Saturday, March 31, 2012

lovely neighbourhood - Davenport in Bettendorf Iowa

difficult to say the obvious strange things

imagine these words are not in English
spoken by people at neighbouring tables
they speak audibly
and yet you understand and accept
to ignore them
even if they speak directly about something you love
or know
why the wind blows

this is what a list makes -
pretense shields
needlework subjects
battles to save what we imagine
lovely skin and a kiss
old age

we burn and everyone else notices
no one offers to throw on water or sand
until we laugh

halfway across the new world
a weight of voices in the tumbled clouds
other places I'm going yet
reputations and expectations are security guards
they've moats of messages

tell nobody your secrets
keep privacy like a holy garden
believe me 
I am nobody who wants to prune
nor to listen to the rustling

I'm a pottery urn
the light from under a door
and somebody else's mother
stop making me 

terrified of my own tears
someone warned me I could drown in hot air
adjusted to this latest restriction
the theatre of conversation closed down for summer
people send out blossoms in funny stories
and we'd never walk upon them
too dangerous to even imagine

a small wooden box of cards instead
we play for points
add them onto the age we went through 
growing into ancient children
in public like a song title
so now we sing a two 
                            or three or more part piece
each with different words
both as true as ever was possible before
made new by travel 

everywhere I run
across the walls
my arms stretched out for the centre
wishing I could hold 
you close to my shoulder
spooned on my back
listening to your smile

                                                           --- written on the hill overlooking picturesque Davenport

Wish I could spend a longer time everywhere I have been so far, and cry with joy whenever I think about how kind and generous everyone has been, including with their criticisms and warnings, their concerns and bewilderment. I sometimes make so little sense I also alarm myself so please forgive me, it really is culture shock and some sense of needing to attempt to communicate anyway. But I may be over the worst of it now.

I heard a woodpecker yesterday. There are many trees here. I may be buying even more trees for South Australia when I get back, than I believed I would. They do need them. Everywhere needs trees, please plant one if you like this blog and send me a picture of it or write about it and send a link. The world has half the trees it did when homo sapiens arrived from evolution. Now, more trees planted correctly, (seek professional advice) could keep this Earth safe for people and other natural life we depend on and love, or co-habit the environs with, everywhere.

This country so enormous and different to what I'm used to, I'm grateful I've had the chance to find out a little more about it.


Thanks for reading and all comments welcome here or on faceberk. I honestly need all the help such as messages of support that I can get now, travelling alone through so much beauty and dedication, so many diversions and surprises with this good readership in the USA (including Alaska), Australia, Russia, France, Spain, Sweden, UK, and Aotearoa NZ. Please share this blog with anyone who could like it, (thanks again).

Picture at top of page - B & B in Davenport, with my case covered in a sarong from Bora Bora, Tahiti.

Picture below is Amy's Seattle house, a romantic dresser she decorated in The Princess Room, (detail).

Friday, March 30, 2012

Get along to the Figge Museum if you are in the area, (Davenport, Iowa, USA) ooo, fine exhibitions about to appear including some work by people from Senior Star.

I was there today assisting Sandy with art therapy sessions, learnt so much. She's a local Davenport artist whose understanding of colour exceeds almost everyone contemporary I know of in painted expressionist work, with figurative aspects except Jan Nigro, however Sandy uses still life and abstractions as subjects more often than portraits, (which Nigro is so famous for, world-wide).

O yes brothers, sisters, boys, girls, ladies and gentlemen I have been drawing pictures by the way of princes, while people laughed about coffee. This is an excellence. Go good well.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Fearless in Seattle late March 2012

This blog entry may confuse, just have fun with it while I cry for joy and sleep at last for hours after a shocking time missing planes, being foolish and far too hopeful, o what a mess of traveling indeed. (I am now safely in Iowa however)....
Grey is my favorite color / I felt so symbolic yesterday / If I knew Picasso / I would buy myself 

a gray guitar and play... I wish I was beautiful... I want to be someone who believes... 

                              lyrics by Counting Crows -

In this grand grey city where men believe they are giants and women tend fire with knives, a visitor dressed in another language arrived from the past.

They'd met before on a myth and legend called The Internet World Wide Web about 12 years earlier, behind an electric blue screen flicking out writethis wet typewriter ribbons, and slammed with an occasional banning. What roisterous banter and A Ray's garden furniture had demanded lines too. The Boater once said he'd visit an' sit some time but obviously grew weary, or sly or just mean again. That's neither there, here nor fair probably but, o well. "Erm... this is leaping too far ahead," (my unidentical twin Xanthe would say).

So, when A Ray met the first two writers from that esteemed community wt in their fine town of near-the-cafe-where-Twin-Peaks-was-filmed, elvish nonsense continued, although May, (all names changed for leeway), beautifully averted disaster with pointed silences or swerve talk. The Boater, (an old cc vagabond and scoundrel) held that dry moments squealed occasionally and far worse.

So, here it is, rather a jumble but we did visit Seattle thrift shops and a goodwill store even if May said it was a wierd thing to do with an out-of-town visitor, (she's much smarter than A Ray or Boater, they have to respect that surely even if they are The Sass Bickersons). 

Here's the latest version of their story, (I edited it again and again, maybe seven times now).

A Whimm Tale of Two Scribe Listers and a Keyboard Boater

Please note this is a fairy-tale, but not about 13 summers nor the faint-hearted or any who disparages secret identities and hero guitarists. Plink. It's also only for grown-ups.

Somewhat inspired by a rather terrifying and amusing, (yes, together) book called mean confession, (pretendGeniuspress 2006) by Dean Strom which I finished today. He's a self-confessed mermaid hunter if you believe the press and how he looks in this drawing (above) of him by an onlooker, but this Very Important Mermaid (VIM) luckily got away this time.

See if you please a place of belong time from now since ago; days of perfume and aromas :- like hot pine resin air in summer, which May told me of at her place when rain thundered and seethed. Then we stopped afternoon by a wicked hillock of cedar bark chipped for mulch, glorious through the open window of The Boater's travelling circus for banned gypsies. 

Such clean air for the delivery. 

And every most later, hyacinths in the princess room where A Ray slept and now wonders what blessings arranged. Her own protector on a small island with an earth floor temple to run, so when she realised this was no ordinary visit she felt glad to know what an empty pottery vase on its side may teach us about approaches. (Place the goodly-sized object where you can see it when approaching a doorway, this ensures proper respect from visitors and yourself).

Catch the smell of snow in the breeze, know it's arriving then - but now 'tis spring for this hemisphere, in the New World.

Find three travellers namely The Boater, May and A Ray on trips to sights, shows then imbibing between, for tums, if you'd like some jolly which each found somewhat. A whirl of activity and views, scattered carefully hereabouts, then rather swished from something spilt heart-wise.

No sleeves are in this story, so there's nothing to peck at on one. "Every daw get out, now." But images of crows were significant as you may see. They may not be counted on for much if you're ignorant, but their drama assists decision-making on walks and they have a beautifully arranged family life. Crows also rid a garden of pests.

Quick, change to light-hearted or good-spirited, now. Start with chocolate and cherry blossoms, Amy's gorgeous chicken masala and parmesan risotto, fresh laundry, ruby grapefruit, carved soap of many descriptions and then, possibly delicious non-smells throughout The Boater's intentions which added fake-light, or feinted at some target or were faint and unreadable.

An unnerving (part-lizard, some say) man, but this apparently kind and helpful Sass-maker, The Boater sometimes disguises himself as a fluff-destroyer, to avoid those who he imagines could smother him. He exists and shall not be quietened easily.

Lovely days floated expansions with our travellers joining dots, a car stereo surged electric ladyland, while icy north-eastern rain cascaded upon freeway rush-hour as far as any sea could have eyes upon it. This for an hour at least, so circle hands swept and numbers appeared significant. A Ray turned into her mermaid while this happened, such dancing possible in dim light only.

A warning was offered silently the day before, interpreted by regarding many crows at various points upon trees or grass. Read the birds like music. A Ray believed when one crow flew towards the vast ocean sound, (including islands below the cliff) and the bird looked back, it was beautiful and also, unattainable, so she should've known later not to believe in dark plans or her unnameable fancies. Directly, the bird looked over its shoulder, to where A Ray and May waited by the old convent, a set of blue rectangles. "Nuns had the best view," May said.

Good or believable theatre tells the truth with more easily accepted costumes and better lighting, the Unfearable Tightness of Needing could be a possible title for this scenario. Role models for older women are often so too dull, really. A Ray stepped out of there some time ago to find a polisher and lost the map back, since she reintended.

So, the large black birds offered the following in their wing noise and silhouettes - Important views including laughter assist, but only genuine improvements shall do and they're easily ignored, better stay true to you throughout.

However that came much later and simultaneously, because this is recall. 

First, Amy shape-shifted to coyote, (we have written proof) and met A Ray, (a visiting stranded mermaid with legs at last functioning at times) while her tiki-protected belongings twirled for collection.

Both listers, these women remember useful favourite dishes, songs or quotations, and how to love under seige, while appreciating nonsense needs its moonbeams. That's background.

A Ray had secretly carried an ironic but painful dark place inside her chest across a vast ocean, then through a gloriously painted city, to where it could be exploded safely, which The Boater seemed to understand. Then she swallowed the sun after a dance journey with Boater and May towards the great sage hills and crested magnificent mountains, (their white and grey startle), then a light-dotted-ceiling tunnel - zoom - the enclosure curved, elegant. Their black vehicle raced into open sky, then over the broad floating bridge of gasps where a famous Japanese artist of antiquity visited in imagery. (Utamaro).

While earlier, a troll under the bridge kept peering further than dust knows. Ideas posed A Ray by the creature's hand over an out-dated trolley from a nightmare better crushed. Boater captured some of her light in his magic apparatus and may not return it, but o those moments and their last. What shoes could be stitched from that shape to walk across continents and oceans, in a flying machine trailing three plumes of good luck to write nothing better.

Save nothing, this was something good.

As it took, they gave. The Boater turned into a lizard at intervals, (previously mentioned). These taniwha safeguard the innocent from their own ridiculousness and may excite prey. A Ray marked these occasions with heat, a cage of light in mind. Warm blooded thoughts of a kinder time when romance could serve more than tarts, (strawberry or lemon custard), but o how memory tricks us. She carries a guardian in any case, no mistaking endurance nor its roar.

A hurdy gurd of nonsense rhymes and thimbles, (kisses some ancient children appreciate to freshly grow a better past then work from there). Yes, they escaped through masses of trees, alder, firs, cedar, redwood, more varieties than ever possible to write in a five second allowance while bumping past in their car-ship, rocky concrete waves and pebbled surf. 

Silkies land near the massive white logs of drag the sign said, but they saw none of them that day just good spinning. 

May planned to plant a blue spruce in front of the pale place somewhat surrounded with sawdust and greenery, where they discussed Orient Rose; and so it is how difficulty eases away towards a drier atmosphere than all these pools of tears, where mistakes are professors.

Cafes named after letters of the alphabet and many splendoured slipped between two forgetful waitresses, (the third may appear at some other time). The Boater helpfully embroiderd gaps with stories, fancies and outright diversionary tactics during refreshment. A Ray fell in love with him. Words are heart hooks. She bled and weakened.

Now, picture the following - Boater, A Ray and May chose well-made tea tring, coffee zing, rhyming brews. One china cup each, with a virtue painted upon it. A Ray held Patience with some disbelief but no accidents til later, May lifted Prudence easily as if she'd always been there knowing so much silently, while Boater kept re-reading his painted cup, then chuckling. Something in the word, Temperance reminded him of a time? Those lines invented to cover a temper, (tantrums need occasional erasure) but most of this is a true story and like a car personally owned, things need fixing. 

A Ray wrote letters she'll never send and sulked a little, since he is (wasshisname's) busy mending leaks. One from a piercing statement alone as a twig on a path about to be stepped on, 'How dare you make me love you then behave like such a puddle of mud.' These she hid. 

This is the lesson - people from different places even when they speak almost the same language, they can easily misunderstand each other but love stays for always now ever time and noodles.

One sip after another, this vessel of goodhearts, accompanied by various animal familiars and their knowledge of recesses, catastrophes and messages.


I'm a stranded mermaid with enough hope to lift a fifty story building so someone could sweep beneath it. We do not need crumbs or fragments of what-could-have-been. 

This story perhaps the only way forward, since I'm on a quest to teach the world and myself about poetry, love, trees and travel and although certain nonsense is necessary, I'm hoping to rediscover more clarity in Iowa. Spare, clean language can be a kind companion, a guide dog out of this impossible wish. 

Do not worry about me anyone, I am fine. Would love to hear from you.

I deeply appreciate everything people did for me in Seattle, thanks.

Yes, thanks Seattle, Dean, Amy, Connor, Jimi Hendrix, The Wonderful Fishmongers at Pike Markets who Throw Fish and Shout then Echo Each Other, The Seattle Troll, Many Spectacular Views of Beauty such as Urban and Other Natural Phenomena, The Only Airport Agent who was truly kind and helpful to me, Branden Knight (out of about five of them at first who were spectacularly lax one after the other) when I missed my plane by four minutes or so, (they were just closing the gate) because the wheelchair guy just took his own sweet time and various other obstacles of humanity's need to do their own free-will-break around me, and thanks Aphrodite (if it was her, Goddess of Love) for reminding me I can certainly fall, fearless and deeply. So glad. 

Just as I typed that penultimate line, by the way, in Atlanta Airport, a bright light hit me side on, I looked over and the rising sun was glowing fierce orange through a mere slit of window to spill all over me typing, then in seconds it was gone so it only shone for the fall line.  

Fearless in Seattle.

It really was a fairy story, with one of those old-fashioned not too happy endings, I suppose though I wish with all my heart it was different.

I stepped from the ocean to this broad land of sparks. Here walking with legs afire and many wheels yet before a return home.

Thanks for reading my blog please feel free to comment here or in faceberk. x

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

inspired by friendship - (for Amy and Dean)

27 March 2012

The Sainted Ties of Seattle

a populated slate room of sorting out
wishes a corner we work towards
or the triangular shaving broken from a pencil
two sketchbook corners given away
and my waking at 1.25am a key for blot architecture

near mountains closed with snow
many splendoured arrived slowly this time
the way concrete pours
or a stone's marked then sliced from a hillside
could say more but this is on

later or even while
someone cut one down with the alms of their handcraft
lipstick kisses on Jimi's granite relief portrait
a woman wandering for nothing bad
her woven steps as invisible as ribbon water

waiting with a throat of words
how to sing this without percussion?
no need to listen with that sky in any case
blue and white nonsense with pink for blackberry
stained feet - do shoes protect?

kitten stories while the road keeps us running by
boisterous daffodils and a reach of white tulips
we rode the gravel of talk
under a motorway where earth eyes one hubcap
button for the scent future

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Culture Shock and Tea

23 March 2012

O San Francisco Bay Area, your grand skies and crisp spring days.

That's true but also, feeling rather ragged today, all this travelling and looking at amazingness can grow bewildering, the TV here is also large and loud, (yet strangely subtle and sneaky, o the sophistication it has to be seen to be believed) and I could be allergic to it, but o well, we shall see I suppose. It is Friday after all, Adam's cooking something delish and we went to the most stunning grocery store I've ever seen as far as range of produce and goods go, I spent an hour in there overwhelmed then bought three fruits I'd never had or do not buy as a rule - a particular kind of mango, a Jona-something apple and a USA orange, (I do not usually buy imported fruit at home).

24 March 2012

Now believe I am in culture shock and needed to mute the TV ads last night which helped me a bit, then also, off to have a lie down for a while earlier yesterday early evening was useful.

I think I always need a nap round the afternoon or a strange ache starts up behind the right ear, phantom pain. Constant newness not good for small country visitor I suppose, and getting on in years as I am, (well, you know, a fraction).

Still, have managed to get to the local Park St shopping centre unassisted and back on a bus both ways, alone, put correct change into the machine and everything. Managed not to annoy the bus drivers too much. I suspect many bus drivers like people to just follow a routine, no issues. I was this rather flamboyant woman with grey hair, (rare here, where many people dye their age away), a little trolley with two black bags on it, one of them with a fine cat brooch knitted by a crafty friend, and carrying a paisley walking stick, a woman who was not only visually distracting but also, seemed unaware of the usual behaviour. Yes, me.

I gathered later that people getting on the bus make as little contact with the driver as possible, but I didn't know that when I embarked and grinned, saying, 'Hi.' Then took a time putting my money is as if I'd never done it before which I hadn't, (o well, I had once but was with Adam that time).

