the visit

greg came to visit about a week ago, and since then i was convinced that i couldn't write about those intervening days. it came from two beliefs... that one must choose between living life and writing about it, and that i really have no idea what i'm doing when i write. both of these beliefs, however, are not as solidified as i thought. for one, i can write about things once they're over, live them and then reflect on them. and for the other, i must have some confidence. i spent hours of the day and night talking to greg, listening mostly and trying to understand his ideas, how they relate to my life. he explains things so well, gets to a certain truth or honesty and all you can do is nod yea. i can't reproduce those exact conversations and lines of thought, but his visit still deserves a story.

hwy 101
july 31

listening to a compilation of '50s hits, some great classic rocks on, it gets to the part where he hits one high key a bunch of times. greg says this is where the women get naked, and then he rips off his shirt. wayne is taken by the same spirit, and i hadn't seen any of this, cuz i was in a music haze and concentrating on the road. wayne says chris, take your shirt off, and i wonder for a second, then i see and do it too. all the windows are open, it's greg's first time on the west coast, and we feel like the free-est people in the world. the air is perfect temperature and we're speeding fast on dark highway towards the beach. with the music up and us singing and losing our voices we're shedding every quite thought and living only in rich thick ecstatic warm air. eventually we exhaust and realize we're cold, putting our shirts back on, but no one wanted to be first.

beach near monterey

we sat in a circle around a small bundle of driftwood trying to get a small (illegal) fire going. the entire beach was litered with driftwood, from el nino says cutler. the night sky was amazingly clear of pacific fog, and every once in a while i look up from the fire to see a big tangerine slice of the moon floating down toward the invisible black horizon out there somewhere. it sinks, light distorted from the curvature of the earth, and it must have taken a full minute for that last little flake to disappear. in the fire the kindling isn't catching, do greg says we need paper. he starts looking thru his wallet, giving me reciepts and then pieces with phone numbers on them, and he laughs cuz they're somehow not important of if they are the fire needs to happen. once we started we couldn't leave it unfinished. it's not a macho thing, it just has to happen. with the last of the reserve scraps a flame in the fire's lean belly grows and we watch for a while as it takes hold, and adjust the surrounding pieces. it burns completely to embers while wayne plays guitar and we amaze at the stars.

big sur, andrew molera state park
august 1

at a touristy general store greg stashes his id in his sock, takes some deep breaths, and buys two bottles of red wine, and i get some sandwiches. he asks the cashier if lots of people come in here talking about jack keroac because of his exploits around big sur (i haven't read the book yet), and she says ya. it was a mile hike to the beach, wading thru a beautiful stream with our pants rolled up, and eventually the shirts come off and we're out in the golden heat of california. it's quite compared to the car. with my hair down and wearing just my brown carharts they say i look like the perfect drunken beach bum. inspired idea.

when we find the beach we walk down a bit to find our own place to sit up against the cliff. there are lots of driftwood huts at the trail head and scattered along in either direction. we find a circle, ringed on one side with wood and with a small stone standing up in the middle. it's the place, we step in and greg pulls out the bottle of barefoot merlot. how perfect. everyone was just in a good chill kinda mood, and we sat and philosophized, some of the terms thrown around i didn't really understand, but i'd catch the ideas most of the time. at one point i asked greg what he thought enlightenment was, and he gave me a bit to work with. he's been answering that question all week in bits and pieces, so it's not a one time question with a one time answer... your ideas constantly change and grow.

greg and i drank the bottle together, all of it, and in the heat and the sun and sand it was the most incredible sensation i've felt from wine. i felt more lucid, thoughtful or open, free to do funky cartwheels or jump from rocks onto the solid sand. i wasn't looking down at the pebbles and stones on the beach, i was looking around. greg was with me. i was feeling the ecstasy. at one point we all went into a large driftwood hut and began to hit pieces of wood together, and the drumming began. against rock and wood we found a beat which became a new beat, and i kinda led the switches, although everyone controlled it. we would speed up and get loud, and i started to beat on the beam above me with power and i felt it again. i lost myself in it, going really strong and knocking pieces off of my sticks and i only slowed down and got softer when my arms got so tired that i could barely hold them up. even then i kept going, solidly and slit-eyed, because i was feeling the ecstasy. i wasn't drunk, my vision clear and steps in the sand firm, but my reality was different, without certain limits and with other senses in a scene of earth tones. we were so very alive! then came the postmodern driftwood art of senor gregory: "not even a kiss goodnight", "manage a trois", "hermaphrodite", "the lovers". the brain travels along certain major paths when it's allowed to... life, food, the body, sex. and in many ways greg is these things. and when i had to run back for the camera i ran with control over my body and ran like a deer or a horse, until i was exhausted. and the ecstasy left me. and we threw the music sticks in the ocean and drove away.

