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Tuesday, June 30, 2009


Today we had a little death in the house.


It was probably a big death to the being who was personally involved, and I know that I tend to use the word little far too much as a descriptor.

And now I feel guilty because I'm the one that saw the streak of gray fur out of the corner of my eye, the wiggle of the inanimate paper grocery bag on the floor as though a tiny gust of wind came from behind the stove and shook the bag, surprising me. Had there been a chair handy, I would have jumped on it and shrieked, like in the cartoons.

I thought at first I had one of those optical migraines, where artifacts not real put themselves into our reality, and we believe in them even though they are entirely manufactured in our nervous systems.

How could a mouse run so fast? I thought I had imagined it. But still I got the heebie-jeebies, so The Boy did what he does best, being The Boy of the House. He bought several types of traps (the best kinds), loaded them with tiny bits of peanut butter (per the instructions) and then placed the traps on the floor, out of my line of sight.

So all this time I thought I had imagined that smooth gray swoosh, until this morning when I saw the tail.

gray. adjective. variant, also grey: 5. having an intermediate and often vaguely defined position, condition, or character


I got all queasy looking at that little tail. Feeling terribly guilty and wishing I hadn't said anything to The Boy. I told him he had to come and get the trap, that it was his job as The Boy to deal with such things, and he said he would get it, in a bit.

And then he said jokingly, Tell me you're not really that much of a girl! Meaning that I had gotten all wussy on him, to which I freely admitted at that point, Yes, I am a girl. You have to throw this trap away!


When The Boy came to take the trap, all of a sudden I realized that I could look at the mouse (or at least the tail, and then later, its hindquarters) under the mental disguise of taking a photo of it.

In that instance, the mouse became an object. Life or the lack thereof no longer mattered. It's just a mouse.

And that thought made me feel brave, but it also made me sad – in a different way.

The old chestnut remains: the camera reveals, yet it also shields. How can one be engaged and remote at the same time?

How do we decide what we wish to see?

How do we decide how we want to see?

Monday, June 29, 2009

Sharing Pride 2009

Here's a small selection of the photos I took yesterday at Pride. You can see the entire set here although I'll probably add a few more photos over time as I finish working on them.

It's colorful and happy and riotous and I love a good excuse to see people dressed up and having fun.

The families, the parents, the friends and loved ones... that is also what I see.

I hope you can see the good spirits and joy shining through the recent disappointments (President Obama, when will you step up and do what's right?).

I walk away with optimism and hope even though the path to acceptance is not an easy one, even though there's no reason why it couldn't be.

It's hard to understand why we still need to raise the issue of fairness, civil rights and tolerance in this country, which obviously has such a long way to go yet holds itself up as a model for the rest of the world.

Just one more image to really ponder...

Bless their hearts. Really and truly.

Sunday, June 28, 2009


I really think I'm addicted to faces.

From today's Pride Parade, a vision of loveliness.

One of the Fat Chance Bellydance goddesses, my bellydance idol troupe for years now.

I could take pictures like this all day and be happy happy happy.

I think I took almost 900 photos today. Even if none of the rest turn out like this, I'm still thrilled with this image.

Catch you later... I've got a bunch of photos to edit.


Friday, June 26, 2009

back to normal (kinda sorta)

Now we know where He parks.
(In the Castro? Go figure.)


I actually am feeling lots better.
I think I have my sense of humor back, too.
I'm so looking forward to a weekend filled with plans with my little darling Chipmonkey. And our cameras.

Our plan is to see Christian's magic show, Now and at the Hour, on Saturday night at the EXIT Theatre.

We'll be at the Pride Parade early Sunday morning, hoping for fantastic candid shots like every other person wielding a camera in San Francisco and overloading Flickr on Monday morning.

We're going to see the Robert Frank exhibit at SF MOMA, The Americans, so we can have an injection of photographic inspiration. (This is my second—and certainly not the last—visit to the exhibit, so I want extra.)


I hope your weekend is full of adventures and fun times.
And thanks for keeping me company and checking in on me.



ps.: Christian is up for Best Magician in the San Francisco Bay Guardian's "Best of the Bay 2009" reader's poll, a title which he totally deserves and I hope he wins.

For those of you who don't mind a little vote casting between now and June 30, please follow this link and enter his name, Christian Cagigal, under best magician, and he'll be so grateful.
And if you can see the show before it ends, do so as I'm sure you'll enjoy it.

The Envelope Please...

The winner of my gently used book, tea and candy (oh, and a print, how could I forget?) giveaway is....


Brook of the aptly named Blogbaby.
(Please email me your address, okay?)




Thank you to all who left a comment and threw your hat in the ring. I wish I had more books and treats to give out... and I think I'll do it again soon.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

doppler effect

–Noun. Physics. Change in the apparent frequency of a wave as observer and source move toward or away from each other.


If there is an invisible part of you (your other heart, not the physical one composed of bits of matter: bosons and leptons and strange quarks), that unscientific yet very real heart still may be broken in a thousand little pieces but held together somehow (like a shattered windshield) as you rush towards what is now inevitable, can the compression of the movement before you hold those pieces together? Is that how you are able to put on your brave face?

And then, only upon receding from the situation, as the distance grows between you and what you bear witness to, that the little shards start to fall and the broken structure fails? And then you can cry behind your large dark sunglasses?

Can any wave be subject to the doppler effect? Even a wave of emotion?

As much as I love the physics of the universe (with my base, miniscule grasp of the science), there is no theorem to cope with grief, regret, loss.


Approaching and receding from a personal event horizon.

I took photos from my seat on the train, coming and going from the visit to Little Helen. I brought a book but could not concentrate on it, although it's a book I'm enjoying very much: Jane Jacobs' The Death and Life of Great American Cities. And after obsessively checking my email on my iPhone, I had run the battery down to almost nothing, putting an end to that activity.

So all I could do was take photos out the windows.

Trains take us around the underbellies and backsides of things, to places that we normally cannot see and have no access to.

Having the camera on continuous shooting mode, hearing the click click click click in rapid procession, ticking off the world going by in bite-sized pieces, that made things feel more manageable. Just hearing the sound of the shutter was good.

You probably cannot tell from this photo, but the plane is Air France. I felt a pang of solidarity and goodwill seeing that takeoff from my train's seat, thinking Good for you, you got back on the horse, Air France. Safe travels and go go go!

Go Greyhound and leave the driving to us!

Where the wrecks go

{The Boy: Do you want to talk about it?}
{Me: No. (cries)}

Can you read the sign? I didn't realize what it said until just now.
There is Help.

So people don't jump in front of moving trains.

So those are things you see while riding the train.


Yesterday Little Helen turned 91.
June 24, 1918 is her birthday.

The hospice nurse came. And these lovely people from the assisted living center brought a piece of birthday cake she cannot eat but we put it in the freezer anyway in the hope that she can have a taste sometime in future. They sang. I am convinced that people from the Philippines are the nicest people in the world. My mom and I looked around the room, the defensive thing you do with your eyes so that you don't cry in front of others when you're supposed to be looking happy.

Little Helen is home now, for a little while.
I guess, in truth, all of us are home, for a little while.

I write these things down because I don't know how to say them out loud. And then when I do, I feel like I understand an infinitesimally tiny amount more than I did a moment ago. Only it's never enough. And then the understanding is gone again, so fleeting, just like the tracery of a quark's trails.

Monday, June 22, 2009

time for a treat



I have a goodie for you.


Well, scratch that. Actually, I have a goodie for one of you (but wish, of course, that I did have a goodie for each and every one of you. You know that.)

Somehow I fell off the goodie/ gift-giving bandwagon. I used to have so much fun with my little drawings. I was thinking about that the other day, having finished a book that I'd enjoyed reading several times: Shutterbabe, by Deborah Copaken Kogan.

After finishing it this last time, I realized that I probably won't read it again, but wanted to give it to someone else who would enjoy it. Also, I am a very careful reader and don't write in my books or dog ear them or spill soup on the pages. So this book is in good condition to give away.

It's a pretty intense, sometimes sexy, fascinating read that combines escapist independent-chick daydreaming with serious world events via photojournalism/ autobiography. It's a book that might shock you a little but will never bore you. You can read the description in the book in the link above.

