Back on Dry Land in North Carolina : Part III

June 1st, 2012 § 2 comments § permalink

In the past couple days, I made a new Couch Surfing friend in North Carolina, ate at two locavore restaurants, boarded a plane in the birthplace of Pepsi (New Bern, NC) for the hometown of Coca Cola (Atlanta) and then flew back to SF, where I am now.

Our little shakedown cruise of a 1,000 miles covered many aspects of a boat’s lifecycle.

  • We stepped up Borka’s two masts:Stepping Up the mast
  • We traveled through canals and bridges and learned to communicate with transport operators. I got to play with VHF radios. Here’s an example exchange :

    “Dismal Swamp Canal Bridge, Dismal Swamp Canal Bridge … this is sailboat Borka heading southbound.”

    The bridge operator would respond; the bridge would lift, rotate, hinge, creak, and open …

  • We spent nights out in the ocean or in marinas, docking or mooring. We even spent a night at a crab cracking restaurant in Deale, MD on the Chesapeake after docking for dinner and then staying the night.
  • At the end, we lifted Borka out of the water and left her on drydock for the hurricane season.Borka Getting Dry Docked


    For the duration of the trip it felt as though the boat had become an extension of our bodies, our own little universe, a floating home. The rituals of mooring, jumping off to catch the lines, keeping everything orderly an neat, and maintaining readiness to react to unexpected changes in wind, current, or both. Taking precautions in high wind and rough water to keep the life vest on when above board, helming or climbing on deck; being constantly aware of our GPS coordinates.; but mostly, just making sure to take advantage of the down time, to read, to tan, to relax, to take pictures and look around.


    From the water, you get a different perspective of land. Nuclear power plants hide in the thicket of woods from the road, but can’t hide from the bodies of water that cool them. We passed Indian Point on the Hudson River in NY State, Hope Creek and Salem Reactors on the Delaware River which provide 3/8th of NJs electricity, and the Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant on the Chesapeake in Maryland.

    India Point Nuclear Power Plant, Hundson

    Salem and Hope Creek Nuclear Reactors

    Salem and Hope Creek Nuclear Reactors


    I’ve been close to Army’s machines of war before, but this is the first time I got as cozy with the Navy:

    Navy Bimp

    USS IKE Aircraft Carrier


    The experience of sailing at night on the open ocean (albeit not far from land) was also exhilarating. I made practical use of the stars for navigation, setting our bearing using the compass first, but then taking an object in the sky as heading reference.  The vastness punctuated by lights evoked a parallel to wandering the open playa during early days of Burning Man. Occasionally you see another group of lights saunter on their own path across the darkness. The wonderfully illuminated and decorated ships seemed like elaborate art cars. Massive fishing vessels, with large stabilizing booms out to the sides and cranes to haul their catch on board, bright sodium bulbs, or flashing navigation LEDs, and large mesh nets swaying in the wind.  Off in the distance to our right the lights of Atlantic City and the New Jersey coast (including a massive LED screen you could see from 4 miles away) buzzed with activity resembling the esplanade. This was impossible for me to photograph.  And I felt as I sometimes feel at magnificent moments: I can’t wait to get back to the real world and tell my friends about it.


    At the mouth of Alligator River we met a crazy dane, Henning Bohm who has been sailing solo for 45 years. After his 4th heart attack, he finally qualified for a pension from the Danish government and freedom from his construction management job.  He asked his doctor for the hard truth and learned he has less than a 25% chance of living out a year.  Henning took this news in stride, sold all of his stuff, bought a boat and sailed West across the North Atlantic against the prevailing trade winds.

    He holed up for the winter at a marina in Connecticut where his boat was being repaired. He wanted it in peak shape so that he could sail it to the Caribbean and wither away there … or if his heart held up, to sail back to Denmark through a crazy counterclockwise loop across the whole Atlantic (east from the Caribbean’s West Indies to the Canary Islands and north triumphantly back home.)

    Unfortunately Neptune had other things in mind for Henning: straight out of gate his autopilot broke (which is a key feature for someone sailing solo), set his heater ablaze in the ocean (on which Henning emptied his drychem fire extinguisher), and most spectacularly, ripped off his steering wheel, leaving Henning without a means of pointing the boat (there was no backup rudder.) Henning had to call “Mayday Mayday Mayday” over the radio and a few hours later the Coast Guard showed up (20 miles off shore) and towed him back in for more repairs.

    When Henning set out again, he was aware of the NOAA advisories of strong winds. But such trifles usually don’t bother him since he likes to sail fast, and this is how he ended up in the path of Hurricane Alberto (the first of 2012) outside of Cape Hatteras, which is known as the “Graveyard of the Atlantic”. It came on so suddenly that he didn’t even have a chance to bat down his hatches or pull down his sail. It also got dark. He just strapped himself in the cockpit and faced what he called “a blindfolded ride on a roller coaster” which lasted for over 12 hours. He lay down in the cockpit, sprawling to stay put, bruising most of his body, barely keeping his head out the water (as both the boat salon and the cockpit were filling with water from crashing waves) and trying to steer into the wind (which he could not see, but could only hear the sails.)  “In my 45 years of sailing, this is the first time I was truly scared for my life.”

    When the hurricane strength winds let up a bit, he tried to come ashore at a nearby harbor, but because his engine was busted, he could not fight the SSW wind and had to retreat 100+ miles back north to Hampton, MD. There he bailed 288 buckets of water from the boat, using a hand pump 80-90 times to fill each bucket (when the water level got too low to scoop.) His bilge pumps failed when their air intakes were also inundated. The good news was that his cat, Felix, survived.

    Henning sailed south again, using a safer path. “‘You’re too old to fight the ocean, try the intracoastal,’ they told me. And I did.”  He felt very tired but let on. Then he woke up suddenly, “in the middle of the day, with my clothes off, laying in bed, and the boat was still sailing. I thought it was a dream, so I went back to bed. Then I woke up again and looked around. Everywhere, swamp, swamp, swamp. Must be a nightmare! So, I went back to bed again.” When he finally woke up, he acknowledged the reality of having run aground. In trying to pull it out, he tore his Genoa Sheet (trying to jerk himself off the bank.) When high tide came, he was towed by a friendly boat into the nearest marina.

    The Coast Guard was summoned a second time. This time they took Henning to a hospital.  Apparently he lost of a lot of blood to internal bleeding and they gave him a transfusion.

    When we pulled into the Alligator River Marina, Henning approached us. When we asked, “how are you doing?” He responded, “Oh … Not so well” and told us this story adding that he has been staying put for two weeks trying to regain his strength.

    If you can read Danish or know a computer that can, you can read his own account of the events on his facebook fan page (closed).

    I got an audio recording of Henning telling this story, so when I feel up to editing it, I will post it here. We helped Henning deal with his ripped sheet, invited him to dinner, and inadvertently witnessed his internal bleeding. One side of Henning’s mouth had no teeth from above and the other from below. I came to think of his smile as a Yin and Yang.

    We met other interesting characters on this trip, but Henning wins first place.


    You might also like :

  • Our friends Tara and Sasha’s sailing blog.
  • Animated guide to sailing knots.
  • The Sailing Anarchy blog.

Shailendra Kumar Upadhyay – Obituary

May 24th, 2011 § 6 comments § permalink

Shailendra Kumar Upadhyay (born April 17, 1929) died climbing Everest on May 9, 2011. As he liked to say, he was “82 years young”.

I first met Shailendra in Nepal in the summer of 2008 in Kathmandu.

Shailendra Kumar Upadhyay

By any standard measure he was already an old man, but he was still actively involved in the political process of his country. And it was an tumultuous process. The king had recently been deposed. The Maoists who had been staging a multi year guerrilla insurgency that had extended to the majority of rural Nepal had been invited to join the government. Shailendra was right in the middle of these affairs, and he was the right person to act as the intermediary between the disparate parties.

Shailendra Kumar Upadhyay

In the past he had been both a rebel and part of the government. In India he had been part of Mahatma Ghandi’s movement opposing British rule. In Nepal he had been jailed for his anti monarchic political views (1960) but then recruited to represent his country at the UN (1972-1978), as an ambassador to various countries, and Minister of Foreign Affairs (1986-1990).

Even though he was officially retired, he helped negotiate the power transition with the rebel leader Prachandra, based on his political credibility as an independent thinker.

In the summer of 2008 he was participating in the Constitutional Assembly of Nepal. After the King had been deposed, the military and civil government were attempting to define a new government structure.

Shailendra introduced me to the notion of constitutional consultants, professionals that go around the world to countries who are in the process of writing constitutions and try to provide parental supervision. He also introduced me to various dignitaries in Nepal, including a chairman of the Communist Party. (Intriguingly, there are a couple Communist Parties.)

I’ve also had the pleasure of his company on long hikes where he was always a fount of stories from his eventful life. For example, story time would start with me asking a question like, “Shailendra, how many times have you been married?” He would think for a moment and reply with a question, “Officially?” I’d clarify, “Officially OR unofficially.” And then he’d clear his throat and start the story.

As a product and refugee from the Soviet Union, I was also intrigued by stories about how as a member of the Nepali Communist Polit Bureau, he would raise money for the party from the Soviet Communist Party.

(Or raised chickens, or wrote a book Tryst with Diplomacy, or …)

In 2008, Shailendra mentioned that he had a dream of climbing Mount Everest. He also made an offhand comment about wanting to die there, but then laughed.

Shailendra Kumar Upadhyay

Over the next couple of years his planning and training became more serious. When he came to fundraise in the US, he stayed with us at Langton Labs and I tried my best to assist him. Shailendra was starting to feel less relevant with age and wanted to make a bold statement. He would have been the oldest person person and the first octogenarian to climb the tallest mountain.

He died pursuing his goal and this is my memorial to him.


The following videos have been compiled based on interviews conducted when Shailendra stayed in San Francisco last year.

1. Are you afraid to die on Everest?

2. Thoughts on the Elderly …

3. Thoughts on Technology …

4. This was the promotional video for fundraising purposes, edited by Vika Evdokimenko:

5. Role of Nepal in world politics, Israel, the Maoists, the constitutional assembly …



  • A grandson’s obituary
  • BBC reporting
  • Daily Mail
  • Fundraising Site and here.
  • Census Enumerator

    July 3rd, 2010 § 2 comments § permalink

    This April I took a multiple-choice test for a temporary job with the census.

    In May I attended training at a community hut on the bank of an inland creek in China Basin.  It had a direct line of sight to the laboratory where I spent the bulk of my career as a graduate researcher.

    One of my fellow trainees suggested the job was a step backwards for someone with a PhD in Biology, but I saw it as opportunity to engage in the study of my own species.

    Census Employment office took over a Halal butchery store front.

    I also did this for fun.  I did it for the sun, the socializing, and the exercise. I got paid to explore the hidden nooks in my neighborhood during the nicest part of the year.

    My neighborhood (FolSOMA) is at the very heart of San Francisco and is transforming quickly.  Many new funky establishments such as Langton Labs, Wicked Grounds, Rancho Parnassus, and Passion Cafe are opening up; along them are old favorites like GoldTeethUS, the Defenistration Building, and Stormy Leather.  Yuppy condo lofts are invading every available development lot.


    Impervious to these developments an agglomeration of public housing projects (of a flavor called SROs) remains.  In other cities, they would have been relocated elsewhere. San Francisco decided to be different by keeping such places central and visible, placing most city housing and social service facilities within a 5 block radius of City Hall (and coincidentally, my house).

    A common sight in my neighborhood.

    I won’t besmirch the spirit of the urban planning decision, but it’s not without consequence. We’re the tall peak on many of these topo crime maps and every one of my car owning roommates has had a window busted.

    Many people who live in San Francisco avoid our area.  Many census employees specifically asked not to be assigned to my district.  I relished the chance to get to know my neighborhood, to see what was usually hidden, to travel without going far from home.

    My beat focused on the SRO (single room occupancy) hotels in the vicinity of 6th and Mission street.

    SROs vary in their quality, purpose and clientele.   Some house the disabled and the elderly, provide social services, and engage their residents with group activities in common rooms. These tend to be painted in cheerful pastel tones.  Some are community centers specialized for a particular demographic, (e.g. low income working Filipino families) and might even have more than one room per unit.  Such SROs resemble clean well run college dorms or decent apartment buildings.

    The ones I was assigned were very much at the other end of the spectrum.  They housed recovering drug addicts, parolees, and the mentally disabled.  Many of the residents preferred to hide in their rooms, emerging only to relieve themselves, and even then not always.

    Vacant room. The man sitting in the window with his broken leg resting on a dog is the maintenance worker for this SRO. He said, you got to rip out the drywall and floor after every tenant from the abuse the room takes.

    Their long hallways of single room units shared one bathroom as the only communal space. It’s these buildings that earn SROs their reputation.   These were the rooms I pried open with my questions.  Did you live here on April 1st?  What is your name, date of birth, ethnicity?


    Behind each door was a fresh surprise.

    One of the many unusual signs that cautioned me not to knock. Of course, I did knock.

    “Count me?  What for?  Everyone knows I don’t count.  Just look at me.”

    I had to introduce myself four times to an amnesiac during one interview.  Each time we got two questions further along, she interrupted urgently. “No, wait, wait… hold on! Who are you?”  Rinse and repeat.

    I stumped a schizophrenic by asking him how many people lived in his room. “You mean in here?” he said, pointing at his head.

    Presuming I was doing genealogical research, an elderly man ebulliently traced out his linage to King Ferdinand of Spain.  Then, excitedly, he started mumbling: “Swiss bank account numbers”, passwords, and the whereabouts of lock boxes that would confirm the splendor of his ancestry.  He confessed that no one ever believed or understood him.  Evidently he had been waiting for someone to arrive at his door and restore him to his rightful place in opulence and history, and now his dream had come true.

    I liked the no nonsense talk that established clear expectations.

“You know what man. I’m going to slam this door right in your face, and then if you gonna knock again, I’m going to stab you.”

 But wait!  An unlikely assistant emerged from the bathroom.  Haggard and female, she looked like half her hair was forcibly torn out.  Who better to speak sense to the young man? She addressed the now slamming door, “You can’t [BOOM] treat people who come nice like that.  You gotta learn the social rules kid, especially now that you got a kid of your own to feed and make educated.  Do you really want a carbon copy of yourself?”


    The official title of my position with the census was “enumerator” but besides counting people I got to play many other roles.

    To “clients” I played a sympathetic ear or the pathetic dummy getting chased away from the door.

    A janitor gave me a word of warning as the metal gate of yet another SRO opened with a buzz, “Bad things happen here” and as it slammed shut behind me, “You’re on your own, kid.”

    One of the many unusual signs in the hallways of SROs.

    Can you really call us Feds?

    In one hallway, I met a curious woman (in more ways than one) who asked me who I was and what I was doing there.  Having processed my answer, she stole away into a room around the corner.  Audibly, she said, “I think you should go beat up that nice white boy walking down our hallway and take everything he’s got.”  Life has taught me to take such amusements in stride.  I immediately walked to the room she entered, greeted its occupants with a firm look, and moved along.

    I heard this story from a fellow census employee with first hand shelter experience.  On the day that the homeless got their public funds checks, buses queued outside.  The homeless hurried to get 50$ round trip tickets to a casino in Reno, NV plus an all-you-can-eat buffet.  The check cashing place on the corner, the ticket booth for the bus, the casino filling up its down time with the dumb, down and out, low-rollers. A whole niche economy.


    While many were eager to be interviewed, intentions varied wildly. An older guy was proud to give the date of birth of his younger girlfriend, eager to spill the numbers that reflected so well on his virility. I inadvertently flattered him by trying to infer the relation from the data, “Might this be your daughter?”

    “Nah, it’s my girlfriend…

    “Pretty good, right? She just got home from the hospital recovering from seizures and shit, so I can’t show her to you right now.”

    Two kinds of people routinely slammed the door in my face, yet I’m not sure either would be happy with the comparison.  They were repulsive in their shiny shirts and crispy suits or obscene in their birthday suits. In yuppy dwellings (to which I was also assigned) rich snobs “didn’t have the time.” One hid behind his door, the other behind the intercom. The powerless and the powerful both exerted themselves in vain (as I usually got them in the end.)

    I came to your door to count you and you turned me away.  You told me I’m worthless, that I’m wasting your time.  You told me that you will stab me and teach me to avoid you. By now I have learned to expect these things.

    You were weak, pathetic to your own self, just wanted to be left alone. “I’m sleeping, I’m always sleeping, I’d rather not wake up,” you’d say.


    The SRO environment resembled an elementary school on permanent recess.  The teachers had given up and classes have long been dismissed… but the news still felt fresh!  The students milled about the hallways with a mercantilistic eye for what others had to trade.  Cookies?  Cigarettes?  Services?

    Rent was subtracted directly from their SSI benefits and left them with an operational budget of 5$ a day, (approximately the allowance for an average elementary school kid in San Francisco.)   They couldn’t afford consumerism as a distraction, so they sought other diversions.

    This person is a fixture on Market street. He feeds hot sauce to his rooster.

    In front of the building, a story of the same genre unfolded.

    A knotted elderly, mentally deranged gentleman held a a cane with its handle to the ground.  An array of soda cans was arranged at his feet.  He swung his club wildly, missing mostly, but occasionally launching a can high into the air above and then back down into the busy intersection.

    A hunched scraggly elderly lady appeared out of nowhere.  “What are you up to today?  Causing trouble as always?”

    It seemed for a moment as if she was readying to deliver a reprimand, but instead, she sat on the curb, rested her chin in her palms and watched this unique sporting event adoringly, “Fun, fun … what fun!”


    One of the most memorable lessons from training was not to bribe clients for interviews.  When our trainer had participated in an earlier phase of the Census, Operation Homeless, she thought ahead and purchased cigarettes as handouts.  Her group leader prevented her from acting on her good idea, saying it was considered a bribe and that “we just don’t do that kind of thing.”

    I thought back to her words when I turned down repeated requests for cigarettes in exchange for interviews. But bribery has many guises. If sympathy is a bribe, I expended a lot of it.

    One guy asked if I would provide any “services” in exchange for the interview.  Evidently, in the world of social welfare they swim in, “services” is a common euphemism. Each is like a treat for jumping through a hoop.  “If you cooperate, I may be able to get you some services.”


    For those that were uncooperative I had to rely on manager’s records to complete the census. In those cases, I spent time interacting with the invariably Indian or Nepali management staff.   To the smell of Indian spices and a view of an alter to a Hindu god, we’d kick back in the office and they’d tell me something like, “When you talk to Indian woman, you don’t have to ask her middle initial.  All Indian women have middle initial same as husband’s first name”.

    I felt like I was cajoling with prison guards.  Their removed and judgmental attitudes and positions behind caged windows made them gatekeeper-overlords of this domain.

    Presumably there is something wrong with this block, if this message needed to be translated into four languages.

    I left a message on this door before.

    This time, I heard a voice.

    “Come back when I am sober.”

    “When’s that?”

    “Not sure…”

    … and neither am I yet sure of the implications of these Censing experiences, not two blocks from home.

    the diplomatic period

    February 3rd, 2007 § 0 comments § permalink

    for a while i’ve been signing electronic communication with ./peretz. it’s a personal reference to a summer spent in a portland basement working at an open source non-profit. it’s also an obscure reference to ./ command line prefix used in linux to execute a non-executable file in a directory with execution privileges. essentially, it’s a trick to activate a disguised script and i thought it was a clever way to affect activating myself in signature. due to my policy of constant turnover in all unessential habits, i’ve been phasing this out.

    recently i received an official document, titled attestation en anglais with a typo. the final punctuation before the sigature was ./ . i immediately wrote back to alert the authorities of this typo. the secretary to the french ambassador to nepal wrote back:

    The “./.” at the end is called “the diplomatic point”.

    google can’t confirm, but it makes complete sense for a diplomat to use this command line trick to mark the writing executive.

    Traffic Court

    December 19th, 2006 § 0 comments § permalink

    Today I had the pleasure of sitting through traffic court. My case was 50th in order and I got to see about 30 people all of whom pled “guilty” or “no contest” to an average of three charges per person. 20 people or 40%, got bench warrants as “no shows”. Some were deemed a flight risk and assigned $15,000 in bail. Most, as the judge passed them to Madame Clerk, were termed mere “standard procedure”. Of the ones that appeared, most missed their first appearance date and had the additional “failure to appear charge” with a $235 fine. “Set by Sacramento. So, direct your complaints there,” said the judge. Next most common was possession of marijuana with a fee of 158$, “the only misdemeanor for which the California legislature actually bans jail time. Don’t ask me why,” remarked the judge. Speeding, running stop signs, illegal left turns, no insurance, and everybody pled “guilty” “guilty”, “guilty, your honor”.

    Most speeding infractions were eligible for traffic school for an additional 24$. (Only one person declined.) Those who could not afford to pay had the option of “working it off”. One woman who came with a small child was there because she did not work off her fine the first time around. “I was pregnant, your honor.” She was given an additional six months to account for a 540$ fine.

    The case which compels itself to be featured started out quite uneventfully; a charge for “illegal u-turn”, on the highway as it turned out 178$; and “failure to keep a logbook” 540$. The judge asked the tractor trailer driver who evidently was responsible for keeping some kind of record, “How bad was your log?” “I failed to record a filling stop, your honor.” The judge continued scanning the report, “I see there was an accident. So you learned the hard way not to make a u-turn on the highway. How serious was it?”

    The driver then leaned into the microphone and gently placed “fatal” on the record. The judge seemed puzzled how a fatal accident could yield two minor infractions. It was the first time he’d seen it. My read of the rest of the audience uncovered a lack of concern. Everyone was tending to their own sweaty palms. Imagine this black man in a suit, in a rural courtroom, confessing that his truck got caught in the median and stuck out across the highway and a human lost his life. “He ran across my triangles and flares, your honor.” “Hmmm, the report does attribute the responsibility for the accident to the other driver. Strange… but, it’s not up to me to make the determination. I just add up the numbers. How do you plead?” The driver pled “no contest”, so that later he can claim not to have pled guilty. “That will be 718$ will you be taking care of that today or delaying for an additional court fee of 30$?” “I’ll be taking care of that today.” And with that he bowed his head and left the courtroom.

    My arraignment was called. I pled “not guilty” and demanded a Trial by Written Declaration. Uneventfully granted with a continuance for two months for discovery. I was the first to plead “not guilty”. And then I left the courtroom.

    Murder in Moscow

    April 16th, 2006 § 0 comments § permalink

    My San Francisco today was punctuated by a call from a Moscow tomorrow.

    “I’m coming back to the homeland,” the voice announced on the telephone. “I got a ticket for the 27th of April. 468$ one-way on United. I’ll be back in New York. Ah! Amerika!”

    It was my friend Crazy Alex (who long time readers of this blog may recognize.)

    He is my compatriot and fellow (now alumni and therefore no longer) rebel at a Boston area liberal arts university. Our shared homeland is Russia, where he has been living for the past three months (ironically since the week he was sworn in as an American citizen.)

    He mumbled something about surveillance and asked me to call back on Skype. 50 rings later.

    “Yeah, so … you might want to write this down … I was talking to Masha on cell phone why I am choose to leave this motha, as my mama and papa chose for me some years ago. A late stage bomzh [homeless drunkard] walking his bomzhikha by the ear in my direction. You know the type, potatoes face for him, radish instead of face for her, smells like sewage dweller, dirty like chimneysweeper.

    “I notice behind them kid of street, most probable sniffer of glue , younger and more vigorous version of same sort. He has a beer bottle in hand clearly poised for some misdeed.

    “His cohort with drool having out of his mouth and a drunk swagger that has almost completely extinguished his youth trails him by 5 meter.

    “As the first overtakes the bomzh couple, he swings his bottle. The bottle breaks. The potato falls. Radish face steps aside. When the accomplice arrives, the two continue to mull the body on the ground without regard for any audience member.

    “Now Masha speaks into the phone: ‘Hello! Why are you quiet? You don’t want to tell me why you are leaving?’

    “This reminds me that I have a voice, which I apply in a loud threatening way to the characters I describe, ‘You call that murder? I show you murder’. And I take out decorative Katana I bought earlier as goodbye gift for my mama, and unleash madness I did not know I have but for special occasion. The two wimps run as best they can. The two of us that remain, myself and bomzhikha character already know what we had witnessed was an arbitrarily executed reduction in Moscow population.

    “I told this story to my friend Nastya also, before I call you, and she said: ‘That’s why I want to leave. I wish I was able to exact civic justice as you did and then flee because of your Blue Pocket protector,’ referring to my American passport.”

    The moral of the story as I see it, is that while we may not all have the will power or diplomatic immunity, or a katana sword on hand, the least we can learn from Alex is to act on the present.

    By the way, Action Alex is entering the San Francisco job market. He can work finance, but prefers theater and the occasional odd job.

    fuck the police, is not something you whisper

    December 20th, 2005 § 0 comments § permalink

    i’m working living studying in the first gleaming biotech building of a new campus our university is building near the largely vacant eastern dockyards of san francisco. from this first tall building, form the higher floors, i have a visual span of the entire downtown; on another side, i’m eye level with the highway (close enough to point a radar gun and outsource my services to the state police); looking east there is a clear line of sight accross the bay to the creaking mechanical bulls unloading freight at the flourishing dockyards of oakland. our dockyards are largely abandoned, but their skeletal remains are very much the dreams of urban explorers.

    one humble warehouse across the street houses the burningman hq. on a recent expedition with friends, we mounted one fence and climbed underneath another and emerged in a graveyard of machinery. on the waterfront stands a vacant monstrosity, grafity skins its interiour and exterior. it is spacious like a hangar so it’s unclear when you enter its dim interior whether other people are there, other urban explorers.

    i say this, because it only became apparent later after we boldly proclaimed the space as ours alone, that there were two other people in the warehouse. two “urban youths” were casting rods out of a large gap in the side of the buiding and … actually catching fish.

    one of the boys had the same tall skinny lazy perch as snoop dog, and a cap over his cornrowed head. on his long neck in two inch high letterering dark tatoo ink spelled out: FUCK THE POLICE.

    “wow, that’s not something you whisper.” i said. and he laughed as he showed us his catch of yellowperch.

    among their belongings, i also spotted a stack of stickers which have sprouted all over town. i found this image on the internet now, and reproduce it below:

    as seen on cl

    as seen on cl?

    no means to call for sympathy

    October 16th, 2005 § 0 comments § permalink

    i was riding a bike through traffic
    when my cell phone flew from my pocket
    a car smashed it into many little pieces.
    i picked most of them up
    except for the very little ones
    because more cars were on their way.

    transition with a touch of otherworldliness

    January 16th, 2005 § 0 comments § permalink

    while taking a walk with his mobile’s earpiece, rupurt swatted an innocent male horsefly (though he later mistakenly identified it as a wasp) which was, at that moment of contact with the palm of his hand immediately preceding the swat, in precisely the same mental state as the person of whom rupert was talking was presently experiencing–abject boredom in the most significant moments of life. for you see, malbert was dying and the whole town knew about it.

    it was a

    January 16th, 2005 § 0 comments § permalink

    … tail onto a laughter that was a creature that no longer had one.