Namaste Motherfucker

I Can See Better Through the Fog is a storytelling podcast series in the vein of This American Life and the Moth. It tells the ongoing story of an echo boomer’s quarter life crises, featuring life, love, music, and San Francisco. Press the play button below to hear an audio recording of this latest entry or listen to it on iTunes. If it doesn’t work, you may need the latest version of flash software. (click here to download). Another troubleshooting tip would be to go directly to the soundcloud website. Sit back and let your ears do the work. The text version of this entry is provided beneath the list of selected tracks.

Runtime: 6 minutes and 49 seconds.

Selected tracks: Fiona Apple “Every Single Night” and Beck “I Just Started Hating Some People Today”

Sediments of left over tea danced like snowflakes in a snow globe inside my reused Snapple jar. Waves of foggy tap water crashed against the bottom side of the bottle cap. The few drops of water that escaped were soaked up by the green beach towel the bottle nestled against. With my yoga supplies tucked beneath my arm, I walked down California Street.

As I approached Fillmore, thirty yards down the street a white billboard with an orange flower logo hung at the top of a door frame, perpendicular to the victorian building on which it was attached. It matched the logo from the yoga studio’s website. On this free weekday morning, an unusual occurrence for me, I’d decided to try yoga to curb my habitual, torturous, and excessive anxiousness.

I walked down a narrow hallway, painted the same shade of orange as the logo out front, to a set of stairs. At the top of the stairs and to the right, a doorway waited for me. Peering into the studio, I saw only a reflection of myself in the mirror across from me that ran the length of the studio. Wondering if I missed the office in the hallway downstairs, I peered back down the steps. There was no indication I’d missed anything. Peeking my head further into the studio, I noticed a cubicle tucked away in a nook to the left and behind the door. A middle aged man with blonde sprouts, that were unlikely to grow back in full, and big green googly eyes stared at a computer screen hidden by the concave wooden desk he sat behind.

“Are you a new student?” the man asked, shifting his attention from the computer to me. “Ya. I’m here for the introductory thirty days for thirty dollars,” I answered. The man behind the desk smiled and handed me a form attached to a clip board. After filling out the form, I returned it to him with my check card. He typed away at his computer. “You’re all squared away Max,” he said. “Thanks. And what was your name?” I asked. “Venis,” he smiled.

By the spelling on the website, I’d thought his name was pronounced like the planet of the same spelling, but he said it like the canal linked city in Italy. “You can take a seat anywhere you’d like,” Venis called, as I was placing my belongings into a square cubby. I migrated over to the front left corner of the empty room and lay my towel down. Atop it, I breathed in and out methodically, relaxing my mind before the session. It was over 90 degrees in the room, the antithesis of the foggy weather looming just outside the sliding glass doors that lead to a backyard deck.

“This is so strange,” Venis called from his cave. “Usually we’re packed by now.” It was seven minutes until showtime. As ten o’clock scrolled closer, only three others roamed in. By the way Venis greeted each of them, I guessed they were semi-regulars. At ten sharp, Venis left his desktop and shut the door to the studio. “Well, I guess it’s just us today,” he commented. I didn’t recognize until he was out from behind the desk that he wore a light purple tank top and short shorts. He was beginning to remind me more and more like Richard Simmons.

“We’re going to start out today with a breathing exercise,” Venis began. “Stand up straight and face the mirror. You can put your towels to the side for now.” I folded up my towel and let my feet firmly press against the rough carpet. “Now take a deep breath in through your nose, and I want to hear a loud breath out of your mouth.” Me and his other three students followed his lead. After a few medium volume breaths, Venis interjected. “I can’t hear you! There’s four of you and one of me.” He took his own breaths, which were inhumanly louder than the four of us students put together. “I can barely hear you. Louder! Breeeeeaaaaathe!” My anxiousness was replaced by chagrin.

As we continued into different poses, Venis kept pushing. “We’re going right into the next one. Don’t forget to breeeeeaaaaaathe!” Venis beckoned. Venis indeed was Richard Simmons, if he were cast as the drill sergeant in “Full Metal Jacket”. Finally we came to our last pose. Our raised, contorted arms lifted all our shirts just above our navels. “Now turn your back!” Venis commanded with the intensity of a military commander. I twisted to the right, wincing in pain. Across the spectrum of tense, sweating students, I noticed a black bumper sticker on the registration nook. It read “Namaste Motherfucker”.

