Gray’s walking his dog, Shirley. Fog smoothes out and from their path along Ashby making its way to College Avenue. They mean to meet Gray there.
He comes upon Jeremy’s Department Store. Looking into the glass wall, he sees ’92—Aunt Lucy had opened its doors to a seven-year-old him, wide-eyed and ready to claim the sequined green cardigan limp in the window display for his mother that week before Christmas. Now there were six wool sweaters on display before him—the boyfriend kinds, not meant for boys at all.
Down that side of the street the lamps grow dimly, fading out and giving in to the sun seeping through from above. Browning dead leaves crisp and flake under their feet, Shirley sniffing at the damp pavement. She excitedly nips at the stale pieces of nori scattered before the sushi bar.
This little hole-in-the-wall dingy space served as shelter for Gray and Babette the night of their first date. She was beaming with those pale lips, loose sandy braids and sharp amused brows, childish and timid as she took his hand over the plastic table at last. They toasted shots of Dr. Pepper to getting past their first year of college. He didn’t get to kiss her that evening. He was nineteen.
He could almost feel Josh come up behind him, passing the little soap shop adjacent to the shanty psychic reading. Gray was thinking that Josh’s scar must have gone away now, four years since the two of them found themselves darting away from the police station. This was a moment for Josh, punching his bare pale hand into that hard window of chamomile and milk lotions to alert the city of his probation. The blood streaming through the shards that fastened into his fist stuck in Gray’s mind. It was the day he stopped buying Swisher Sweets. Josh didn’t get the message.
Shirley pulls him under a tree. It’s a trifle weak-looking thing, about to give out and throw its arms onto that complex right there—the second story flat where Grace took up residence before. It was only one class they had together, that one party sophomore year which he was graciously invited to up there and where that studious black-haired Madonna became careless, sensual, and shouted full-heartedly to David Albarn’s voice—that one time he wished he’d stuck around after class for her.
There are trees, tall lamps, bricks and cracks and cold sidewalks with few dewy-clad Volvos slowing through. Gray keeps his eyes dead ahead onto the curve. Now the sun shines. Beneath the rays he thinks about the windows, how Aunt Lucy is dead. Josh barely writes from San Diego. Babette posts pictures on Facebook with her Berlin fiancée. God knows what Grace has done—in class she was always scribbling scenes of whales and boats still in the waters onto her notebook backs. It seemed like her place. Gray could amuse at that.
They had all gone away and out of here. Only memories on display at the queer shops that hung about. Gray crosses the street—and to the other side, he is happily still there.
taken October 6, 2010 at Popscene at their old venue at 330 Ritch Street.
it's my favorite club ever in San Francisco. not too sketch, just an older hipster crowd. love the music, just the perfect remixes of MGMT, Joy Division, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Foster the People, you know! it's a good place to get away from obnoxious rap/hip hop and the crowds that dancing draws. this was taken the night i saw the Boxer Rebellion live and met up with friends from the East Bay. i took this picture after having grown tired of dancing. i love the dim lights and the disco ball and the remaining dancers moving towards the back stage. the empty, scattered chairs and tables in the foreground really catch my eye seeing this picture now-- like a disinterest or gap in the dancers and me or others that night.
look for this picture-- as it serves as the background image for my novel, The Muse Land. it could be Kennedy in the story, i like to think so, but in all honesty it's a photo that really expresses the sort of youth i'm writing about in that story.
this is just coming from discussing and reading Deborah Eisenberg's "Twilight of the Superheroes" in Studies in Fiction today.
the story is a narrative of generation gaps in the aftermath after the September 11th attacks. pretty much Eisenberg is reflecting on how this new generation is shaped by the event and how we (yes, i am in this generation) might approach our future and take what we can from the events swirling around us due to 9/11. a big discussion in the class was on us personally, and one student pointed out that it really was a defining moment in our lifetime, only ours as an emerging new youth for the future. sure, we were young-- i wasn't even ten years old yet, it was fifth grade and the whole school day was spent watching the news coverage of the attacks.
what happened that day? the student said precisely that it was in that moment that we as youngsters had to really contextualize our world and future-- realize what we were now being brought into.
