Category Archives: photography

Second-hand grief

Standard

I am no stranger to spells of sadness. Most of the time I can’t really point to the cause, my mood just drops and I’m in that familiar place.  But, unlike in my younger years when I would flail and woe-is-me and curse my life, I’ve learned to just ride it out, remembering that this too shall pass.

This weekend, however, rather than just amorphous sadness, what I was feeling could only be described as grief.  But it wasn’t grief over any loss of my own, but rather for the losses two very dear friends had just experienced.  For lack of a better term, I’ll call it second-hand grief.

On Thursday night, my bestest childhood friend, Carol lost her dog, Manon, to a stroke.  Manon was a gorgeous golden retriever, and she as sweet as she was beautiful.   A brave girl, she had recently battled – and won – cancer. But she couldn’t beat old age.  She was 14 years old.

There is a special poignancy to losing a pet. It’s hard to describe to anyone who hasn’t experienced it. But, pet people know too well that heart-ache. Unlike a human for whom our memories may be mixed, most of the memories we have of our animal friends is of the unwavering love they have given us.   They don’t care if we’re a success or failure in life, or if we’re cranky or we smell bad.  A pet’s love is like no other.  There is something so pure about that relationship.  Their love is so unabashed and unconditional. And to lose that hurts so damn much.

Carol and I chatted briefly online. It was clear she was in no mood to talk. She’s been through this before too many times.  Like me, she is a major animal lover and  has opened her heart again and again and again to animals in need and given them a good and loving home.  She knows the drill.   At first the grief  is searing. Eventually, it gets better, though you will never forget your furry friend. And then one day, another creature walks into your life and your heart.  And the cycle of life and death begins again.

*  *  *  *

On Friday afternoon, I got a text from dear friend John, “Dan just died”.   Even though I had only met Dan once, those words still landed heavily.  I quickly texted him back, “I’m sorry. Is there anything I can do to help you?” I didn’t have to ask what happened.  I had been hearing the gory details of Dan’s demise for the last three months.

About three months ago, Dan was in training for the AIDS bike ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles, when he developed a bothersome pain in his side. And as he was about to embark on a  545 mile bike ride, he  decided to go see the doctor to get it checked out.  Worse news possible: Stage IV metastatic cancer.  Within days he had surgery where they removed a 10 pound tumor the size of a pot roast enveloping one of his kidneys.

While there may have been glimmers of hope during those three months, John recognized how grim the prognosis and seeing his friend in such horrible pain affected him deeply. Our weekly chats, normally cheerful and a bit snarky, became more philosophical. What’s it all about? Why are we here?  What have I done with my life?  And at times we talked about the more practical aspects of planning for our own demise: wills; advanced directives; and medical power of attorney.  Would you be willing to  pull the plug  if that was indeed the compassionate thing to do?

Life can be pretty fucking gruesome.  And it can also be pretty damn sweet, and everything in between.    I guess it’s just a matter of being able to remember that it is all of those things and to not hold onto to any of it.

Spidertown

Standard

No need for faux spiderwebs for Halloween at Chez LazyBuddhist.  No, at this time of year, my yard becomes Spidertown.

two spiders do battle outside my kitchen window

two spiders do battle outside my kitchen window

I’ve lived in this neighborhood for about 12 years now so I’ve become used to the annual spider invasion.  It usually happens in the latter part of the summer or early fall.  But, it does seem that each year these damn spiders are getting bigger and bigger.  You would think I lived next to a nuclear power plant rather than merely an oil refinery.  One big guy has a web that is probably close to three feet in diameter.  It’s right next to my walkway, which is fine with me.  When he starts to encroach across my walkway?  Well, bub, you’ll find out who is the bigger and more dangerous species. With the flick of this yardstick, I can bring down your days of work.  So, don’t even think about expanding across my walkways, ‘k?

Sure, now I sound all bold and brave when it comes to my eight-legged friends.  And normally, I have a live and let live philosophy when it comes to spiders.  But, if I’m surprised by one by walking into its web, or having it lower its creepy self in front of my eyes while driving 65 mph, I become a damn shrieking fool.  (And yes, I did have a stow-away in my car reveal itself to me while I was driving over a bridge at 65 mph.  I completely and utterly spazzed out for the entire length of the bridge until I was safely across and found a place to park, lept out of my car and fully shook out my clothing, hair and car to make sure he wasn’t on me.  I didn’t find him that morning, but I scared him enough to go take cover, only revealing himself a couple of days later when he started spinning a web in the back window of my car.)

Sleeping driveway spider

Sleeping driveway spider

I’m not the only one who spazzes out when encountering a spiderweb.  One  fall day a couple of years back, a young. outdoorsy looking man was canvassing my neighborhood for the Sierra Club.  I was at the back of the house, so I called out to him to meet me at the backdoor. He walked right into a huge spiderweb and started freaking the fuck out.  I tried my best not to laugh, but there was something so deliciously ironic about seeing this big rugged nature boy completely lose his shit when walking into a spider web.  I know, bad Buddhist, bad bad Buddhist.

Despite my fear of spiders, I’m not a spider killer.  If there is a spider in the house, we strike a deal – you stay over there, and I stay here. And since most of the time they are places I care not to be, we’re cool.  I let them have the ceiling, the upper part of the walls, or the basement.  Enjoy yourself Mr. Spider. Let us co-exist peacefully.   And if he fails to understand our agreement about boundaries, well, that is what the boyfriend is for.  He is not a spider killer either, but he is adept at capturing them and taking them outside.  Good boyfriend, good good boyfriend.

walkway spider w/ 3 ft wide web

walkway spider w/ 3 ft wide web

This year one of the spiders have located himself right outside my kitchen widow.  Every morning is like my own personal episode of Nature.  One morning, there was the turf battle (see pic above) where these two pretty equally matched spiders kept attacking each other.  It was fascinating, especially how this one spider would curl up in a ball and play dead.  When the other spider came over to poke at him to see if he was still alive, the curled up spider would spring open and start wildly attacking the other one.  Unfortunately, that spider that got attacked wasn’t the smartest spider, as he kept falling for the other one’s play dead ploy.  I could have watched this for hours, but I had to go to work.  When I came home, there was only one spider left – the victor.  Now I watch him work on his web in the morning with all the grace of a harpist plucking at the strings.

At a safe distance I can appreciate the effort and workmanship that go into making these massive webs.  And that the way  I like it – at a distance.

Take Your Pet to Work day

Standard

OK, sure, it’s not an official day, but it totally should be. I mean there is Take Your Daughter to Work day (which later became Take Your Kid to Work day when the boys started whining that they don’t get enough attention). So, why shouldn’t we be able to bring our pets into the office at least one day a year. As long as they are house-broken and well-behaved, I think it would be a wonderful treat for employees and patients alike. And for those with allergies, we’d have People with Allergies Stay Home day on the same day.

Despite the lack of an official day to bring your pet to work, one of my staff brought in one of his dragons (and don’t call them lizards! While K is a very soft-spoken, kind and sensitive man, he’ll go all Komodo on your ass if you call one of his dragons a lizard).  So, meet Einstein, the water dragon who hung out at the office today.  Very mellow little dude.  Pretty much stayed on K’s desk and looked slightly worried.  Obviously, the little guy was pretty smart because I’d be worried too if all these strange ladies were coming in and invading my space, cooing and chucking my chin at least once an hour.