This Isn’t Our Parade

I Can See Better Through the Fog is a storytelling podcast series in the vein of This American Life and the Moth. It tells the ongoing story of an echo boomer’s quarter life crises, featuring life, love, music, and San Francisco. Press the play button below to hear an audio recording of this latest entry or listen to it on iTunes. If it doesn’t work, you may need the latest version of flash software. (click here to download). Another troubleshooting tip would be to go directly to the soundcloud website. Sit back and let your ears do the work. The text version of this entry is provided beneath the list of selected tracks.

Runtime: 7 minutes and 23 seconds.

Selected tracks: Santigold “Big Mouth” and “This Isn’t Our Parade”

Weaving through a series of over the top floats and costumes, I searched for my friend Kelly. She’d invited me the previous night to march in the San Francisco Pride Parade with the organization she interned for. I passed shirtless boys in suspenders, policemen with rainbow beads around their necks, a San Francisco trolley full of same sex parents and their children, marching bands, cheerleaders, and a group with long balloons of all colors attached to their backs, making them look like coordinated peacocks.

Coming across an intricately designed float featuring a cartoonish ten foot model of the Golden Gate Bridge, I paused to listen to live music. At the back of the float, just below the bridge, was a blues band consisting of all black female musicians: the bassist had her head shaved, the lead guitarist wore long dreads, and the drummer covered her ‘do with a Rastafarian hat. They jammed to the beat of the marching band a few floats behind them, improvising to fuse the collegiate beat with their bluesy style. The bassist smiled down at me and mouthed the words “Happy pride”. “Thank you,” I mouthed back. “Happy pride to you too!”

I moved further down Spear Street, approaching Mission. Kelly was still nowhere to be seen amongst the gobs of people. My phone then buzzed from within my pocket. “Where are you?” I asked Kelly. “We’re in the yellow shirts, right next to the Golden Gate float,” she yelled over the cacophony of noise. I turned back to the direction from which I came, keeping the phone to my ear. “I see you,” Kelly yelled abruptly. I scanned the crowd until I caught her wave. She was positioned in the back of a group of thirty people wearing light yellow t-shirts with the name David Campos printed across them in patriotic colors.

“You look so cute!,” Kelly commented on the purple collared shirt, black tie, and acid washed slim jeans I wore. My fashion decision would soon be rendered useless. Kelly then handed me a David Campos t-shirt. “Uh,” I said hesitantly. “What am I supporting by putting on this t-shirt?” I trusted that if Kelly enthusiastically volunteered her time to a cause, it was a cause worth supporting. But I still wanted to have more information to go off of. “David Campos is running for reelection as Mission District rep.” She then listed a few of his legislative achievements, which included free municipal service for youth. Assured enough, I pulled the yellow shirt over my head, popped and refolded my purple collar, and draped my black tie over the V and M on the David Campos t-shirt. As long as I was going to walk for Campos, I decided I still would remain an individual. I wanted the true celebratory spirit of pride to remain in some regard.

One of Campos’s lead interns began hitting on one of Kelly’s girl friends that she had recruited. He wore black hipster sunglasses and smiled with an uninterrupted mischievousness during every word he spoke. First he asked what she did in the city, then what college she attended. He chimed in that his father had taught at her alma mater, and proceded to reminisce inauthentically. He was smooth and friendly, but his slick, polished social skills hinted at an ulterior motive. As a presumed student and practitioner of political strategy, he acted on behalf of his professional ambition, not to mention his penis, rather than any type of altruism.

The floats and paraders ahead of us began to inch forward. The parade was commencing. We marched down Market Street, clapping our hands to the beat provided by the blasting speakers on the float in front of us. Crowds of onlookers cheered and waved at us for blocks from behind barricades on both sides of the street. At some points the crowd was five people deep.

As I continued to walk and clap as enthusiastically as I could muster, a short, slightly pudgy hispanic man wearing purple tinted sunglasses and a soccer jersey approached me. “I’m David,” Campos introduced himself to me. “Thanks for coming.” He moved onto the next volunteer. I took no offense by his disinterest in carrying on more of a conversation than what he gave. We were in the middle of a fracus and it didn’t seem the most appropriate time to talk extensively. Yet it reinforced my view that politicians value winning more than their constituents’ lives.