The first driver eventually smiled and chatted briefly after I apologised before alighting and said, 'Sorry, I only got here from New Zealand a few days ago and I'm a bit thick.'
'Reaaallly?' She grinned at me and rocked on her seat a little, held the wheel of the bus. 'Nooo Zeaaland?' The driver looking ahead so it was obvious she had to go on, but looking pleased I wasn't just some wierdo (and that the mystery of my accent was solved too, perhaps). Loved her grin, all the more impressive with her deeply dark skin and quite a beauty, a great picture in mind to remember.

I'd got on the bus all smiles, asked if she'd tell me when we got to Park St. This driver sat up straight to regard me, professional, The machine will tell you. But later must've realised I did need some help. A disembodied human voice announced, This is Park St. The machine and her relaying where I was, together. That was when I made my apology, in relief finding myself where I wanted to go.

Spent all day there in Park Street where I was reminded a little of Grey Lynn, Surrey Crescent shops except the stores stretch on for miles. (No kiometres here). A great variety of places too, with a couple of excellent and quite different junk/antique shops, a manicure place, several banks, opticians, shoe shop, many food places, a centre for gifted children I saw somewhere, by a hardware place but that may've been further back near Bay St along Santa Clara Ave. Anyway, the Peet's Tea and Coffee place attracted me more than the blatant ....bucks place across the street.

In there, (dark brown, black and cream decor with wooden furniture), I said, 'Tea for one.' The young man just stared at me in alarm.

I did not know how to ask for tea the usual way or my accent was puzzling, I supposed. 'Sorry,' I said, 'I'm from New Zealand how do you ask for tea for one person here?'

He instantly tried to cover his bewilderment and got me the tea. Service here is very good I must say, so far, most people are so willing to help and take care when they finally get what you mean.

He gave me the tea in a large takeaway container, then we spent a while smiling over this, because I wanted a real cup, to drink there if possible. The cookie I wanted also 'not out yet' but soon found. This was all a little confusing but also absolutely fine. I just want to point out a lone New Zealander wandering an American suburb seems to be quite odd to all concerned, but it's soon nothing to worry about really.

I then spent a pleasant time at a window by the table, writing in my notebook, reading the local paper and eating a gigantic vegan chocolate chip cookie then sipping my tea, a snack which lasted me til dinner-time I might add. Excellent cookie and black tea, the tea bag a substantial arrangement like a long muslin bag with perhaps an in-house blend, it looked like they could add their own leaves to it, anyway.

Great to wander shops, the antique places were really fascinating. Enormous, packed with things and lovely people work in both of them.

Then after a short sit down in a bus stop, (my knees are a trial) I found the library, where I'm pleased to say I edited my book WWTAWWTALDAM (that is an acronym for the title, not the title), for epublishing soon, for some hours.

NOTE PLEASE - Remind me to tell you the story about the maniac in the library when I get back, it was astounding and needs to be told in person with actions and sound effects. It wasn't harmful to me, nothing to worry about but quite a tale. Scary too. Mwaahaha.

Now we're off for lunch somewhere nice. A dreary rainy day but the air outside smells gorgeous.

'If Max, [one of the three cats here] had memoirs they'd be called Meowing at God,' Adam my host says, 'because he will meow at the rain if he's outside.' Maybe Max will impress the weather with complaints so it's sunny for my flight to Seattle tomorrow, I certainly hope there are no storms, anyway. Send me good wishes x

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Wow look what Adam created - what do you think?

 Lovely day today in San Fran., as well, but the Japanese Tea Garden, o my.... (Just click on that link above).

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

San Francisco - Golden Gate Park and SF MOMA

 8 March 2012 San Francisco - the Yoo Es Aye

The first glimpse I got of the coast was at ten to six this morning when unable to stay in bed a moment longer I got up and peered through the porthole to see what the ocean was doing. Sometimes, even in darkness a little light from the ship or the moon, (or both) shines upon the briny blue. I recommend leaving the cabin curtains open for just this reason. Then, in the night a passenger may easily take a look outside to a view which few other people ever see, the wild open ocean and in this case the largest ocean on planet Earth, after dark and in various states of turmoil or calm.

Across the inky water I saw instead of white caps or rolling water by the moon, there it was at the horizon line, a light, one light shining to the West, or North-West I suppose, steady, pale yellow and as bright as any star or brighter. 'I suppose we are almost there,' I thought to myself.

Now, thinking about how I will meet people I've never actually seen face-to-face, but have certainly conversed with on the internet at length and in some depth about all kinds of subjects, is a curious experience. (I did meet up with poet, writer and lecturer Anne Kennedy in Hawaii however we know each other from New Zealand, both sharing a publisher and I also know Anne's husband, poet and lecturer Robert Sullivan). So this is the start of my meeting people I know but have not met face-to-face.

When I worked for the UK organisation who assisted teens to re-engage with learning, (those unable to attend school), for six years, I obtained work with them partly on the strength of having discussed philosophy with my supervisor et al online for four years. (Also, this work was done well due to my BIC degree, from UNITEC and the books I'd had published and so on). On msn group Theism Debate we'd written many books' worth of information by then between us, Stan who worked for this educational organisation did know me from those online writings, knew my beliefs, attitudes and my abilities, very well. We are our language after all and if we use language in depth we reveal a great deal about who we are, even if we're wisely careful about saying exactly where we live, who we're related to or other personal information which no one else need know unless they have to for some practical, good reason.

