Saturday, March 31, 2012

A REVIEW FROM MT. ST. MARY'S, MORAGA, CALIFORNIA



Dear Ms. King,

My name is Brother Charles Hilken, F.S.C., and I am a history professor at Saint Mary's College in Moraga, California, as well as the chair of the Bishop John S. Cummins Institute for Catholic Thought, Culture, and Action. Recently I published a book review of your work on Saint Therese and would like to share it with you. It is on the last page of the journal attached here as a pdf. I had the occasion to purchase the book for the mother of my godson at Christmas and was so taken by its topic that I got a copy for myself as well. After reading your book in January I wanted to share its content with the readership of our journal. Hence the review. Please accept it with my gratitude for a beautiful addition to Catholic spiritual reading.

Brother Charles


You can read the review at Veritas: Deepening Appreciation of Beauty, Wisdom, Vitality & Diversity of the Catholic Church. Click here and look for Vol. 4, No. 2, 2012 [last page].


Thursday, March 29, 2012

THE GUEST HOUSE



THE GUEST HOUSE

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

--Rumi


my favorite tree waving goodbye...
till next time!

THANK YOU CHRISTINE!!! WELCOME HOME...

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

REPORT FROM ANAHEIM: "THE CONGRESS" 2012

THE LORD IS MY SHEPHERD...
HELP!!!
 I have survived the humongous Religious Ed. Congress in Anaheim that takes place at the Convention Center each year. 

My adventure began with driving 90-plus miles through hideous rush hour traffic last Friday morning, praying I'd arrive on time for my 10 a.m. appointment. I was neatly packed, fairly organized, congratulating myself and thanking God as I pulled into the gargantuan parking structure (Lot 4) when suddenly my tongue moved down to my lower jaw and I realized I had left my fake (temporary) tooth by the sink back home. So I met with publishers for two days with a hole in my lower mouth. I tried (with very little success) not to laugh too hard or open my mouth too wide. And then I just pretended nothing was wrong, and thus nothing was.

I met Robert Ellsberg, editor-in-chief of Orbis Books, who edited both the journals and letters of Catholic Worker co-founder Dorothy Day. I met with Paul Pennick of 23rd Publications, and with Tom Grady and Bob Hamma of Ave Maria.  I stopped in at the Magnificat booth and said hey to Paul Snatchko
I of course stopped in at the Paraclete booth, where I was proud to see displayed a big ole poster of my very own Shirt of Flame: A Year with St. Therese of Lisieux.

I spotted Fr. Vince from St. Francis of Assisi, my neighborhood church back in L.A. Fr. Vince!" I brayed, barreling through the crowd, but Fr. Vince DID not seem quite as thrilled to see me as I was to see him. This could be due to the fact that he's heard some of my confessions.

Mostly, though, I met with the folks from Franciscan Media. I met with John Feister, who edits the magazine St. Anthony Messenger. I met Judy Zarick, who produces their radio show "Living Faith" and has put together a book called Moved by Faith: Stories from American Catholic Radio.

At dinner, the conversation turned to housecleaning and Mark ended up giving us a fascinating ironing tutorial. His parents owned an appliance store, turns out, and were away from home a lot but supervised the two boys (there were no sisters to do the dirty work) from afar, the result being that to this day when traveling Mark looks around first thing for an ironing board and an iron, whips out his spray starch, and goes to work on his French cuffs.

As we three gals looked on, agog that such a creature even existed, he segued into a commentary on kitchen cleanup: wiping the counters, vacuuming under the refrigerator, doing the dishes.
"Back up a sec," I said. "You vacuum under the fridge?"
"Of course--don't you?"
"With what?" I asked.
"Why, a crevice tool."
"What is a crevice tool?" we all shrieked in unison.

Turns out it's this thing: one of those pesky gadgets that come with the vacuum and you throw in the back of the closet with the old tennis balls and phone books and put out with the trash 15 years later.

I also learned that in addition to the Sunday exception to the Lenten fast, there is also apparently a TRAVELING EXCEPTION. "Cut it out!" I said. "Let's have some dessert then." Turns out, since I've been "traveling" (technically, as in been away from home) for a month, I could have been scarfing down sugar for weeks.  This is the kind of "faith sharing" I am ALL for.

