Monday, December 29, 2008

Rooms of Our Own

Was roaming around the blogosphere and visited fellow writer Claire Light's blog, whose recent post featured an image of her writing 'room'--a sort of vertical desk/storage unit in her bedroom, and a link to a photo-essay by Eamonn McCabe of famous writers' rooms.

I'm not one who's easily starstruck, except for when I'm around writers I admire. So seeing the inner sanctums of writers like Hanif Kureishi is, like, weird geeky porn for me. It's interesting that I stumbled upon this piece at a time that I've been contemplating what to do with the space that's supposed to be my office/writing space--a large closet with window under which I've placed a small desk for my laptop and a few books. For the past year or so it's turned into a junk closet for the most part, with piles of unfiled papers and old posters and magazines strewn about inside. But as I look to 2009 as a major writing year for me (hopefully), I know I need to figure out how to clear this space and make it suitable for habitation once again.

Now, inspired by the images spartan office of V.S. Naipaul and the crimson walls of A.L. Kennedy's space, I vow to at least dig a tunnel through the books, files, and office supplies so that I can make sense of my office and what it can become. Wish me luck.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

List: 2008 Retrospective, Part I (?)

I've written enough 'part I' blog posts with no subsequent 'part II's or 'III's that I'll leave the question mark in the headline above. it's that time of year, though, to reflect on the past twelve months, to sift through all the accomplishments, unmet goals, surprises, disappointments, joys, sorrows and stories of my 2008 experience. All I can say is, 'What a year!' On so many levels, this year surpassed all of my wildest imaginings, and challenged me in ways that I wasn't expecting (and I like to think I anticipate any possible curve ball life can throw at me--I'm a Capricorn and an uber-planner, after all). A few things to start my review list, in no particular chronology or order of importance:

Getting married to my partner of six-plus years, Henry. This was one of the three most defining acts of my year. I mean, I started a whole 'nother blog about it, which actually got more hits at times than this one, thanks to selective linking to sites like Indie Bride and other alt.bride sites.

That guy who's President-Elect, and the movement that put him in power. Sometimes I still can't believe we have a Black President (or that we'll have one come 1/20/09. Never in a million years could I imagine a national (nay, international) grassroots movement electing a former community organizer as President of the United States. Un-frickin-believable, and so beautiful at the same time.

Deciding to leave my job, which I had been planning on and contemplating for a few months already, after my ex-boss left the organization to work for the new Speaker of the California Assembly, the Honorable Karen Bass. The first African-American woman (and really, the first woman) in this high-powered post, Speaker Bass is a political star on the rise, and although it was challenging to take over the helm of my organization after our ED left to work for her, it was definitely an important move and in the end I think worked out well for everyone. I am transitioning out of my interim co-director job at CFJ in March to work part-time, do fundraising consulting and spend more time on my writing and (hopefully) having a baby!

That's the Big Three events of 2008 for me. More to come, I promise. (?) ((;)

Monday, December 22, 2008

Longing for a Long Time Ago

H. and I unwittingly took a quick, sentimental stroll down nostalgia lane yesterday--first visiting the old-school Yellow Submarine Sandwich shop in the Sunset on Irving, then driving through the Excelsior and Portola Valley neighborhoods--a time warp if there ever was one, where the 'old San Francisco of the 1970s and '80s is still apparent in the old-school storefronts, decidedly UN-gentro potholed streets, and working class residents--then finally, watching 'Milk', the Gus Van Sant-directed film about the late, great San Francisco gay supervisor of the same name.

H. and I both grew up in the Bay Area--a somewhat rare status in our particular circle of friends, and seemingly an increasingly rare status for people living in the Bay Area overall. Call it gentrification, call it 'progress', call it the result of larger social and economic forces pushing people in and out of certain cities, the Bay Area and San Francisco especially is definitely not what it was when we were growing up here in the 1970s. Some elements of it have not changed, that's for sure--it's still a progressive bubble, sheltered in many ways from the cruel cold conservative world outside the way our many microclimates seem to exist in isolation from each other. But many things have changed, and seeing so many reminders of the San Francisco of our childhood yesterday made me long for a simpler, less hectic and, yes, more beautiful City by the Bay. When....

...the I-Hotel and Manilatown were still around, Manongs played pool on Kearny Street and Mabuhay Gardens hosted punk shows a few blocks away on Broadway.

...public schools were still decent, and kids of all colors and income backgrounds learned together in schools that looked like the neighborhoods they were in.

...sandwiches cost $1.50 and you could get a good meal for less than $3 (as evidenced by the old, hand-painted price sign at Yellow Submarine).

...the Fillmore hadn't been 'redeveloped' yet, and Black people could still call it their neighborhood, instead of being subjected to newbie rich white folks moving in and calling it the 'new Fillmore' or 'lower Pacific Heights'.

