On Tuesday, Jake’s art project combined writing and geography for a short movie featuring his still images of Chinatown. Per Jake’s direction, Michael strummed quiet blues and read Jake’s script which included a survey of the history and culture of Chinatown. Jake plowed his way through prime number process for math and cell theory for science. Lunch was big burritos at La Taqueria on Valencia. Jake asked, “Is this Mexicotown or something?!” He was fascinated by a roving preacher who pronounced bold indictments of modern-day life at the intersection of 17th and Mission, almost following him.
Later Tuesday night we joined the Goats for a casual show at the very Bohemian Café Bazzar in the Sunset district. Michael was nervous, but he performed standing up for the first time. From nervousness, I retreat into the steadiness of the beat on brushes or button-tipped fingers, too focused to sing. So lovely to see the lovely Michelle Maine there, my bosom buddy since we roomed together in the Mission 25 years ago. Though out of touch on a day to day basis we manage to convene every year or two for a full-fledged meeting of minds and
On Wednesday we went to Jaden’s school for science fair. We were all amazed to see second graders speak mostly animatedly about their experiments using the scientific method. Alta Vista is an impressive new private school for little geniuses, reminds of Jake’s alma matter, Fireweed, but with more of a techno/science focus than the arts. Or, as Jake said, “Like Fireweed but with a lot of money.”
Jaden was adorable in a blue buttondown oxford shirt and black velvet bowtie explaining his experiment measuring the freezing time of different liquids. “What do you like most about the science fair?” I asked him.
“The talking part,” he said, “And my parts get moving and turning,” he said grinning impishly and waving his arms and legs like a robot, “and pretty soon I’m gone!”
He wheeled off into the crowd. I spoke with a little girl about her experiment, which studied how people analyzed language. From a list of words in four “not obvious” languages including Farsi, Korean she wanted to know which words people who did not speak these languages would attribute to certain objects. It was hard to imagine the idea and the execution of the project was truly the work of the child. There was at least an audience of one individual for every student. Parents filled the hallways, enthusiastic, but also troubled by the pressures placed on their youngsters to achieve. In a mandated atmosphere of integrated city public schools that perform poorly its seems quite difficult for families to find a sane middle ground between San Francisco’s diverse and elite polarities.
As Jake and Jaden played Legos, Usha, Rasa and I collaborated on black bean tacos for dinner. Rasa’s propane was down for the week since a leak had been detected, necessitating a complete rebuild of her gas plumbing. This led to a wonderful and cozy flow of cooking, washing and socializing throughout our stay, culminating in the “community” collaboration of Thanksgiving. Usha is Tara’s half-sister, which makes us something like step-sisters, but, as she aptly stated, “that doesn’t sound as nice as it really is between us, so we just say sisters.”
I never would have imagined that coloring this odyssey in a most vivid and poignant way is the opportunity to spend about two weeks with each of my sisters. And to think that Tara was with Molly for the whole time I was with Usha. The trip just unfolded that way. This has deepened the quality of the odyssey beyond measure for me. As it was hard to leave Arcata, I ached over leaving San Francisco last night. Looking around the table at Usha’s family in Rasa’s cozy and cabin-like living room, I savored the colors and smells. Proseco bubbles, honey candles, roast turkey and butternut squash, parsnips, carrots and leeks candied pink with beets. Michael’s beautiful appetizer plate of roasted mushrooms skewered with fresh mozzarella and basil, dripping with sundried tomato-infused oil. We all had such fun preparing this meal. I felt Jake’s absence. I knew he was delighting in Thanksgiving at Alyeska’s Pond restaurant with Kurt, Kim, Roddy and special guest, Adam Brinster from Homer, who will share the break skiing with Jake. But I still basked in Jake’s love of San Francisco, and how he has wheeled into our odyssey with courage and energy, embracing family and making new friends in a bolder way than ever before.
As we tooled down the road to San Jose last night for my early morning flight, I caught Michael’s itch to hit the road. He spoke of driving to LA to hang out and play music with Kevin, another “roaming Goat,” and then back to Marin to camp before picking up Jake on 11/28. If I were with him, I would have pulled him back to the Occidental area for more exploration, from Bodega Bay to Napa... but, perhaps its better to leave with possibility and curiosity still burning bright. Parked by his buddy, Brent’s bungalow, we slept like babies in the buggy. And parted rather babyishly this morning.