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San Francisco Journalcon photos
A birthday party lunch in Oakland

November 14th, 2002

Exotic, Though
Wednesday. This week is essentially over, isn't it, the weekend is coming and then we get on with the operation and the two weeks it will take to start feeling better if all goes well. I've been assembling toys, mostly computer toys, to help with the six week recovery. How many of them I will use, of course, is problematic. They come under the heading: "learning new skills". It will be more fun to shoot pictures, I suspect, shoot them here, if necessary, in the apartment, portraits of me, dee-del-dee-dee, in all my post operation magnificence. A roll or two on Saturday before I go, then every day thereafter for, who knows, all six weeks. Not sure I have the fortitude, but that's what should be done, no doubt about it. Before and after shots. That's what photographs are about.

For now, time to put the head down, buy what I need Saturday morning (frozen pizza, pop tarts, chocolate buttermilk and, I don't know, piles of processed cheese in the plastic package, high fat baloney, um bologna, and Wonder bread, the wonder being in the fact it never goes stale. (Yes, all that was baloney, but I'm allowed.) Two young ladies at the office pried my home address out of me today ("Fork it over, sucker!") They are going to deliver a meal or two on their way home in the evenings. Obviously my reputation is I'm someone who runs when offered help. Yeah, that's true, been true all my life. Something happened once, not sure why, not sure what. Find it difficult to ask, find it difficult to accept.

Thursday. I was listening to an interview (another new book flogging, I think) with Doris Lessing, a writerHow Berkeley Can You Be? Parade who's name I know, but haven't read. She made some interesting comments. The writer as the observer and never the participant. She said she could go into a room and pick them out: sitting, standing, watching, evaluating, always the bridesmaid and never the bride. Is that true? Is that the writer? Do I relate to that? Probably. Wish I'd heard that when I was 20, less useful now, but, well, interesting, I suppose, and accurate. You hear it in interviews with writers, a kind of flavor of the moment. "The observer." "Writers participate in life only to generate the smoke and fire they need to write their books" is a variant. ("I thought this marriage would be a disaster, but then I realized whatever happened, it would make one hell of a book." I've heard that more than once.)

Lessing went on to talk some about the sixties and early seventies when she lived a life as a self described "Earth Mother" and long haired people would travel the world, knock on a door and say "Jackie said to drop by", and have a place to crash for a night or a week or a month. I was part of that. We had people coming through our place from everywhere, looking to see what the underground comix scene was about. No worry about getting ripped off, really. You knew who you could trust. You knew what to look for. Lessing was saying that's no longer true. The German reporter who was interviewing her ("what do you remember about the sixties that you regret is gone?") didn't believe her. "People just showed up? Stayed? I don't believe it! They'd steal you blind."

It was a little more complicated than that, although anyone showing up on your doorstep was generally good for a place to stay for a night. There was always the shared interest in music or writing or drawing or publishing or coming to see what we were about, the Texas - San Francisco flow of folks, some from Europe, people who wanted to see San Francisco and this underground comix scene they'd heard about. "Underground." Sounds funny today, but there was such a thing I think. Slang those not connected could or would understand. "Rip off." "Smoke dope." What did they mean? "Smoke dope?" What kind of dope? "Drugs?" What kind of drugs? "Sex?" What kind of sex? With whom? Where? Violence? Well, we weren't into violence. We said that a lot.

This free movement of long haired folks living on a dime was fascinating. I've always thought of it as something that happened when you were young and starting out, that similar things were still going on. Living in groups, meeting people with similar interests, but very different backgrounds, some of whom did things you'd only read about. Living with so and so who danced naked in a club on Broadway every night, the old lady of a friend, both of them staying at the house. Nice down to earth people who absolutely blew away anything you ever knew or thought you knew about the world. Exotic, though. Exciting. Lessing says it's gone, just like that.

The banner photograph was taken at a birthday party over lunch in Oakland and the second photograph was taken at the How Berkeley Can You Be? parade.