Posts Tagged ‘wrogger’

Did you ever wake up not knowing which country you were in? I often awaken not knowing where I am. My head is so full of fantasy travel experiences that I have developed a habit of losing myself between the sheets whenever I lose consciousness. I sometimes have food dreams about favorite treats and endure constant cravings for things that may be thousands of miles away and years in the past. The ‘burger dream’ is as universal as the ‘green spot sunset’. For me it’s little ‘street treats’ and specialty items that I have found along the way. Such is the life of an unrepentant traveler. However, where you are can add and subtract a great deal from your daily life, depending on how well you adjust to varied environments and the reality who you are.

My choice to write professionally, as a novelist and travel writer, presents a unique set of circumstances to sort through. The writers life is a blank canvas. While travel writing is a ‘paint by numbers’ trade craft, we still have to prepare ourselves to leave everything behind, in order for the essential spirit of the art to flourish. Travel writing is art as opposed to the more subject driven sister study of journalism. Herein lays my personal dilemma. The diverse environments wherein I seek to stimulate my emotionally fraught artistic muse are also the diametric opposite of what I need during the intensely sedentary predicament I willingly assume when I begin to create a novel project.

We’ve all heard , read biographies and watched fictionalized story lines about writers, real or otherwise who shut themselves away in a mountain cabin, an isolated island or have barricaded themselves in a Manhattan condo and won’t answer the phone. In mid-novel I’ve been seen wandering dark streets at all hours of the night or day dressed like a disheveled bag-man mumbling to myself. My wife kicks me out to make me walk around the block when I get particularily backed up so my legs don’t atrophy from a lack of mobility after days screwed into my chair. I can tell you, that this state of self-imposed isolation, as presented in fiction, is true, and not an article of artistic license nor a measure of eccentricity.

Writing novels, my main focus , requires that I shutter myself away from all stimulation so that I can concentrate on a single train of thought. The riveting preoccupation involved during the creation of a novel of 100,000 words or more, along a plot arc involving complex characters within a theme, revolves around the unique mindset of the author, that’s me in this case, being able wake up in exactly the same frame of mind that I went to bed with.

This attention to detail is necessary to keep the characters, time lines, situations and spirit of the theme, flavour of the story and plot blending as a cohesive unified entity as we climb the ascending action ladder towards the climax and seek consolidation at the end. As such I don’t read newspapers, because the negativity that sells them depresses me. Such ‘stuff’ puts me off my game. Neither can I read any other authors while I work for fear that my unique stream will be polluted by images that do not originate from the ocean, that I by necessity exist in, for the purposes of creating the world within the novel. As I’ve written about in the past, derivation is the enemy of the wordsmith. Copying is schoolwork, pure creation is art. It is my goal as an artist to leave a unique footprint in the sands of time.

Recently my wife , Patricia, and I have completed our seasonal migration. She and I have created a lifestyle for ourselves where we travel for six months of the year during the Canadian winter and return when the worst months have passed. This has discombobulated my state of mind since April, but not entirely in a bad way. I was just getting accustomed to my new social life, language skills and schedule in the home we had made in a small suburb of Bangkok. I don’t know why, but the tropical weather has a rather novel effect on me physically. While living where the heat and humidity are high, I can lose weight regardless of what or how much I eat. I admit loving to gorge myself on what is not entirely healthy or low in calories. In Bangkok I can indulge in pastry, sweet ice coffee and ice cream and never gain a pound.

While living in Canada, I have to count every grain of rice I eat in order not to pack on the pounds. Ice cream and pastry are out of the question. The other thing I miss, as mentioned , is the social life of living in Asia. I enjoy being outside and walking everywhere rather being forced to drive my car because of a perpetual state of dripping inclemency that exists in Vancouver. The other thing you’ll ask when returning in Canada after life in Asia is, ‘Where are all the people?”

The streets in Canadian cities are nearly devoid of humanity. I miss my routine of friendly waves, brief hello’s and idle chit-chat with the street vendors when walking down the sidewalks in Bangkok. There are no food kiosks or superfluous vendors allowed on the streets or outdoors in Canada, and as such no ‘street life’. This lack of ‘personality’ leaves the Canadian experience rather dull and us Canadians feeling lifeless and without adequate human interaction. Patricia and I start to count the days until we leave again almost immediately after we arrive.

But…conversely this is exactly what I want as a writer. Here in Vancouver there is nothing calling me out to play, there is no where to go, nothing to do. It is perfect for my writing, zero outside interferences to contend with, and I am writing prodigiously during the time I am here. There is no cool ‘cafe culture, or historical neighborhoods to appreciate . There are no theater scenes, art hangouts, no urban vibe, no open markets of any kind to browse or galleries to take in or a museum of note. In this place I can live in perfect intellectual seclusion and write.

Don’t start feeling sorry for Patricia at this point, she is also a writer and creates/produces a series of textbooks for computer/technical junkies. In under two months I have finished twenty three chapters of my new work. This ‘void element’ could be a unique selling feature for attracting authors to Canada. ‘Come to Vancouver, there is nothing to distract you’. Of course I say this tongue in cheek. There are people here who will disagree with my assessment. They will remind me that all you need is a forty thousand dollar recreational vehicle and thirty thousand dollars worth of ‘outdoor gear’ and fun is hidden around every corner. I do not begrudge them their perspective, I just don’t happen to agree. As always, I hope my new book sells well so that we can continue to travel away from the gloom. Life is a journey, not an occasion.

I haven’t been posting too much to the blog lately. My mindset has been focused on writing my 7th novel. I have finally found the perfect place in my mind to accept the task ahead. These projects are arduous. A novel is written and rewritten several times before a finished product is realized. I am writing a thriller, this time without my recurring detective character involved as a protagonist. As any of you know who may also be writing major works of 100,000 plus words, the process of novel writing requires extreme concentration and organization. To use a baseball analogy, it’s ‘The Big Show’. Novel writing is the ‘X-Games’ of the writers craft. I have a significant stockpile of travel related articles for my magazine to chew on for several months, and now my time is devoted elsewhere. Wish me well friends. I’ll check in from time to time. JWest

None of my traveler friends had ever visited Bristol, so naturally I had to go. For visitors to Great Britain this city in the south west corner of the island is a little hard to get to, it is officially ‘off the beaten track’, a perfect destination for me. I was feeling quite smug about my choice until I began to research the city who’s river Shakespeare had set into history, the River Avon, where he lived at Stratford on Avon. But long before that, some 60,000 years before, people have been known to have inhabited the area. I set out to find out why.

My plan was to settle in for a two week stay, long enough to get a feel for the comings and goings of the place. I always like to meet the area residents wherever I go so as to find out what their lives are like. This is part of the travel experience I enjoy the best. Over the many years I have traveled I have seen more than enough ruined piles of stone to have shifted my interest to the people who live in these places. I find that when shopkeepers and publicans, grocery clerks and post official countermen have seen your face on a regular basis they open up and don’t mind telling their stories. As I usually do when I hunker down in a single location for an extended period of time I book an intermediate stay apartment with a corporate provider. I found a fantastic period architectural place fronting the River Avon and one of the many bridge crossings in the heart of town called the West India House.

The first thing I noted were the numbers of young people in town. The University of Bristol is a popular place for foreign students coming to Britain to study. The campus is quite illustrious and looks as if it has stood for a thousand years, but looks are deceiving in the case of Bristol. Although the entire city appears to be original and ancient it is in fact a reproduction in it’s entirety. Bristol was heavily bombed during the second world war and lay in ruins for the better part of the period after Nazi bombers attacked the area because of the aircraft manufacturing facilities and airstrips. In fact one fine Sunday morning while we were having coffee in the High Street we were fortunate enough to set into conversation with an older gentleman who lived through that horrible time. He told us a very sad story of how his best friend had been killed by a bomb that had landed with only meters between them. How fickle is fate in times of war?

The faithful architectural reproductions are remarkable. As with the rest of Europe that had to rebuilt after that great war, it is almost unnoticeable to the naked eye that this rebuilding of thousands of buildings isn’t original. St Mary Redcliffe church is remarkable in that it’s many 13th century fittings of medieval knights and dignitaries buried for centuries under stone sarcophagi have been preserved. I happened in while choir practice was underway and the atmosphere was heavenly. The Georgian Period Queens Square has been so lovingly rebuilt that it almost seems as if the first bricks of the 17th century were painted only yesterday. Many of the cobblestones streets are lined with modern shops and coffee houses but you don’t have to look very far before finding an unaltered gem like the Llandoger Trow, an ancient public house in the center of the old city or The Nails in Corn Street where deals were made over shipping concerns that spanned the globe during days of empire and the term ‘cash on the nail’ was coined due to the requirements that Sterling be laid on the top of the brass topped tables.

Bristol had been a famous shipping port for exports and imports from around the globe through the Elizabethan to the Victorian ages. The port was also a wooden shipbuilding mecca for square rigged sailing traders who sought commerce on the far reaches of what was then unknown territory in the dangerous competition of the day. The term ‘Bristol Fit’ described a ship that was rigged to take any sort of challenge including armed confrontation. Much of the trade was legitimate but Bristol was also the main port in Great Britain for the African slave trade which saw millions of black Africans captured and enslaved by Arabs , West African man hunters and tribal chieftains selling their own people , finally to European ‘Blackbirders’ who transported the slaves to colonies as labour, particularly the newly established sugar plantations of the America’s, French, British , Spanish Caribbean and west coast of Portuguese Brazil. The slave trade was outlawed in Britain in 1833 but is still unfortunately an active practice amongst certain Arab and African nations.

One famous legacy in the City of Bristol is the home of a slave ship captain that was built upon his rich return to England after years at sea as a ‘Blackbirder’. This ships captain, John Newton, wrote the original hymn ‘Amazing Grace’. The house he built is a time capsule of all the mod cons a rich man could buy at the time, including a plunge pool on the lowest level of the six floor residence. On his return to England his guilt may have gotten the better of him and he became an Anglican minister.

It’s always best to walk around a new city, this is how the place will reveal it’s personality and it’s secrets to you. Bristol is punctuated by open pedestrian squares and green parks that appear as if by magic. The first walk-about I took led me past the ruined keep of a Norman tower, there since the first occupation by William the Conqueror in 1066 in the famous battle of Hastings. Plain functional buildings from the 1960’s abut Shakespearean row houses laced with odd graffiti scratched in the stone, the meanings of which have long been forgotten and covered with ivy sprouting from the cracks. Narrow lanes abound through the core of Bristol’s original founding. Lively pubs are raucous and carousing well into the night. The sound of ebullient laughter pours down the cobblestones stairwells like rushing water. One Sunday morning constitutional led me straight into an all morning jazz blast where the street performers were wildly costumed and in riotous makeup. The occasion seemed to be lost on anyone I asked.

I was in love with Bristol within hours of arriving and the attraction has continued to grow in my absence . The lively boathouse restaurants lining the river offered an array of entertainment steps from my door. The streets all seemed to lead me around in a fascinating circle hemmed by river water and locks. I spent several hours in the area around the railway station as it seemed so perfectly decrepit that I would not have wanted to change a single line of red brick and wrought iron left over from the restoration after the war.

Though I am a staunch budget traveler I found myself being drawn in to the many welcoming public house establishments for a quick drink and conversation. Travelers are unusual fare for the cosmopolitan denizens of Bristol who all seem to come from somewhere else. The city is full of tech workers on contract, visiting professors and students sharing this comfortable space. I was welcomed with interest and courtesy as a tourist as if I were something truly unique to the social mix. If you ever get the chance you should certainly give this rare city a visit, you might fall in love, as I did, forever.

As you take your first tentative steps
towards what you think is freedom
suitcase in hand
you pause and think of an unusual old man
from the past
who sang in the corner
of your childhood home
when holidays came around
and then he’d vanish
like a wisp
left unspoken
as if he’d not existed
except as party favor your parents brought out
when their ability to converse with each other had died
he left leaving only post cards and fridge magnets
laughter and the fog of mystery behind
as proof of his existence
“look at what he was wearing” your mother had said
and indeed he appeared not to belong
in this world or the next

you always called him uncle, but knew
from your fathers sly smile and your mothers close patience
he was some kind of pretender
you barely remember what he said anymore
from when he held court in the sun rays
escaping indoors to seek warmth from the winter
outside
and stirred the floating dust with his hands
as the company sat at his feet
his thralls

he called himself a traveler
that meant precious little to you
you remember hearing your mother’s shrill voice say to your father time and again, ‘don’t you dare’
as if she had been pierced with fear
discomfort would reign between the two rooms
your father laughed against mothers remonstrations
hard words cut off by a swinging door
as they left off and began
an ongoing argument
between trips laden with gravy boats
and giant trays of meat and berries

in your mind you think he’s a rambling fool
a wrangler of conflicted stories
the laws of time and space interfere with his logic
he’d have to have lived for a million years
he defies the obvious
you hold your tongue against polite confusion
do others also hear it?
what did he say about
living under water?
or was that a material metaphor
about how buckets of rain could fall from the sky
but i became immersed in the ticking vibrations
coming from the image of an oriental god
he wore as a pendant around his neck
i got the distinct impression
that his time on our plane
was quickly coming to an end

you forget the specifics because you couldn’t listen
your mind is wrapped up in a blanket of rainbows
it doesn’t make sense that he’s speaking in tongues
about people and places that lay dead in your home
encased in paper spines and brushed ink
instead you got lost in a rhythm of words
that fall from his mouth like butterflies
on the vine
the dreams you had later that night
were as strange and wonderful as your young mind
could comprehend
and you woke knowing something inside you
had changed
but you didn’t know what
a luftmensch was
how can one live in the air?

in your malleable state
the old man speaks only beautiful nonsense
you thought him insane
the mind worm beat towards your subconscious like a drum
pictures forming into words that can’t be translated
but only remembered as emotions decades later
and here you are thinking that
it would be the easiest thing to find yourself alone
he’d said
a voice in your head has begun to repeat
his long lost song
and that look on his face
as if he were transcendent

wander away and you’ll never come home
the same
he’d said
look at me, i’m a breath of homeless air
wander the world and try to come back
after years of living on the road
after making your bed in the clouds beside the highway
you’ll be different when you return
you’ll be immutably different
if you return
his eyes held something secret that you couldn’t quite see
like silver dogs building around the blazing sun

i saw something out of my peripheral vision
a ghostly glimpse from the corner of my eye
his words were my spirit guide and i was wandering through ruins
the old haunts you cherish are empty except for the ghosts in your mind
the ones you’d held close have moved on
at one point I paused when he pointed at me
as if he could read my mind and he said
you can be away for too long to remember what you’ve left behind
his dangling refrain
lodged somewhere
faded but never to be forgotten
an image of myself resembling what i can only describe
as an alien gypsy unlike any i’d seen
“is that me”?

just as you blew across the face of the world
they will have
and he pointed at your parents
settled into the ground
planting deep roots
spouses, girlfriends and lovers will interpret your presence
as a threat
a dark shadow from the past
come to steal away the security of the nest
by planting dreams that grow like weeds
in the garden so carefully groomed
they will challenge your freedom with hatred
and covet those things that don’t exist
which you hold dear

you realize that in your reverie
you have not heard your parents behind you
you stand in the doorway
half in and half out
somehow you’d wished you could have vanished
like that old man
who’d seemed to make something out of nothing
creating substance out of what hadn’t existed
while floating between worlds
you turn to see two kinds of hope
one for a freedom never realized
one for loss that will tear at the fabric of an impossible dream

your father pines for what might have been
you’ve always known that
he’s told you as much
whenever he drank himself through another lonely night
when he spoke about the things he had lost
your mother see’s nothing but the dark shadow
of the story teller
she wishes she could reach back into the past
to make it stop
she wrings her hands
she’d known all along
that you’d be leaving
you had the stain of the traveler on your soul