Water dragon w/ dying potted plant and dead air plant stick

Water dragon w/ dying potted plant and dead air plant stick

Water dragon and co-worker

Water dragon and coy co-worker

I'm ready for my close-up, Ms. DeMille

I'm ready for my close-up, Ms. DeMille

Creepy day at the flea market

Standard

Normally, I’m not one to head to bed before midnight, but I’m afraid my vintage is starting to show after a day at ye olde Vintage Faire. Between the heat and all the walking needed to cover this 5-6 acre glorified flea market, I’m all tuckered out.  So, rather than coming up with a lot of words, today’s post will mostly be images.  My friend Lori has a weird, and sometimes unseemly fascination with clowns and creepy dolls, and the Vintage Faire never fails to provide lots of those.   Enjoy.

Bob's Big Boy's less successful sister

Bob's Big Boy's less successful sister (taken by Lori M)

Bozo Kelly (taken by Lori M)
Bozo Kelly (taken by Lori M)
Zephyrella (taken by Lori M)
Zephyrella (taken by Lori M)
Flavia (taken by Lori M)
No more caffeine for you, young lady (taken by Lori M)
Somehow this model isn't making the couch look too comfy
Somehow this model isn’t making the couch look too comfy
Love is not sticking a wooden knob where the baby's head should be
Love is not sticking a wooden knob where the baby’s head should be
trange guy joined Lori and I in a 5 minute riff on on this doll wanted to kill us.

This doll as truly creepy. We were truly convinced that it originally had a hatchet in its hand instead of a candle. (taken by Lori M)

Me and you and a monk named Boo

Standard

“So, whatcha do this weekend?’ a colleague asked making friendly Monday morning talk.  “Oh we went to Stockton.” I replied nonchalantly.  “Really?  Willingly?” he asked with a look of confused disgust.  Then finally he sputtered out “but . . . why?”

Why it was Cambodian New Year, silly!  Browsing about looking for things to do this weekend I came upon a listing for a New Years celebration at the Wat Dharmararam, a Cambodian Buddhist Temple.  What a better way to celebrate Easter?*  The place was a complete trip.  Probably close to 20 hand painted huge Buddha statues depicting the story of the Buddha’s life.   Not to mention hundreds of  Cambodian families sitting on the ground in the shadows of the statues with  Asian pop music was blaring from the stage.  It truly felt as if we were in a foreign country.

As the boyfriend and I made our way along the statues we noticed that all the signage was in Cambodian with nary an English translation in sight.  We went up to the information booth to see if they had a hand-out or something that could tell us in English what we were looking at.  A kindly young American monk stepped out of the booth and offered to be our tour guide.  We spent the next 45 minutes walking around the grounds as Boo, our new monk friend explain Buddha’s life story, his own life story, and amusing tales of being the only non-Cambodian monk in the monastery.

The Buddhas of the Three Times

The Buddhas of the Three Times

Not sure what this was all about, but people getting eaten by sharks and crocs in the same pond is always pretty cool

Not sure what this was all about, but people getting eaten by sharks and crocs in the same pool was kinda cool.

The boyfriend and our new friend a monk named Boo.

The boyfriend and our new friend a monk named Boo.

I'm not sure if this would be my choice of t-shirt for a day out at the Temple, but who am I to judge?

I'm not sure if this would be my choice of t-shirt for a day out at the Temple, but who am I to judge?

We ended our tour in the Temple, which doubled as a dining hall. Unlike some of the other Buddhist temples I’ve been in, this was not particularly ornate, nor at all formal. Again, there were many Cambodian families camped out on the ground eating. Eventually, an elderly Cambodian monk took to a throne-like chair. “He’s going to give a talk now.” I got all excited and prepared to find myself a seat, until Boo stopped me with a simple question, “so, how’s your Cambodian?” Riiiiight.  So, we hung out a bit longer to soak in the festive vibe amidst all these amazing statues – some gaudy, some scary, and some incredibly serene.  It was a good day.

* I really don’t do Easter.  I mean why should I?  I’m not Christian, I don’t have children and I don’t get a day off of work for it, so the point is . . . ?