We approached the block before the Civic Center where the parade would come to its end. Campos’s lead operative cupped his hands over his mouth and yelled back at us. “Let’s pick up the energy guys,” he pumped his fists in the air to “It’s Raining Men”. “There’s one last group of camera’s here at the end. Let’s make David look good!” He then began chanting “Campos” as a camera on a crane swooped down from the right. I scurried past it, not feeling the need to be seen through a lens.

On the last turn I noticed a beautifully robust girl in a painted tank top and a fashionably torn skirt leaning on a barricade. She carried a sign that read “Free Hugs”. I separated from Campos’s group and trotted over to her. We made eye contact, and hugged. We squeezed each other tight, with compassionate strength. “Happy pride,” she said. “Happy pride,” I reciprocated.

Something Old

I Can See Better Through the Fog is a storytelling podcast series in the vein of This American Life and the Moth. It tells the ongoing story of an echo boomer’s quarter life crises, featuring life, love, music, and San Francisco. Press the play button below to hear an audio recording of this latest entry or listen to it on iTunes. If it doesn’t work, you may need the latest version of flash software. (click here to download). Another troubleshooting tip would be to go directly to the soundcloud website. Sit back and let your ears do the work. The text version of this entry is provided beneath the list of selected tracks.

Runtime: 10 minutes and 3 seconds.

Selected tracks: Regina Spektor “Small Town Moon”, David Byrne & St. Vincent “Who” and Beach House “Myth”

The dry cleaning dangling from my right hand grazed the glass front door of my father’s midtown house-turned-duplex. I turned the key then pushed the door open with my left shoulder. Despite the solstice not being for another two weeks, Sacramento’s summer waited for me in my father’s lower unit. His place was silent, save for the pre-summer wind whistling through the window crevices. My dad was away for the afternoon at a recently deceased colleague’s memorial.

As I walked into the dining room I noticed opened moving boxes on the table. Strewn out beside them were heaps of photographs. Some small, some large. Some were even panoramic. They were a mixture of color and black and white prints. I draped my dry cleaning over a chair. The plastic coating over it purred softly as it came to rest. I sat down, looking over the scattered piles of captured memories.

At first it appeared my father was preparing for my best friend from childhood’s wedding. That was in fact why I was in town for the weekend, Frances’s wedding. On the top of the many piles of pictures was one of me, Frances, and Mitch, her high school sweetheart, and now her husband to be. In the 8×8 color print we stood together outside my childhood suburban home, dressed for junior prom. Our legs were kicked up to the right in unison. We were posed in the can-can dance position. Smiles were spread across our faces. Behind my own was a nervousness more complicated than the picture could possibly show.

I went with a beautiful girl who was a year ahead of me in school. She was my co-anchor on the daily morning announcements. Her intensely curly, blonde highlighted hair, sparkling green eyes, and bubbly personality appealed to droves of other boys. I asked her because I enjoyed being around her infectious positive energy and it seemed the easiest “yes” to get from anyone. She was a friend beyond anything else. Our prom together was enjoyable, but I kept it even tamer than a G rating. I didn’t even to attempt to kiss her at the end of the night. Part of that was a fear of rejection and the other part being a stronger interest in the boys. But at that point, I hadn’t given much thought to dating guys. Asking them to the prom seemed out of the question.

I began flipping through the black and white pictures eventually coming to one of my grandmother in her wedding dress. Her posture was better than I had ever known. Perhaps she was past 5 foot at her wedding. I’ve known her only in her below 5 foot days. She’s seemingly shrunk in height, but not personality, each passing year.

Noticing many pictures of my deceased grandfather, I remembered my father had organized a memorial hike for him in a few weeks time. Maybe this was why he took all the pictures out. To find one to bring to the hike. I stumbled across a picture of my grandfather at my Uncle Steve’s bar mitzvah. He stared stoically into the camera. A tallit was draped over his shoulders and a yamaka rested on his head. His facial expression dictated: “I really don’t know why you have to take this picture, but if you must, go ahead, I’ll play along.” It’s the sort of attitude you want subjects to have in a photograph. A sort of truth comes out when people are just able to be themselves despite the camera’s gaze. So often moments captured on film fail to give a true depiction of a person or time because people adjust themselves to what they think the camera wants: a smile, a weird face, a respectable posture. Once the camera’s off them, they return to their natural state.