Upwards of 40,000 people converge on this thing, which can be a little overwhelming, but I was able to look around and see, Oh, look, we're all so hungry, we all so want to connect, we're like sheep without a shepherd and how beautiful that so many people, with so many different approaches, interests, and orientations-of-heart can come together, attend lectures, talks, and workshops; chat and eat; look at, buy and sell books, tapes, rosaries, vestments, candles, pamphlets, and change purses embossed with the Virgin of Guadalupe, The Last Supper, and the Shroud of Turin.

CACTUS IN BACK OF THE MOTEL 6 ON BROOKHURST WHERE I STAYED
NOTE PLASTIC BAG AT LOWER LEFT
Still, it was good to be back for a vesper walk through the quiet streets of Palm Springs.


Sunday, March 25, 2012

THE CABAZON OUTLETS: ADVENTURES IN LENTEN SHOPPING

WHERE DID I PARK AGAIN?...


I have been to the Cabazon Outlets, off the I-10 W, outside Palm Springs.

This might seem to have nothing to do with Lent--or really anything--except that I view Lent the same way any alkie worth his or her salt views New Year's Eve: amateur night. Lent for me, if by Lent you mean scarcity, making do without, and deprivation, is business as usual.

Of course deprivation is not what Lent is really about, and that's why for me to go to a mall and spend some money is in a way a far greater "dying to myself" than, say, fasting from sugar. .




SWIMMING POOLS
MOVIE STARS
THE DESERT OF LENT

Saturday, March 24, 2012

EVER-SO-SLIGHTLY-HOMESICK SUNDAY





LANTANA MANIA

When I am alone

how close my friends are;
when I am with them
how distant they are!

--Antonio Machado, from “Fourteen Poems Chosen from Moral Proverbs and Folk Songs”




BONUS PINK FLOSS PHOTOS

Thursday, March 22, 2012

GARVAN BYRNE, CHILD SAGE



TODAY'S GOSPEL:

Mark 12:28-34

King James Version (KJV)
 28And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them well, asked him, Which is the first commandment of all?
 29And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord:
 30And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.
 31And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.
 32And the scribe said unto him, Well, Master, thou hast said the truth: for there is one God; and there is none other but he:
 33And to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbour as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.
 34And when Jesus saw that he answered discreetly, he said unto him, Thou art not far from the kingdom of God. And no man after that durst ask him any question.

GARVAN BYRNE, DYING 12-YEAR-OLD WITH INSIGHT, MIND, AND HEART OF SPIRITUALLY EVOLVED OCTOGENARIAN. I MYSELF AM SOMEWHAT RESISTANT TO "INSPIRATIONAL STORIES," ESPECIALLY OF TERMINALLY ILL CHILDREN, BUT THIS KID WAS TRULY NOT OF THIS WORLD....

PART 1: 9:58



PART 2: 5:03



PART 3: 6:38



EDITED VERSION: 8:15


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

THE DAUGHTERS OF ST. PAUL




My usual plaint is Why can't people leave me alone? Why do people always have to be tugging at my sleeve? Out here in Palm Springs, what with the solitude/silence/time away from home, I've segued into, Where is everybody? Nobody ever likes ME. 

Thus, starved for conversation: "Hi!" I waylaid a complete stranger as he was getting into his car in the parking lot of Albertson's the other day.  "How's it goin," he replied warily, turning on the ignition. "Glad you asked," I said, wedging myself inside his door, "because I'm out here visiting? I've lived in L.A. since 1990 but I'm out here watching my friend Christine's house, she comes from Zermatt, Switzerland, but she's letting me use her house which is really pretty amazing anyone would let me use anything considering I was a giant drunk for many years, sober now though!, and I've had a lot of time to think--you know, aging, death--and all kinds of stuff has come up and what's happening, a LOT,  is I am really getting in touch with my narcissistic personality disorder." 

I left just as he began to dial 911.

Then, next day I had to take my car in. The guy at Kelley's was explaining the estimate, droning on about oil pans and timing belts when suddenly I leaned in and laid my hand on his arm. "Say," I asked, "did your mother breast-feed you? Because mine DOESN'T REMEMBER, which to me is really emblematic of the way she was my whole life! She barely noticed anything, good or bad! I've been simply starved for love since before forever!"..

