The Hook brings you back…

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I think expected sad news may really be the most unexpected. It is like you think you are ready, and then you wait and wait and wait and it never comes.

And then it does.

And when you get the news you sit with it a minute and think to yourself, ‘Well, I sort of expected that….’ And then you can’t get out of bed for like, an hour, and then you have to go to work, and then the rest of the world and the day and everything is just just just so fucking normal.

I am not sure there is anything sadder.

Meeting Stu was one of the best and worst things that ever happened to me all at once. But he was like that – all things all at once. So many things he couldn’t really ever keep them together. And that was his tragedy – and his gift. I remember the night I met him perfectly and the various strange, not always nice, events that followed. I can say now that those days, months, years, in which Stuart played a role  have been some of the most fundamentally significant in my life.

And it just makes it so much god damned more sad.

Stu was unable to overcome his demons in the end, it appears, though I had to smile when this morning as I spoke to a friend about it and she said, ‘He just seemed like one of those indestructible ones, you know?’

I guess there is no such thing when you really get down to it.

As I sit here, semi-catatonic, perusing photos from Hong Kong, Thailand, Vietnam, Lao, and Lamma Lamma Lamma…. I see the faces of people who knew us, who know me, who might say to me, well, it had the air of inevitability about it, this. And I think to myself, I suppose.

But we all do die, don’t we?

When I think of Stu I realize I never really had the chance to fully grieve. And as you can imagine, when one breaks off with  a person under the conditions we did – there is always unfinished business. Always. This adds to the sadness. I never really had the chance to get angry with Stu either- I was too busy managing things, myself, mostly I suppose. As I look through my email (why not poke the bruise a bit?) I see so many times he tried to reach out… and I did not (could not?) reply. I am so remorseful over that today, and while the sane mind will say it would not have changed the outcome, the sad mind can only wonder if it might have made a difference. And though we kept in touch on and off these past few years, I am so grossly disappointed in myself that the last real contact we had, digital though it was, was about me harping on him to handle his business.

How embarrassingly trivial. How devastatingly sad, to have those be the last words he heard from me. How horrible to actually experience, what can only be termed as the deepest regret, that I could not have been kinder in that last connection.

This is a regret that will not soon pass.

Stuart was a tragic character, and burnt many bridges, not surprisingly. But Stuart was much more than that. He was a kind, kind person – in spite of all that made him tragic. Stuart was good to me in spirit and in his heart – if not in more practical issues of this corporeal world. He saw me beyond the obvious, and he truly believed I was beautiful, in every way. Stuart introduced me to fascinating ideas and people and experiences that I’d never have had the chance to glean other wise.

Sitting here thinking on Stu this evening I remember his passion for life, how he loved to dance – and those beach parties! His sense of humo(u)r, how he loved our cats, and being and working in our home and our garden. I am still awed by his compassion for others regardless of their station or circumstance. I remember how much he loved Hong Kong – really and truly, and all the people I met there because of him. He used to sometimes just say, ‘Here we are on a tropical island in the South China Sea – how bad can anything be? This is superb!’ I remember how we got on about our football rivalry, my choice to support Chelsea just to vex him, and his lifelong love of the Tottenham Hotspur, and our World Cup debates. His silly taste in music… James Blunt! Robbie Williams! Dido! And I recall the person Stu really wanted to be…

People who met him – certainly all the people I introduced to him – wanted so much for him to succeed. Perhaps now in some way he can see that he did. He wanted to change the world and today I spoke to friends from Thailand to Israel to Ireland to Australia to England and of course our beloved Hong Kong who remember what a light he had inside of him and the joy he had for living… in spite of the choices he made and the circumstances he created. And I have to think that makes a difference, even if it was not enough to get him through the darkness.

In the end I sit with knowing how much we both believed in the love we had, and I mean, that is sort of a nice thing to experience with another person at some point in a lifetime, right?

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There’s not a single song I could choose that fits better right now…. it’s the first thing that’s made me smile about this whole situation.

Rest in peace Stu. And get your groove on while you’re at it….

Sometime… Can you feel de pressure does unwind
Sometime…
Sometime… Trough de day and trough de night
Sometime…
Sometime… You can make our pressure does unwind
Sometime…
Sometime… It’s for your spirit and your mind
Sometime…

 

Shoes have always been a subject close to my heart.

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I do love shoes. This is true. I used to march around in my mom’s friend Vicki’s shoes when I was little because Vicki was tiny and they almost fit. For a while I went through a phase of only ever wearing flat shoes… I was a tall kid and in high school that was particularly vexing. But the truth of the matter is, flat shoes are not as fun, flattering, or attractive. Then I became much more of an equal opportunity shoe opportunist. Today I definitely prefer heels, and if at 5’10” that’s an issue for you, that’s your deal. Anyhow, it basically just comes down to me loving shoes.

My love of shoes, however passionate it may be, shifted on my adaptation to Asian norms for the 5+ years I was there. I came to understand shoes as a truly exterior function of living. Shoe racks became not a closet accessory (well, not just a closet accessory) but a standard outside every entrance to every home I visited. I became accustomed to never wearing shoes that I wore outside the house, inside the house. The more I thought about it, the more it made perfect sense. And the even more I thought about it the grosser the idea of ever traipsing in the house with all the exterior dirt from my shoes covering the floor became. It realigned my shoe relationship, although it certainly did not diminish my love for all things zapatos. I know lots of people love shoes as much or more than I do (I mean shoe porn is actually a thing), it is all over the internet. [The images that make me wanna vomit now are these kinds where people wear their shoes in bed trying to look sexy… Your shoes? In your bed? Touching your pillow? BLECH. (I get that they think it is like, porn-star sexy, but really. Yuck.)]

So it makes sense that when I came back to the States I continued to adhere to the no shoes in the house rule, especially because I live in the Mission and if you really wanna get grossed out, check out my sidewalks someday. BLECH. I had a couple of complications with my practice: cats. While cats are very clean themselves, some of their indoor habits are not so much, eg: the litter box. My solution was to get a beautiful new Miele vacuum. And this worked well. I vacuumed in the morning and in the evenings, sometimes in the late afternoons. It worked fine. People removed their shoes in the house, I vacuumed, I maintained my sanity. [My downstairs neighbor might have been on the wrong end of this arrangement, asking me one evening in passing, “So, how often do you vacuum anyhow?”] But I kept it up because I was sensitive to the reality that people who ask others to remove shoes on entering their home and then expect them to walk on a filthy floor is as gross as wearing shoes in the house in the first place. And I was proud that was never a problem in my casa.

But then, things in my casa changed. Someone unfamiliar with cat habits (and my own vacuum tendencies) began to spend a lot of time in situ. And he was not only unused to a shoe free home situation, he was more distressed about cat dirt than the filth spiral my brain obsessed on when I thought about what was on my sidewalks and logically and subsequently on my floor, and eventually… god, who knows where…

Shoes became the norm (and I was vacuuming less for lots of different reasons, mostly because when you are sharing company with someone else they think it is weird that you would rather vacuum than hang out. Fair enough.) And as shoes became more normal, vacuuming became less critical. Housecleaning was still a priority – I mean, I am who I am, after all – but it became more like a weekly thing. And less than pristine floors were easier to ignore, as shoes were always on. We carried on like this for a long time. Sometimes frustrations would erupt around the state of the floors. Mine because, why was I the only vacuum obsessive? And his because, what was the point of vacuuming or sweeping when as soon as one was done it needed to be done again… I argued that this was flawed logic. It was as if one should never wash a dish as it would obviously get used again. Or why make the bed, it would obviously get unmade again. It is just the cycle of life… there is no futility in this repetition, there is sanity.

Or at least for me there is.

And over time, the hardwood floors became a less and less shiny, showing more and more wear and tear. I thought to myself repeatedly that they were going to need to be completely stripped down and refinished. A total do over.

Now things have changed again. I am vacuuming two or three times a day, and my shoes are off. Walking around on the floors in my bare feet feels grounding and familiar. When I came home from yoga last night and slipped off my shoes, it became clear I would need to vacuum, cats being cats. I considered that had I been wearing shoes, the circumstances would have been the same in terms of needing to vacuum, but I wouldn’t have noticed.

And this insight made me think about wearing shoes in my house for the last however long. It was just a way to ignore the real issues that were right underneath me the whole time. The dirt and refuse and icky details remain regardless if you are feeling them, or dealing with them. And walking over them with your shoes may seem to lessen them or diffuse them by swishing them around, or even appear to crush them, but they all remain, steadfast, just ground further into the beautiful hardwood beneath your feet.

