I’m talking about Journals. (Diaries, Notebooks.)

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Wow.

It’s not like I’m old really – I’m only 52 – but I feel like I just found a whole new world online. And that’s kinda crazy on some levels because I am hardly a noob here. (Though perhaps the use of the word noob shows when much of my online experience was gained?) I know my way around this wild west pretty well and I’m rather phenomenal when it comes to finding shit on google. But… there’s a whole world that’s opened up in the realms of some of my biggest life interests, that wasn’t here last time I looked. (Which has been many many many years, admittedly.)

 

I’m talking about Journals. (Diaries, Notebooks.)

 

I’m a lifelong diarist. I have filled nearly 100 blank books. I have written about my inner and outer life, as I’ve lived it, for my entire life. I’m fascinated by the concept that some of us write about our lives, (be it consistently or sporadically,) while others would never dream of doing such a thing. None of that is new. There have been diarists and journal keepers since the dawn of writing instruments. I’m just one in an unending line of life writers.

 

At times in my life when I’ve felt lost I often find my way to journals. Like finding, in Powell’s Bookstore in Portland Oregon while I was house sitting for some friends in the early 90s, an entire section of published journals and books on diary studies. (Side note – I use the words interchangeably and call my own book “Notebooks.” and I suspect someday I’ll write about my impressions of the words, but today isn’t that day.)

 

Or like in the early 2000s when I decided that Diaries and Journals were my main life passion and I revived a magazine called The Diarist’s Journal, and I met up with (and physically visited) those few people I found in the US with HUGE collections of published journals, and I participated in many an online forum dedicated to life writing, and I ran a book discussion group that read published journals from the likes of Fanny Burney, Jack Kerouac, Simone de Beauvoir, Carolina Maria de Jesus, Marie Bashkirtseff, Eric Hoffer, and Edward Robb Ellis, and I desperately wanted to start a Diary Archive like the one in France.

 

At the time I owned and operated a Gourmet Coffeehouse and these journal forays were a side project that cost me two tons of money – so much money, in fact, that I practically spent until I was nearly broke. (But again, that’s a different topic.) Soon, I had to let these dreams slide – it just wasn’t financially doable at the time.

 

What lead me, yesterday, to youtube videos about journals and journaling? It was my work on my notebooks from the 80s when I traveled around with The Grateful Dead and lived in my van, and the reality that I am going to publish some of those writings. (Again – a topic for a different post.)

 

But here’s this guy talking about how to make the best journal of yourself ever, and why journals are important. (The way he marvels over the difference between his new empty book and his recently filled one SO reminds me of me!) He happens to have a great presence and motivational bent that appeals to me on many levels – his role as coach for bettering oneself is something I do innately and have only started to make a career of – but I digress. There’s a lot of people sharing videos of what to write in your journal if you don’t know where to start. And people showing their many journals and telling what they use each for. And instructional videos about how to make an art journal, or a smash journal, or an omni journal, or a bullet journal, or…. or…. or….

 

Holy crap! So many people interested in journals! And me, here, thinking – none of these are like mine. My notebooks are dense blocks of text – year after year – just words piling up. Until I find this woman who says just that – “So many YouTube videos of journals but none are mostly text, like mine.” (And all her commenters who say “Me too!”)

 

I suspect one of these days I’m going to need to do a video about my many text filled books – and maybe even a video focusing on my Grateful Dead Tour books with their stickers and decoration.

 

And I’ve yet to start oogling over the videos I see where people are just (I think) going to share views of their collection of blank books –  but I’ve got them lined up for watching! I’m addicted to black books!…

 

Okay I’m babbling but it’s what I do – and isn’t that the best way to get in the habit of blogging? There will be more on this subject to come, I’ve no doubt, but I don’t want these posts to get too long…

PS – I may need to make back issues of The Diarist’s Journal available for sale again…

Tony and Tony

Tony Sirerol died today.
How often do we not see those that matter to us?

I knew Tony when I was 2. And 4. And 9. And 10.
Somewhere around, or just after that, we didn’t see the Sirerols anymore.

He was my Dad’s best friend. Tony and Tony.

Tony and Tony 1960

That’s my Dad bent over shooting something. And Tony standing.

 

I remember their house. The stairs, the hallway, the kitchen.
I remember the back yard with the big swing – two love-seat-sized wooden slatted chairs with a table in between. And it would shush over the grass as it swung to and fro. The grass was so long. Luscious deep grass, soft as moss. Springy and cushy. I’ve never seen a lawn so thick since.
I remember laughter and dancing and sometimes, something that resembled Feats of Strength.

One daughter my age with hair so beautiful I always thought of it as doll hair, lush and thick like the lawn. She was the first girl I ever knew to have and actual boyfriend. I remember her showing me his picture in her bedroom. And one daughter older – and oh so much cooler for it. She’s glamourous in my memories, so pretty and sophisticated.

Lush and rich – I guess that’s how I think of life around the Sirerols. Things were fun then.

Truth is, I’ve suppressed so many memories of my younger times. Like a door shut around age 10 or 11. Like my actual childhood ended. Not that I recognized it then (or any moment before this one here.)

Awful realities that juxtaposed the jolly times came to a dramatic end one afternoon and I was glad for it. But I never paid attention to the fault lines. The crack that opened and separated before from after.

After. I started to grow up. Almost a teen. Middle School, then High School. I didn’t look back. I stood next to my Mom and moved forward.

Somewhere in my late 40s I acquired the awareness of how completely I’d let go of Tony, my dad. When he left I was glad to see him go. I visited him when I was 16 or 17 (I never thought I’d forget!) and he died while I was there. I didn’t stay for the funeral. Yes, there were extenuating circumstances. But the fact still stands there – stark and bright.

And I let that go too. Completely. It was merely the first in a very long line of California adventures.

It was when I got real about getting rid of the detritus of my life. The boxes packed away when I was a teen, when Mom died, every time I attempted to clean.

So many stories here, all intertwined. How I became a packrat. A story I may never understand.

Bits of Tony appeared, and they made me smile. And I began to think and wonder about him. I carry so much of Tony in my heart, mind and soul. And I’m grateful for it.

I have much to apologize for in the way I treated his reality and even his memory for so many years. Discarded like a once favored dress.

In an old phone book, in shaky script, I saw it one day. A name I’d vaguely wondered about a time or two. I remembered how to say it – and I’d even googled a time or two with no luck – but there. Sirerol. That’s how it’s spelled.

Hello facebook. Are you there?
You are! Well hello!!! Remember me?
Let’s get together.
And we did.

Tony and Anne! Margie and Mary!
I knew them so well! Tony’s lovely smile. Anne’s eyes. Familiar laughs. Mannerisms striking deep chords. And every story ripped tiny openings in thick veils.

And we should do this again. Yes we will. We certainly will. Someday there will be slides and photo albums and more laughter and stories.

And we actually let a few more years slip by? What the fuck is wrong with us?
A call to attend Tony’s 80th birthday. I went. Buffet Brunch and good cheer, but no alone time.

We should get together again. Yes we will. We certainly will. Someday there will be slides and photo albums and more laughter and stories.

Earlier this winter I got in touch and said – really yes, let’s make this happen. And We will. Very soon. And then the weather set in and I went into hibernation mode.

And this morning I got the text.
And it hurts.

The Pass of the Oaks

Almost exactly halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco on Highway 101 is Paso Robles. Separated from the Pacific ocean by the Santa Lucia mountain range (and about 30 minutes) Paso’s downtown lies at the southern end of the Salinas River Valley. To the east, rolling hills and horses make for a picture perfect Central California town.

Looking to find some idea of the history of this appealing town I see that it became famous in its earliest days for its Hot Springs. Early travelers on the Camino Real made this a popular trail stop. The town’s first two hotels – in 1864 and then the newer better resort in 1891 both featured the healing waters prominently. Strange that I saw no mention of that while I was there – but true, too, that I wasn’t there nearly long enough and I already can’t wait to go back. Specifically, the reason I went historical hunting is because of a factoid mentioned by my hosts while I was in town. They said Jesse James’ family had something to do with the land in the area. Turns out Jesse’s Uncle Drury bought some of the first land here owned by white folk and was instrumental in planning and planting the town center.

El Paso de Robles, with about 30,000 people, has the most lovely winter weather. I hear it’s blazing hot in the summer, but the climate, hot or not come August, sustains a great lot of worthy agriculture ranging from Almonds and other tree nuts, to Olives and Grapes. Ah Grapes!

There are somewhere in the neighborhood of 300 wineries in Paso! Three hundred! We went wine tasting and while picking five locations to visit, passed by countless others with tasting rooms ranging in size from massive to positively tiny.