...places like Art's Soul Food, a Southern food joint run by Filipinos near the Castro, were still around and thriving. could walk around town or take the bus as a little kid and not be afraid, or be tailed by a security guard who thinks you're going to steal something. collar, working class folks of color could actually afford to rent OR own in the City, and didn't have to leave the neighborhoods they or their kids had grown up in to make room for arrogant, know-nothing white kids from the suburbs who just want to party.

...Candlestick didn't have an odious corporate name (which I refuse to even acknowledge here, it'll always be Candlestick for true Bay Area folks).

Yes, I know I'm romanticizing the era, and I never experienced some of the things I listed above (I was way too young to go to the Mabuhay Gardens, for example), and maybe this nostalgia stems from the bittersweet feeling the winter holidays always gives me, but I can't help but long for a time when the City looked more like the people who actually made it great, instead of a playground for people who have a selective memory about its history, and a money-machine for those whose main goal is life is the accumulation of wealth. San Francisco, as the Harvey Milk film reminded me, was made great by the grittiness, soul, hard work and loving sacrifice of an at times painfully diverse resident population, the awesome mix of which contributed to the City's once-thriving and amazing arts and political scenes. Of course, the City is still a cool place in many ways, but a much more homogenized and segregated place and fearful place.

I wonder if we couldn't all do well to look back into the past of our respective cities and learn a few lessons from it. Or at the very least, fondly remember a time when some things were just a little sweeter.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Inspiration from the Past, Present

I'm adding a new link to my blog roll today: Rafael Jesus Gonzalez's blog. Mr. Gonzalez was my first creative writing teacher, way back in 1991 at Laney College in Oakland. He was the first 'real' writer I'd ever met--someone who was completely committed to his craft, had high expectations for his students, and didn't spare us criticism or pity us in order to help us 'feel better' about our writing. He was also very generous and kind, so I don't want to give the impression that he was a cruel workshop taskmaster.

He was also a very accomplished writer who could've taken a much more prestigious teaching job than the one he had at a community college, having been anthologized in a Norton anthology and having published several books of poetry. I felt that he had a strong commitment to the kinds of students that attend Laney--lower-income, public-school educated students of color who otherwise might not ever get a chance to meet someone like Mr. Gonzalez, let alone have their writing workshopped by him.

I'm glad to see that he's still writing and keeping up with new technology by blogging. I'd run into Mr. Gonzalez every once in a while after I took his class--at protests, during big events in Oakland or San Francisco--and he was always smiling and ready with a hug for one of his many old students. I hope to run into him again sometime soon, online or otherwise. Would be a nice inspiration for me to continue my writing, so many long years after he first touched my life.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Too Many Updates...Lazy

I don't know if it's the season, the fact that I've been traveling a lot, the fact that I'm just getting over a brief flu, or that work is really wearing me down (even though I've only been back a week!), but I'm really feeling lazy these days.

Yes, lots has been happening since I blogged last. A short list: Obama after-glow, which promises not to wear off until well after the inauguration; the economy going down the tubeour spectacular, relaxing, romantic and super-fun honeymoon to Belize, which I plan to write about a little more on my wedding blog; going to New York City for work for a quick two days and seeing my sister and cousin; heading back to the office after being gone for nearly three weeks and feeling the weight of it hit me like a ton of bricks.

Of course, in the wider world even more things have been happening--the terrorist attack in Mumbai, which happened while we were in Belize, for one. And of course, the US war against Iraq rages on. And it's the holidays, to top it all off. I was actually glad that we were out of the country for the first time during Thanksgiving--our Thanksgiving 'dinner' consisted of some grilled shrimp, tropical drinks and a beachfront view of hundreds of white stars over the Caribbean. Much better than overstuffing oneself on tryptophan-dense turkey and stuffing while pretending to have fun.

The one thing I'm being the most lazy about, however, and which frightens me the most, is my writing. I did quite a bit of writing in Belize--on average, wrote 4 pages a day in my journal/notebook, which is pretty good for me, especially compared to how much non-work writing I do when I'm back home (almost none unless I have a deadline!). Of course, it's easy to write when you have nothing to occupy your time but meals, laying on the beach, walking through a sleepy beach village, and snuggling with your husband. That's when writing is easier.

It's when I'm back home, with all the distractions and annoyances and tasks and obligations of my everyday life that writing seems like some unattainable paradise. Which is why I'm leaving my full-time job in March so that I can plunge headlong into the world of consulting and hope I can still earn a decent living with the economy going down the tubes. But at least I'll have time to write. And honestly, I know that if I don't do this, if I don't take this time to write and de-prioritize nonprofit work which no longer feeds my soul the way it used to--I will literally be starving my soul.

But for now, until March rolls around (or at least until my winter break starts on Dec. 22), I have blogging. A quick, easily accessible, painless form of writing. It will have to do for now.