On a recent city hike, I came across several stickers in the North Beach area of San Francisco. These stickers had the photograph (logo?) of a single mule. There was no explanation of what these stickers represented (Mule Gallery, perhaps?). Intrigued, I went home and did a Google search for “mule logo San Francisco.” I came across an Atlantic Magazine article about a man wandering around California with three mules. The man has an Internet presence too. He recently had a date in court because a ranger gave him a citation for stopping to rest overnight on public land/open space, with his three mules. I like this guy! Read more about him here: 3mules.com
Art creation and destroying your art — If you have been destroying your art, in search of you know not what, you are not alone! View artist, Philip Guston’s destructive process in this 3-minute video, courtesy of the Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco.
Bodies of water. Pacific Ocean. San Francisco Bay. The Embarcadero, The Presidio. Alcatraz Island. Golden Gate Bridge. Marin Headlands. Bay Bridge. Oakland. And a ferry ride.
They’re all here!
There’s a new Andy Goldsworthy piece at The Presidio (San Francisco). Here is the artist in a six-minute video, describing the process of excavating the work from a rammed earth wall: “Earth Wall”.
I arrived at high tide, positioned myself next to one of the listening tubes and waited for it to deliver the sounds of the waves from below. Nothing. I tried another tube, again, nothing. This acoustic sculpture just didn’t work for me! Still, I found inspiration here (bodies of water work wonders for my creative process!) and did a couple of quick sketches in pen. Two of them are included here.
For more on The Wave Organ, see, Acoustic Sculpture by the San Francisco Bay.
I finished my story and read it in front of a live audience a few nights ago. Here is the revised and final version. You can see the draft here.
BART is crazy. You get on and there’s a guy with a knife frantically cutting up his backpack — with a knife, a short thick one like scuba divers use. You escape to the next car and find yourself seated next to a woman with no pants on! Just a top, with a long jacket is all she is wearing. You decide you had better strike up conversation with the crazy. You don’t want to anger her by leaving as soon as you get there. So you say hello, hoping she ain’t as crazy as you think she is. Maybe if you treat her like normal, she’ll act like normal. She asks if you have a cell phone she can borrow. Aww hell naw! If I give her my phone she may run off with it. I lie and say I don’t have one. She looks at me suspiciously, eyes narrowing. Aw shit, I’ve made her mad. “You must not have kids,” she says. “Cos if you did, you’d have a cell phone.” I lie some more and say I left it at home and only use it for emergencies anyway. That last part is true. The knife guy in the other car could be an emergency. Hell, this lady might be one too. You know what would be a real emergency? Being stuck on BART with no phone when shit goes down, and you just know shit’s gonna go down when you’re on BART.
Uhh, what is that guy doing, the one who just came from the knife car into ours? He is going straight for the red emergency button. Did knife guy do something even more bizarre than bring that knife out into the open on the train? New guy goes straight for the red emergency button. Is he going to make the train come to a halt like it does when you pull the emergency cord in New York City’s subway trains? If yes, that’s not too bright, because then we will all be stuck in an immobile train with knife guy.
Aw hell. I don’t believe what I’m hearing. New guy, who looks like he is as high as a kite, is asking the train operator for a band aid because he cut his finger. What kind of lunatic cargo is BART carrying this morning? Well, at least pulling the cord didn’t make the train come to a standstill.
Pantless wonder is still talking next to me. “I was in Russia. Got jacked every day. It’s worse there than here,” she says. Uh huh. Now I’m thinking, lady, why don’t you just get off this train already?
The train is pulling into a station. I look out. Fruitvale. I was planning to get off at the next stop and wait for another train. But Fruitvale? No thank you. I ain’t getting off here. A new set of crazies get on. One just plopped herself right down on the floor next to me, as if it’s a regular seat. Maybe I should have gotten off at Fruitvale afterall cos now that girl on the floor is starting to twitch and jerk like she’s crazy. Pantless wonder leans over. “She’s having a seizure,” she says. “Move over. I know what to do. I used to have them too.” “Lady,” I say. “This better not be more of your bullshit.” I yell for someone to pull the cord and let the train operator know we have an emergency. People are starting to stare at the girl and at my pantless lady. Aw jesus. I hope she didn’t come on the train without her underwear. She loosens the girl’s blouse and tells the people standing nearby to move over and give her room. I think she truly knows what she is doing. The girl is slowing down, thrashing about less. After a little while, she stops twitching. My pantless lady looks up at me and smiles. “Don’t think I didn’t see you pull out that phone just now,” she says. I respond, “I told you, I only use it only for emergencies.” “Well there’s gonna be another emergency if you don’t lend it to me now,” she threatens. Aw hell. I hand it to her.
I’ve been busy honing my creative writing skills at a series of free San Francisco workshops. Oh San Francisco, I love you! Free writing workshops and free art portfolio development workshops too? Oh, what with hiking and biking and writing and painting and work too, I’ve had little time to write for We Were Nothing. I apologize for the absence.
Currently I am working on two, maybe three, series of miniature paintings. “Girl” is one of my latest creations. This business of making art is time consuming but it is now a priority. I am planning to “get my work out there” by the end of this year/beginning of next year. That means that I have lots of work to do (like developing my portfolio, artist’s bio and statement) besides creating the art itself. I got off to a good start this year, having sold a miniature at a New York art auction and now have a second piece slated for auction this May at San Francisco’s White Walls.