"the diamond light was in my eyes."

at night we sit outside on the ratty couches, and after the dinner is cleared away greg takes a pull on the jack daniels and the night begins. my taste for whiskey allows only periodic sips, but soon the crowd is widdled down, and in the small hours of the morning wayne heads off, leaving greg, lisa, and i. mostly we listen to greg, but his monologue is thought-provoking. we are good and drunk, and greg's theory on this state is that it is good - people talk with a truth, say what needs to be said, when they are drunk. lisa clears some air with me, which is was inevitable and necessary, if not all that productive.

we also talk about existential dread, a new phrase to me but a familiar landscape of self-questioning and the examination of my quest. he goes something like this: some people at some moment feel existential dread, wondering what they're here for and seeing a potential for greater meaning, and there are two ways to deal with life after that... ignore the fact that there is more than you thought to life, or give up a lot to move beyond the dread and reach enlightenment. i get excited, and soon we had worked in an analogy to climbing a mountain, and how once you realize the mountain is there you can either accept it and be content in the valley, or climb up it. climbing means leaving everything behind, and once you reach the top you see the valley of pure truth (or something along those lines) on the other side. {like in sandman - "we all know what destiny knows. we just choose to forget it so that we don't go crazy." or we can choose not to die once we have the choice.} do things get better or worse between here and there? it's a wave, up and down. it's worth it for some. greg and i both don't know whether we're up to the climb.

august 5

it's the day before greg's homeward bound, and i convince himto try swing dancing in the city. we get to the club and pay the ten dollars but our partners don't show, so we cut out and decide to explore, roam the streets. we come to a large pyramidal building and imagine climbing the steep outside, imagine falling, laugh and recover from the self-induced vertigo. looking up it looks so easy. we pass a door that has neat gadgets behind glass, go in and it's a design house, the one that did iomega's drives. the guy there says don't take any pictures - most of the stuff on the tables is unreleased, secret. we oggle prototypes then leave him to his evening work. it's funny the things you run into by chance, the things you are privy to because no one expects you to be interested in their world.

uphill we circle a block before settling in an alcove, seated on some flattened cardboard, staring at the street lights and the building across the way. i forget what we talked about, something regarding greg's smoking, how he reconciles it with pure living - it's something he does, a habit, a social thing, some other reasons. we contemplate some things until my butt is cold from the underlying concrete, and we search out richness.

in chinatown we are fascinated by this structure that is really just a fancy entrance to an underground parking lot. each level has three or four chinese characters as a them, wise adjectives to protect your car. the levels are mostly empty, and we walk around the concrete expanses with no real mission, perhaps exploring the edges for something interesting, pondering the echo, being wierd. some sort of urban desolation theme comes to mind, but the place was not that trivial... people wanted it to be significant, somehow it maybe was.

when we emerged we were starving so we assumed anyplace would be high quality in the "gourmet ghetto" of san frisco, so we picked a joint in a basement which was like a diner and horrible. we left searching for something to redeem the night after such a disasterous meal (sacred food defiled!), and we found it not a few blocks away. a store with the average set of ethnic trinkets, but a beautiful didgeridoo in the corner, which i played amateurishly to show that i could and to try the instrument, which made a wonderful sound. the woman at the table played some stephen kent for me and after i bought it she also told me she was a practicing massage therapist if i needed one. she then pointed us to the room next door, "the dreaming room", which was the showcase section with the most amazing array of items. the most interesting were the knives and spearheads of folded damascus steal, some hundreds of years old, brought back from asia or africa. they were beautiful, expensive, but infused with many abstract things like time and spirit and they made you want them. from the little slips of paper in the back of the room:

"In the legends of Mwokipai people of the Mpo islands, there was a place where the ancestors could go dream magical dreams. For when dreaming in this place, they had the ability to move both forward and backward in time, and to go any place in the world whenever they wished to do so. And once a year, when the stars were lined up just right, they had a special power. They could reach through their dreams and extract just on thing from the place and time of their voyage. The rules were few. The items must possess great spiritual power, or they must display a magical level of craftsmanship. And one more thing. The items could never leave the stone walled place where these dreams were made possible, unless taken by another dreamer."
forgetting the capitalism of the place it is a nice story. dreams can only be trusted to dreamers. we went out into the night.

on a famous corner there is a bookstore where the beats used to hang out... the lighthouse? the beat poetry section upstairs is mostly complete, and i discover that japhy in kerouac's dharma bums is gary snyder and his poetry's disappointing for a guy who spent his time in the mountains translating ancient chinese. still, i haven't read it all yet. i buy baudelaire's paris spleen, the one which greg had on his bookshelf in the lodge that he once read to us all from. greg teaches in the oddest ways sometimes, but there is a vein of truth that runs though it all, makes it fun, makes it real.

and he left as transparently as he arrived

i never thought i'd write about it, but i knew i had to. that's what we do with significant moments in time. now that it's out, somehow i know i can never look at this page again and still have no fear that i'll forget it.


07.30 | july | 08.10