and i started thinking in class idly to myself. she's right. it was that moment that, maybe not right away, but no doubt down my road, really jump-started the writing i do, the life i live-- who i am now.
i'm not sure how writing as a whole could factor into this other than my love for the American Girls books and wanting to grow up and experience a really significant event in my lifetime of America. fancy buying war bonds or saving scrap metal or fighting for civil rights like Molly, Addy, Felicity, and even live fancy like Samantha! but what i got instead was tragedy all over the news, loss of loved ones (still missing today), hate crimes on Muslims innocent people, American flags waving on every block and post, and for the next half of the decade non-stop shit-talk on Bush (right on!) and people going back and forth on pulling troops out of the Middle East.
i guess i was becoming my own American girl. but that's not really where the writing i produce now got started. it actually had to start weirdly with none other than George W. Bush at the time. my dad would share what conspiracies and truths and debates he heard on the radio he'd listen to while at work with me in the car rides home from school (from school in Clayton to home in Antioch-- yeah we had time), and man i loathed this person we had dared to put as our president. and so did Billie Joe Armstrong.
that is, the frontman and guitarist of Green Day, local heroes i profess to be my favorite band ever. their outcry against the government and angst of youngsters and deviants in their album American Idiot is in all honesty what got me to being me. back in the day before high school i was all classic literature-reading, prep collared-shirts and pearls wearing, classical music listening, and no-nonsense in school. fuck other genres of music, fuck rap (still do) and fuck rock. it was all trash.
then high school was when i actually was drawn to "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" because it wasn't too much for me; it had a mellow and softness to it-- that too but i admired the idea of the edginess of rock in it. and for the longest time even after that i still refused anything rock. but i heard it again on the radio. then i heard "Novocaine" and "Holiday" (so on the edge and i couldn't turn it off) and "Are We the Waiting," etc. then going onto the internet to find out who this band was and what their messages and lyrics (and ALL their albums which i really grew to love) were going for.
i don't need to say much else now besides the fact that getting into Green Day (even more so because i LOVED how they were local) brought me into the modern world of rock and indie and that whole genre of life. it was okay to listen to this more mainstream genre, i decided with myself. and i was happy. and listening to these songs and watching their music vids really got me wanting to reflect in my writing my life, why i liked this music, why others liked this music, and what sort of lives these sort of people probably led. and that's my writing. had things not happened this way-- had 9/11 not take place and prompt the government to take those actions the rest of the world did not condone and led to Green Day being inspired to record and release AI-- it'd be Dickens and Austen in circles with me. i wouldn't say it'd be bad writing-- but more archaic and i wouldn't be as happy with my work as i would be now.
gosh i've written a bit more than i was aiming on! but yeah, thinking aloud's my kind of thing. and thinking about my roots in writing, it's really a surprise. it's even surprising to me that yes, that day in the classroom and getting up that morning to my grandfather telling us about planes crashing into New York City really did shape the youngsters of now, the people i hang out with and most fascinating of all-- myself.
*class exercise to take one colloquial phrase we youngsters use (fuck that, awesome, it's all good, etc.) and create a origin narrative for it to explain why it's used in its context. did NOT have to be factual, more along the lines of creative writing/fictional*
for the Bay Area slang, "hella," i created this:
I can picture something along the lines of two farmers conversing over a couple of clouds in the nearing sky:
"That's one hell of a storm approaching!" one says to the other.
And so this sense of magnitude and chaos gave shape to "hell of." One hell of a husband. One hell of a pot roast. One hell of a fast Ferrari 450! But in that regard, somehow the phrase was simplified. Simple, but still expressive on the colloquial level:
"She's hell of stupid."
"That's hell of unnatural."
"I'm hell of thirsty."
The recipe for this: now hype it up, get everyone on board in California for the sake of California, let it die down save for a bunch of fast-tongued youngsters choosing to roll over the sounds of "of," and it's one phrase that's "hella," Bay Area, a place that is surely of magnitude.