What was once something easy to fix with daily diligence has now forever marred my hardwood floors, unaffected by superficial efforts to sweep it up.

It is going to take a lot of work to restore them.

But it is possible.

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Semantics. It means perspective.

DSCN0534The difference is perspective. This is not new information. This morning as I was walking through the neighborhood to go to the bank, the coffee shop, the bakery, I was thinking about the coffee in Southeast Asia. I was thinking about how the Vietnamese coffee is roasted with sugar and butter and you have to use a special t up to brew it. Noah and Trinh taught me how. And I thought about the sweetened condensed milk and how it always seems like the coffee was an afterthought if you did not say “no milk!” Walking around in cool morning air on a day that would probably be warm, but was strangely chemically overcast for San Francisco considering these details reminded me so much of Ubud, Saigon, Hanoi, Xian, Shanghai, Bangkok, Kota Kinabalu, sipadan, Vientiane, Luang Prabang. Bad coffee.

Sometimes bad is good.

I had gotten on the subject because we saw someone wring by with a McDonald’s bag and I joked and said, we could go to McDonald’s. He answered back saying he would like to say that he would never again have coffee from McDonald’s. Or 7-11. Then he rethought it and said, well you never know I guess. I knew what he meant though. I told him about how I used to have to take the 5:30 am ferry to get to my yoga class in Hong Kong that started at 7:00 because the next ferry would get me there too late. And so I always had this strange 45 minutes of very quiet early morning time in Happy Valley where nothing was open except for McDonald’s, and so I would go to the McCafe and get coffee. How was it, he wanted to know. I don’t know, I answered. You know, like I don’t totally remember. I mostly remember just having this little bit of totally quiet time where the light was coming up and there were just a few people around. Sometimes I would go sit near the park outside the race track and watch people do tai chi. It seemed like it was always sweeter than it should have been. The coffee I mean. Even though I never put sugar in it. But then, so much in Asia was always sweeter than it should have been, especially the coffee.

Sometimes when I look around my neighborhood, especially on Mission Street in the morning, I can get that feeling I used to feel who I was walking around cities in far away places early in the morning. My neighborhood can be very “developing nation” in aesthetic, if you know what I mean. And I have always had a penchant for the seemingly unplanned juxtaposition of old/new, rich/poor, clean/dirty. Your basic urban experience. [Excluding SNG, of course.]

This morning I grasped more urgently at the familiar feeling: early morning, city, far away, edgy, dirty, perhaps. I was almost there, walking along Sukhumvit, looking for a coffee shop or a street stall to get some fresh fruit. But then it was gone. I was in San Francisco after all, in my own neighborhood, knowing exactly where I was going and what I would be doing this fine ombre day in my city by the bay.

Sometimes good is bad.

This frustrates me, sometimes even depresses me. Here is me chasing my dragon. In the midst of considering how the sidewalk between 23rd and 24th on Mission could be a sidewalk in so many other places, it hit me. The difference was not in the observations of what is certainly one thing or another. The difference is the mindset of being far afield. No matter where I have traveled, or how much I have planned on said travels, there is a permanent sense of the unknown as I walk down those distant streets. It is the simple notion that anything could happen and that I could literally do anything I want. Truthfully, that is a load of horse shit, but the feeling is always there. When I was traveling and I would be running out of money it was fun, like an adventure or a puzzle… What would I, or maybe we, do next. When that happens here, I just feel like a loser. I am confused as to what leads to this difference. There when scheduling or transport snafus happened, it was all part of the experience. Here, when stuff goes awry it is a total shitshow. And stressful.

And that is it. That is the entire grass is greener thing I was trying to get at a few weeks back. It is the completely voluntary choice to believe that right now, right this very minute, I could do whatever I want to do – and that anything could happen. This reality remains constant in both scenarios, particularly the anything could happen element. It is hilarious when one takes a moment to consider it; that we eliminate the possibility that anything could happen because we think we know exactly what is going to go down only because we are in a more familiar place. Here I have to… do all these things, meet all these people, take care of all this shit. Just like what my friends would say to me from here while I was there. And there… I have all these things I can do, all these people I can see, and all these things I can manage because I am experienced. Just like I hear all my friends who are there say, when I am here.

Wow. Semantics.

Sometimes good is good. Or maybe it just is.

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*written a few weeks back, if that matters.