If someone has only ever swapped light-hearted comments and a few mad photos online, perhaps they could find this 'understanding others through language' hard to understand. But then those people surely know the folk they've sent things to and visa versa, have also got more-or-less the same humour as them, share some ideas and values, or disagree about a few political or eco-wise matters. So we do not have to meet face-to-face to get to know each other. Pen pals used to correspond by hand-written letters sent snail mail and some grew as close as a sister or brother, after all. This is nothing new.
I am nevertheless nervous and a bit worried, since people in person are immensely more complicated than people in print, or even when just talking with each other on the phone or suchlike. This is, I tell myself, normal. If we're meeting someone in person for the first time, anyone at all, we often do feel a little apprehensive, hope it will go well, do our best to make it so. I'm also excited. Such a privilege to be asked to stay at a local's house in San Francisco (and elsewhere), I'll gain insights into the places I will visit which no tourist can easily find. Then too, places where I'm in a hotel and my local friends I've met online shall visit me, they'll provide me with a closer view of what the area is like and I'll feel more at home there, faster. Or so I imagine and hope. I've had to manufacture enormous amounts of hope for myself. It's a huge undertaking this journey, it cost an enormous amount of money, (in my limited world it is anyway) for one thing, but beyond mere moola there's also the emotional and social investment. My ragged logic centres are more than frayed after processing the vast amount of information which I had to, just to get the travel arrangements sorted. Travel agents do not meet you face-to-face any more, or mine did so briefly only with great difficulty, and they send reams of paper with hugely important guff printed on it, some repeated, some then too also repeated in different ways. Then changes occur and the whole process starts again. I have no idea how anyone can travel all the time. For me this is quite harrowing and although I'm excited it's also made me a little shaky.

From today I shall meet Adam Gillitt in any case, all going well, the first of my Yoo Es Aye friends and a graphic designer, writer, (just 'that guy' he says) who lives in San Francisco. He designs websites, books et cetera through Gillico. Did an excellent job on designing Shamfeign by Alice Hooton for my small press, BF Publishing, just by the way. Shamfeign includes some poems about immigrants coming to America last century and I imagine I feel a little of the thrill and trepidation they did, I think even if I am not moving to this great country for good.

Yes, great. Say whatever you like about any place on Earth as far as their pol i tics are involved, upon stepping on any people's shore and interacting with those who live there I'd say any experience has to be taken as far more broad, informative and rewarding than what we read in the news, believe from TV or movies or have even gathered from years of study and discussion generally, or in some academic sense. When I say 'great' I mean we each deserve to be treated with some respect, don't we, for our achievements? Am er i ca has certainly influenced people world-wide in countless good respects and also, given the world stunning arts, music, writing, fashion.... Also, I believe whatever we may make of people later on, if we approach them with the best in mind this has to make whatever we experience the finest possible. Something started well usually ends well, as an ancient philosopher once said. (Anyone who can supply the name of that sage gets a custom-written poem prize on a subject of their choice). Please send it to my faceberk in a  message, thanks.

And so it is I am here thinking these things at 6.23am, seas calm now after three to four metre swells, some violently hitting this ship with a resounding boom or crash, for days now. The Oriana just tipped to the side and rolled with a roar, I guess we're still not quite in the harbour. O but there are more lights out the window....

Our fabulous Bridge teacher Sue Maxwell told us yesterday, 'The ship only sinks if it hits something. That's why mist is more dangerous than a storm.' So I'm going to get things in order and take my breakfast on the top deck today, to see San Francisco appear while day breaks and enjoy my last hours on board, before meeting Adam Gillitt, on the quay.

(I went up on deck and made the little movie from some of the photos taken then, which was loaded before this blog, at this point).

It's now the 20 March 2012 and I'm on the island of Alameda, typing this in a room with fish tanks in it. I only need to gaze at the fish to feel calm but then, after all the walking and driving we've done, some riding round on streetcars, buses and trains, I feel pretty settled and happy. A good night's sleep after a fine dinner we co-cooked last night.

I'm also used to the different sound of the crowds now. A large group of Americans en masse sound quite different to any other, the rolling rs, the roundedness, a certain cheeriness too, at least here in San Francisco.

I'd love to see more of Golden Gate Park eventually, it's enormous so I'd need to choose one place within it and perhaps the Japanese tea garden would be best. It looked delightful with a few ancient Nippon-style buildings, some moss-covered rocks and delicate trees, in amongst the backdrop of solemn redwoods which look a little like cedars, dark green foliage and a mid-grey bark. One ancient redwood with a rustic fence of branches around it, the demarcation plainly stating it was a particularly special tree along the roadside. Today I also plan to take photographs of the stunning character houses around Alameda, all of San Francisco contains eye-catching architecture however this island has it's own special style. I would call them elaborate baches in part which could make sense to New Zealanders, however there are mansions in elaborate Victorian splendour as well, often with features picked out in gilded areas or contrasting paint. There are colour consultants on the island who advise people the best way to style their house, so paints are vibrant and particular but not garish, but they may be bright and cheerful or even crazy and some are crass but in a good way. I wish more people painted their places in Grey Lynn where I come from this manner, it's just glorious. Please watch out for the little imovie I will post tomorrow or the next day, the Houses of Alameda.

SF MOMA was a joy. I love modern and contemporary art in any case, and this particular art museum is also in itself a space built to welcome and inspire the population. It was $18-NZ entry, however the fee was worthwhile. Almost any art fan could spend all day in there easily without growing tired of the place. There's a luscious dark foyer with little lights suspended in the air, (from the balcony you can see the lights change according to who enters the building below, making fleeting shadows amongst these points of light clustered together). SF MOMA provides ample seating to sit a while for a rest or to take in the pieces exhibited, a good, large, street-level cafe, an enormous gift and book shop and the exhibitions on two floors we saw were thought-provoking, intriguing and varied.  There were also many more floors to explore if we'd wanted to.

