I was going through my Flickr account to see which photos of mine have been getting the most hits. Thought you’d like to see the top 3. What I noticed is that the most popular photos on my Flickr account are black and white and of people, not landscapes or flowers. (CLICK EACH TO ENLARGE)
Waiting for the lunar eclipse tonight I set myself to the task of trying to capture that eerie feeling of my desert courtyard in the glorious light of a full moon.
Both you and I
Subsist on borrowed light
Blemished by time and age, we
Project ourselves with grace
And continue our journeys, alone
There is so much we have in common
And yet you’re radiant and peaceful
Always, where as I
Inconsistent as I am
Fear that I may end up
Being just another shooting star
In this canvas of black and bright Oh Moon!
— Kamran Qureshi
i danced a bit
and dreamed a lot
of people i miss
and places i’m not
Close the door of words that the window of your heart may open.
The moon’s kiss only comes through an open window.
- — Rumi
I know it’s a life insurance company ad but I really loved this message and it reminds me why I go to Asia. This simple philosophy of doing good deeds is actually a way of life in Thailand. I know I complain about the Thai people being flimsy but they do live by the credo that you do simple little good things and it comes back to you in ways you can’t imagine. You may not get rich or famous or laid, but your life is richer. Watch the video:
“Anything Helps. Free Hug’s” (sic) it says. And who wouldn’t want a hug from this boy standing on the street in downtown Oakland? I gave him $5 but forgot to get my hug. I did chat him up a bit. His story is that he and his girlfriend (yes, AND he knows how to work gay men in the Bay Area) moved to San Francisco from New York and lost their apartment (and his shirt, clearly) and can’t find work. Who knows what the real story is. But there he was this pearlescent fawn of a thing on the street asking for money and being so open-hearted. He was complimenting people on their clothes and cars, “Why that’s a beautiful BMW, there, sir,” “Nice hat,” he told me. I guess you do what you need to do to get the bucks.
And while on the subject of the down and out…San Francisco is chock FULL of homeless people. This is nothing new. But as San Francisco becomes more and more wealthy with Google buses and Apple buses plying the streets like white ghosts, the contrasts are even more striking.
In spite of it seeming like a city on the verge of nervous breakdown, its charms are still glowing: the topography, the views and the cherry and plum trees in full bloom….
The Bay Bridge is finally finished. Was deemed unsafe after the earthquake of 1989. Only took 22 years of planning and 3 years of construction. The old span has a new light show on it. Kinda fun and tasteful (watch the video to see it)…
Spent an evening with Larry Hermsen who was in town for a show of his kimonos in Modesto.
We had a great evening just walking around Chinatown with arms linked – the last time we saw each other was in Asia so it seemed only fitting to go to the most Asian part of the city. He seemed happy and glowing and our friendship well seasoned and weathered by numerous adventures together in the Far East.
I bought some rose black tea (my favorite for mornings) and we stumbled into the BEST Chinese restaurant I’ve ever eaten in…
Some of our meals. I had to go back the next night for more.
It’s called Z&Y Garden. Amazingly good food and bustling atmosphere full of Chinese. We were both thrilled to have found it.
Afterward we passed this dive bar. I was tempted to go in and join some drunk Chinese men for a drink but it wasn’t really at all nice inside. There are good dive bars and bad dive bars. Bad is when you can smell the aging indoor outdoor carpet.
Met up with all the Larries. Here’s Lawrence Grodeska, an old buddy with his baby faced forty year old mug just glowing in the cold. We went for a brisk bike ride in search of fish-n-chips along the Embarcadero in SF. Didn’t quite find it.
But was great nonetheless to see him. Here’s a little video that has some of our ride, the sparkling sidewalks and the howling organ at Grace Cathedral…
Was on the MUNI and spied this amazingly well-dressed young man…
Wow. Shades of Malcolm and Martin. I hope upon hope that the saggy pants thing is coming to an end and THIS is what’s next. I was so thrilled by his getup that I wondered if he was for real or going to a costume party or a dress up event at work. And then there’s this…
Met up with Simon who is looking like a hot silver daddy…
We took a trip up through the wine country to Harbin Hot Springs.
Click on panoramas to enlarge…
Stopped with my friend Grant at the Cathedral of Christ the Light in Oakland. Grant’s an architect (thought not the one who designed this magnificent modern creation) and so he gave me an insider’s tour. It’s impressive and beautiful and stark. This image of Christ is actually made of perforated steel with natural light coming through. It gives an eerie glow of a very unhappy image of Christ presiding sourfaced over the congregation. Still, it’s a wonderfully modern interpretation of ancient Catholic imagery…
On a lighter note — we usually don’t see this sort of inane mandate outside of Thailand. And here it was in a Thai restaurant. Some bossy Thai woman no doubt. Love it. I wonder if she has a spy cam installed to see if you actually DO use both sides and if you don’t she comes chasing after you with a stalk of lemongrass.
And finally, on the plane home I sat next to an angel as we soared through the clouds together. No one I know. Never talked to him. I was too taken by his long eyelashes to speak.
Been back in the States for a little over a month and I long to be on the road again. But here’s the news in photos and little text bits. Been back at the Tucson house with lots of little things to fix and a mountain of paperwork and nonsense with forced acquisition of health insurance. But I hit the ground running…well, pedaling…
I feel like I forgot to cook. So Amrit and I went food shopping. This is just so Arizona, isn’t it…
This is the view from my office as I sat on the phone with the “Marketplace” for insurance and Wells Fargo Bank and Blue Cross/Blue Shield for hours, days, weeks.
But, “Zip zip, ah!” my favorite sounds. Zipping up the suitcase and heading for the door. Off to California for a work/fun trip. Welcome back to California…
Saw this guy in the San Diego airport. Loved his shirt and flagged him down for a photo…
Got to San Jose and Ruey was an hour and a half late to get me at the airport. That’s just soooo California, isn’t it? Anyway I arrived with my luggage and all this time to kill and saw a piano in the baggage claim area of the airport. The music was open to a John Field nocturne I happen to know and love. So I sat down and played for a long time. I played Chopin and Mendelsohn. Was delightful and distracted me from how grumpy I was about my friend’s tardiness.
Onward to Esalen…Spent a week there with January working on a multimedia project for her. As always, Esalen is just beyond beyond. If you died and went to heaven, I think it would look a lot like Esalen…
The hummingbird moths, monarchs, and dolphins were there in force. Here’s the video:
Here’s the fabulously open-hearted January looking like Joni Mitchell…
There’s been so little rain this year, so the skies were blue and the sun warm.
The food was good whereas often it’s excellent, but someone was missing the mark in the kitchen this time with things like pizza with white beans…
Alas, heaven has a price tag. Oooh baby, check that out…
And photographing signs at Esalen is almost as much fun as photographing Ingrish signs in Asia. Here are a few I found this trip…
Dunno. Paper sign on a space heater. I’m thinking “You are burned by an unending fire…”
Ok, if you go into shock, don’t say you weren’t warned…
Onward from paradise to Marin County to help prepare for Jean’s big 70th birthday bash. Here she is receiving her father’s limerick. At 93, he sure could knock out a good one. The party was amazing with a vast array of fabulous food and champagne fitting of Jean’s big transition to being YOUNG AT HEART!
And well, I’m wishing you all a happy spring from America…
Wow! What a birthday party. What an orchestration. I turned 50 on February 5th and decided to have my big celebration at Ing Doi guesthouse in Pai, Thailand. I was pretty sure no one would come except maybe the residents of the guest house. Well, I was wrong.
G Schulz came from Santa Cruz and we rented the big house (above) and I asked Mink (owner of Ing Doi) if she would cook for us. She and La cooked all day and rolled out a fabulous spread (see video) of Italian and Thai food. Dianna helped with the travel logistics of friends. Anon and Mark from Om Garden brought the fabulous carrot and chocolate cakes. Meka and his friends Layard, Malek, and Michael (from the States) came and decorated the house with flowers picked from around the property. Sebby was the most incredible DJ keeping us dancing until almost 1 am. Larry came from Portland. Prairie and her hella cute son Sean and daughter Hope came from Beijing. Dianna came from about 100 feet away where she lives at Ing Doi. Mike came from Pai and Meh the local massage therapist came with her friend A. Paul the Hat provided candles.