Anyway, I thought I'd do a drawing and give it to someone else who'd like a good read.

And then I was at my favorite Queen of Sheba Market the other day, getting some little treats and giving photos to the lovely Queen of Sheba herself. For those of you who don't know about the Queen of Sheba, she's one of the main influences that got me started on my photography project, i live here: SF. (I had a wonderful encounter with this woman, which you can read about here.)

So now the book comes with some extras: that delicious loose tea that I'm addicted to, that Ghalyia makes herself and is full of spices, and some rose-flavored Turkish Delight. I'm guessing that there are a few of you out there who, when you read the name Turkish Delight, you immediately get warm, cuddly, youngsterish feelings of reading The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, and fantasizing about what the heck Turkish Delight might be. Or maybe that was just me at age 10.

Anyway, I have some tea and a bag of Turkish Delight for you, too.

And while I'm at it, I'll throw in a print of one of my photos for you. How does that sound?

I'm going to be away for the next day or so visiting Little Helen in her new hospice setting and staying with my parents. So this will give you something to do while I'm gone, okay?

Leave me a comment here if you want to be in the drawing, and I'll draw a name on Friday. It feels nice to give something away to you, who have all been so wonderful and supportive.

It's just a little something, but I hope you'll like it.


the best of friends

Patti and Ginny


The more pictures I take, the more I learn. Or perhaps the more pictures I take, the more I see and then wish to see beyond even that.

Today a friend who is a painter said that she wanted to take me to a photography exhibit with her because, as a painter, she knows how to look at a painting but thinks she does not know how to look at a photograph. That made me nervous because I am not sure I know how to look at a photograph either.

All I know how to do is look at what I want to see.


I've been very focused on taking pictures of people because I learn so much. I learn about lighting and angles of the face. I try to figure out how I can capture a person in the way I think I understand them to be and then sometimes am rewarded when the subject likes what I have done.

Up until now, I've also been very focused on capturing the individual in relationship to a place, but not to another being.

That's a whole new ball of wax. Taking a photo of a relationship. I had never thought about that before.


"Our perfect companions never have fewer than four feet." ~ Colette

I have known Patti (the human in the photo above) for over two years. Maybe it's been three, I can't remember. We met on the tango dance floor. She was the first woman I'd ever danced with and is a very special dance partner to me. I wish that the tango community at large appreciated her as much as I do.

In getting to know Patti more outside of tango, I can easily say that she is probably one of the kindest and most sensitive, empathetic people I have ever met. Her heart knows no bounds. When I first wrote about K and the kids, she was one of the very first people to step forward with a donation (probably much more than she could afford but so very much needed), an incredibly honest letter of support and a continued interest that did not abate after the initial novelty of K's story on my blog wore off for some readers.

But that's just how Patti is.

Patti has a new girl in her life, Ginny the kitty. I finally met Ginny last week after hearing about her for a while. Ginny needed a special friend in the way only someone like Patti could be, and for this little kitty, there could be no better angel.

I hope you will read about Patti and Ginny. I think you will find that their combined stories, along with this most lovely set of photos, is the very essence of what it means to care and love, no matter the outcome.

This was the first photo shoot that made me cry when I edited it. It was so beautiful, knowing their story, that I could not help it. But the tears were so worth it. I'm truly grateful that Patti and Ginny wanted to share their stories with me, and with you, too.

Friday, June 19, 2009

clocks are ticking

We become aware of the void as we fill it.
~ Antonio Porchia, Voces, 1943


tick tock tick tock
45 days away

good news:
In 45 days or less, K and the kids will be in a new apartment.
That is going to happen.
In the meantime, I've been concerned that we might run out of money before then, but now it looks like something even better might happen, and soon, to help...
K might be getting a little part-time job!
This will be an extraordinary help until the right place to live comes her way, and then maybe we won't need to worry so much about running out of money.
She will find out about the job
next week.
The news made us hug each other with excitement.

tick tock tick tock
6 months away

bad news:
Little Helen's doctors have spoken.
She will go home to hospice care.
They will make her as comfortable as possible.
Her birthday is next week.


All of this time
of what will happen in this many days,
this many months
is making me a little crazy


I went grocery shopping.
I loaded up my tote bags with fresh herbs, not having any idea what I will do with them.

I just wanted to smell them.

I bought huge baskets of the most gorgeous ripe strawberries you've ever seen.
I bought a Chinese tea-smoked duck just so I could have the pleasure of watching the old man chop it up with his cleaver, his hands covered in shiny grease.

The smell was intoxicating.

Then I bought some roast pork just so I could see him chop it up, too.

I know this sounds silly.

I inhaled the crisp smell of the fresh mint getting crushed against my arm all the way home.
I still don't know what else I'm going to do with it.
Maybe I'll make some Moroccan mint tea.
But smelling it made me feel better.


The rose is for Little Helen.
I took this a few weeks ago, when I was sad and made myself go outside and take pictures, just because I had to go outside.

I didn't realize at the time I had taken this photo for her.

The rose is not perfect
but it is beautiful

What I Love About This Photo

I love the peaceful expression she has, how she looks so comfortable and at ease, the way her hair is moving in the wind, and the sun flares that decorate her portrait like little gemstones.

Laura is sitting on an historic United States Coastal and Geodetic Survey Marker (1869) proclaiming our exact Latitude (37 º 47º 57º N) and Longitude (22º 22º 37º W), as well as Astronomical and Telegraph Longitude. In the always colorful meeting place of Washington Square Park in North Beach.

I like that this portrait represents a crossroads of many kinds, not only of geography, the heavens and time, but an intersection of personalities, desires, wishes and life paths.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Continuum

downtown, yesterday
(click on the photo to enlarge)

"Life is a whim of several billion cells to be you for a while." ~ Author Unknown

I took this photo yesterday while I was downtown, supposed to be paying attention to someone else.

The contrast of the young man on the skateboard and the older man in the whee
lchair was like a sudden invisible slap. This was the only photo I was able to take with both of them in action, moving in separate lines on their own trajectories, in the same frame for an instant.

Both of them on wheels.


Yesterday was a day of contrasts and many meetings.

People with jobs.
People knowing they'll lose theirs very soon.
Love and devotion.

Questionable massage parlors.
Fancy hotel lobbies.

Happy hour sangria.
Bowls of cereal.


Some days I think I wouldn't be able to write a word if
I didn't have one of my pictures to get me started. But I don't mind it... actually I'd feel okay with just the pictures.

More later.
I'm still thinking of what I want to say.
But here's what I saw.

Thanks for looking with me.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

You are young, broke and beautiful.

Thus sayeth Broke-Ass Stuart.


Well, I'm pretty sure I'm broke. And occasionally I've been known to be beautiful but that takes some doing these days. But young? I guess I'll just say I'm as young as I feel and usually that's a good 20 years younger than my driver's license says I am.

I know that I say that each photo shoot I do for i live here: SF is really great and I love meeting new people and seeing what kind of predicaments we will get in and generally getting all excited about the unknown: Will we have any chemistry that will make itself present in the photos? Will these photos be worth sharing? What surprises will I learn about this person?

Basically, a lot of these shoots are like blind dates without the dinner. I often know little to almost nothing about the people I'm going to meet, and I think I really like it that way.


Enter Broke-Ass Stuart.

When he contacted me to inquire about being part of i live here:SF, I was really thrilled. I mean, I know who he is. I have a copy of his book. Here I am with a real, live published author.

But the dude in person is a thousand times more interesting to hang out with, and quite funny and playful, as you'll see in our shots. There's a lot less filter with Stuart, which I happen to like, and what you see is what you get. He's a bit of a whirlwind. And then reading the story he wrote to go with his photos... now there's just a whole other side of him.

It was singularly enjoyable to be hanging out with Stuart on a random grey Tuesday in the afternoon, walking all the way from the F-Line streetcar stop in front of the Twin Peaks bar in the Castro, all the way through the Lower Haight, up into Hayes Valley and beyond.

Me in my common unemployedness and him in his professional broke-assness.

I almost felt like a 20-something year-old hipster. It was cool.


Monday, June 15, 2009

Scenes from a Saturday

"Children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see." ~ John W. Whitehead, The Stealing of America, 1983

A creative table made out of a surfboard invites some to catch an indoor wave.

