was heavenly. 
I let it drift in the sea with the maninni,
small fish that circled me like a swirl of fall leaves.
Then I let it go on the tide.

BLACK MOUNTAIN

West Marin Feed

Iconic Black Mountain is burning,
my cousin's ranch, in the foreground,
is a verdant oasis of cattails and Irish luck.

We never called it by its rightful name.
It was always Elephant Mountain.
Or Fist, or Knuckle Mountain.
Now it really is black—scorched earth.

They say the fire began at Platform Bridge
and hungrily licked its way up the gully 
by the abandoned cinnabar mine. 

All the painted fish on the bridge could not stop it.
The slopes are dressed in red fire retardant. 
Warpaint and a cape for the angry summer season.

Defying gravity, fire trucks and 'dozers
met the phoenix at the crest.
Air tankers circled in for the kill.

The wildfire was slain at the summit.
Probably sparks from some passing motorist 
who never gave it a second thought.

Water under the bridge.


8/8/-9
Iconic Black, or Elephant Mountain is to West Marin
as Ayer's Rock, or Uluru, is to Australia.

SLOW LEAK


After decades of slow leaks, & rotted floors,
chrome bathtub faucets give up the ghost,
I camp out to escape the black mold.

(these haiku-like poems are dictated by how many characters I can use a Facebook post and still keep the graphic background intact. Less than 100 characters.)

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

THE SKY IS FALLING

    —after WCW

The sky is falling
it was falling all day
and it was going
to fall all afternoon.
Robin sat
in the cedar limbs.
It was all part
of the backhanded
pantomime.
Chicken Little said
No Comment.

BLACKBERRY PROMISE


Bees roll in Himalayan blackberry blossoms,
bedecked with a pink honeysuckle sidecar.
Those little green fists of summer promise.

FIRE BRIGADE HAKA


The Aussies & the Kiwis are here!
Hurrah for Downundah. Now, for a rousing Haka!
Teach the wildfires to burn unchallenged.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Today, on this 73rd anniversary of Hiroshima


Today, on this 73rd anniversary of Hiroshima, I can't stop weeping. It's as if all the atrocities of the world have come home to roost. Fat Man, and Little Boy. I touched the cold green casings of their brethren at Los Alamos and wept. Green, the color of life, and, hell on earth. People's shadows etched into concrete for eternity. It makes me weep now, just thinking of it. My mother's cousin was a mathematician for the Manhattan Project, so Los Alamos was one of her addresses, only the government denied its existence, so postcards to her aunt, my grandmother, were delivered from New Mexico, no address. We found this out after she had died of cancer. It was a well-kept secret. Say the names. Stallion Gate. Alamagordo. Los Alamos. Say Trinitite. Come to an understanding of that unholy fused green glass blooming in the white sands. The illusion of thousands of paper cranes floating on the breeze, like at Manzanar. I keep one by my bed to ward off dreams. A memento mori for the past that we cannot change. Nor recover from. Nor should we. It's as if the grief has settled in my breast. Today I have taken baby steps, and have begun what is called in Sweden, dostadning, or death cleaning, to decrease the burden of footprint, and self, as everything is finite. Even the veiled green tears of grief.