Why it persists in the Bay seems obvious, but it isn't. People think because of the melting pot and wish that Bay Areans have to stand out in everything-- including their speech. But it's a filler. In all honesty, we just like to make things seem bigger. And the nation makes a big deal out of a one-word, two-syllable phrase that really isn't a deal to us locals.
last semester i did a research paper for my rhetoric class about the Beats in San Francisco, namely the effect of Ginsberg's "Howl" on free-speech and censorship today. gosh, it was one of the best papers i ever written in respect to both the final paper and the research/writing process.
the Beat Generation practically started with San Francisco. and North Beach was a great start for this essay. after deciding on Ginsberg's infamous poem for the center of my paper, i spent half my time out there on Stockton and Columbus and even red-light district Broadway, just to get all that i could for this outcome.
City Lights Books, it wasn't open by the time i needed to get info and i couldn't stay til it did, but thank goodness their role in the "Howl" trials of 1957 make the store a big tourist attraction to devote window displays to the event
The Beat Museum, this killed me. i didn't expect the close and warm treatment that i received from the owner and curator Gerry Cimino, who met me when i was waiting around for the museum and bookstore to open. gosh, the things i saw here just made me smile. the photos, the confiscated second-editions of Howl and Other Poems published by City Lights, AND JACK KEROUAC'S JACKET. this was a place i'm sure glad i spent $5 for. actually, because i was waiting and very upbeat about the whole visit and museum walk, Gerry let me in for free admission! as for the bookshop, great selection, and Gerry was very eager in presenting me with the necessary books and DVD documentaries that would certainly help my cause. what a pal!
Vesuvio/Jack Kerouac Alley, too bad i couldn't go here because it's pretty much a bar and i'm not 21 yet. it looks so dark and jazzy i'm just itching to come in here once November 4th's passed! the alley isn't much, but it's a sure recollection of these remarkable artists who did change the course of writers being oppressed by authority. it's cool, dark, and the pavement's embedded with quotes about literature especially ones from Kerouac himself. i was dreaming in that moment my feet were on the floor of the alley that around the corner Dean and Sal (of On the Road) would be approaching me and smiling with an invite to some swank dancing or drinks downtown.
just when i thought i'd discover it all, i hear about this. i need to come here, look up into the gable of the attic where Kerouac would look out and write-- and probably tell Neal and Carolyn Cassidy about-- his next new beat thing.
defintitely had a great spot and exceptional coffee-- oversweetened with brown sugar, to my liking :)
it's located along 24th Street across from boutiques, where an old Streetlight Records used to linger, and the corner rival Starbucks. so warm in the City, had to take some layers off to enjoy my sitting, where i did some notepad observations and talked on the phone with my good friend under no pressure because the English ladies in the table next to me were equally loud. i heard the baristas' names were Julian and Ginger-- LOVE the ring of that. the window was open, and i placed my coffee cup on the rustic white window sil to get it warmed up while i looked on to the street at the dogs, children in strollers, youngsters and hipsters alike, and mostly the shopping being done across the street. it was a beautiful friday afternoon, a well-spent two hours. definitely a future write spot!
when my eyes met with this exact cover in my middle school library ten years ago. everything began. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is just that book that certainly is everything. never could put it down. never could stop reading it. i've reread it continuously and religiously throughout these years. city life, social class critiques, family, relationships, money, love--just so much could take place in one little spot of the world. anything anywhere can happen.
The unfavorable ordeal of BART that morning took a major toll on Patrick arriving to class on time. For some weird technical deficiency, all passengers for the 7:20 A.M. SFO-bound train were removed from the cars at the Walnut Creek station. Now they waited restless, a dense crowd of some adults and business people and students, standing along Platform 2 that was quite narrow as is. Where Patrick stood, he was wedged between two tall suited men, one in navy and the other in gray. One of their suitcases, soft brown-leather bound from Brookstone as the label showed, was knocking rapidly into Patrick’s knees. This greatly aggravated the young man, who picked up his backpack from the ground and slid a few feet behind. He looked down to check the time on his watch, swiping his dirty blonde bangs away from his brows; it had been fifteen minutes since everyone had gotten off, and he hung his head. He couldn’t stand waiting any longer with these uptight adults who took disdain on his tight but bagged jeans and loose concert T-shirt from when he saw Arcade Fire when their Neon Bible album was out, on top of the fact that his bulging knitted red sweater had a huge hole gaping over his right bare-skin elbow. That rip he did himself.