Paso is famous mostly for red wines – the grapes quite like the hot dry days and the crisp cool nights. Some wineries we visited practiced “dry farming” which means the vines aren’t watered with anything more than what falls naturally from the sky. Impressive.

Alright, alright. Y’all have proved you don’t like wordy posts so I’ll shut up now.

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(There’s a Wine Fest in Paso in March – would people think I was crazy if I turned around and went back west for that?)

Newport, OR. Art Deco Beauty

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What I loved most about Newport Oregon is the architecture and the overwhelming look which suggests so highly the era of modernity that was the Art Deco Period. Art Deco came out of France and the design elements, according to Wikipedia, were “often characterized by rich colors, Bold geometric shapes, and lavish ornamentation.” It flourished in America during the late 20s and the 30s mostly but it carried somewhat into the 40s as well.

Maybe my love for the style came from my intro to Erté. And my appreciation of it certainly showed when I was in San Diego.

The coast of Oregon, especially Newport, embraced this style wholeheartedly. It shows in the bridges and public spaces.  IMG_8758

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With my love of the road it gladdens me to consider too how the build up of Newport coincided

so closely with the advent of road trips and automobile travel. It was all so modern and ready for the future!

“The Oregon Coast has a special history of art deco style due to the six major bridges built by Conde B. McCullough in the late 1930s.  These bridges did more than connect the coast highway and open the door to modern transportation, they left a unique artistic legacy on the coast.

As the new highway-oriented culture took root, the modern progressive design of the bridges influenced new construction nearby. When the the Yaquina Bay Bridge opened for traffic on Labor Day in 1936, it was the final link in the highway. The new automobile age reoriented Newport’s City Center business district and resulted in a distinct pocket of art deco style, one with its own unique history and culture.”

(From www.citycenternewport.com)

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The Inn at the Park – San Diego

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I fell in love with a tree in Balboa Park.

I want to write about the truly awesome hotel I stayed in while visiting Balboa Park. (I say visiting the Park, as opposed to visiting San Diego, because I barely saw anything of the city except the Park and this fabulous hotel.)

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2013

One of my dearest friends, who happens to be a gay guy, had told me I should aim for the Hillcrest neighborhood because it is artsy and cool. I didn’t much give any thought to his sexually oriented perspective, but this information landed me at what the concierge told me was the gayest hotel in “San Diego’s best gayborhood.” It was also a short walk to everything I wanted to see in Balboa Park. So I checked in.

From the outside it’s just a rather large brick building, looking like any old nondescript apartment building.

Apparently that’s a deserved look as the place started out in 1926 as a luxury hotel and apartment building called Park Manor Suites. It was designed by Frank P. Allen Jr. who was quite the impressive architect.

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From SanDiegoHistory.org – (heavily edited text follows)

“Frank P. Allen, Jr., came to San Diego in 1911 to work on the Panama-California Exposition and left an indelible imprint on the architecture and landscape of the city. By profession, he labored as an architect, contractor, and engineer, as well as a sensitive self-taught landscape designer. Born in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in 1881 to Frank P. and Mary Allen, Allen received early training in the architectural field under the tutelage of his father, a Michigan architect. In his early twenties, after a stint in the Spanish-American War, Allen and his father practiced architecture in Grand Rapids under the firm name of Frank P. Allen & Son.

 

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Frank P. Allen Jr.

Allen moved to Chicago in the early 1900s where he worked as a draftsman. He left Chicago in 1904 and headed west. He received a contract for the nine-story Perry Hotel in Portland, Oregon and completed it in unheard of time-two months and two days. He served as consulting engineer to Portland’s Lewis and Clark Exposition, held in 1905. His accomplishments in Portland led to his employment as the Director of Works for the Seattle exposition which opened in 1909. Seattle wanted “a man who could work fast and save.” Allen was given two and one half years to complete his portion of the work for the exposition. He finished it in one year and ten months. Allen was hired as the Director of Works in San Diego for the Panama-California Exposition in January 1911. His first order of business involved the topographical survey of the area which he felt needed to be completed. Allen found fault with the Olmsted recommendation of an exposition set along the Florida canyon site and proposed the actual site, “pointing out its advantages from a scenic point of view.” But exposition directors fought him, arguing “it would be impractical to build a bridge over the Cabrillo canyon, that the cost would be too great.” Allen demonstrated that his plans would be cost-effective, and in the end he won his battle. Allen “volunteered to shoulder the responsibility” for the exposition planting. He implemented an irrigation system for Balboa Park and devised a landscaping plan. The Cabrillo Bridge, built of reinforced concrete at a cost of $225,154, extended 916 feet across the canyon. With great ceremony, the bridge was dedicated April 12, 1914, and the first person to ride across it was Franklin D. Roosevelt, then Assistant Secretary of the Navy. Allen contributed his architectural, engineering, and horticultural expertise to a number of other Balboa Park and exposition designs.

