Monday, June 29, 2009

Found and Lost

Martin died on Sunday June 28th around 2:30 pm eastern time. It's amazing to consider that we had just found him on Facebook only a month ago. On May 28th I received this note in response to our request to add him as a friend:

Not only am I THE Martin from Fords, I am the guy who will always love you guys!
Been looking for you all for-ever... Go to for more info.
Far-fucking-out, man!

Roger and I were speeding up highway 101 after leaving my mom's in Orange County. We had just pulled into the rest area at Gaviota, north of Santa Barbara when we got the call from my brother telling us that Martin was gone. We had been expecting it. The hospital had sent him home with hospice care on Thursday. The very good people of hospice helped relieve his anxiety and stress and kept him at ease while he made his final exit.

I cried for many miles while driving up the highway. That stretch of 101 is so beautiful and perfect for reflecting on life and death. The hills are golden and reach all the way to the sky and roll on to forever. There is more space and distance there without buildings or structures than almost any other place I know. There's just the crazy highway that splits the earth for us so we can hurl by at 70 mph (the posted speed limit!).

We found and lost Martin in 31 days. He was our poet painter poignant partner in life. My twin brother befriended him when we were all still in elementary school, back in 1963. Martin surprised us with his art, his passionate profundities, his professed peculiarities. We all fell in love with him, not romantically, but familiarly and it stuck for all these decades.
So, when we found him last month and learned that he was in a hospital in Tampa, Florida receiving a fourth round of chemo for acute myeloid leukemia, we sent him a little computer with a built-in camera and skype, so we could reconnect and take a good long lasting look at each other. Maybe we thought our love could save him. It's what we secretly and openly wished and almost believed. Maybe we wonder if he hung on to life long enough just so we could see each other again and say our hellos and good byes. Maybe we're just shocked and relieved that we had this wild chance to confirm what we all knew was true: We dearly, dearly loved each other.

I borrowed Martin's beautiful paintings from his website. They are "Adam and Eve", "Touch", and "You'll Get Used to It." The photo is also borrowed from the internet. It shows the land around Gaviota rest stop on Highway 101 in Santa Barbara County.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Wordless Wednesday: Imagining Bones

if the light is right
and your wings are spread just so
I imagine bones

Monday, June 22, 2009

Just Because

We're tired of our sadness. We look at the yellow of the hooded oriole and rejoice in such bright splendor. There are things that still make us glad.

Other news from back east, our friend Martin has taken a very serious turn for the worse. I'm afraid to answer the phone. There are words we don't want to hear.

Perhaps a song sparrow will lighten our mood. Why yes, yes she does.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Our Friend Ian...

...died Friday evening, June 19th. I googled his name just a little while ago because I remembered that he was a DJ in San Francisco, and I wanted to see what he had been up to before he took this detour. This is what I found:

...during my time here I was diagnosed with stage 3 or 4 metastatic melanoma, which has spread from my brain to my lungs to my liver to my chest wall. However I am receiving chemotherapy consisting of Tamaxacil & Chlorovax & Marinol, which should allow my body to gain the upper hand on this disease. The bottom line is that I'm just too stubborn to quit on life & see myself as having far too much of a future to call it quits just yet, Besides my little sister was given a 20% chance of making it to her 18th birthday, she's just about to celebrate her 27th birthday. So I'm not much of a believer in doctor given worst case scenarios... So if you've booked me or plan on booking me for events this spring/summer go right ahead I'll be there, so long as it doesn't conflict with other plans I'm making for this summer. Speaking of which I'm planning a road trip down deep into Mexico & a flight to Amsterdam. But the the dates of those depend on how well my recovery goes. Which I plan on starting in the next couple days, Then it will be a couple weeks of recovering at my parent's place before my next chemo treatment then a couple weeks at my apartment in the Mission...

You have no idea how much we wish he'd had time to make that road trip deep into Mexico. He would have loved it.

Here's what we know: Ian showed us what it's like to exit this stage without a hint of fear, anxiety or pain. He said, "I'm tired. I want to go to sleep now." And that is just what he did.

So good night to our dear friend Ian.


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

There Really Are No Words

We took a 7" rich dark chocolate cake down to Carmel Valley Tuesday for our young friend Ian who loves chocolate cake. We had the bakery write on it
For Ian
Mmmmmm Chocolate
But Ian didn't wake up when we arrived. He was sprawled out on the hospital bed in his childhood bedroom, deep deep deep into the journey he is taking, away from us. We sat at the dining room table with his mother and sister and talked for an hour or so. We didn't really talk specifically about Ian, although he was the undercurrent of everything we said. Then, shortly before we left, we talked about death. It's the conversation that none of us wants to have. We've all been born and we're all going to die, but we have amazingly figured out how never to mention it.
Ian is not doing well at all.

He is 34 years old and he has stage 4 melanoma.

In the past six months he has yielded much of himself to it.

Before we went to the house we stopped at Moss Landing to photograph otters and sea lions, white pelicans and harbor seals. The cake was in the cooler, while we walked along the jetties. We wanted to remind ourselves of everything else before we went and looked death in the face.

Ian will be roused from his slumber and hopefully be delighted by the deep rich chocolate that he loves. There will be no more recrimination for such appetites. He will be lovingly feted and sated. But at our table, we will remember that everywhere, everywhere lives are beginning and lives are ending. We do everything to hide it, but it is always and nonetheless true.

