Thursday, December 31, 2009

Blue moon

Last night the moon sported a halo; a ring of lighted clouds circling clear black sky, like a hole punched through to the back of the universe.

A man on the street with a saxophone plays Auld Lang Syne - not a brilliant rendition, but competent - I'm just sentimental enough to slow down and turn a smile his way. He breaks off mid-song and waves. Happy New Year, he calls. As I walk away, he rolls into You Are My Sunshine; ten steps later and it's Pop Goes the Weasel. I wonder if these are the only tunes he knows.

Not everything transcends.

But just ahead of me is a woman in a miniskirt, her black stockings growing a hole and running just beneath her round bottom, and it's enough: I love her and the run in her stockings, her wide hips and the cheap windbreaker hanging from her shoulders.

A friend gave birth yesterday: twin boys, each weighing less than her hardback edition of Anna Karenina. They got here too early for any of us to be easy, but so far so good. One slugged the other on the way out, gifting him with a shiner, an early tell of which is which. This could be a good sign, a will to fight their way back from the far edge of the possible. Welcome to the world, brother.

In an hour or so I'll put on my party dress and dance in the new year with noisy revelers, but for me the year crept in on baby feet last night. The moon swung like a pendant in its halo of bare sky, sneaking through the blinds and prying open my eyes; I'm wide awake out here on this dizzy edge, waiting to see what happens next.

Sunday, December 13, 2009


It's raining in San Francisco. People crowd under an awning, one woman bending from the waist to look up toward the sky, a drop catching her eyelid. She blinks, then smiles and shakes her head.

My boots shine in white light from a laundromat. A young girl in a striped hat circles the central counter, middle finger tracing her path along its surface. She looks over at sister or mother loading clothes, and begins another round.

I'm running late, and the bus is too. I step out to hail a cab.

Crazy night with the rain, the cabbie says. He turns up the volume for Ave Maria.

The city seems to slow down, moving in time to the music. Girls in tiny skirts stretch their naked legs hopefully in skyscraper heels, every step a prayer.

Ave Maria
Gratia plena
Dominus tecum
Benedicta tu in mulieribus

A sodden Santa looks up as we pass, water dripping from his beard. Lights blink in store windows. I ask the driver to drop me off several blocks early; I want to walk. I climb out into the cold, rain hammering onto my umbrella.

Sancta Maria
Mater Dei
Ora pro nobis peccatoribus

At the corner store, teenage boys crowd the man behind the counter. They imitate his speech impediment, cruelly, but he doesn't raise his voice. Buy something or leave, he says, words squeezed and misshapen, but his eyes sharp. The kids are embarrassed, reaching into pockets to pay, edging back out into the night. I bring my juice to the counter and he looks at me, smiling gravely, like a blessing.

Still raining, he says.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Every time it rains, it rains pennies from heaven

I don't expect Chopin on a Saturday evening. The pianist is at an old upright in the corner, its insides exposed. People sit at tables, arguing, ordering beer, flirting. He's playing one of the études while glasses clink and chairs scrape. He's smiling, curled over the keyboard and watching music roll from his fingers.

Between songs, he leans to the left for a kiss from the woman sitting at the nearest table. She reaches out a hand to play her fingers over his shoulder, whispering into his ear.

He slides easily into Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, lounge-worthy and loose, tinkling through the café.

In the BART station a bluegrass band is playing. A mob of a band, boys and girls in dreadlocks and bad beards, overalls and ragged layers of clothing. Three guitars, banjo, mandolin, fiddle, and three skinny guys hanging at the sides, shuffle-dancing and singing. I don't know the songs but they light me up anyway; I let my train go to listen a little longer.

They rearrange for the next song: "fiddle in the middle," says the monstrous boy with the mandolin.

A woman is walking her bicycle through the station. She's crying, walking her bicycle. I watch her hop on and ride into the night, crying.

The café pianist plays Pennies From Heaven, and I look out at the sky, feeling riches tumble all around my shoulders.