Dogs, however, are naturals when it comes to being photographed. They don’t know any better. I flipped through some pictures of Buddy, our old golden retriever. In one photo, he lay in the grass, soaking in the sun. However, in many of the pictures he refuses to face the camera, not knowing what my dad wanted from him. So maybe dogs are not always the most photogenic creatures, but they still know how to properly ignore the camera.

I moved back over to the black and white pictures. I then came across a photograph I had wondered if was in existence: my grandparents’ house as it was being built by my grandfather. I gripped the picture and sat back in my chair, staring at the wooden skeleton. The design was unmistakeable: steep sloping driveway, pointed roof to the left, and a long, ranch style frame to the right. In the distance were the tree laden hills of Marin County. In the 4×4 print the carpenters atop the tiny forest of wooden beams were barely visible.

Setting the picture back down on the table, tears started to form. It was my father’s home. It was my grandfather, the renaissance man, doing the work he loved and was revered for. It was the home I used for months before finding a place to live in San Francisco. It was the home my grandmother had to rent out because she couldn’t live there any longer without full time care. Time stood still as I continued to stare at the picture. I’d known this house in its finished form all my life. It’s the only way I knew it. Which left me taking it for granted, believing it eternally existed. The memory captured in the picture had become immortal. Yet, it was also a stinging reminder that all things in life, and life itself, have a beginning and end.

My dad walked in just as I was moving onto more current photos. “How was the memorial?” I asked him. “Hard,” he responded. “I knew Carol for a very long time. She was a really great person. Wish I had known her better.” He went to the kitchen. His keys jingled as he set them down on the counter.

“Are all these pictures out because you’re picking one to give Frances and Mitch tonight at the wedding, or for grandpa’s memorial hike?” My dad walked back into the dining room with a glass of pineapple juice. “Actually, it’s for your Aunt Shirley’s memorial.” I felt ashamed to have forgotten the most recent in the family’s long list of passings. “Oh, right,” I said somberly. “So you went to Jeremy’s graduation last week.” I reminded him of his nephew’s graduation. “And a memorial earlier and a wedding later today. How does it feel to be involved in such different types of ceremonies?”

My dad gave out a long sigh as he leaned on a chair. “They’re all celebrations of life really. Youthful achievements, unions, and honoring the entire arc of a person’s life. They just celebrate different blocks of life.” My dad shrugged, not knowing what else to say. I nodded in understanding, agreement, and satisfaction over the content and brevity of his answer. He took a sip from his glass and looked thoughtfully out the window at the trees blowing in the wind. With that I peeled back the protective plastic sheet covering my dry cleaning and began to get ready for Frances and Mitch’s wedding.

Twin Peaks

I Can See Better Through the Fog is a storytelling podcast series in the vein of This American Life and the Moth. It tells the ongoing story of an echo boomer’s quarter life crises, featuring life, love, music, and San Francisco. Press the play button below to hear an audio recording of this latest entry or listen to it on iTunes. If it doesn’t work, you may need the latest version of flash software. (click here to download). Another troubleshooting tip would be to go directly to the soundcloud website. Sit back and let your ears do the work. The text version of this entry is provided beneath the list of selected tracks.

Runtime: 10 minutes and 9 seconds.

Selected tracks: Eric Burdon & The Animals “San Franciscan Nights”, Norah Jones (covering Wilco) “Jesus, Etc.”, and Old Crow Medicine Show “Hard to Love”

His room was empty, save for a queen sized bed, the mattress clinging to the floor, and a single ordinary nightstand. The white nightstand matched the rug and walls. I was surprised at how undecorated the room was, especially considering he’d moved here from Kentucky almost a year ago. The only decoration he had was a name tag sticker slapped onto the beam next to his sliding door closet that faced the bed. It was from a career training program his company put on with middle schoolers. And it was confirmation of some of what we had chatted about over drinks.

We met at the Mix, the first time we’d met up in six months. Eric had thought I wasn’t so interested, so he didn’t push hanging out any further. But he had been mistaken. He came on strong through texting, which made me uncomfortable, but it did not fully diminish my interest. When I spotted him in the bar, he was heads above everyone. I’d forgotten how tall he was. A trait I often find very attractive.

