On The Road, 1

We have been on the road for a few days now, and, this evening, after three nights in a rented North Beach apartment in San Francisco, we are at the Cardinal Hotel in Palo Alto. Shelagh and I just played checkers in the lobby after walking back from watching a movie at the Aquarius Theater on Emerson Street. Tomorrow we will walk around the main quad at Stanford, drop into the bookstore to look for some Christmas presents, and then head south for Monterey and Carmel.

North Beach
We've been to Alcatraz. And Caffe Trieste. We shopped at Al's Attire. We had breakfast at Mo's, lunch at Fisherman's Wharf, dinner at Frances. We've moved by foot, cable car, boat, and Mustang convertible. We sat in Washington Square. We walked by Jack Kerouac Lane and down Haight toward Ashbury. We took pictures of the Joe DiMaggio playground.

The sound of unseen cables running beneath the streets, the hot smell of the hydraulics, the thrill of cresting a hill while standing on the running board and seeing the downtown lights and bustle below with a beautiful hint of November cold in the air. Ding-ding. Ding-ding. This is San Francisco. I love the cable cars.

Vallejo. Green. Columbus. Union. Powell. Stockton. The names of the streets are different, exciting in themselves.

I stood in front of Jasper Johns's Bridge at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. How do we see? Why do we see the way we do?

North Beach
It's a holiday. Being away. Getting away. Seeing new things. Buying a San Francisco Chronicle. Drinking good wine. Reading the Rushdie memoir. Driving the 101. And it all means that all senses are alert, because none of this is ordinary life. Of course, ordinary life, as the narrator of Joseph Anton spells out, is the biggest fiction of them all, an illusion woven by those who choose blindness over the marvels and monstrosities of life on earth. We are all, it appears, storytellers.

But we get in the way.

Because all of this would happen, is happening without me. Maybe not all. Not the particular conversations and observations, not the particular checkers game. Not the order of southern fried chicken with mashed potatoes and seasonal veggies (good!) and chocolate milkshake (yikes!) that go within, but everything else that goes on without.

The Beatles gave us many equations, many of which were some version of  all you need is love, or the  love you take is equal to the love you make. But George gave us this:
And to see you're really only very small/
And life flows on within you and without you.
Lately, I have been transfixed by the thought that my memory of Caffe Trieste, my memory of the crumbling courtyard at Alcatraz, all my travel memories are from my perspective. They are replays of, riffs on what I have seen.

What would it mean to get a better grasp on the fact that at this moment life is happening everywhere? That is something I want to work on, to see what work it would do on me.



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