“you’ll regret it if you do’
you’re mother cries
“you’ll regret it if you don’t”
you’re father stands his ground for once
a vision of the traveler appears
you can see the butterflies
falling out of his mouth
and the sweet smell of nothing on your hands
as you prepare to leave everything behind
except memories
to answer the longing
in your heart
and as a supernatural force lifts you into the air
as it has when you’ve astral traveled
you finally understand
the luftmensch
and his place among the stars

on the sixth day we were rising

from the dream that we’d been living

as if hiding under water

blue sky above our heads

while we languished

in laughter and innocence

i broke the surface first and gasped

you came struggling after

our minds had traveled

so very far from here

i fell from my cloud to the ground

you were near impossible to recognize

a face renewed by natural magic

i remembered that disaster

we’d left behind

and wanted to keep it secret

but here it was again

standing on it’s hind legs crowing

breaking dawn before the light

that raucous howling of the other side

both of us  tender in the arms of our rebirth

stripped and bear by conscious calling

the fifth day was a call to arms

we’ have to make ourselves ready for battle

it seemed as if the time we’d lost had furled our fierce  banner

weakness could lead to our undoing

like an engine gaining speed

the clock began to race and flex

build strength towards a time when we would enter

that other time and place

ready or not

the realization hit that we couldn’t stay here

the past had discovered our weakness

if the fourth day was any measure

fear set in

each sunrise once adored

awakened me with  burning  skin

that i’d mistaken for a caress

not so long ago

inconstant friend i wonder out loud

i don’t care what you say

three days is not enough

i hadn’t tested gravity and felt unsure

i’m feeling weak kneed and afraid

of the juggernaut running at me

the world where i come has promised

that it would rather kill me

than set me free

what precedent would that set for the slaves

on day two I  admitted

that i would have to fight against my fears

no matter what the consequence

what was i to do

when i no longer had the moon  to guide my dreams

the sun shone as i awoke the final day

as if to mock me

i thought i had become one with this

i saw they’d get along without me

i felt cast off

as this wisp of a world swirled around

between two worlds

held in jealousy and covetous contempt by those i’d left behind

shunned by those i was leaving

as if i was abandoning the things we’d so carefully built

had i been such an inconstant friend

to the river that flowed above my head

while i swam in distant waters

foolish in my attempted to thwart my fate

suddenly i was in the air

a prisoner of my birth

of my mind and cultured ways

to trample through another year

by counting down the days.

Many Canadians, myself included, dream  about visiting San Francisco because of the fantastic array of attractions,  as numerous as points of light on a star map. As it is only a short flight two hour flight from my home town of Vancouver I have had the opportunity to visit many times over the years. San Fran is a city of neighborhoods, each a unique patch in this delightful urban tapestry.

On this visit I was on a mission to relive a time when San Francisco was the center of the groovy universe. As a young traveler I had visited San Fran in many disguises, wandering mendicant, guitar troubadour, poet. I  slept on benches, in yippie flops and spent an entire summer residing in Golden Gate Park at the end of Haight Street. In 1968 and ’69 there were so many people making love openly in the grass that you had to wind around the ecstatic bodies of balling freaks.

In the psychedelic Haight – Ashbury District,  a single  famous street corner at Haight Street and Ashbury was where  two dimensions intersected to open a new but sadly short lived universe for a generation of people between the ages of zero and twenty something who became known as ‘the hippies’ . I’m grown up now, no more flowers in my hair, patchouli oil , buckskin jackets or saying ‘Right On’ , ‘Far out’ and ‘Groovy’ in every sentence. It didn’t matter why, I was out to discover San Francisco again, a bit more comfortably this time.

The setting of this magnificent city in the geography of Northern California is a stunning act of nature. The deep water entrance to the harbour has been mastered by a world renowned landmark, The Golden Gate Bridge, connecting the city of San Francisco to the bedroom community of Oakland. Golden Gate Park at the foot of the bridge should be a ‘must see’ stop on anyone’s visit to ‘the city on the bay’.

It’s easily accessed by public transportation , ask any driver, they’re helpful. The civil war outpost Fort Point under the bridge still points it’s cannon towards the Pacific Ocean in symbolic  defense of liberty. A scenic seawall along the coast line reveals big wave surfers in action and delicate indigenous plants.