In the case of the Mark Bradford collages and installations I found the work deeply moving. I was driven later to start making my own version of his eclectic, textured and layered collage work. He 'paints' with collage. Bradford's pieces are enormous however, the kind of work which art museums are needed for, to experience the wealth of information a great artist may provide from a kind of celebration en masse and writ large of their own narrative albeit abstractly, focusing skills and innovative attitudes to spark old and tried things, quite anew. I also love his work because it uses scrap paper and discarded posters or ruined paper with wit, compassion and an admirable restraint considering how angry some of the subject matter must've made him. 'Pinnochio is Burning' is his reaction to a disturbing news item about a fabulous R & B singer whose career was ruined when he was thought to be involved with a transexual, in 1982.  People who were jealous of his stardom no doubt worked against him there. Their petty small-mindedness deprived the rest of us, so it is evil is done when good people do nothing and badly behaved people are permitted to take charge.

More about Bradford's work here -

This exhibition I doubt would ever be shown in NZ at this stage in Bradford's career, so I'm privileged to see it and also, to gain some insight into how gossip, innuendo and rumours can wreck something fine and rewarding when bias, prejudice and downright self-hatred are allowed to work their wickedness. 
His work is an antidote to that kind of easy, base foolishness, I believe and I applaud it with all my heart.
The title of the last piece, an installation, is a reference to 'Paris is Burning', a seminal doco about voguing, where houses of drag queens, like houses of fashion in New York strut their stuff. 
Adam my host says I may get to watch that movie while I am here, how marvellous.

Adam kindly drove me about the place in his bright blue car, we zoomed here and there, I got a great over-view of this San Francisco and it's many delights. If you ever visit this city I think you need to stay at least a week, preferably three and try to see as much of it as you can. Get away from the tourist traps like Fisherman's Wharf and go exploring. Such helpful, friendly people, happy to chat and the public transport system is excellent, use it. There are some areas which you could call dangerous here but they're obvious, so just avoid them. Ocean Beach for instance has signs up saying not to swim there and it looks treacherous. There are neighbourhoods too but we're not going there so stay tuned and use this as a guide, if you like. Still missing everyone but enjoying myself too.

San Francisco

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Hawaii - Aloha

14 March 2012

Ocean, ocean, Pacific Ocean, grey sky, cloudy sky, blue sky and oh yes a ship, an enormous cruise ship I am certainly on a fabulous ship sailing towards my friends in America.

Honolulu the most densely populated area in the whole of the United States, a small island in the Pacific Ocean. The first I knew we were there I looked out the porthole on the morning of 13th March. The prow of a black ship much smaller than ours, maybe 50-60 feet, or 20 metres long with white writing on the bow, keeping pace very close to our cruise vessel. Behind the black boat, (I think the Coast Guard), a few industrial buildings visible such as you find in a commercial port. We were also going much slower than usual and the water seemed calmer. I'd arisen as soon as I awoke, so excited were were to be in port, it was around 7.30am.

We'd been provided with detailed instructions beforehand re how to disembark. Those booked on excursions were to go through immigration first. We passengers had also been talking amongst ourselves about the best way to approach immigration and most people, who'd been through the process before, said it all seemed to be the same as usual. It would just take a bit of time. No one had any problem with security measures just with the queuing, so it was best to just follow procedure, not try to jump the queue at all.

So I reported at the time I was supposed to and only had to wait on one of the wooden chairs on deck, (with a comfy blue striped cushion upon it) for about half an hour. I could see the Aloha Tower to my right and Pier 11 building, both in Art Deco style, cream painted with a sea-green trim and so on, directly in front of me. My friend Anne, who works in Hawaii said we could meet in front of that very tower, so I was glad to know I was in the right place. After a while I also joined a line of people headed for one of the nightclubs on board. Tables were set up on the dance-floor there, with officers to question us and stamp our passports at each one. Eventually, I was allowed on ahead into the immigration area to sit and wait, with others who have difficulty walking, since I couldn't stand or walk for long without sitting down along the way.

Off we went after the tedious queuing, (yes, there was some) to check through security with our bags and cards, then down the gangplank with white canvas sides and along the quay in warm weather, turned into the cavernous port building high enough to take our ship for dry dock it seemed to me, but by the time I got through to the other side, I realised our ship towered way above that terminal building.

Surprising to see so few people and so little traffic in port-side Honolulu, even if the place was built-up and skyscrapers stood a short distance away past a park and shopping arcade. Someone remarked the next lunch-time on board ship that during the hotter part of the day, many people in Hawaii take a rest, a siesta-style break. So sensible in hot countries. This gave me a chance to wander around without feeling bothered by crowds or new people right away. Many souvenir shops near the wharf of course, with some fine silk imported clothes on offer, also excellent Hawaiian shirts, (the classic re-worked in various ways with a style to suit just about anybody), and a local girl wore a fitted designer version of the sundress, with cap sleeves and a full skirt to her knee in a local print with palm leaves on it, green, yellow and white. This really impressed me. Anne later explained that the locals dress in a kind of uniform where the men wear Hawaiian shirts and the women wear lovely dresses in local fabrics.

Everyone in the shops said, 'Aloha,' and I'd love to hear, 'Kia Ora' said at home more often. Aloha is also written on the buses beside the door when you enter to take a ride somewhere.

I'm not sure that much of what I saw near the wharf was made in Hawaii, but some excellent clothes and so on were available.

Further along towards the city I walked. An enormous sailing boat with three masts sat at berth. It looked rather worse for wear and maybe 50 or 70 years old. The hull painted black with a cream and red trim. A woman who played bridge with me the next day mentioned that it was part of the Maritime Museum, a sign of the lack of funds which has afflicted the place. The museum is closed now due to financial support being unavailable. A number of large, valuable old vessels are simply mouldering away too, with no funds to restore them.

