Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Ever Changing Moon

Opera and other Extravagant Treats

Paul Harmon whom we all know to be a generous friend (and to many of us a sometimes employer) went overboard on the last Sunday in November, treating me to the opera.

A box seat to see Verdi's Otello, conducted by our lively new young Italian conductor, Nicola Luisotti, with Johan Botha as Otello,

Zvetelna Vassileva as Desdemona, and Marco Vratogna as Iago.

Then dinner at Zuni Cafe.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Protesting the Unmanned Drone Bombers

Glad that my friend Martha and her Code Pink sisters demonstrated at Creech against the unmanned drone bombers that are killing so many civilians in Afghanistant (leading more angry young men to join the Taliban). It was bad enough when pilots felt the tiny figures they bombed were not human -- now there is not even a human on board to have or deny a human reaction. The Michael Moore website picked up on the demonstration:

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

"Barbara Lee Speaks for Me"

CLICK ON HEADING ABOVE TO VIEW A SLIDE SHOW OF BARBARA LEE, the ONLY member of the U.S. House of Representatives, who voted against giving Bush the blank check of power that led to the horrors of the war in Iraq. She has proposed a bill to block further support of the war in Afghanistan, and spoke here in front of the Oakland City Hall on 23 November 2009, preceded by someone whose name I missed; then Tom Haydn; then Danny Glover, who introduced Representative Lee. There are more photos of Danny Glover as his native acting ability lead to many gestures.

Oakland Museum Construction Wall

Oakland Museum, undergoing some reconstruction, has this colorful construction wall:

Friends With Great New Websites, or New News

Added to my accompanying list of blogs/websites,
Be sure to check out the beauty of the work of Gail Horvath at

Already in that list, but check Louise Nayer's website again to get news of Louise's book, BURNED, that will be published in April. Let her know if you have ideas on where and how to promote her intense and important book. Read more about it on her website which has a link to her blog.

While I have a link for him, when Fred Goldsmith has finished his new website, with his unique photographic vision, that will be added to my accompanying list of blogs.

Saturday, November 14, 2009


When I lived on Rhode Island Street in San Francisco, I ended up with two cats. The black Burmese whined constantly, which was very annoying, and yet when she died I was more distressed by her death than by the death of my other cat Cirrus. Here is that annoying Sweet Pea Hecate Isis Marie, peeking in.

Cirrus Psylocybin, when I brought out the camera, always began to strike poses, like a Vogue model, and in this case knew that she would reveal how brilliant she was by sitting on the Collected Verses of Wallace Stevens.

Responding to a False News Bulletin in San Francisco
on Saturday Night, October 18, 1980

A cloud of radiation is floating over from China tonight.
The Wise Virgins’ Suite I am playing may be my last tape.
Skipping the fact that tomorrow night I may be puking out
my intestines like a string of sausages, I carry on. Give us
this day our daily death. A stack of quarters rests on zebra’d
wood: the coins belong to empire, but I sanded and stained
and polished the wood on that table and brought out the grain.

My cats purr. Recorded strings reanimate the row of human
arms that sawed them once so gently, while recording.
The cloud of radiation from China – Will it arrive in the shape
of a dragon? A cat rumbles at my shoulder. The one at my side
leaps away, chasing nothing, it seems – no mouse. A moth!
She leaps in the air, a flight of my black cat Sweet Pea Hecate
Isis Marie – or, for daily communication, simply Sweet Pea.
She’s at my foot, enticing me to drag my toe along her spine.

Will I be scratching the cat’s back when the heavens scour
us out? Sweet Pea chases out Cirrus, the cat at my ear:
replaces her mother behind my head, eager to be a pillow
for the dead. Dead cat. Dead cat. Dead killer. Sitting in
my electric chair, will I have crazy cats in my hair? a fur
fire cap? my brains a blaze? A terrible unknowing comes
toward us, cats. It is forgetting us hour by hour, and nothing
of us will be here in the dawn – so let’s trail away
and along the wind – smoke-cats, man-moth blasted.
James McColley Eilers, copyright 2009

MORE THINGS UNEARTHED FROM STORAGE. For its significance, you must know that it is from a period when the San Francisco State Strike of 1968-69 had come to an end. Many were uneasy about ending the strike and returning to work, fearful that Strike demands would not be met. Following the poster is a verse I wrote at the time:

At that time, Beverly Dahlen included this in our AFT #1928 newsletter:

In 1969, Ending the San Francisco State Strike

Anger, tears, and resentment fill the hot, smoky room

where the teachers deliberate: Shall we end the Strike?

In the distance the firecrackers of the Chinese New Year:

a snorting sound. I dream of a great blue dragon

twisting through the empty streets, tearing aside the veils

of rain. It approaches this room, hot with betrayal,

thick with regret, “Whatever may influence our decision – “

With the possibility of violence ever present – Boom!

a firecracker lands outside. Tension breaks into laughter.

Like a room full of frantic mice our Magic Markers

dance and squeak as Local 1928 rectifies its picket

signs, and races back to the picket line. The teachers

return to abandoned classrooms, ponder the future

in deserted offices, and repeat their rosary of intangibles.

Those still out walking the line hope to free themselves

from their elders’ dreaming. Roger Alvarado says that

enough bites from enough fleas can make the dog get up

and move. If now we too must return, break momentum,

we tell ourselves, it is but to loose our frightful mice

on the haunted rooms where ghosts are lecturing ghosts,

and hope we will not become ghosts ourselves: We are

determined to be forever biting the Dog of State.

[Printed, AFT Local 1928 Weekly News, Vol. I, No. 5, Mar. 7, 1969]

Another rediscovery -- the poetry reading at Glide Memorial with an amazing collection of poets, to raise funds for the strike:

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


How do you explain to anyone the experience of shipwreck – call it great exaggeration to use that metaphor for the effect of a fire in my old apartment building in an apartment above and one apartment over, leading to smoke and water damage (water sloshing the deck on the sinking ship) that forced me to move. You think first of survival. Find something to cling to and stay afloat.

The surviving parts of my cabin are transferred piece by piece. I am a strong bird constructing a nest from the detritus of my previous nest. In a few weeks my cabin looks much the same as my cabin in the ship that sank. I recreate the illusion of stability that I had before, but now it feels like a preparation for an Egyptian tomb. Death is imminent now, and I have gathered all I will need in my afterlife.

But this is my afterlife, the life after I, whose sole and most urgent longing all my life has been to have a stable habitude where my inner life might thrive, may briefly be free of the constant fear of merely floating on an ever melting ice floe, waiting to be forced into the next dislocation.

The cabin looks a great deal as it looked in the old ship, but inwardly the shipwreck lives on – the broken beams and floorboards, and the sinking into the cold ocean waters. And you know it is just a matter of time, too short a time, when you will be forced to move on, not even into death, just another laborious, mundane Judgement Day, an0ther grim reckoning, while comedians make jokes about how old people “seem to move into smaller and smaller spaces.” We who are growing older are not supposed to mention what it is like.

I feel like the man in Galway Kinnell’s verse “The Man on the Hotel Room Bed”:

“a man lying alone to avoid being abandoned,
who wants to die to escape the meeting with death.”

Meanwhile my numb self looks whole, polished to smoothness like a stone on the shore (that wishes to be that stone that skips merrily on the surface of moving water), and that is better than for anyone to see that inside you are all sticks thrusting out in all directions and wires impossibly entangled. After this time while you still lack the strength for the distraction of the common everyday lies, you will find the old awareness-deadening routine? Or be a changed man?

Of course, I can only write this because I have finally stepped out of packing, moving, unpacking, arranging, and played the idle man, spending an hour in a coffee shop – in my old neighborhood.

I told friends how, during the transition, I awoke one night to find the hose of my apnea C-PAC machine wrapped twice around my neck –

In that twisted time of the move, sleeping first on a mattress on a floor, then, amid debris, in my old bed, I awoke in the middle of the night and wrote,

“The lonely animal awakened again, having slept only briefly, and, using one hand as a grip, slide it down the length of his other arm as if removing an invisible sleeve. He froze there for a moment, his long thin arms hanging away from his bed like the two crossed legs of a sleeping deer.

“What vigil must his body make each night, waking to know-not-what. Wander out of bed – bathroom, kitchen – nothing needed there, but he takes a drink of cold water.

“Soon sleep will cushion him again, take him back into its arms, an invitation to return to some dark place in the foliage, nest of the soul.”

It reminded me of another time when I felt displaced and became a sleepwalker. At about age 8, after returning to my family from the year when they left me with an Italian family, the first clue that I was having a nervous breakdown was when an aunt discovered that I was a sleepwalker. Was I looking for a way to return to my Italian family? They, of course, could not accept my living with them forever while that was precisely what I was looking for, trying to find my way back to the Marantos, although there, too, I would feel displaced, on loan, borrowed. Am I always longing for “the place” (I know I am, but I never know for sure what that is), and never finding it? Is that true for everyone? Does everyone have a sense that anyone’s life is an exile? Maybe this newly reconstructed nest will become, albeit briefly, my “place.”

It feels important to find my “present life” again, but, with this move, even more than previous ones, I am looking through every storage box – This will be a slow process -- and each box releases some number of ghosts, dragging me back into the past to reconcile why I have kept these mementos, like old bones. A couple packets of letters – not many, but saved, clearly, because they were the most intense and meaningful. On my blog, I may have a series of “REDISCOVERIES.”


I hope I can find (and trust) some historical archive – the Gay Lesbian Historical Society, or the Gay section of the San Francisco Library?) – that would esteem and want to preserve this collage: It is from the first ever showing of the AIDS quilt – at the Moscone Center.

Click on this if you want to see it closer:

I think the photos are arranged well, but, most important, the sad child gives the human touch to the collage. One of the quilts is for someone I knew, Morgan Pinney, who was a one-man Gay Liberation before there was a Gay Liberation. He was a professor at San Francisco State who early on addressed State-wide teachers conferences with the announcement that he was gay. He was also the man who doled out union funds for those who were involved in the San Francsco State Strike of 1969. As with so many gay people, his family’s rejection of him for being a gay man had an embittering effect, but did not keep him from fighting for equal rights. His executor, James Hicks, if he reads this, might want to add more information, but one great irony is that James knew that Morgan would want to respond to gays in Moscow who needed a Xerox machine for their leaflets – at a time when the Russians overturned the old system, and that Xerox machine helped them to spread the word of their new revolution.

I will have to send the Robert Helps Archives at the University of Southern Florida in Tampa a letter that Bob sent when he was granted a residency at the MacDowell Colony so that he could concentrate on composing, away from performing as a concert pianist or teaching half-years at the Boston Conservatory of Music and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.

Click on the image of the letter if you want to read it: