Growing up as a bookworm gave me a strong affinity for older, elaborate homes. My favorite tales featured hidden passageways, transport to other worlds, or (as I aged) bodies crying out for justice. None of these things frightened me because each promised the fictional release my brain and spirit craved.
Later – as I pursued my passion for social justice – I looked to history both for inspiration and justification. The large homes I had avidly scoured for secrets became reduced to symbols of excess (especially after learning my relatives toiled downstairs to run them). Smaller, run-down homes I once barely glanced at achieved heroic status as examples of working class ingenuity.
In time – lots of time – I removed both the dreams and the judgments. Having come from a working class family I could see the skilled labor and fine materials poured into the more elaborate homes. Frankly the same went for the smaller homes clearly built from Sears Catalogs and salvaged items. In each case I could appreciate how these efforts allowed them to stand through the decades.
While I will never forget or forgive the excesses poured into some homes (both old and new) while many people barely survive, I cannot help but photograph them. In glancing at my favorites, however, I realize I need to capture the smaller, older ones. This will be quest.
As many of you have guessed, I find pathways irresistible. It never bothers more if they lead nowhere or force me off my journey. Instead I greedily soak up everything along the path, especially if the “everything” captures my imagination or reminds me of a favored story. Neurons failing to fire for overdue deadlines or timed arrivals suddenly launch into hypermode as I internally spin connections known only to me and (perhaps) other dreamers. Whether it translates into anything but pleasure remains an open question but I no longer feel guilt. An artist friend described something similar by noting she viewed life as vivid colors and definable shapes (all pushing at her brain to create things). Fortunately her great talents allow her to produce a great product out of her ruminations. In my case they most often feed the endless trivia popping out of my during both opportune and inopportune moments.
Anyway, my August foray to UCSF – featured in an earlier post – produced several vignettes from my thrashing through the campus. Below are a couple more, which I hope to exhibit in slideshows. However, I can only figure out how to place them in one slideshow. Go figure.
A beautiful 2008 exhibit championing communication captured me on all counts. A beautiful pathway draped with beautiful plants and stunning canopy featured signs written in the world’s languages. Many beautifully calligraphed statements went beyond hello to evoke real thought about the nature of communication. Points if you can translate them. More points if you can read some of them (in time I will get to better know my camera).
I obsessively snapped the pathways leading to closed doors or unseen places. Some pictured active work sites hidden beyond locked doors. Others remained as ghosts from UCSF’s path (both due to the passage of time or movement of jobs to Misson Bay site). All reminded me of the endless mysteries I gobble up either in books or television (always my endless need for justice). Some just downright frightened me (reminding me of the poverty-strickenareas in which I have worked). Hopefully you will see some of those things (or find your own source of satisfaction).
Finally (for tonight) I wandered into UCSF’s beautiful art garden, which resides near the School of Nursing. It proudly displayed both world-class art – include the cheeky sculptures featured in the slideshow – and heartfelt homages to fallen classmates and faculty (most appearing as beautiful trees now reach to the sky). Interspersed among all of it was great artwork from various eras and genres. Some championed the patients and providers, others seemed to celebrate the eccentricity associated with a life spent fighting both life and disease. Or maybe just the quirky spirit needed to survive school in a hilly wind tunnel. Either way I found both its charm and absurdity a welcome antidote to the stunning beauty associated with the hill views.
I whiled away the last hour or more on blog design. Confident a new theme, color scheme, or header picture would magically transform my blog into a high-end magazine knockoff, I grew frustrated as reality intruded. Namely, no quick set of clicks could suddenly elevate my work to match professionals. After all they poured years of sweat into learning their various trades, developing a host of innate talents, and acquiring multiple influences to inspire them.
In the past my Attention Deficit Disorder (“ADD”) inspired ineptitude would result in me tossing my hands up in despair and walking away from a host of creative projects. My mom on seeing the “look” would tease “out, oh better let the Wookie win.” My longtime ex-partner – her already too small house littered with my failed projects – more accurately described me as lacking discipline. My ex (a gifted musician) knew with practice comes, if not perfection, at least competence. Inside I saw only a fulminating frustration destroying another set of dreams. Fortunately I have inattentive ADD so I could quickly let it go after my initial outburst. Unfortunately, this ADD type made me forget to pick up after myself (gulp; remember I said “ex.”🙂
Then I discovered – relatively late in life – the virtual world of computers. Here I could save documents without running out of space, redesign pages without tearing them up with erasures, and manipulate hosts of objects without censure. Once again my childhood dreams of world domination resurfaced – if you follow this blog, you will see these dreams reappear on an almost weekly basis. :). Suddenly I could physically create documents resembling my inner designs. This greatly aided every job I went onto hold, whether complex or mundane, paid or unpaid. Moreover, I more easily tracked things, which previously disappeared along with the paper scraps holding them.
Fortunately designers of all stripes helped me to plunge feet first into this world. Each year designers made computers ridiculously easier to use and more beautiful to view. (I have the bills to prove it.) College English professors hammered the need for structure,balance, and variety from the simplest sentences to the most complex paragraphs. (Building on the foundation the nuns laid – albeit heavy handedly – when I was a child.) Gifted designers like Robin Williams shared secrets in books like “The Non-Designers Design Book.” (Classically boiling down the great principles Contrast, Repetition, Alignment, and Proximity to the easily remembered CRAP.)
Despite the wide variety of fields represented, all emphasized Communication. More significantly each placed the responsibility on the writer, not the reader for understanding the message. However unlike my punitive inner self flailing in frustration, each provided methodologies and tools making it possible. Much like WordPress created an army of bloggers, these folks birthed design for the masses. Still much like a CPR class won’t turn us into heart surgeons, none of us will replace a truly gifted designer. It’s okay; the CPR class might get you to the heart surgeon, and a WordPress blog may carry your Little League team through a season.
Of course, it also means once again my ex was right. Sigh. Yet another lesson learned too late. Or maybe just learned later. Until the end, none of us can know whether something is “too late” or “just later.”Also some of us can only learn the hard way. Or ultimately my rationalization skills improved.
Like every good piece of fiction, each character suffered disappointment, overcame obstacles, and returned chastened. Regardless neither they nor the reader regretted the journey. Most, especially this reader, sought a pathway to return.
A life spent breathing San Francisco’s intoxicating smells – salty fog, innumerable spices, and perfumed humanity – doubtless contributed to this zest for adventure. Childhood’s culinary map included Chinese Dishes, Russian Piroshki’s, and (homemade) Greek Food; generally sold in nearby but still different neighborhoods. (Now it would be Thai, Ethiopian, and Indian, likely without as much travel but lessons still learned.) Prior to Proposition 13 – yes, I’m that old – museum, aquariums, and parks holding the world’s knowledge opened their doors for free. (Even now you can find a way to free days if you can fight the crowds.) Frankly today the babble of different languages, clashing customs, and the kaleidoscope of cultures make even SF MUNI an adventure. (Unlike some of my peers from the Outer Sunset, I — thanks to my mom’s early lessons — embrace San Francisco’s diversity.)
It’s why San Francisco continues to succeed through earthquakes, AIDS, and recessions.
Most of us came from somewhere else – or were raised by those folks from somewhere else – or wrongly get treated as being from somewhere else despite having families here going back generations. As such we know nothing forces us to remain stifled by custom or status quo. For those willing to remain so ignorant their stay is no longer pleasant. Or, on a happier note, food and/or persons from somewhere else often seduce them into knowing better. An honest look at San Francisco’s (California) history will reveal this has happened for centuries (when we used to pit ethnicities against each other, like we currently do with racial groups.)