On top of it, at first I thought I was having all these "revelations" but after three weeks I'm realizing I had the exact same ones twenty years ago, ten years ago, AND five years ago.  The same stuff just cycles round again and again...which is not to say it's irrelevant or doesn't need working on, only that when I think NOW I've really gotten to the bottom of things; NOW I'm going to change EVERYTHING, now I'm finally going to GET WELL...probably not.

OUR LADY OF SOLITUDE
PALM SPRINGS, CA

Not a moment too soon, I had a couple of visitors Sunday. Yes indeedy, two delightful postulants from the Daughters of St. Paul, Theresa and Cheryl, made their way from L.A.--no small feat considering Sunday was the L.A. Marathon--out to my temporary abode.

I cleaned the bathroom, put away my tottering piles of books, Swiffered, and reminded myself five hundred or so times not to swear.

These two young gals (30 and 32) did my heart no end of good. They're based in St. Louis and have been in L.A. for a couple of weeks taking classes. "The Daughters of St. Paul are consecrated women who communicate Christ’s love to all people using all forms of media" and there were no flies on these two. Both of them had been web developers (they spoke lovingly of "code") in their former lives, and Cheryl was toting the one communal ipad (in a very smart red leather case purchased (I pried) at Big Lots).

They are postulants, i.e. undergoing a two-year initial discernment process. I asked how they had come to hear the call, and over salmon and salad and basmati rice I saw all over again how alike we are, we humans. We all want to feel useful, we all want to make a difference, we all want to put our talents to work, we all want to know how to give and receive love, and we all feel we're falling short.

Such joy, such faith, such freshness, such energy, such youth--how good they were to make the trek on what I suspect was their one afternoon off. Theresa has a blog called Pursued by Truth--you might want to check it out. "We'll pray for you!," they said, taking their leave.

Let's pray for them, too.


GONE-BY RUSSIAN KALE I COULD NOT BEAR TO THROW OUT
SO PUT IN A VASE TO CONTEMPLATE FOR A COUPLE OF DAYS

Sunday, March 18, 2012

EGYPT



As you may or may not know, I'm in Palm Springs for the month. I brought a pile of library books with me and one of the things I've done here is pore over the incredible photographs in The Treasures of Tutankhamun and the Egyptian Museum of Cairo. I have been simply astounded by the exquisite carvings, bas-reliefs, sculpture, death masks, furniture, and jewelry. I mean, really, you look at them and then you look at, say, Jeff Koons, and think What happened to us?

The photographs below don't do justice to the ones (by Araldo de Luca) in the book, but these are just of the few of the many items that grabbed me.

THE LECTOR-PRIEST KAAPER,
KNOWN AS "THE VILLAGE MAYOR"
SYCAMORE
5TH DYNASTY, USERKAF'S REIGN 2465-2458 BC
DECORATIVE PANEL
LIMESTONE AND FAIENCE
3rd DYNASTY DJOSER'S REIGN
2630-2611 BC
RAHOTEP AND NOFRET [SPOUSES]
PAINTED LIMESTONE
4TH DYNASTY, SNEFRU'S REIGN
2575-2551 B.C.
STATUETTE OF KHUFU
IVORY
4TH DYNASTY, KHUFU'S REIGN
2551-2558 B.C.
THE DWARF SENEB WITH HIS FAMILY
PAINTED LIMESTONE
LATE 5TH DYNASTY-EARLY 6TH DYNASTY
24TH-23RD CENTURY, B.C.
Now I'm reading up on mummification practices and the Egyptians' near-worship of household cats. The alabaster jars for face cream, the gold leaf and agate bracelets...man!

Just as I was scouring kayak for flights to Cairo, a friend sent me this Los Angeles Times piece about Timothy Fenstermacher, a high school dropout who became obsessed with Egyptology and has taught himself heiroglyphics from solitary confinement (where he'd rather be than in the general population) in Tehachapi (California) State Prison.

"I am dying, Egypt, dying."
--Marc Antony, to Cleopatra.Antony and Cleopatra, William Shakespeare, (IV, xv, 41). 