My whereabouts

Standard

This has been quite the week:

Saturday:  my sister substitute spent an unholy amount of money to come up with her husband to join me for my 50th birthday bash.  Birthday bash was an incredibly lovely and special evening with my lovely and special friends, and a touching violin performance by Carl, the world’s sweetest and youngest 81 year old you’ll ever meet. Also looking forward to my week off of work to rest and to enjoy my new found wisdom.

Sunday: I am struck with severe disabling sciatica.  Pain is so bad I almost go to the emergency room, but instead got a doctor to prescribe painkillers over the phone.

Monday:  I see my doctor who says I may suffer like this for another 2 weeks, but probably less.

Tuesday-Wednesday: despite the drugs, I am still in a lot of pain and pretty much immobile

Thursday: my elderly cat, Alaska,  signals me that it may be time to go. I schedule a vet to come to my home at 6pm to do the deed.  Spend most of the day in physical and emotional pain. At 5pm, Alaska says “psych!” Dr. Death’s visit is canceled . . for now.

Friday:  my body is beginning to function better now, though Alaska is still giving conflicting signals. Narcotics are only for beddy-bye time.

I need to lay down again.  I’ll write more when I’m more healed.

Thoughts and prayers for Alaska, however, are appreciated.

A day at the Blues Festival

Standard

Every year for the past few years, the boyfriend and I go to the annual San Francisco Blues Festival.  The festival is always held in late September when the weather finally gets nice and warm in the City.  The location is perfect – out at the Great Meadow at Fort Mason, right on the Bay with a view of the Golden Gate.  Inevitably the days are hot, and just as the concert is winding down, that chilly breeze comes in through the Gate, and people who were half undressed a half hour before are throwing on their sweaters or huddling in blankets.

Admittedly, most of the time I am barely familiar with most of the acts.   The type of blues artists I’m most familiar would be old old delta blues legends like Robert Johnson, Ledbelly, Son House, Blind Lemon Jefferson, etc.  They are long gone, so I just go to because I enjoy the blues, not any one particular artist. And it’s fun being surprised.   We always just sit in the less pricey general admission area, which is some distance from the stage, so my attention is never fully on the stage, but rather on the spectator sport of people watching.

This year I focused on festival fashion . . . if you can call it that.  But, hey, this wasn’t Bryant Park, it’s an outdoor music festival where people take in too much sun, too much beer and then attempt to dance all funkylike when most of them don’t have a funky bone in their body.

For the men, the classic look was a commemorative t-shirt from one of the past SF Blues festivals – the older the better.  This tells everyone you’re a true aficionado, not some festival Johnny-come-lately.  Or if you want to show you’re a bit more traveled, you wore a t-shirt from some other blues or jazz festival (extra  cool points for anything from New Orleans).  And then there was the tie dye.  Why oh why the tie dye?  Perfectly normal looking men – not your basic old hippies who never left the 60s, but men who look like they may draw a salary – wearing tie dyed t-shirts.  Sigh.  Granted some were tie dye commemorative t-shirts, but still.

A two-fer: a tie dye shirt, that was also a past Blues Festival shirt

The women were not nearly as uniform as the men.  In fact, it would be hard to make generalizations, so I shan’t.  But, there was something very odd going on with the few young girls there.  Every girl under the age of 16, and I kid you not, was wearing a belly dance coin shawl thing wrapped around their hips.  Seriously, every freakin’ girl child was wearing one.  At first, I conjectured that perhaps they were some kind of young dance troupe who all came together.  But, no.   There seemed to be no correlation between them except for that belly dance coin thing they were all wearing.  Weirdest damn thing.  It was like it was belly dance coin thing day at the festival – bring your girl child under 16 and she’ll get a free belly dance coin thing.

One shot, two trends.  Blues festival t-shirt for the adult, and one of those belly dance coin things for the young lady.

One shot, two trends. Blues festival t-shirt for the adult, and one of those belly dance coin things for the young lady.