On my most recent trip I chose to stay at the Nikko Hotel, right downtown close to Union Square. I like to be close to the center of things when I’m only going to be in town for a short visit. The Nikko is on Mason Street, two blocks from the historical heart of the city, Union Square. This is a lively area day or night. It was once quite rough, but not anymore. Don’t let an old story dissuade you from venturing out. There are some panhandlers left over, yes, but there are more street performers than anything these days. In the evenings I have seen entire rock bands set up on a street corner and wow the tourist crowd for tips.

Another reason to stay downtown is the fact that you’ll be the hub at the center of a wheel. Travel in any direction along a spoke and you’re headed towards something famous , distinct, or both. My direction on the first morning was straight to Union Squares surrounding streets of Powell , Geary and Post. These streets are shoulder to shoulder with great coffee  cafe’s, some extensions of major hotels , some individually owned bistro’s.  Coffee and a light breakfast is served at a sidewalk table for people on their way to work and the tourist alike. I like to watch the morning action of a busy city. My choice of cheese croissant and a tall mocha latte at a sun kissed ‘mom and pop’  brasserie seemed just perfect.

Come to any major US city from Canada and one of the first things you notice is that there are lot more shopping outlets . There are hundreds of franchises lining the streets and mall concourses that have never been heard of on the retail scene north of the border. I like to walk through Macy’s on Market Street when I get the chance. It’s a holiday in itself.

Inside any Macy’s they have hundreds of individual manufacturers represented in kiosk style outlets, some  very fancy and  expensive. The store was on my way and I ‘popped in’ for a visit. I chose to walk down Powell Street so that I could take a few pictures of the famous Cable Car round-about at Powell and Market.

It’s a popular image for people waiting to travel the opposite direction by Cable car after the two conductors muscle the cars around on the spinning platform marking ‘the end of the line’. From here I would walk down to the scenic waterfront Embarcadero where the commuter ferries to Oakland dock and disgorge passengers into the business district.

San Francisco is a great walking city, lots of variety, from flat to gradual rise with some challenging hills to climb if you choose the right streets. I decided that today would be a street photo day and I had worn my comfortable shoes. If you forget, there is an incredible Shoe Warehouse outlet beside Forever Twenty One on the Cable Car Station corner than has to be 40,000 square feet on three levels of shoes. If you’re a ‘shoe horse’ this may be an overload experience , bring a friend to guide you home.

I was lucky today, things were going my way. I walked through a crowd of bike couriers at the foot of a commercial building and chanced to engage a few in conversation. One  perk about being a travel writer is that once you identify yourself as such people get talkative and interested in your work. I told them about my plan to circumnavigate an old route I had taken in the late 1960’s when  San Francisco was still the Hippie Kingdom. “That’s a lot to take in all in a day,” it was suggested. My new guides and resident experts suggested I add some efficiencies into my game plan and schooled me in the new  Bay Area Rapid Transit system, BART for short. I’m glad I got the lesson.

Instead of walking the entire distance, I chose the highlights as suggested by the bikey’s. From the Embarcadero I hopped the tram towards Fisherman’s Wharf. It’s hard not to feel like a kid again when a jolly tram conductor is ringing a jingling brass bell and you’re hanging out the door of a rattling orange time machine full of happy people. Between the warehouse units along the water I got my first glimpse of the island of Alcatraz, famous as a prison and now a famous landmark for visitors.

Fisherman’s Wharf is a collection of piers and an aquatic park at the end of the Embarcadero Boulevard. My favorite stop has always been the Pier 39 mob scene of Sea Lions lolling in the sun on the floating gangways. The big beasts stink, bark and cavort the day away much to the delight of everyone. The food outlets are extensive and I opted for a plate of fresh crispy calamari to eat on a bench to watch the crowd. Buskers and artists add to the convivial and totally photogenic atmosphere.

I decided to walk up Grant Street which would take me uphill past  Coit Tower and shady Washington Square and the lovely cathedral there. This is one of those classic hill streets where colourful  town homes shoulder each other distinctly on the steep inclination. To my right I could see the famous zig zag Lombard Street. I was headed towards Chinatown. This route would take me through Italian inspired North Beach and bring the world famously pointed spear that is the  Transamerica Tower into view as I crested the rise of Nob Hill.