THE WIND


"Occasionally I hear the wind blow,
And I find that just hearing the wind blow makes it
worth
having been born."
--Fernando Pessoa




WIND TURBINE GENERATORS,
PALM SPRINGS,
A TYPE OF WINDMILL THAT PRODUCES ELECTRICITY BY
HARNESSING THE WIND

Don't miss Pessoa's The Book of Disquiet.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

LENT IN PALM SPRINGS


Palm Springs, where I've been holed up since late February, is one of THE strangest places ever. 

Old rich people, gay people, crazy people, Jewish people, all in a 50's time warp, and about 130 degrees from May-September...It’s a resort, basically, with meth-lab fringes (toward which I, for one, tend)... There are restaurants here, Billy Reed’s for one, that look like Perry Como could be sitting in the adjacent red pleather banquette. Chicken pot pie, stuffed avocado, Cobb salad. "Cocktails." 

People have no sense of time, schedule, or urgency, which is very unsettling, though in a somewhat (though only somewhat) good way after L.A.. Today, tomorrow; 2 o’clock, 4 o’clock, whatever. Old guys cruising down Palm Canyon in vintage T-Birds—turquoise blue, banana yellow—with their 85-year-old boyfriends…

I had big plans for plunging headlong into my next writing project. What I’ve done instead is wound a whole ton of skeins of yarn into balls. My friend Christine, whose house I'm watching, left me an entire bag of expensive yarn, including 27 skeins of fine string-like yarn in lush colors of acid green, mauve, robin’s egg blue, and I am just not going to be able to rest, apparently, until I have rolled every last one of them into balls (otherwise the stuff gets hopelessly tangled when you try to knit). 




Though a single ball can take half an hour (and that’s if I don’t screw up, the odds of which are about 70/30), I can’t describe how satisfying I find this. You position the skein around the outside of your knees, and if you let the strands get at all slack you’re in major trouble because yarn has a will, a brain, and a mischievous streak. I could just sit there indefinitely, winding, winding, especially when combined with watching, say, a Sam Fuller film. Last night I watched The Naked Kiss—that is one weird film.

I did also knit an entire…well, actually, I seem to have devised a new article of clothing. A kind of combo scarf/cape with huge flared ends, in this case of hot pink mohair with black kitten-hair fringe, that as the thing got longer and weirder, started to scare even me. Which it turns out I can however drape around my neck, back, shoulder, or just hang down in front thereby giving an insane, Whatever-Happened-to-Baby-Jane effect.


this should come in handy during a typical 85-degree-afternoon...

I'm actually quite proud of myself. My garment contains only 8 or 10 scattered mysterious holes, and while knitting, I discovered Hammer Film Productions (Gothic British black and white horror flicks from the 60's). 

The double feature I watched consisted of Never Take Candy from a Stranger (elderly pervert/pedophile from the town's richest family  molests two young girls, and These Are the Damned"a socially conscious sci-fi chiller about young victims of radiation exposure" in which "a couple stumbles upon a quarantined group of mysterious children."

In an undersea cave, fyi.

Extreme closeups that make even normal people look bathed in greasy sweat and psychotic: who could resist?





Tuesday, March 13, 2012

THE PUNKS AND THE CATHOLICS: WEASEL RADIO



I'm  godmother to Lydia Ruth, one of a pair of (now 2-year-old) twin daughters of my friend Ben Foster/Weasel, founder and frontman for the punk band Screeching Weasel. Ben and his wife are both Catholic converts.

I met Ben through my brother Joe, founder and frontman of The Queers, and though I've never pretended to be part of the punk scene, my hat has always been off to both bands. The respect with which Ben and Joe talk about each other when neither is within earshot slays me, especially as these are guys with nary a sentimental bone in their bodies.

Last year, at SXSW, a very unfortunate incident occurred wherein a female fan jumped onstage while Screeching Weasel was playing, words were exchanged, and Ben hit her.

An uproar ensued. Ben publicly apologized. And around minute 18:45 of the below Weasel Radio podcast, he riffs about the reaction of the punk world vs. the reaction of his Catholic friends in the aftermath. Not to polarize, obviously, but I, too, have noticed that the anti-religion-on-the-grounds-that-religion-is-rigid brigade can sometimes be fanatically rigid, closed-minded, and psychologically violent themselves.

