‘Surprises, a story’


When Does the Heart Rest? asks the slam-poet…

[ When Does the Heart Rest? ]   by Taylor Mali

Our Science Teacher asked the question,
and we laughed at the kid who said:
When you sleep?

I raised my hand with what I was sure
was the correct answer –
When you die—

and then put it down quietly
when Angel got it right.
Between beats.

That didn’t seem like enough time to me.
Still doesn’t.
But it was Angel again in the schoolyard

standing up for the heart
when the older kid said the strongest muscle
in the human body was the jaw.
No, it is the heart.

The bully said we should have a contest—
between my jaw and your heart—
and we all laughed because it didn’t seem like a fair fight.

And it still doesn’t.
Because the heart rests and keeps working.
Between beats.

And my money is on Angel
and his heart,
not the bully and his jaw.

And anyone who thinks otherwise
can eat their heart out.

(Excerpted from a collection published in NYC 2009 called The Last Time as We Are, courtesy of writebloody publications)


Wesley and Haven Music: Singing at Smith

When I rule the world, everyone will have a nametag... (rant)

Art comes from being in an alpha state for me, in water.

I learn things backwards sometimes. This was the year I learned about how to really conduct independent study. This was the year I learned about friends and how you don’t always agree. It was a year of listening to music together, and jokes, and studying hard, and working endlessly on projects or papers or dishes (see apron) or figuring out next moves.

I spent a lot of time in the bathtub at Wesley. I didn’t have enough clothes. I could not seem to get warm and stay that way. There was not one I could get to easily on the 2nd floor of Haven. I felt like one of the prune people when I got out, but warmer for a little.

I miss them, even though it has been so long. We learned how to mangle the lyrics to songs we listened to together in our rooms (on stereos! … remember stereos?) including “City of New Orleans” and “Lulu’s Back in Town.”

We heard the Smiffenpoofs (was that what they were called?), and the Princeton Nassoons sing in this house. We heard annoying housemates screeching up and down the halls in their nightgowns very late. We heard the singing and showering and coffee pots and papers of our fellow students and occasionally even their boyfriends.


If they were in San Francisco today. I would take them to Lovejoy’s Tea Room for some beverages and reminiscence. Ply them with truffles. Spoil them with love.

Perhaps it was Carole McSheffrey who invited the jug band to sing in our living room. I will never forget the banjo. I memorized the words to ‘Barnyard Dance’ during long cold walks across the campus to the studio. I think this is the year we were snowed in. People were skiing cross country in to work in Boston. Robert J. Lurtsema was still alive. A heck of a long time ago.

The radiator clanked, so I named it, but it still would not shut up since pressure and cold in 100-year-old houses do funny things to steam heat. Its a wonder I did not burn all my hair off sleeping next to it. I sure did burn my elbows and knees a few times. That sucker got hot!

Remember the Fire Rope Test, team? I felt grateful we didn’t have to dress for it silly gym costumes like I did in elementary school. They were sort of like… rompers.


[ Synchronicity ]

Our dear Administrator
has something in common
with Walt Whitman,
he having been
Federal Paymaster
during the Civil War.

She sings in a church
choir. He worked once
as a printer’s devil
while still a young lad.

Both eventually
pay-masters in various
wars on unfairness
both helping
their families,
both working, both
in service.

My own career similar
to the Federal service of
a young Jack Kerouac:
grandiose, never oriented to
a military regime; thus
left to find my own discipline.

But when I miss
my own Momma, I
can’t go see her, and I
don’t sing in any choir, thus
I am left to the devil.

There is probably a thick file
on me too somewhere, perhaps not
in any National Archive, but
perhaps equally filled by my
strange writing obsession.

Make the best of your service.

Colossal mismatch or not,
find a way to be helpful;
it is our only hope:
the rest is just The Road.

Craft (not a pejorative)

We think we know what our deliverables are.

A report written, edited, and turned in to an editor. A prospectus written and published. An application drafted, polished, published, submitted to the grantor. A photograph captured and edited and submitted. A garden weeded. A dinner cooked. A team built? A boat launched?

You and I have different jobs, most likely. We each have a way of crafting a solution to our professional problems. Stand and fight. The Socratic Method. Machiavellian Strategy. The Golden Rule. Citing the Federal Code or the company manual, or what have you.

How ever you do it, this is my contention:  “craft” amounts to how you solve a problem. How you learn about the possibilities and come up with an elegant solution. How you try to make your life, your world, your job, your team, or the assignment you are now working on a little easier for the next person to come along.

Not a pejorative. Not as in “You are so *crafty,* aren’t you?” (spoken in the same tone as the phrase ‘Oh, that is so *Berkeley*!’)  Not.

Craft as word and as concept should stand alone. It is brave imagining; it is careful and thoughtful construction. It is dignified. It is true artistry. Think of it as in ‘the craft of writing.’

Anyone who thinks of craft’s true definition otherwise deserves to be put on the cast of a Reality TV program called When the Zombies Take Over Your Local Mall.

Patrick T. Dougherty

I first became aware of Patrick Dougherty’s sculpture and work during the Big Willow / Callanish Standing Stones inspired event and ensuing year (2006 to 2007) sponsored by the Scottish Basketweavers Circle (aka the Scottish BA). I last saw his work at the Palo Alto Arts Center, on a magical misty morning while the construction was ongoing and there were a number of volunteers working. It was early in January 2011.

The magic never seems to end with Patrick.

Patrick is based in North Carolina. His work is eloquently documented at stickwork.net, his web site. He is an American, but somehow the Scots seemed to take to him immediately.

He has worked on every location from the pollarded sycamore trees in front of City Hall at San Francisco Civic Center Plaza (2010) to creating a willow stroll / souk / dachau at the Palo Alto Art Center (2011/12), to conjuring Toad Hall in Southern California and points beyond (Hawaii, Scotland, France…). His work spans decades. He is a genius of collaborative coaching and big vision. A master.

Check him out! You will not regret it.

Crips R Us

As a walking talking but not obviously disabled person, I was gratified to hear, to see, and to experience the wonders of a talk by Dr. Richard Pimentel yesterday at the Pacific Gas and Electric Auditorium at 71 Beale Street in San Francisco. “Shattering Myths About Disabled Persons in the Workplace” was the title. It could have been more generic. Dr. Pimentel and the sign language interpreters could not have. When they made this man, they may have broken the mold. He rocked the house, with about 400 of us in attendance at this free noontime talk. He is a great storyteller, a dynamic speaker, and a fantastic promoter of civil rights.

San Francisco is a big juicy city and we have everything there. You can get a lap dance around the corner from where I work at 7th street, right on Market street at lunch time. Probably only takes a few minutes depending on your wallet and your interest, though I have never had one … I’m sure its great if that is your cup of tea. Speaking of tea you can also have many types of rare and choice Chinese tea in the same city, just about a mile south, might perk you up more than a lap dance, at a classic tea house in Chinatown. Or you could go to the PG&E building, arrive by noon, and enter the auditorium (after getting through registration, security, the guides, and the gates), and if you show up you could get some of the wrinkles ironed out of your brain and some education about affirmative action.

Why would you hire a disabled person? To give them a chance. Why would you keep hiring disabled people? Because the person you hired the first time you did it was such a fantastic employee that you decided that you were never going to rule out a potential candidate before interviewing them thoroughly and reviewing the possibilities and deciding whether or not this looked like the most promising choice, even if that candidate rolled to work instead of walking, even if they could not hear you when you called unless their assistive technology was pointed at you properly, even if they had a disability you could not recognize. Even if.

The speaker, Dr. Pimentel, addressed us all as human beings. That’s what we are; that’s our common ground. We come in as human beings, we leave as human beings. We want work, we want play, we want food and love and shelter just like anyone else. Some of us are veterans, some are wounded warriors, some of us wear our warrior marks underneath or from earlier battles.

All of us need meaningful work so that we can help build this country collectively into the greatest thing it has ever been. Do you not agree?

Thank you Dr. Pimentel for considering the consequences of addressing us truthfully about your journey and deciding that from the time from when they dropped that bomb on the beer bunker of the 101st airborne in Vietnam in 1966 until now… you have learned many valuable truths. Thank you for deciding that the story was worth telling, that in spite of the physical harm you suffered during your service that you have learned a few things that we could all benefit from. It was a great honor to hear you. It is a short ride from 7th and Market to the PG&E tower, and highly worth it. We were all made richer by sharing your experiences. You rock!

Michael Pachovis once said (when talking about how the disabled community works, specifically about how crips.net could help the Ashkenaz after it was threatened with closure), that many of us are involved in high tech and many of us support each other. That was an understatement, but it is enough to alert everyone: we are here, we are not going away, and we won’t be persuaded to stay inside and not live the same lives you are all trying to live. Not now, not yesterday, and not tomorrow.

Thank you also for helping me to be a better and braver civil rights advocate. You set a great example, and you are someone we all could learn from.

Thank you Dr. Pimentel for reminding all the hiring managers and staff and friends of PG&E that this is the truth, and that the truth is beautiful, and that it is also much stranger than fiction. Every time.