Patrick kept his arms and one hand in his pocket clutching his iPod while he put the contraption on shuffle. Most of the songs he came across he was not in the mood for, but then again he didn’t have a set mind on what sound to listen, so shuffle would have to do. When he looked around, he saw that the businessmen that stood before him had moved on, but there were still suits and bikes, and on occasion, a pretty young woman, in the clearing. At least people were now moving, for the train was just pulling up, and the intense blast of wind running through the platform as the train whizzed by was strong enough to send Patrick into a chill and knock his wool beanie off. He was always fascinated by his reflection in the cars speeding through; as each car passed he loved the overlap of his image travelling from window to window—it was a funny sight to Patrick to see the cars go by and not a single movement of his reflection, as if he was magical and travelling on without moving at all.
This fascination put Patrick at a disadvantage when commuters were pushing past him and pouring into the cars, and being one of the last barely making it in, he could only stand smashed against others and held onto the rail overhead with one hand. Inside was no different than out, only that the room was mustier and the space denser. At least Patrick was content with the song that had just been selected, something off of Lily Allen’s Alright, Still. His beanie clung without effort to his hair and the headphones stood in place without Patrick really concerned about one or both buds falling out. However, one did fall out, when an elbow unintentionally jabbed into his neck. “Fuck,” Patrick nearly burst out, pressing his lips tightly just in time.
He moved, the heavy scent of some Old Spice product coming through, and Patrick was pissed. So he moved, wedging as much as he could towards the back. As clever he figured this move was, his space got no less compact than he had been a few feet away.
And the Old Spice lingered. What could he do to evade the heavy odor? It wasn’t bad, just strong. It defeated the purpose of getting away and avoiding physical battery. Patrick was still for a few minutes, the song almost coming to an end, and he wished the scent would too.
Orinda stop was when there was a significant shift in car vacancy. The crowd standing may have diminished by a lot but there still were not open seats. Patrick remained standing, but the chance he got to slide over across the car he took it without hesitation. He felt more relaxed now, and he was closer to the window. The view always took his mind off the long ride, and since it was very sunny out now, it was all looking up from here. But just as the train hit the darkness of the Caldecott line tunnel transitioning from the Diablo Valley to Oakland and the inner East Bay, he felt a familiar nudge at his side. And the same smell.
MacArthur Station. The trees and lush hillsides were gone, now Bart was surrounded by streets, freeways, traffic, and the Oakland downtown just up in the distance rising from the sea of buildings. Patrick made one last attempt to find a seat, and this time, before the masses coming from the platform could make their way into the car, he was successful. It was a window seat he had been eyeing, and thank goodness the frumpy woman in a purple tracksuit who just sat there fled out to the station. At this point could care less about impressions; he slouched down in his seat, readjusted his headphones, and put the volume up louder. He replayed the Lily Allen tune, having not enjoying it the first play.
Then someone sat down next to Patrick. It was someone slightly older than him, perhaps his mid-thirties, in a worn-down brown leather jacket and ripped jeans. The man was clean shaven, but his brown hair was grown out, a little more than Patrick’s.
He was the Old Spice.
A few more stops Patrick ignored him, looking out the window, focusing between the scenes of Oakland rushing by and the suspicion he had of his seat partner. The music was playing, nothing mattered. He just needed to get to Montgomery Station in San Francisco.
Just before submerging into the Transbay Tube, the man tapped him on the shoulder. Patrick flinched and turned his head, coming into direct contact with the heavy smell of the man. He turned the music off, arching his brows to acknowledge the man.
“What song was that?” the man asked casually.
Patrick blinked, still perplexed at the question. “Sorry?”
The man leaned over, pointing to his iPod. “You were listening to something earlier on your headphones. I heard it, not bad—actually liked it. Some woman?”
Patrick gave out an uneasy laugh. “Oh yeah! Lily Allen.”
The man sank back into his chair, looking up into pretty much nothing and nodding his head. “I like it. Pretty good beat.”
It was the first time Jason and Erica ever saw a man so vulnerable. And what could roommates do? They couldn’t figure it out.