As Ben says, the Catholic paradigm is basically that of the prodigal son who trails home after squandering his inheritance in the mire, is deeply grateful to have been invited back to the table, and realizes I'm pretty much a buffoon, trying to make my way just like everyone else...

Here's the link if you want to listen on mynorthwest.com.

If you only tune in to the clip in question (again, starting at 18:45), don't miss Screeching Weasel's "Science of Myth" directly following!

More audio at MyNorthwest.com


Sunday, March 11, 2012

THE WEST MEMPHIS THREE


Damien Echols describes seeing his first sunset in almost twenty years.

I may be the only person on earth who had not, until last week, heard of the West Memphis Three. This buffoonish travesty of justice might have been comical if it had not resulted in the sentencing of two 18-year-olds to life, and a 19-year-old to Death Row, where he stayed in solitary confinement for 18 1/2 years in an Arkansas SuperMaxt.

From wikipedia:


"The West Memphis Three are three men who were tried and convicted as teenagers in 1994 of the 1993 murders of three boys in West Memphis, Arkansas. Damien Echols was sentenced to death, Jessie Misskelley, Jr. was sentenced to life imprisonment plus two 20-year sentences, and Jason Baldwin was sentenced to life imprisonment. During the trial, the prosecution asserted that the children were killed as part of a satanic ritual. A number of documentaries have been based on the case, and celebrities and musicians have held fund raisers in the belief that they are innocent.

In July 2007, new forensic evidence was presented in the case and a status report jointly issued by the State and the Defense team stated, "Although most of the genetic material recovered from the scene was attributable to the victims of the offenses, some of it cannot be attributed to either the victims or the defendants." On October 29, 2007, the defense filed a Second Amended Writ of Habeas Corpus, outlining the new evidence.

Following a successful decision in 2010 by the Arkansas Supreme Court regarding newly produced DNA evidence, the West Memphis Three reached a deal with prosecutors. On August 19, 2011, they entered Alford pleas, which allow them to assert their innocence while acknowledging that prosecutors have enough evidence to convict them. Judge David Laser accepted the pleas and sentenced the three to time served. They were released with ten-year suspended sentences, having served 18 years and 78 days in prison."

HBO made a three-part documentary on the case called Paradise Lost (only Parts 1 (The Childhood Murders at Robin Hood Hills: 1996) and 2 (Revelations: 2000) are out on netflix. Here's the trailer for Part 3 (Purgatory: 2011):



NYC landscape architect Lorri Davis saw Paradise Lost in early 1996 and wrote Damien Echols in jail. The two fell in love and were married on December 3, 1999, while he was still on Death Row. She fought tirelessly for his release. This NYTimes story documents their romance. Along with Peter Jackson (also a tireless promoter of the movement to free the WM3), Echols and Davis produced the recent documentary, West of Memphis, which was directed by Amy Berg, premiered this year at Sundance, and has been picked up by Sony Pictures Classics.

Even as a 19-year-old with a botched Boy George haircut, Echols (who was convicted largely on the basis of the fact that he listened to Metallica, wore black, and once doodled the name Aleister Crowley on a notepad) far outshone anyone involved in the case (with the possible exception of his co-defendants), exhibiting way more courage, duende and class than the investigating officers, D.A., and definitely than the judge.

One of the most remarkable aspects of the case is that the boys became men in jail (Jason Baldwin recounts that he was arrested on his last day of tenth grade: his mother brought his report card to jail and showed it to him through the bars) and by men, I mean real men, who understand what happened to them, are continuing to fight to exonerate themselves, and have seemingly no bitterness, no hatred, no trash talk. They're grateful and, considering what they endured, they're grounded almost beyond imagination. People from around the world fought for their cause and it's easy to see why.



JESSIE MISSKELLEY, THEN AND NOW


JASON BALDWIN, THEN AND NOW
Watching Paradise Lost, I was struck by the fact that Jessy Misskelly seemed to be motherless, and Jason Baldwin and Damien Echols seemed to be fatherless.