An explanation of the above photo: I photographed a photo of young Ian that hangs in the living room of the family home. His mother took that photo as a last shot on a roll of film. It was taken during a power outage using 1000 ASA film. The other photo Roger took of Ian while I was standing next to him with my hands on his shoulders. Both photos were taken two weeks ago today. I photoshopped them together.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Another Glimpse of a Whale

Nothing makes a splash like a whale coming down into the water after breaching. The displaced water can be seen from miles and miles away. The size of that splash always catches my eye. This whale was quite far out, at least as far as the one we saw last Sunday. Not even close enough to see without binoculars, but enough for the camera zoomed in at 18x digital to catch its tail. (You'll have to click to see it.)
The hills and valleys in the background are where Roger and I have been looking to buy land. You can see that it's still pretty and green back there. It won't be in another few weeks. By then it will have become those proverbial golden, rolling hills of California.
For us there's just something about good farm land and whales that makes the right combination. We've added humpbacks and grays to our talismanic desires, like bobcats and coyotes that have become necessary elements of a good life. We hold on to these glimpses as a precious balance to the riotous whacked-out insanity of a world that clobbers us senseless almost everyday. We need this for that.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

This Is Just A Test

I just wanted to see how this photo looked on the blog compared to how it looked on Facebook. I'll let you know.

Update: It doesn't look like the original, but it looks way more like it than the washed out version on Facebook.

This was just a test. We'll get back to regular programming on Monday. Imagine a test pattern here until then.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Monday, June 08, 2009

We Are Everywhere

There's nowhere we are not.

(Click on the sailboat photo to see who is sharing the sea)

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

The Story of Finding Someone w/Update

A few weeks ago my older brother found some old photos. His partner scanned them and emailed them to the family. It was an interesting set of four photos, truly a snapshot of a very particular time, but there were two that really set my heart beating: one of my father when he was the age I am now; and, one of my siblings, some old friends, and me after a little hike in a southern California canyon.
Some of you have already seen this photo. I posted it on Facebook a couple of days ago. Here's what you didn't know, it's photoshopped. I took out the friends through cropping and cloning, and concentrated my attention on just on my siblings and me. Here is what it really looked like.

This pre-photoshopped image is the one that stirred us. The two women on the right were new friends we had made after our family had moved to California in 1970. It's the bearded guy on the far left, though, who tugged at our hearts. Our best high school buddy, Martin, who we had lost touch with more than three decades ago. Martin, our poetic painter brother. It was so good to see his face after all these years. Way back in 1971, he had driven across country with my twin brother Michael in the volkswagen van they named Oddfellow. He came and lived with my family in southern California for the winter. In spring of 1972, Michael, Martin, the girl in the gold shirt, and I drove up to Oregon and rented a 14 acre farm about 20 miles south of Portland. We were naive, sweet hippie dreamers planting our first garden, baking our first loaves of homemade bread. Our little house was always filled with music and dogs. We lived our vegetarian lives imagining ourselves in perfect harmony with the universe. Even if we didn't believe in heaven, it was heaven on earth for us.

Who can remember how things happen? I fell in love with someone and moved out to live with him. Michael and the girl in the gold shirt split up. Martin went back east. Our lives shifted. It was tectonic. We lost track of everyone. Life ensued. Marriages, jobs, university re-entry, divorces, and marriages and jobs again. Our high school days were more than years behind us, they were light years and galaxies away.

But somehow this photo brought it all back.

So, a few little keystrokes in the friend finder on Facebook and there comes a face that I don't even recognize as Martin. Michael says, "Oh definitely, that's Martin. Let's write him a message." And so I do. We're giddy. We can hardly wait. A few days go by. Nothing. No response. Then, it arrives. The note that confirms everything: the love, the memory, the warmth. We found Martin.

He sent us a link to his website. We took a look around and really appreciated seeing his artistry once again. This is the artwork of a man, not the teenager we knew all those years ago. He's quite an accomplished figure painter. His work takes our breath away. After being sidetracked by all of that, we stumble on these words on the site:

For updates on Martin's condition
and information on Acute Myeloid Leukemia...


Martin is in a hospital with chemo-resistant AML. He's awaiting a bone marrow transplant. Both Michael and I have called him and talked, really talked. So, now after all these years, we wait for news and updates from his partner. Today, if all goes as planned, he'll be receiving a little laptop that my family sent for his wi-fi hospital room. It has a great webcam and a built-in link to Skype. We're hoping for a glimpse of his face in real time and an opportunity to commune once again with a very well-loved old friend. We can't wait to say hello.

UPDATE: We said hello hello hello. Tears and joy. He said, this connection is good medicine. Yes, we think so too. Oh if love can truly heal, it surely will. This is Martin with his lovely partner, Jeania skyping with us from the hospital.

Monday, June 01, 2009

On(going) Static

We have static on our phone line. So, our dsl has crapped out on us. I waited home last Tuesday for twelve hours, and ATT did not show. They can't even give us a more reasonable time frame, say morning, afternoon or evening. Nope. Somehow it is impossible for them to look at their schedule and determine if our name is first or last or somewhere in between, and make a rough estimation. That's simply too difficult a task in our 21st century lives. So, I'm posting this from a unsecured wifi connection that belongs to one of our neighbors. Hey, neighbor, thanks much.

Right now we miss the woods. This beautiful Caspian Tern lifts our spirit, but only so much. In the background not much beyond the splendid curve of those magnificent wings is a tourist town that leaves us full of longing for the things that shell necklaces and tee-shirts simply cannot fulfill. Sigh.

Supposedly on Monday between 8:00 AM and 8:00 PM the ATT wizards will come and do their magic. Do we believe that they will show? What do you think?

UPDATE: They came at 10:30 and fixed it! The problem was a bad wire that was their responsibility to repair. Woohoo. We can use our telephone and have our DSL back. Oh folks, let me tell you it's the little things in life. It's the little things.