Large stone or concrete blocks painted green announced ALOHA near the Aloha Tower arcade. A passing man who looked rather worn out asked me with mime and in accented English for a cigarette. He wore a grey hoodie and looked cold even if it was a warm day. I shook my head, no I did not have any and turned away. His eyes ran over my camera, my jewellery, briefly, then dismissively perhaps because I wear and use little of great or easy resale value. I did not feel at all threatened, it was just he looked kind of interested like almost anyone would. I'd been told to prepare myself for the amount of homeless people there would be, so I was not as amazed as I could've been to see this person approach me. He looked sad and ill more than anything else. I wished I knew what to do to make things better but of course, I didn't, not right then.

At a bus stop across the road, I sat around, chatted with other tourists, read some signs, tried to gather information re buses to see the city. A colourful blonde, tall woman with a reddish suntan got off a bus. She smiled broadly and strode about in gold wedge high heels. I think she tried to get my attention and the eye of others passing along from the boat recently arrived. I did my best to ignore her, the elaborate tattoos along her arms and up her back, (the reddish-orange batik silk dress she wore to the ground was a halter). One of my rules when travelling is to beware of anything far too interesting, especially people.

At first I tried one of the colourful, open-sided trolley-buses but discovered they are a private charter only. That was what the driver said, but it could've been he was speaking the wrong language in a commentary to the majority of the passengers for me to understand, (he was presuming I could not speak Japanese, possibly). So I observed various buses and eventually boarded one of the red buses with an open top, a double-decker with the roof missing. The tattooed, charismatic woman also got on and proceeded to try to get my attention again, (what a fine Irish accent she had) but I still behaved like I lived in a bubble and the story of her along with someone else, will be in the poetry collection I'm sketching in at present to be released perhaps by the end of the year.

So the open-topped bus - what a fantastic ride and a wonderful way to see Honolulu for an hour or so. We travelled all the way to Waikiki Beach made famous by Elvis movies, Hawaii Five-O the TV show, and countless others. Highly developed compared to the images from those Blue Hawaii days. There was a building boom in the 1960s and a lot of apartment buildings and other buildings have a distinct 60s flavour. I loved much of the architecture. On the way back I was impressed with a bright pink building, for instance, which houses a design company. It'll be in my little movie I'll post soon.

Everywhere massive, dense trees and lush gardens, which I recall my mother loved on her visits to this lovely island. My mother had a green thumb and could make almost anything grow, however many of these tropical plants would not grow outside in New Zealand, only indoors or in a glasshouse. Absolutely stunning to see the rich variegated foliage and brightly coloured flowers of these exotic, (to me) plants, great banks of them outside hotels and apartment buildings or in public parks, many man-made waterfalls here and there too, lush grass (it had rained for weeks before we arrived, unusually), countless tall coconut palms, other palms, fancy twisted trees and with some gigantic trees there were massive bunches of dark brown aerial roots hanging down from the tops of some of them, like something out of a wild fairy story. I've taken many photographs which will be put into a little movie later on, as mentioned.

We also meet a local man when I did finally meet Anne outside the Aloha Tower. She'd been in one place outside the Aloha Tower Arcade and I'd been by the Aloha Tower itself. A bit of a mixup but we got together eventually. Anne had been by the information booth, she got talking with Art who works here, employed by the Aloha Tower complex to assist people. He also calls himself a human camera, and offered to draw my picture for me in three minutes, free of charge. While Art drew we chatted and when he found out we were both writers, he mentioned a book which he illustrated, a young adult novel. (Anne also informed me of this, earlier). But Art told me they did not have Trees for Travel in Hawaii as far as he knew. They did celebrate Arbour Day and schoolchildren planted many trees then. I could also see trees if I wanted to, they grew everywhere on the island.

Art looked truly interested in what I had to say and maybe he'll add Trees for Travel to his busy life, as an excursion for tourists?  The young man also ran a shopping service from the booth, using his laptop. I was so pleased to meet someone who fully understood what I was suggesting, having asked on three Pacific Islands so far.

I found this experience truly American in the everyday sense, since he was so generous, open, friendly and also interested in being of service and doing business with us in such a charming way. That's my experience of Americans who live in America anyway, my friends made online over the last 12 years or so, people I'm going to meet over the next month and who I will tell you about as best I can.

This account does veer all over the place but hey, I'm really enthralled. Why do I need to be overly orderly with the spirit of Aloha upon me?

At some point on my bus ride around Honolulu during the day, by the way, I fell in love with the place. The warm air, the wind in my air, the sway of the bus and seeing gorgeous trees everywhere, great architecture which suits a beachy place and also a city, people so friendly or at least attractive, happy for the most part. At one point a large local man in a cream Hawaiin shirt, white-framed sunglasses as round as the moon, he spied our bright red open-topped bus and threw his arms up as if to embrace us, beaming a smile at the people travelling by. I had to laugh and smile in return. Can't tell you why I fell in love exactly of course, but I'm pleased that I've enjoyed more or less the same experience my mother knew, and understand now why she always spoke of this beautiful island in such glowing terms and with such excitement in her voice, because now I'm entranced too.

Anne and I returned to Waikiki late afternoon on a public bus this time, chatting all the way about this and that. She told me that where they live it is quiet and a suburb, which is fine since it's restful, pleasant and close to work. The times that she's come down to Waikiki beach too the place always energises her and she finds it exciting in a really pleasant, amiable fashion. There along the shore with palm trees softening the sky, so many people's humanity is truly evident for some reason. I had to agree.