"We were the bottom of the barrel," says Echols. "Poor white trash."  It's hard to know who to feel worse for: the parents of the 8-year-olds--Stevie Branch, Michael Moore, and Christopher Byers--who were brutally murdered; or the parents of the innocent boys--truly, they were boys themselves--who saw their sons convicted, exiled, shunned by the community without a single piece of physical evidence linking them to the crime scene. To have no money for a decent defense. To no doubt be shunned themselves.

In one scene, shortly after the three have been arrested,  Misskelly's father is talking to his then girlfriend. She says, "If Jessie done what they said he done, I ain't havin nothin more to do with im. I wouldn't send him a nickel." The father says stubbornly,  "I would." "I wouldn't even send him a pack of cigarettes," the girlfriend continues. "I would," says the father. "Nope," the girlfriend presses on, "nor even a pack of cigarettes." "I will send him a pack of cigarettes," the father says.

"That's my flesh and blood. That's my son."

Saturday, March 10, 2012

ST. BENEDICT'S CHAPEL BY PETER ZUMTHOR

I recently happened upon this photo of St. Benedict's Chapel, designed by Swiss architect Peter Zumthor.

The chapel is in Sumvitg, Switzerland.

photo: Hans Danuser
From Danuser's book Seeing Zumthor
More photos, courtesy of Charles Luck Perspectives:


INTERIOR ST. BENEDICT'S CHAPEL

BELL TOWER ST. BENEDICT'S CHAPEL





Another Zumthor chapel:

PETER ZUMTHOR'S BRUDER KLAUS CHAPEL
MECHERNICH, GERMANY (2007)
photo: Charles Luck Perspectives


Thursday, March 8, 2012

ALTER EGOS

VIRGIN AND CHILD, c. 1125-50
LOMBARDY, ITALY; LIMESTONE 
BOSTON MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS
photo: Sharon Mollerus

What little I know of popular culture, and even of other people’s blogs, comes from friends, links people send me, serendipity. I have plenty of time where I “wander,” literally and figuratively, but the wandering is always with a purpose. I don’t ever just while away an afternoon doing nothing, even if I’m “doing nothing.” So one of the nice things about being away from L.A. is that little chunks of time open up where I am able to wander the internet a bit more than I usually do.

To wit, a friend sent me a photo of the Virgin and Child, no attribution, that we both liked because, unlike so many Madonna and Child statues, Mary and the kid actually looked complex and real. So I started googling and learned fairly quickly that the statue was in Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts and next thing I knew I’d happened upon a blog called Studio and Garden, which is written by a visual artist named Altoon Sultan who lives in Vermont, and next thing after that I was scrolling through post after post, fascinated.

SOAP DISH AND SCRUBBER
photo: Altoon Sultan
Altoon takes pictures of cobweb-festooned windows and turkey tracks in the snow, and hooks “ruglets,” and paints with home-made egg tempera in her studio, and grows all her own vegetables and keeps her seed packets in alphabetical order and has turnips, several kinds of potatoes, cabbages, again in neat order, in the cold cellar. She periodically jaunts down to NYC to take in museum exhibits which she reports back on, with photos, all in the most engaging way.

I was captivated by a book of Tantric paintings she recently described.

SHIVA LINGA
(SANSKRIT FOR "ETERNAL PROCREATIVE GERM":
I IMMEDIATELY THOUGHT "BLEEDING HEART OF CHRIST")
FROM TANTRA SONG: TANTRIC PAINTING FROM RAJASTHAN...
She also cooks.

Altoon lives the life a teeny part of me has always thought I should live, or might have lived if I’d stayed in New England: in a country farmhouse, with a fireplace, many birdfeeders, and a big old-fashioned kitchen. It’s not that I have no capacity to learn practical skills like splitting wood or digging a garden; it’s that experience has shown after an hour or so I want to lie down and read, or make a cup of coffee and gaze  out the window, and that while I love fingerling potatoes, heirloom tomatoes, and exotic strains of arugula as much as the next person, really when push comes to shove, I am just as glad to buy them at the Hollywood Farmer’s Market or for that matter, the 99-Cent Only store on Sunset Boulevard and Micheltorena.