"If our American way of life fails the child, it fails us all." ~ Pearl S. Buck

This big sister always knows how to keep her little baby brother happy. She loves to push his stroller and makes sure he has a pacifier or a bottle when he cries.

"It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men." ~ Frederick Douglass

Good natured play and fun in front of the camera.

"There are no seven wonders of the world in the eyes of a child. There are seven million." ~ Walt Streightiff

Someone donated a ducky faced soap, which of course will be put to good use by one special little girl.

"One of the virtues of being very young is that you don't let the facts get in the way of your imagination." ~ Sam Levenson

A donated straw basket in the hands of a bright boy becomes a turtle's shell.


Thanks to Lisa and Rachel of HAMO and our mutual friend Colleen for inviting me and K and the kids to a bagel brunch. We brainstormed ideas and sorted out diapers, clothes and toiletries.

K and the kids filled some bags with little soaps, toothbrushes, feminine hygiene products and a load of diapers, all generously donated through the outreach of Help A Mother Out.

It's amazing how a little soap, a new tube of toothpaste or a glass of fresh orange juice can make someone smile.

Please keep your fingers crossed for them. The possibility of a new apartment could be just days away... we hope, we hope.


ps.: K's daughter was voted Best Student out of her ENTIRE school! By both her teacher and her principal. She was awarded a special scholarship to an advanced summer school and as her mom told us about it, she couldn't have been any more proud. As we were too.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Busy Bee

Yes, more bees.


I can't help it. It's just so gratifying when you get a good bee shot. They are very difficult models. Plus, I practically have to stick my camera up their little bee bottoms to get these photos. This bee must have been humoring me.

For lack of a better metaphor, I'm going to bee busy this weekend. I'll be over with Lisa and Rachel at Help A Mother Out (HAMO) as they sort through bins of donated clothing, diapers and toiletries. And for those of you who want a K and the kids update, they will be joining us to help and play with the other kids, too. (I'll tell them you said hello. No apartment yet, but we're working on it, everyone is doing okay and I'll be keeping you updated.)

I met Lisa and Rachel when the story about K and the kids first started. They've been enthusiastic and stalwart supporters of my story but what they're doing to help mothers in need STATEWIDE is even more incredible. (And they just got a shout-out on Craig of Craigslist fame's blog yesterday.)

Lisa and Rachel are two young mothers with young kids who are making a tremendous difference in the lives of mothers and children who have been affected by these difficult economic times. Won't you read a bit more about them here?

About their diaper drive, which has been a huge success. But will always be needed and ongoing.
About the organizations they work with.


Thanks again, and I hope you all do something you enjoy this weekend. And one last plug and BIG thank you to Adam for the podcast we did last Sunday. If you didn't get to listen to it, I hope you will, and thank you to those who already have!
(I've cleverly put it at the bottom of this post, just in case.)

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Not my front door

But I wish it was. That's a pretty cool front door.

Just passing through on my way to somewhere else. I guess I have blonde on the brain now. Have a good night, kids.


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Accidental Blonde

"I'm not offended by all the dumb-blonde jokes because I know that I'm not dumb. I also know I'm not blonde." ~ Dolly Parton


I know it probably doesn't sound normal to become a blonde without knowing that was going to happen but today that is what happened. I know like I've been feeling like I needed to lighten up a bit lately, but I didn't realize that I was taking myself so literally.

I actually just went in for a haircut.


"It was a blonde. A blonde to make a bishop kick a hole in a stained-glass window." ~ Raymond Chandler

Getting to blonde is not easy. And there's no turning back once you start down that path.

However, if I ever get to the point where I can make a bishop or any other guy kick a hole in a stained-glass window, I'm going to enjoy the path to blondeness.

I'm going to see if we do have more fun, too.

"Hair style is the final tip-off whether or not a woman really knows herself." ~ Hubert de Givenchy, Vogue, July 1985



So, here's what happened after six hours and four shampoos. My hair is the cleanest hair in the entire world.

And it's blonde.

Holy Hell!


The Boy thinks it's funny. He says now I have to have a sunnier disposition to match my hair.
Then he said I look like Joan Blondell, and I'm totally okay with that.

I love her. I can do this blonde thing.