Just on my short drive past earlier in the red double-decker bus I noticed what a glorious stretch of coastline people enjoyed at Waikiki, much longer than I expected and with more features like a man-made waterfall over a cluster of rocks, a Chanel shop, (serious other haute couture too just as we arrived), a lovely shaded area with seats, carefully paved, wide footpaths, many gardens, sparkling ocean in a magnificent bay, classic 60s apartment buildings, views of the lush inland landscape of Hawaii including an outcrop called I think, Diamond Head, many coconut palms just like the postcards would have you believe, stacks of large-size surfboards back in again, and everyone beautiful, casually dressed people from all over the world. Not that everybody looked like a God on the face of the earth but something about the balmy air, the light, the hearted spirit of the place gets most people looking relaxed, happy and to me this gave them all a certain beauty. There were also the most healthy, fit people I have seen in one place for a long time. People in Hawaii spend a lot of time outdoors and they have good food, Anne explained later, this is good for pretty well everyone's health.

I have to mention it was heart-rending to see many homeless people in Hawaii, and also to hear that they are not permitted to park the trolleys on the footpath for very long. If they do park them, their trolleys are taken away, for good. So the city is removing the very last things that these people own, except for what they carry on their person. I do not believe it is a good idea to make the marginalised move completely off the page. We are all part of the story here, or anywhere. I believe the city needs to do more to assist those people not to make their lives worse, this needs to be done world-wide.

After walking a great distance over beautifully paved footpaths, a mosaic of large greyish and white-ish stones in haphazard, crazy-paving, we both made our way back towards the street where Anne believed we could find a Thai restaurant. This was also near the bus stop which would take us eventually towards my cruise ship, (yes, it is mine now, I love it so), and Anne to her bus-stop to take another bus home. On the way I had to sit down as I do sometimes when my arthritis pains me.

We decided on something refreshing. I had a chocolate and hazelnut gelato and Anne chose a cup of tea. Just as the sun was setting and even though it's over in a flash, I had to agree with the palm trees in the foreground and the people gently walking to and fro I found it all most picturesque. A swathe of changing reds, oranges and pinks across the sky for a few minutes, perhaps ten or so but one of the loveliest sights I have seen. But do remember when watching a sunset, we must never look directly at the sun, it damages our eyes.

We talked away, swapped news and views, observed where we were and Anne told me a little of the local history and so on. In the middle of one of these conversations while we sat outside the gelato shop, I noticed a man was dropping pieces of cabbage on the ground. Anne pointed under a chair by our table. A large ginger guinea pig was eating away at one of the leaves. The tanned and rather handsome young man had decided to bring his pet down to Waikiki Beach to show it off to people, an excuse for conversation, a way to pass the time. All about us many people were enjoying themselves in this relaxed fashion. A little further along the road, hula demonstrations took place with flaming torches going along the foreshore and hula music played boldly, buskers performed music at intervals including one Santa Claus playing the violin, (who as Anne said, must've been really hot in those clothes) and sometimes local music played from shops.

Eventually, we conquered the charm of Waikiki, Hawaii enough to find somewhere to satisfy our hunger, a Korean restaurant at the end of a short side street, an alley really but quite swish. Yet another souvenir market at the end of it, too. Examined the menu outside to see what was on offer and the prices. Some dishes within our budget. Then we looked in the window and saw mainly Korean people eating there. Decided this was a very good sign, walked in and held up two fingers, (in the peace sign position) to indicate we were the entire party.

Sure enough for around $18- each we were delivered of many plates of small appetisers with white rice plus two bowls of delicious soup. Mine was tofu and pork, and I think Anne's may have have been chicken and vegetable. We also ordered a Budweiser beer each. I wanted to try this famous beer for myself and never had, (a light rather sweet beer served with a frosty glass, a pleasant touch considering the hot weather). Beer like lager also most often goes with many Asian dishes, I think.

All over the walls and ceiling of the small place were sheets of white paper with drawings and commendations, comments made by various customers, some in Korean and some in other languages. Each small poster was covered in plastic and made a novel, attractive decor for a busy restaurant of this fresh, down-to-earth style.

After about an hour we went to the bus stop and waited. I noticed a man with his shoes off and tattooed arms benignly observing a man, woman and a child sitting on the bus bench seat next to his. I wondered why he was doing that and thought he looked like he wanted to talk with them. Sure enough, after a while he walked over and made a comment about the couple's tattoos on their arms then showed them his, on his forearms. Many of these kinds of casual conversations occurred around Hawaii, apparent strangers chatting to pass the time and a great many people willing to converse in their turn too.

Then a black car stopped and someone got out of the back seat, rap music playing really loudly, a young man waiting at the bus stop, the crown of his peaked cap almost as high and round as his own head, a style I'd never seen before in real life, then they were all in the car again and off, oonst, oonst, oonst on their way to the traffic lights. A woman walked past with a tiny dog on a pink leash and looked nervous at passing the bus stop, then lifted her face to the city lights and looked happier. An extremely old man got on to a bus, correct change in his hand which is what you need, his newish, black baseball cap with Vietnam Veteran embroidered on the front in white.

The bus drivers who stopped kept giving us various advice, or Anne really since she asked the questions. Soon we did find the right bus to be on, and Anne eventually stopped at her junction to catch another bus home, while I was on my way alone in Honolulu just after 9pm. It felt far safer than catching a bus at that hour in night-time Auckland, New Zealand, anywhere and the bus driver gladly told me where to alight so I could walk down to the quay building, go through security and board the vessel again.

We were leaving for San Francisco at 10:30 pm. The two female security officers regarded me and one checked my person with the plastic wand they wave across your body. When this was done the other one smiled and said, 'Time to have a good rest now Ma'am.'

I must have looked tired but I certainly felt happy. 'Aloha,' I called then as surely as I walked back through the cavernous place, past the gigantic mural of passengers from some imagined 1930s voyage disembarking from a cruise ship with streamers down the side of their vessel. They called, 'Aloha' back to me.

We sailed for 'Cisco that evening, I slept without dreams and awoke this morning with a feeling of delight I'd not felt for days. Lovely to see a friend and to have enjoyed Hawaii so very much, thanks to all concerned.