Also, I like to have a center. I like to have a place in the middle—a downtown, a teeming hub—that I can walk away from. I like to have something to push against. Every time I go back to New Hampshire (my homeland), for the first couple of days I think, I love it here! I could live here! I should move back! And then around Day Four something kicks in: the feeling I had as a kid of being trapped, of wanting to kick out the traces, of longing to live among people who are openly ruining themselves, or committing crimes, or engaged in some kind of desperately compulsive music or art; around Day Four, I'm consumed by existential nostalgia for a land where I have never lived, and am never going to live, yet seem to have spent my life looking for...

Still, I loved meandering around Altoon’s blog. She’s a wonderful writer, she has a wonderful eye, and if you have a blog yourself, you know the almost maniacal energy/drive/love required to post every other day.

I may have been inspired by Altoon’s blog to look for a picture of Siros, Greece, where I spent several extremely hazy weeks drinking retsina at the High Life Café during the late 1970’s. Because I then stumbled upon another blog called piran café: a trampfest.


photo: pirancafe.com 
"08-Sep-2007, Zurich. A very hard call. For the time being I’m going with this shot, mainly because it was something that I clearly wasn’t expecting. I was simply hoping to get a quick snap of the woman on a cigarette break, and then remember being a bit upset when the car drove by. I couldn’t have planned the positioning if I tried."

Now this guy is a completely different animal than Altoon: a journalist who lives in Ljubljana, Slovenia (I enjoyed learning where that was, and riffling through photos of Piran, which is a seaside city that looks kind of scruffy and divine), and at the time (back in January) I discovered him had just quit smoking, and who jets, rides, walks, and tramps about the world with another kind of beautiful eye: for the offbeat, the violent, the politically unrestive, the urban (and occasionally the pastoral), the paradoxical.

From his "About" page:

There is no real Piran Café, nor is this one located in Piran, the millennium-old Adriatic seaside city that rests at the tip of a peninsula at the easternmost edge of Slovenia. This one is actually sits in Ljubljana, Slovenia’s capital, some 130 kms from Piran. I once seriously considered opening a café in a relatively quiet seaside setting, where I would graciously host weary travelers, underemployed artists and musicians, poets, priests, prisoners and politicians, and other voices of desperate illumination. That real Piran Café is now the destination.

Based in Ljubljana, I travel quite a bit as a reporter, primarily around Europe. But you won’t find anything remotely related to my professional life here. Cafés are necessary escapes and roadside rest stops. My passions include travel, art, design, innovation, photography, museums, wine and sushi. Politics usually lurk nearby. More recently, I’ve taken a keen interest to issues of migration and immigration, particularly in Europe. When they and I cross paths, those are some of the things you’ll find here. And plenty of personal bookmarks on wide-ranging topics that happen to fall within the wide parameters of my obsessions at any given time.

Sample posts: “First Photos of China’s 298-Million-Year-Old Buried Forest,” “Daegu [South Korea] Notebook,” “On Cultivating a Sense of Humility While On the Road,” and “Agent Orange’s Golden Anniversary” in which Bob R. (that's as far as he identifies himself) visited and took photos of the children who live at Lang Hoa Binh Than Xuan, an orphanage, school and clinic in Hanoi set up specifically for victims of Agent Orange. He’s also a great videographer ( samples here include "Sarajevo Siege Tour," "Rabat Quickie," "Feeding Time," "Holy Saturday," and "ego trip (Train II"...)

This is another type of life I “might” have lived or have liked to live except for the fact that constant travel would unsettle me to the point of psychosis. But I love to read about other people’s travels and this guy totally gets what is interesting, what is corrupt, what is beautiful, what is human. And again, to keep a blog like that up and running takes a tremendous amount of labor, thought, and heart.

WOMAN IN BOMBED-OUT ATHEN
PHOTO BY BOB R.'S FRIEND 
                                               VALIA CARMONDS CIRCA DEC. 11, 2008 [SEE POST]  
                  THAT PURPLE SCARF SAYS EVERYTHING. 
                                                                      
So those are two very different alter egos, and I admire the work and lives of their creators and I also marvel at the way we find our way, if we are lucky and don’t mind taking many wrong turns in the process, to exactly where we are “supposed” to be.

If we are lucky, we all find our way to the incessantly unfolding life that is tailor-made for us.