Monday, November 11, 2019

The Man Who Gives Treats to my Dog


Yesterday morning, as Lilith and I walked up the hill, three police SUVs drove by, blue lights lit up on the two outer ones. Near the top of the hill, I saw the cars and an ambulance in one of the townhouse parking lots. Another cop drove in the lot and parked. (Lilith took this chance to do her business.) I lingered, the ambulance went nowhere. The rest of the day I thought about the dog walking man I talk to from that court, his southern accent intact after four decades in Hawai`i, earbuds installed with Biblical lessons playing (he once saw a woman miraculously cured of cancer in a church); his large white and brown terrier mix striding along energetically. He'd often pull out treats from back home (organic) and give one to Lilith. He'd told me about how difficult it was to deal with his son, who had been in rehab many times. So I worried about the son, too. This morning I saw that son walking that dog and interrupted them, asked what had happened in their court, said I'd worried about his dad. "No, he's home reading his Bible, and I wasn't there," he said. A young white guy with Chinese writing tattooed on his right arm. When I got home, I had an answer to my question from a woman I know who lives up the hill. Her court is afflicted with troubles: the elderly couple and their mentally disabled daughter who are essentially imprisoned in their home down the stairs by the son; an alcoholic who lives with his mother and has lots of guns; the man who used to beat his puppy and screams horrible things at his son. His girlfriend finally left him. I remembered that, while talking to him once I said, "I called the cops on someone in your court who was yelling at his son," and he said, "could have been me." But that guy was yelling in pidgin, I thought. My friend up the hill assured me my dog-walking friend was who she meant; he yelled at "homo" at his son (no wonder he's on drugs). An abuser, but like so many of them, quite charming. I was worried about him, his son. I guess I still am.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Kobe, trains


On a train yesterday, I pointed to the name of my destination to two young women beside me. One was wearing a long gray dress with NYY logo on it. They conferred with each other and dissolved into laughter over their lack of English, my lack of Japanese. A studious looking woman in front of me took over, telling me in English that I was on the wrong train, Hanshin instead of Hankyo. She wrote a description for me of where to get off and transfer to a local train and then onto the right one. The NYY logo woman and her friend walked me part way and gestured dramatically to where I should go. I used up my ticket, then didn't have enough change to get another, which is when I adopted the policy of simply walking through open gates after people who used their tickets. (Shame! at least I didn't have to vault, as one does in Paris.) Coming back was another adventure, though mostly in self-doubt, eased by a businessman on a bench. Arrived to my hotel room to find that the good Elijah Cummings had died. I have not traveled alone in a country where I did not speak the language in a long time. It felt easier when I was 20, somehow. Or even 30!

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

The view from Kobe, Japan


1.

Walked to the port of Kobe, which features an enormous Starbucks. I did not enter. Was reading the plaques at a memorial to the 1995 earthquake--mostly a lament for the port itself--when I heard the sound of laughter. A woman approached in black pants, her ehu hair unkempt, carrying a plastic drink cup. She laughed again, loudly, as she walked past. We walked quasi-parallel for a short distance before she turned toward the water and started to dance. Her arms flung outward, her legs moving side to side, the plastic cup in the midst of it all.



2.

Walking uphill toward the hills behind Kobe, I stopped at a light. A mother was attending to her son (maybe 5), dressed neatly in a blue uniform with black shoes. He spoke loudly, with confidence, and hailed a friend across the street. "Bye bye!" he said. My eye happened upon his mother's bag. Bright image of shave ice! "Matsumoto's Haleiwa," it read. I laughed and pointed to her bag, said "Matsumoto's." "It's our last name," she said. "And I live on O`ahu," I responded.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Safeway Checker


Yesterday, S and I went to Safeway to get pain pills. We were behind a black man and white woman in line; they were buying two bottles of white wine. The cashier was looking at them with no particular affect, but she was looking. My bill came up with a question as to whether I wanted to end child hunger. I said, "they're making me feel guilty again, when I hit no," and she said, in a southern accent, "they've got us." Somehow I heard myself saying, "it doesn't bother me; I just want to get rid of Trump." She seemed to step back as she thrust the receipt in my direction. "I got her goat," I said to my son. "The southern accent." And then I felt pretty creepy.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Brad Waters, on the event of his funeral


Brad Waters

The last time I saw Brad, Anne and I had just driven him home from the hospital. I offered my hand as he got out of the car, but he ignored it. He walked up the stairs to his house, clutching both railings to maintain his balance. (He always did that, my kids told me.) And then, for me, he was gone.

On one of the Over the Hill Gang hikes in 2011 we were hiking above Pearl Ridge (I think) when the trail suddenly ended. Instead of turning around, we bushwhacked down a very steep incline, full of plants and rocks and pukas. Brad gently lifted Zoe down some of the steepest boulders. The walk up the other side of the valley was also steep, although there was a path. Brad moved up the hill svery lowly and deliberately with his dogs. He met us later at the top.

There was this quality of loving persistence to Brad. When he looked at plants on the trail, he looked carefully. He could name each plant: in Latin, in English, in Hawaiian. He knew each plant’s history, its uses. Often, he took a photo. When the photos had been downloaded, they were often surprising. A fern at such close proximity you could see lines of spores, some open and some closed, running down the vein like natural Pacmen. His photographs often made the ordinary world seem strange, so you could realize that it is.

There is a poem by the Japanese zen poet, Ikkyo, from the 14th century, about living and dying. It goes like this:

Empty-handed I entered the world
Barefoot I leave it.
My coming, my going--
Two simple happenings
That got entangled.

I’m grateful that my two simple happenings overlapped with Brad’s.