November, 2008 Archive

“The Culture of Sustainability”

Saturday, November 29th, 2008

I’ve taken on a real project: to organize a panel for Focus the Nation II on this topic, getting together some people from the College of Liberal Arts to contribute to the effort that’s moving forward elsewhere in the University.  I’m committed to make my own presentation–a definition of what this grandiose term means, a survey of what the Humanities have to offer.

I’ve started gathering ideas and assembling links from the AASHE website, but I’m having trouble continuing, even though I woke up at 4 AM with the need to get going.  How to stay on track, keep up the momentum, when first the economic crisis, and as of two days ago, the mayhem in India suddenly intrude?  I’d thought the election would get us back on track, but now the right of way seems to have been blown up.

I’ll take a walk in the dark.


Went up Buena Vista and then cut over past the water tank to a game trail on the east end of Poly Mountain. Huffed to the top as as day dawned, less breathless than expected.  Light and vegetation both unexciting. But as I looked for a trail to descend through the two year old burn, I saw movement in the brown grass.  A coyote loping silently on one path, and then another following and then doubling back, accelerating to a soft silent gallop.


Then between them a good sized doe bouncing up from the chapparal to the grassland directly below me.  For a short while I could see all three animals from above: the dance of predation.  Then the second coyote was lost in the oak woodland, and soon after the deer headed off in the same direction and disappeared into chapparal to my left, and the first animal that had come into view took off toward the west. IMG_5995.JPG

I took many pictures, but without the telephoto knew that they wouldnt show much. You can see the coyotes only in the larger versions found by clicking on these.

As I came back down the game trail, the clay neither hard dry nor sticky wet, just moist enough to be springy, the sun topped East Cuesta Ridge.


Postcard from Tucson

Tuesday, November 25th, 2008

I’m sitting in Reddy (our red Prius, which says “READY” on the control panel before you can start moving) in Steve Caldwell’s driveway, waiting for Ellen to complete the three hour bowel protocol she performs on him three mornings a week.

I’ve just spent two hours in the Starbucks around the corner drinking coffee, using their wireless to read the news, answer email from Nepal, Canada, Lund, San Luis Obispo and L.A., and upload a set of pictures of the hike with Ian’s school I led through the “Grand Canyon of San Luis Creek” just before leaving on this adventure.

My glimpse of him lying on the bed on his side naked below the waist reading a paperback while she carried a basin of foamy liquid with an unmistakeable whiff  toward the bathroom was all it took to make me say, “I’ll wait outside and let you finish your business.”  I don’t mind undressing under a towel at the beach or changing the baby’s diapers, but Steve has repeatedly exposed my true squeamishness.  His written descriptions of the miracle of sex and masturbation he experienced as a quadiplegic in his unpublished books pushed my head aside, and even though we’ve corresponded at length about the books, this is a theme I try to avoid.  He asked me to proofread his forthcoming review of “Private Dicks,” an HBO documentary about men talking about their sexuality.  It’s a terrific piece of writing, but I have trouble uttering its apt title, “Speaking of my Penis.”  This, despite the fact that the topic has been no less primary a concern in my life than in his, or than in the lives of the film’s many subjects.


Obama in Nepal

Saturday, November 22nd, 2008

Jan & Steven:

Congratulations on helping create an amazing shift in US politics. This may be the most optimistic time since John Kennedy was elected.

The Nepali woman in the picture runs a “tea house” which is a hostel with a primitive restaurent in a very isolated location along the trail to Everest. There is no road or even a village there. Her husband is a sherpa who climbed to the top of Everest a few times.

Notice her button. They had a party when Obama won. …


A Letter from Washington

Friday, November 7th, 2008

This message arrived the day after the election.


Each of us has had their own window on the events of the past 24 hours, and their own story to tell. I want to take a moment to share with you what things look like through my window right now.

As the west coast results came rolling in at 10:00 pm last night,Susanna and I were riding with some friends through the geographic center of DC’s African American culture, and the epicenter of the riots that ensued here after Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968, and the area in which we live. We knew the election had been decided when, as we dismounted our bikes, strangers ran up and hugged us. People poured out onto the streets chanting and singing and crying and dancing. As we approached the street corner, the rhythm found us. The sound of twenty drummers on djembes, bongos, snares, symbols, shakers. The sight of a growing mass of hundreds, then thousands, in a frenzy of hugs, tears, jumping, dancing, and chanting. People hailed the crowd from the tops of lamp poles,  tall trees, bus shelters. We were enveloped in a smiling sea of white, black, brown, red, yellow, young, old. A few elderly black men and women – those who had grown upforbidden to share a water fountain or attend the same school as their white peers – stood on the sidelines, just shaking their heads slowly, repeating the words “I don’t believe it. I don’t believe it.”

Understand that racial divides have remained strongly palpable here even in the absence of overt violence. This city is a prime example, and while there are many important exceptions, my experience here has been largely one of segregation – geographically, economically, culturally and socially. This majority African American city, for example, has one of the most abysmal education systems in the country and an HIV infection rate that is 10 times the national average and largely concentrated in the black community – a fact attributable in various ways to socio-economic conditions. This country has simply not dealt with its racial wounds, yet seems somehow shocked when then bleed and get infected. Here the relationships between blacks, whites and latinos is not a mosaic, not a melting pot, but mostly a guarded tolerance that is heavy on the streets. Lets just say that bear-hugs from random six-foot-six black men aren’t something I have come to expect. (more…)