We bar hopped twice until we came to Twin Peaks. Because many consider it to be the first openly gay bar in the nation, the crowd there is mostly veterans of the gay community. Not being of that generation, it hasn’t been on my radar of hang outs. However, I’ve always felt it was a place I needed to try. As I sat and sipped my rum and diet coke, Eric began to rub my leg under the table. I tried to ignore it as best I could, continuing to talk about random things. Two older bears sitting at the table next to us looked on. “Awww, look at the little cubs,” one commented at us. I gave the bear a rudimentary half smile. “You should come back to my place at Twin Peaks and see the wine I’m making and the garden I’ve got in my backyard. It’s just a five minute bus ride.” Eric’s offer was enticing, but I needed a little more convincing to get out of my comfort zone. “C’mon. It will be an adventure.” Adventure was the word that got me.

Inside his dimly lit room, he pulled out what felt like an ancient Dell laptop, which in fact was probably less than ten years old, and asked if I wanted to watch something. “Sure,” I said, indifferently, still taking in his bare bedroom. We both got undressed. He was quicker than I, and began looking for something on Hulu as I pulled off my jeans. Once I climbed into bed, we started kissing. Both of us soon forgot about watching anything.

In the heat of the moment, I climaxed long before and unbeknownst him. My mind had already been wandering, far off from my body’s actions. And now it was completely invested elsewhere. This was not love, I thought. This was physical gratification. Eric continued, not knowing I was miles away at that point. Because our conversations over drinks went well enough, I was uncertain if this was just sex to him. I admit the physical part of it felt good, but I knew I did not want to seek out a relationship with him. So here I found myself, in bed with someone of quality social characteristics, but just not ones that fit well with my own.

He finished and then we lay there together. “You hear that?” he said, as I lay my head on his broad chest. “No, what?” I asked. “It’s my wine. It’s the bubbles.” I lay still and quiet, looking up at the stars through the long, rectangular window over his bed. I heard the popping bubbles coming from his closet, in the big jar he was using to ferment strawberry and raspberry wine.

In the morning I walked home from Twin Peaks. He saw me out, showing me his spectacular view of the downtown skyline from his living room window. We kissed each other goodbye and made loose plans for getting together again. Neither of us made any mention of defining what we were out for.

That evening I took a walk to the Presidio, blowing off plans I had to see friends. I needed some alone time to think. I put in my ipod, listening to a cover of Wilco’s “Jesus, Etc.” by Norah Jones, a soft and contemplative version of the song that relies heavily on a bluesy electric guitar. As I walked down Lover’s Lane, a sloping diagonal path at the bottom of the Presidio, I pondered what to do next.

Being with Eric did not feel bad, but there was something that just didn’t feel right about it. I’d suddenly realized that the type of intimacy I sought was more social, psychological, and emotional than anything else. It felt great that I had dissipated the hesitancies I had over physical intimacy, which was a huge personal obstacle to overcome. However, it left me feeling sort of empty. Now that that challenge I’d fully invested myself in for so long was over, what mountain was left to climb?

As “Jesus, Etc.” faded out, I heard the birds chirping amongst the trees in the Presidio. I took out my earbuds to listen to them and the howl of the wind through the trees. Gradually, I began to hear something else. In the distance, echoing through the canyon of pines, cypresses, and eucalyptuses, was the sound of a bluegrass band. I moved further into the Presidio, crossing grass valleys, roadways, and old brick Naval barracks that had been converted into offices and homes. I accelerated my steady stroll into a speed walk. “Don’t stop playing. Please don’t stop playing before I get to you.” I said to myself. The music got louder and louder.

Finally, the full power of the speakers ripped through a central grass area in front of the Walt Disney Museum. The bluegrass band was set up on a small stage next to a huge screen that looked to be used for a movie showing. There were four band members, one on stand up bass, one on guitar, one on banjo, and one on fiddle. They played a cover of Old Crow Medicine Show’s “Hard to Love”. The man on stand up bass sang. “The blackest crow that ever flew, will never turn to white. If you will prove your love to me, I’d turn my day to night. Well, it’s hard to love and not be loved. It’s hard to please your mind. When you’ve broken the heart of many a poor boy. But you’ll never break this heart of mine.”

The crowd, mixed of kids and their parents, applauded at the end of the song. “Wish we could say we wrote that one,” the man on stand up bass admitted.