Allen left San Diego in 1917 but returned two years later with thoughts of staying. He designed and built the Park Manor apartment building on the west side of Balboa Park at 6th and Spruce in 1925. Allen and his wife Mabel lived there until they divorced in 1931 and Allen moved to Los Angeles. He died an accidental death on July 5, 1943 at the age of 63.”

I’m unsure when the name changed to Inn at the Park but that’s rather irrelevant, yes? The canopy over the front door still reads Park Manor Suites, so I suspect it wasn’t that long ago.

IMG_2483The room I had was HUGE. I’m told each and every IMG_2472room is different.  Mine had a large purple bathroom with a circular inlaid marble design on the floor. It also had a small but complete cooking area attached to a dining room with a stylish retro kitchen table. Opposite the massive and comfortable bed (with quality linens) was a large comfortable couch and an equally large glass deco coffee table. The closet was as big as the bathroom and both closet and bathroom had french doors stenciled with black and purple designs on the door’s inner panels. The whole color scheme was grey, purple, white and IMG_2477black. The art brought in splashes of yellow. It really was a joy to behold.

That said, when I first arrived I was conflicted and experiencing a love-hate relationship with the hotel. The only elevator was old enough that I would believe it if you told me it was original to the hotel. The hallways were kind of musty and smelled like a grandmother’s house. The Piano Bar downstairs was dark in a grungy way as opposed to dark in a pleasing way. I didn’t want to eat downstairs as it looked like only the most awful tasting food could possibly come from such a room. I do not know if that impression was correct. I never ate in that bar/restaurant. Instead I ventured out into the surrounding blocks for my IMG_2479nighttime eating. That first night I went to sleep considering that I might leave in the morning.

IMG_2465In the morning however, I was introduced to the true gem of this hotel. The roof top restaurant. It’s only open for breakfast and lunch as far as food goes, but it becomes a bar on Friday nights – but more on that in a moment. The views of the city and the park in the brilliant sunshine, and the planes landing at San Diego airport, skimming by so close you could practically reach out and touch them were truly glorious things to experience with my morning coffee.

IMG_2436So – coffee on the roof and the days spent walking through the park convinced me to stay.

My second day there was Friday. When I returned from the park my concierge friend told me there was a Friday happy hour on the roof. He totally warned me it was mostly gay men who attend. Mostly! Ha! If there was 3% women there I’d be surprised. And if more than .02% of them were straight I’d be even more surprised.

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I met interesting men and their husbands. I met bankers and lawyers and broken hearts. And they were all in the 40-60 age range it seemed, so I appreciated that. Admittedly, this party was a big part of what makes me say that my stay in San Diego was great! Big hellos and shout outs to Dave and (separately) Angelo who were my two favorite people that I met that night.

But here’s the thing about the Inn at the Park and its Friday night Happy Hour on the Roof – it’s ending. This month. January 31st will be the last of these top of the city parties. The men I met were melancholy about this fact, as could be expected. This party’s been going on for over 20 years, some said 25 years. What’s causing this tragic winding down of an iconic neighborhood weekly party? It’s the fact that The Inn at the Park has been sold to Wyndham properties and they will be turning the hotel into a time share property. And the roof? That will be converted into a fitness room, a sales center and an owner’s lounge. Some men were admittedly angry that their beloved Friday scene could be so heartlessly ripped from them; angry that a corporation could just swoop into their neighborhood and dismantled what they consider an institution.

I have to admit it made me kind of sad too. This really was a splendid evening. It was a long-standing happening, important to the self perception of an entire generation of gay men in the area. I got a little drunk and I felt special to have gotten here to experience this fabulous tradition, this hotel, this roof top, these men, before the end. I didn’t even know the end was coming, but I managed to get here to see it in all its glory before it fades into memory. Mine. Theirs. And San Diego’s.

Ah San Diego.

I’m not going to make this blog post much longer or I’ll never get it posted, and I’d like to end on a more upbeat note so let me give a shout out to some of the awesome things I enjoyed in Balboa Park.

I loved the Spanish Village Art Center.

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And the Botanical Building Designed with a lot of input by our esteemed architect Frank P. Allen Jr.

 

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The Botanical Building 1920s

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The Botanical Building 2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And the special exhibit at the Museum of Man – The Instruments of Torture.

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Oh and the Timkin Art Museum – small but very worthy.

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Maybe next visit I’ll actually check out San Diego….

 

 

Dallas – It’s Where They Shoot Presidents.

I really did like Dallas.
Everything in my history, everything in my DNA told me I would not. could not, should not like Dallas. But I did.
When I said the above to a friend, expressing that I wasn’t sure where my preconceived notions came from, he said “It’s because they shoot presidents in Dallas.”
Maybe that’s part of it.IMG_5386
When I first arrived in Dallas I stayed with a friend I met online 5 or 6 years ago while playing poker. He lives in a fabulous apartment in downtown Dallas with a balcony to dream about and spectacular views of some of Dallas’ most iconic buildings. He had to go to work for a few hours and I had no clue what I wanted to see or do in Dallas. Since it wasn’t too far from his apartment, or his office, he suggested the Sixth Floor Museum.

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He told me what it was. But I still wasn’t prepared.
The Sixth Floor Museum is located in the Texas Book Depository, from where it is said Oswald shot Kennedy. From the sixth floor, (obviously.)
Props to the curators. The museum is tasteful, or at least as much as such a commemorative museum can be.

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We explore just a bit of Kennedy’s life and not only what brought him to politics, but what he brought to the political scene. We consider some of the decisions he made that didn’t please every American. We’re told enough about the local political scene in Dallas to understand some of the prevailing tensions of the moment. We see interviews with local police and with Secret Service as they express their concerns about this visit. Not enough concerns to curtail his Texas five city tour but enough to have been mentioned.
The hopefulness of the country and of the young presidential couple is viscerally implanted in museum goers. At least it was well implanted in me. So even though I know how this story ends, I still held my breath as I journeyed the hallway with minute by minute pictures of the crawl of the motorcade down Houston street, turning onto Elm.
And then, here we are. At the corner window on the 6th floor. Looking at onto the street from the same vantage point Oswald supposedly had when he supposedly shot the 35th President of the United States of America.
I felt like I’d been punched in the stomach.
As I write this I, once again, immerse myself in the realities of what went on in Dealey Plaza. And it feels kind of ickky.
I say ‘supposedly’ above, because, like much of America, I’m not sure I can buy into the idea that the shots came from that 6th floor window. Standing there. Intuitively. It makes more sense. It FEELS more like the shots came from the grassy knoll. But what do I know? I wasn’t even born yet. So lets just keep my intuitions out of this missive. It does none of us any good at all for me to have an opinion on this matter.
Jackie’s actions and her poise intrigue me.
It’s no secret that the woman had class. And style. But it seems she also had a good solid grip on reality and the brutality and messiness that life contains.
Jackie wore a now infamous pink wool suit that day. It got spattered with blood and brains, yet she refused to change her clothes.
At the hospital she was urged to wash her face, her hands, her legs, and change her clothes.
No.
“Let them see what they have done.”
She also refused to leave JFK’s body. The only time she left his side was for a brief moment on Air Force One to stand beside LBJ, in her gory pink suit, as he was sworn in as President.
Only once she was back at the White House, only after she’d given instruction for his memorial (to be done much like Lincoln’s was done nearly a century earlier), did she finally leave his side and go change her clothes.
The suit is locked away in the National Archives in Maryland and won’t be available for public viewing until 2103.

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To be cliche about it all, there’s something that’s hard to look away from. Its like a train wreck. Craning one’s neck to see ever more twisted bodies.

The Grassy Knoll

I went back a few days later. Not to the Book Depository, but to Dealey Plaza itself. I walked around, took pictures, read all the plaques, and contemplated the need of us all to see those Xs painted onto the middle of the street, representing the deadly shots.

Fucking Harsh America. Fucking Harsh.

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(As my poker-playing lawyer friend said, this happening forever hovers in the psyche of Dallas. But still, I didn’t hate the place.)