Most dear of all the guests was Sebastian. I hadn’t seen him in 2 years. He ended a self-imposed communication blackout by showing up in Pai. I was so nervous with anticipation of his arrival. But when I saw him at the bus station amid the bustling crowds, everything settled down. I was delighted to see him and hear his voice in person. The period of non-communication was a very valuable tool in letting go of him once and for all. The flames simply had to be put out and I had to go on with my life which I did and actually had an enormously good time doing so. Sebastian’s coming to my party cemented a life-long friendship for the future…a friendship of closeness and support and most importantly independence. He had his cabin. I had the big house. This was more than just a small gesture. Sebby is now happily teaching in Hong Kong and promised to visit me in Kuala Lumpur when I achieve my half-century resolution of becoming an ex-pat. (Sorry, America, you lost your way.)
Saying goodbye to Sebastian has always been a terribly painful ritual at airports and train stations, drenching his shoulder with tears. But this one at the Chiang Mai airport was strangely easy and cheerful. We waved at each other as I went through security bound for Bangkok and he for Hong Kong. He left with dry shoulders. I went on to Bangkok to continue my celebrating at Babylon.
I apologize for not making the most wonderful video but I was a bit consumed with something called ENJOYING MYSELF! This party was the first party I’ve had that I really got to just let go and have fun. Thank you so much to those who made it happen: G, Sebby, Larry, Jake, Mink & La, Dianna, Mark and Anon, Layard, Malek, and Meka. You all rocked the big house, the rice paddies, and my heart. Fifty sounds old but it isn’t. Watch the video…
Here’s a montage of photos. Click on one and then use the arrows to advance through them.
A little epilogue...
Funny but years ago ensnared by melancholy and feeling ugly and unloveable, I told my friend Ida that I didn’t want to live beyond 50. I was certain that 50 years was enough struggling through a life I wasn’t that committed to. But a few things happened about a year ago: paying off the house I found some financial independence at last. In addition I made peace with my limitations — a big relief for a perfectionist and idealist. One other thing happened in Thailand this year…it just kind of hit me on the head: bad circumstance happens all the time but resentment about it is a choice. Whoa. Where did THAT come from? When I got that piece of wisdom suddenly I felt that I could free up a lot of space in my brain that was previously reserved for being angry at those who don’t meet my high expectations.
I’ve heard about this legendary midlife easing. Is it that we just become too worn down by life that we can’t expend the energy being irritated by it as much? Is it that we realize our statoin in life and make some peace with what we can and cannot do? Is it hormonal? Probably all the above but now I can definitely feel it. I sorta wish it had arrived in my angst-filled 30s and 40s but alas, there are no shortcuts in life. And I’m not resenting it, right?! You get to that peaceful place when you do. If you do. I hope you do. (And it comes and goes, honestly.)
My newfound financial freedom in concert with being unshackled from melancholy and resentment are hard-earned evolutions in a life. Let this not be misconstrued as smugness. I’m EXTREMELY grateful for the resilience and lightness in my heart as I head into the second half (hah!) of my life. Many people have helped me get to this point. Here’s a short list: my parents Gaye and Don Gilmore, my grandfather Philip DeSanto, my little brother Sean, Jean Sward, Tom Truss, Trish Haines, Nancy Barton, Ida Plotkin, Sebastian Bock, Alex Matuszeski, Rob Zonfrelli, Richard Szubin, Liz Sparks, Leza Carter, Erik Revere, Angela Hagen, Jeanne Nader, Gillian Kendall, Larry Hermsen, Lois Manowitz, Dianna Wiegner, Gerald Schulz, Habib Kritt, Michael Wells, January Handl, Marjana Stanko, Therese Bagshaw, Charlie Seltzer, Collin Brown, Amrit Donaldson, John Brennan, Steve Prenzlauer, Jun Chai, Ning and Jinjing, Conrad Johnson, Sky Evergreen, Bill Fultz, John Johnson, Nancy Reeder, Gregg Cassin, Lawrence Grodeska, Scott Simmons, Grant Howard, Ben Haggard…gosh the list of people living and dead is really long.
Generally speaking, thank you to anyone who has ever hugged my skinny body, held my hand when I was scared, looked into my eyes when I was crying and said a kind thing to me when I needed to hear it. Thank you to those who told me I had some value in this world, slept next to me, sang with me, created some art with me, called out my name in a passionate moment and told me you loved me even if you only meant it in the moment. YOU are why I am alive. And for those of you who didn’t, who pushed me out or gave up and left because I might have been too much of a handful for you, don’t worry, I get it. Forgiveness is the better part of joy.
Next stop Tucson.
Another long lost friend came to celebrate my birthday (well, a little early). Kevin Horton, my neighbor in Hawaii whom I really didn’t get to know much until the last minute when I had already decided to abandon ship. I felt bad because I felt we had a nice connection and was honored that he came all this way to see me. Actually he and his wife are staying in the Thai islands and so it wasn’t like coming from Hawaii. Anyway, he and another good friend G Schulz from Santa Cruz flew with me to Pai for their first visit here. We rented motorbikes and tore up the countryside. Here’s a little video of the 2 days…
And here’s a photo mosaic of 2 fun and wild days zipping around the greater Pai area…
Was sorry to see Kevin go. G is still here and we’re gearing up for the arrival of a bunch of other friends and a special guest appearance from a most beloved in the next few days. It’s all very exciting for me…and of course I’m losing sleep over it. Been waking up at 3 am with mild anxiety “visitations.” Will everyone be happy here? Will they have the bungalow they want? Will they find the place? Who’s gonna cater the birthday? How will it be for me seeing some folks I’ve not seen in years? How will it be after it’s all over?
Oy vey. It’s hard being neurotic. Back to the present! I’m in a beautiful place with lovely people and I’m happy. Happy to have made it to the half-century mark with such good fortune and health. For that I’m grateful!
Parting is often such sweet sorrow. Sometimes it’s a big fat good riddance. Saying goodbye to Chiang Mai is usually mixed. Often a bit poignant to part with some folks I am fond of. I have some sweet connections with a few folks here, but it’s time to head out on the journey…Pai and my birthday beckon. Chiang Mai has just grown enormously without any regard for the environment or infrastructure, and is suffering from it. It’s often just noisy, polluted and smells like sewage. So I am focusing my attention elsewhere in the future…like KL or who knows where else?
For now, the goodbyes…
Goodbye to the Fat Albert Buddha.
And hello long lost friends.
Next stop, Pai at 50.
Here’s a little video of my friends Michael and Layard eating bugs on the street in Chiang Mai:
We went out exploring on bikes. He introduced me to his friend Layard. Lovely American guy. Three gay, skinny farang in our 40′s cycling around and goofing off, eating whacky foods, and trying to speak a little Thai. Such a great time!
Here’s the temple where I was recently seduced by a monk. Yes, it’s true. I’ve heard of it happening and was always incredulous. And then it happened. I was just sitting and texting and a monk (not a novice, mind you) came up to me and started chatting with me about where I was from and if I was married. Then I got invited back to his room for a demonstration of his Thai massage technique. My heart raced and I followed him walking through the temple grounds with my bicycle…far be it from me to turn down any adventure (except eating bugs). Since this is a rated PG13 blog, I’ll just say the massage was a rather focused experience and for a moment I felt I had achieved enlightenment and then I was back out on the noisy street asking myself, What just happened? Really? Did it? Yes it did. And I didn’t initiate it, I just went along for the ride.
A couple days ago I discovered a temple I hadn’t seen before: Wat Ket.
Next to the temple is a little free historical museum that has some wonderful relics from way back.
On a lighter note….
Meanwhile back in Chiang Mai…
As far as the protests in Bangkok…I personally am unaffected by them. I watch them on TV with curiosity. The politics of this country mystify me so I don’t have a side in this case. The democratic rebellion seems to be in the hands of the wrong people. Just like at home! Anyway, the scene is pretty isolated to Bangkok which is over 400 miles away.