Auctions are interesting places for an emerging artist to debut. If your submission to the auction is accepted you are happy. If it sells, you are even happier — Your work has gone from being worthless to being something of value, at least to the purchaser. Awesome!
All this work means that I will have to convert We Were Nothing into a monthly blog. My first monthly presentation is a short story about a ride on BART. I have also included background information on how the story came to be. I hope you enjoy it.
About the Writing Workshops
Over a period of five weeks (we met one night per week) the participants in my writing workshop were challenged to develop a story about the SOMA area, the section of San Francisco where the workshops were held. I wrote about the building with the furniture hanging off it (see my previous post), but failed in my mission. I was supposed to write a story, not a poem! Back to the drawing board, with just one week left to write the piece. While everyone else from the workshop was in revision mode, I was starting all over from scratch.
I wrote the story below about a ride on BART. It turns out that once again, I failed to write a story: my protagonist had not developed, had not experienced any change. Back to the drawing board one last time. I am determined to write a story. In the meantime, I submit the original story here and will present the final story in May. I hope you enjoy reading it.
The Things on BART Today
BART is crazy, yo! You get on and there’s a guy with a knife frantically cutting up his backpack. With a knife, a short thick one like the knives divers wear when scuba diving. When you try to escape to the next car, you find yourself seated next to a woman with no pants on! Just a top, is all she is wearing. You decide you better strike up conversation with the crazy. You don’t want to anger her by leaving as soon as you get there. So you strike up a conversation with her in the hopes she ain’t as crazy as you think she is. Maybe if you treat her like normal, she’ll act like normal. She asks if you have a cell phone she can borrow. Aww hell naw! If I give my phone to her she may run off with it. I lie and say I don’t have one. She looks at me suspiciously, eyes narrowing. Aw shit, I’ve made her mad. “You must not have kids,” she says. “Cos if you did, you’d have a cell phone.” I lie some more and say I left it at home and really only use it for emergencies anyway. That last part is true. The knife guy in the other car could be an emergency. Hell, this lady might be one too.
Uhh, what is that guy doing, the one who just came from the knife car into ours? He is going straight for the red emergency button. Did knife guy do something even more bizarre than bringing that knife out into the open on the train? New guy goes straight for the red emergency button. Is he going to make the train come to a halt like it does if you pull the emergency cord in New York City’s subway trains? If yes, that’s not too bright because now we will all be stuck in an immobile train with knife guy.
Aw hell. I don’t believe what I’m hearing, new guy, who looks like he is as high as a kite, is asking the train operator for a band aid because he cut his finger. What kind of lunatic cargo is this that BART is carrying this morning? Pantless wonder is talking next to me. “I was in Russia. Got jacked every day. It’s worse there than here.” Uh huh. Lady, how soon you gonna get off this train?
If you are interested in reading more of my short stories, try this one, set in Jamaica. It is from an earlier post.
Beaches with tsunami warnings? Check! Building with furniture hanging off of it? Check and check! Kids texting with post its? Check and double check! Homeless people encamping at City Hall? Check, check and check!
There’s nothing quite like going to the beach and seeing an “in case of tsunami” warning by the steps leading down, down, down! Go to Cowell Ranch Beach (south of Half Moon Bay) and that is what you’ll see. Sure, it’s a beautiful beach with lovely views but why dig steps down a steep cliff to create beach access in what is a potential tsunami zone? Crazy!
Then over in San Francisco, South of Market Street Area (SOMA), there is this, a building fitted out with sculptural installations called “Fenestration.” I love the arm-chair on the roof. My imagination takes me to nightly happenings with ghosts fighting over who gets to take a ride in it and the red chair too. Can’t you picture the famous (infamous?) Bay Area fog rolling in and completing this picture? Wooooooooooooooo.
Recently, there were the kids sending “text messages” across buildings to one another and playing hang-man too, with posts-its. I especially like this post-it building message, “Leland Yee is my uncle.”
The last time I was over by City Hall in San Francisco was when I was waiting with the Quiet Lightning guys for Chicken John’s bus. There we were, congregating on the sidewalk, when a homeless lady came up to us and said, “I’d like to get by but you are blocking the sidewalk. Shame on you!” The homeless in this area are a bit colorful, to say the least.
And finally, here is a draft of my poem about the Fenestration sculpture/building. I wrote it for my Kearny Street Workshop class about the area South of Market Street.
Out the windows
down the walls
mid-air, they wait.
levitating above graffiti
by sidewalks busy with
Together they hang,
When darkness comes,
green couches, orange tables and chairs
join with grandfather clocks
and set themselves loose
from windowsills and roof
take flight from walls
into the night.
Along skies they walk
upon foggy air
toward water they fly
on darkened wings
free of Howard and Sixth
There is a little square in the SOMA (South of Market) area of San Francisco. It is called South Park and it reminds me of the squares in London and also of some of the squares (Tompkins Square Park and Washington Square Park, for example) in the Village (New York City). In a little back alley behind the park, I found these lovely graffiti:
This three minute video by the Presidio
Trust of San Francisco is a great homage to cities all across the United States. Here you see former industrialized places transformed into unconventional art spaces and parks. Gems from New York City, Chicago, North Adams (MA), and San Francisco are all showcased here. Every city in the world ought to have at least one space like this: