Tuesday, November 27, 2012

story by me...1994

My trip down to Berkeley was a drag. Eight hours down there, and when I got thee, I went straight to Yoko’s house, straight up University and left of Shattuck, and then up to Grizzly Peak. I had to put the car in first to make it up the slope, it was so steep. Up there on the hill, I got out for a second to check out the situation and to stretch my legs, and I could see the bay and the San Francisco skyline and the sun rising behind it. Neil Young’s Mirrorball was playing on my tape player, a loud album he made with Pearl Jam, featuring a lot of heavy guitar chords. It was chilly with the morning dew hanging in the air. I backed the car up into the driveway, thinking that I would stay there and sleep until she woke up, but the driveway was so steep that I knew that I couldn’t possibly sleep at that angle, so I backed the car up, and the engine made so much moise, and the squeeze was so tight that I could hardly get back out. I drove over into Tilden Park to sleep the rest of the night, and I found a nice dark little enclosure that was hidden from the road by a small building, and so I lay down to sleep, but there was a little cart rolling around the field close to me, and I realized it was a golf cart doing someing, puring the bushes or something, and I watched it rolling around for a while, wondering if I should go elsewhere, but finally I decided to forget about it and just sleep, but I woke up to the sound of a van pulling up next to me. Whoever it was got out immediately and went into the building. I lay there and looked over at the golfers who were looking at their shots and contemplating the angles that they wanted to shoot at. They were dressed up in golf gear, and looked so Californian, in the kind of silly shallow sense that outsiders think of Californians as being, that I wondered how they could stand it. How could they stand there and not laugh at themselves? I got back in the drivers seat, and got out of there. The person in the building turned out to be a girl, and I was a little embarrassed to be seen sleeping in my car. She was there to clean the bathrooms, it seems, for that is what they were. Driving out of Tilden Park, I was watching all of the bikers in the bikers shorts, and close-fitting clothes, riding along on the light little bikes that they tend to gravitate towards. I was thinking to myself all of the time that this is in fact California, and I was wondering what the heck I was doing there. But I drove back to Yoko’s because there was nothing else for me to do. I was tired and dirty, and there was nowhere else that I could possibly stay, so I parked and went to her door, thinking that I really should hve called before I left to make sure that it was all right to come. I had called her number, but only left a message. I knocked on her door, and I heard noise within. Yoko opened the door. She was old (compared to me at that time), between forty and fifty, with more than a passing resemblance to a witch, or at least the thought had occurred to me before. She had little lines on her face, and her straight black hair was drawn back tight into a knot. She was short and thin, and she didn’t look happy. “Hi Yoko. Can I stay with you for a couple of days?” I said in a tone that was not all that hopeful, and kind of guilty, because I knew I shouldn’t have showed up without getting her approval beforehand, but it had to be said, so I said it. I could tell be the expression on her face that she was not happy and perhaps even a bit fearful of me. “No, you can’t stay here. You can’t stay here while my children are not here, and this is a very important time for me. I need to be able to concentrate, and this time is very special to me. I need this time to think about my work. No, you can’t stay. You can’t stay. Why didn’t you call? You should have called. I heard your messages on the phone when I got back, and I was out very late, and then I got back and heard your messages, and I just couldn’t sleep. I woke up at four in the morning, when you said that you were supposed to get here, and I couldn’t go gack to sleep, and just lay there until now. No, you can’t stay. Why didn’t you call?” “I am sorry. I should have called first, I admit it, and there is no excuse, and I’ll go now. I can stay somewhere else. Sorry for worrying you so much.” I said and started to turn away, and frowned because I was so tired and dirty by this point that that is not what I wanted to hear. It doesn’t look good from the outside to have a 26 year old guy staying in the same house as a woman in her forties who is married but her children and hustand are in Japan. I could tell that she was worried about the neighbors talking, but she had said on the phone earlier that it would be okay if I stayed there for a while before I left. I just thought that here she is with this huge house, and she is the only person living in it, so urely she can spare a room for me, but apparently that line of thought was a bit of an oversimplification, and so shww was telling me to go somewhere else. It was a drag, but what could I do? “Come in then, and we can talk.” She said, beckoning me inside with her hand, and she made it sound like she was about to inform me of my death. We went inside through the living room, and she went into the kitchen and starting puttering around. I was standing in the living room feeling very beaten down, and listening to her making noise in the kitchen, waiting for her to invite me into the kitchen. There was a curtain across the doorway, hung from the top of the frame, in the Japanese style, and I could only see her feet moving around from the place where I was standing. I could see the nice wood table in the kitchen, and see far over Berkely, over the bay, and the bay bridge, and I could see the San Francisco skyline and the fog rolling in off the sea. I could see the clouds hanging heavy over the tope of the misty hills, and the great stretch of the sea, its straight line between the sky and sthe sea stratching endlessly and seeming to continue forever in a line that could only be seen as a symbol of the great space separating east from west., both in the consciousness and in the cultures of the division. I went into the kitchen and sat down, and she walked to and fro, not really looking at me, and started opening a bread bad. She took out several slices and put them in the toaster. This whole process took a long time. “No, you can’t stay here. Why didn’t you call?” “Okay. I am sorry. Don’t worry about it. I won’t stay here. I can stay with my aunt. We may as well change the subject. It doesn’t matter anyway . I should have called first. It’s all my fault.” She puttered around some more, not really looking at me, and I stared at the fine gas wstove and the fine wood floor, varnished perfectly, and it seemed something of a novelty, because I was used to damage and warp. This floor was more or less perfectly smooth. Her wooden chairs, or at least the one that I was staring at, situated between me, who was sitting next to the windown and the doorway, and her, who was tanding over by the counter, was wrapped in little cloths, like little sandals, each one wrapped around the bottom of each leg. I remember looked at that and seeing an over-fastidiousness. “So how are you doing? How are things in Oregon” “Not so good. I quit my stupid job three weeks ago, and I have been doing almost nothing since then. I really can’t see the poin in doing anything. Everything seems tupid to me. I hated my job, and I wasn’t getting along with any of the people, so I just quit. I came down here hoping that maybe things would bet better or I would find something to excite me about life, because I haven’t been feeling that excited. I don’t know. I don’t know what to do. Oregon is so boring, and I have no friends. It is hard to be interested in life. I just read books and sleep. That is all that I can think of to do. I don’t get along with my roommates and I don’t get along with anyone selse at all. So I don’t know what to do. I feel pwerless to change anything, and time just passes and there is no hope that I can see.” “You should be in school, you know, you should find a graduate school that you like and go there. You are sensitive, and you like to read, so you should go to graduate school, don’t you think? Will your parents support you? Then you should go, I think.” I didn’t say anything for a while,. I wasn’t at all sure that my parents would support me, and I was a bit contemptuous of people in graduate school. I was most interested in literature, but writing about it was a drag, I thought. I never read an ananlysis that I really enjoyed reading. What I liked reading were creative works, of fiction, and those things were generally not composed in classes or in deconstructionist theory seminars, but they just have to come out of you. I felt that reading on my own was just as beneficial as being in school, potentially. “School is tiresome. People writing papers on subjects that nobody wants to read about for no good reason. There is noprogress being made. I don’t have much interest in being a teacher so there is no point in getting a degree. These people aren’t taking what they are studying seriously, but they are just using it as a means to an end, just a way to stay amonthe the beautiful people, and talk about how much more sophisticated and how much more valuable they are than people that don’t have much education, but they are mostly just deluded.” Whenever I started thinking about graduate school and scholars, I thought of Nietzsche’s quote in Thus Spake Zarathustra, a book that I ahd been reading and rereading over the year, trying to find words to correspond with my anxiety, and finding some there. In the section entitled “On Scholars” he writes: “I am too hot and burned by my own thoughts; often it nearly takes my breath away. Then I must go out into the open…but they (scholars) sit cool in the cool shade. In everything they want to be mere spectators.” I thought this was true, that who is to judge or sum anything up when nothing is really comprehensible. Everything must be taken into account, and it seemed that graduate school and the people in them were simply foolding themselves as much as anybody, or they were there simply as a way to kill time. I often thought of a line from Whitman, “By God! I will accept nothing which any and all cannot have as a counterpart on their own terms.” “I can’t think of a good subject to study. I am interested in philosophy and poetry now. I was in Japanese, and I liked studying that, but I don’t want to go to graduate school in East Asian Languages, so I just don’t know.” I said in my typically gravelly voice. “Yes, East Asian Languages would not be good, I think.” The toast was done, and she was applying the butter with a knife, and she stacked the two slices of toast on a plate and put them in front of me. It was too early in the morning for me to feel hungry. “Have you eaten yet?” “Yes I did, or not….uh…well, I will have one slice then.” I said, and picked up the slice of bread unexcitedly. It was dark with when berries, and I was kind of hesitant, but I took a bite. “You should study katakamuna, “ she said. Katakamuna was a kind of system of astrology that apparently had ancient roots in Japan like the I Ching, but older, according to her. She had also told me that her husband, Hideo, was a medium for the spirits of the katakamuna, and he had written pages and pages of transmissions from the gods relating to this. It was all somewhat obscure to me, because the books were all in Japanese and my ability was not all that great. She ahd told me on the phone that Kazu had got a transmission from the gods that my future would brighten perciptibley if I was to ivolve myself in the study of this ancient system. It was impossible for me to determine how flaky this thing really was- was it like crystals in the States, or was it more like Indian spiritual beliefs? I couldn’t determine that from my marginal ability to read Japanese. “We…yeah, I might be interested in doing some research on the katakamuna. I don’t know…” “Hideo told me that he saw a treasure in front of you, if you could only see it, and that it is in the study of katakamuna.” “Well, there may be a treaure out there, but I can’t see it, I can agree with that.” “So how hard it it to get into graduate school? What do you need?” “A few recommendations.” “What is the deadline for admission?” “March, I think.” “So it is not so hard. You can do it, can’t you?” “Yeah…I guess..I don’t know.” That seemed to be my theme. But the fact is, I couldn’t see the value of it. I had been reading Leaves of Grass, and it seemed to me that Whitman didn’t write something like that by typing away at literary analysis. I couldn’t think of a response to here, so I just aid that I really wasn’t too sure about what I was going to do. She sat down and began eating a piece of the toast. Then I looked out of the indown. Her back lawn seems to be quite nicely taken care of. The trees waved in the breeze. I remember that she had said to me on the phone that the weather up on the hill was always cold, and the clouds from the sea were always haning straight overhead, and so It was kind of dark and cold with very few exceptions. A carpenter was at work on the next house, doing something on the roof. “Would you like a cup of coffee?” she said, and I didn’t say no. Lately I had the haboti of drinking coffee all day until my nerves were so fried I couldn’t drink any more. Just being away from coffee for the eight hours it took to drive down there and the four hours or so that I had been asleep in my car made me anxious to have another cup. She took the pot off the stove and filled it with water from the sink, and then turned the gas on under the pot. It was a beautiful little blue flame that came out of the burner. When the water heated up, she poured it through the strainer and into a cup and gave it to me. “Thank You.” “So what will you do now that you are down here?” she adked. “Well, you know that I used tolive down here, so I thought that maybe I would go down to Telegraph and look at all the people, and go to the cafes that I used to go to, and see a couple of movies. You know I have a lot of memories that come back to me when I go back here. I had a lot of fun when I was a young kid in college. Now things are different.” She laughed when I when I said that I was going to the movies. I don’t know why she laughed. Myabe she thought that it was just kind of a sad thing to say, so that laughting was the only response that she could think of. It is strange how people laugh at something that is not funny, as though they don’t know what else to do and want to dispel the silence. I drank my coffee. It was good, brewed pretty strong. “Would you like any sugar or milk?” she asked. “I like it strong, I don’t know about you.” “I like it strong.” I said, which was really an understatement. She took out a cigarette. I began to think about leaving, but I thought I would give myself five minutes and then go. “I have been so busy, driving my children everywhere, to their friends place, to ballet, to school.” “