Jack Kerouac infamously held court here and has an alley named after him. As a writer I can’t resist an homage whenever possible. As it was lunch time and I’d worked up an appetite climbing the hill I decided to entertain a Chinese meal at a busy restaurant on Grant Street.

My smattering of Cantonese caused quite a stir. I had one of the best lunches of Char Sui, Gai Lan and Rice I have ever. In the same street I found a lady crowded tea/shop bakery and picked up a box of my favorites to savor later in the room. Gai Mei Bau, a coconut paste filled sweet bread, Char Sui Bau, a spicy meat paste baked treasure and several Dan Tat, the egg tart that can only be described as heavenly.

I took the shortcut under the mountain my biker friends had recommended through the Stockton Tunnel back into downtown. I wanted to catch the bus across town towards ‘The Haight’. This is an interesting  route because it takes a traveler through all the distinct ethnic neighbors that divide San Francisco into a patchwork quilt. The bus becomes like a mini United nations after passing through several. It took twenty minutes before my driver gave me the signal. I stepped off onto the lowers steps at the Grand Temple of the Hippy Kingdom, the foot of Haight Street. Walking up the rise was like reliving my youth, I was transported as I ascended this personal Stairway to Heaven.

Of course almost nothing ever stays the same. It was all just a memory. Shopkeepers had banded together to keep the vibe rolling in order to sell poster reproductions and T-shirts. It’s still cool though, but much quieter than the old days. I popped into the new McDonald’s for some coffee and reflection. What did you expect? I asked myself the same thing. Across the street the tunnel entrance to the park beckoned. A kid was banging away at a timbale inside for the acoustics and sort of magnetized me in that direction. I wasn’t half way through when an itchy straggler sidled up and whispered, “Do want to buy some grass”. Just like the old days. There are no hippies balling in the grass these days. Just a beautiful sunny expanse of lawn well patrolled by police  on ATV’s.

‘It’s all so beautiful’, are the words of a one hit wonder from back in the day. And it really was, but like so many precious memories they fade with time and reliving them is impossible. The best thing is too have a great life now and make lasting memories today. I walked away from my 1969 bubble world quite happy in the knowledge that I ‘d seen it at it’s best.

My next stop would be to once again commune with the Pacific Ocean, a few short minutes away, in the town of Ocean Beach. The Grand Highway along the sandy beach is a dreamscape of drifting dunes , floating gulls and the eternal Pacific.

As I sat in the sand  atop a soft dune I contemplated the world behind me. The Ocean is the metronome of all things living. The constant sound of  long waves crashing on the shoreline has a way of peeling  the stress  from anyone who opens their heart and mind to the natural world. I thought about my day in San Francisco, truly one of the worlds great cities. I saw that it is a place of renewal and not just a monument to the past. I felt satisfied to have found my place in the story of San Francisco and maybe you will too.

I returned to my hotel to share my little box of bakery delights with Patricia. I’d had a dreamy day. I’d lived a dual life in a single journey of rediscovery. On the way back I chanced upon a Thai restaurant which to my noses surprise was serving exactly authentic Thai food. By some miracle of logistics they had got hold of the especially rare ingredients that make Thai food in Thailand an experience worth flying fifteen hours for. How they’d traveled fresh so far from the Kingdom I don’t know. It was a San Francisco miracle. Pat and I hurried back there for dinner in case it was just a temporary mirage. We decided during the meal that the King of Thai restaurant on Farrel Street was  a new point of light in San Francisco’s pantheon of stars.

lord, give me just two words

so that i can bring meaning to my life

words that bring peace

and reconciliation

words that make me strong

in the face of the furious wind

so that i can stand like a warrior

with your words in either hand

a sword and a lance

to be what i am

with just two words

against all odds

let these words mean everything

leaving no misinterpretation

no misunderstanding

as to my intention

just  and unadulterated truth

as it was meant to be uttered

challenge me with the gravity of two words alone

anchored in the history of all things

that i may speak them when all else fails

let no one deny

or let my speech falter

when i say

i believe