He decided not on work today. He’s cursing the early shifts and bitches over his strong Irish Breakfast blend he stumbled to scrap together—with three burnt toasts smothered in Erica’s grape jam. She doesn’t say anything.
The two are moving around Jules, stiff and slouching at the table in that cramped white kitchen. Stared blankly for minutes at the wall calendar tacked by the blue phone—he’s envious of that smiley-face posted above the dates of September. It’s all a painful sight.
And even though Jason’s all set to go out the door, he’s removing his shoes and moss duffel coat. He’s opposite of Jules now, hoping to block smiley. He grabs one of the burnt toasts and bites into the grape.
Erica’s in love with Phillip—but the rendezvous can wait. Grabbing the sugar bowl and setting it softly onto the little table she joins them. She’s smeared her lip gloss onto her own teacup.
“And what’s with the toast?” she asks, with a pause before they hear from Jules:
“Bitter?” repeats Jason. They can hear the traffic building up on the street outside, the occasional horn in the air’s clearing. The window over the sink’s been open through the night, and a few big leaves have slipped through the void.
“Don’t you two have places to go.” Jules isn’t asking, he’s strictly reminding.
“As do you, man.”
“It’s not always going to be today,” Erica remarks smartly, taking that sip, fondling a leaf on the floor with her new combat boots.
“Then fuck tomorrow, too.”
“I wouldn’t agree—it’s my birthday.” Jason’s stopped this far. Erica becomes bold.
“This would have been a lovely day. Great weather, and Phil’s gonna pay for lunch.”
“Where at?” Jason wonders.
“New Mediterranean place on Polk Street.”
“I gotta go sometimes, I guess.” Jules is having none of it. He’s saying nothing still.
“How about we’ll take you out, Jules? I’m not with Phil for long this morning.”
“Okay, sure.” Over Jules and Jason Erica continue in one-sided awkwardness of conversation, downing the tea, swiping the tiny crumbs about the table away from Jules. They were thinking of Jules, underneath all the traffic, the leaves, the empty chipped plates, talks of Jason’s new hair cut and the asshole who grabbed Erica’s arm at that Tenderloin karaoke bar—she’d drop dead before setting foot back there.
She really has to get going, Jason too. They stand up together, grabbing their coats from the chairs. Jules looks up at them.
“You good, man?” Jason looks back.
Jules sighs. “Yeah, it all helps soon enough. We’ll eat tomorrow.”
Leaving her dull blue sweater was the sweetest act she could do for Harry.
She’d forgotten it, of course. In that hazy rush to her early shift.
He laid it out neatly on his darkwood bed, laced at the fringed collar with a new string of silvery pearls that he’d bought that following afternoon before Lisa came back for dinner.
They were always what that cute damned thing was missing.
i love how wild and free the pen feels against the smooth surface of the paper. with someone like me, thinking faster than i write, i have one of the ugliest handwritings ever produced (people tell me i should have been a doctor). the idea is instant, and the pen and paper— mostly napkins in my case when i don’t bring my writing notebook along— is almost on demand and readily available, compared to a computer. it’s much MUCH more nostalgic too.
at least the computer killed the middle man: the typewriter. i love typewriters, but you couldn’t really fix errors when you made one. the keys were oddly spaced as well. with computers, that’s their beauty: the keyboards. typing is like gracefully gliding through a piano waltz. i love watching my fingers tickle at the keys without much effort. just print, and there’s your writing on hard copy.
lesser of two goods, i’d say.
my second novel is coming along considerably. i feel novels are easier to write than a short story, because you can stick to one plot and drag it for as long as you need to, and not constrict yourself to a certain amount of pages or words.
however, today i must learn to balance writing that and getting reading done for my classes. the spring semester started this week, really excited about everything!
Studies in Fiction writing seminar Romanticism 19th Century Gothic Literature (new professor and subject matter)
The Supernatural Other in Medieval Literature
must get to this presentation on "characterization" due in fiction and get Frankenstein and the Book of Genesis out of the way for the other classes.
It’s a mild change of scenery.
Not quite what you seemed.
He stands there before the empty little flat with his chipped door keys in hand.
There’s no Bay.
Not a single soul stands out.
You can’t see the fog, or the skyscrapers, the cargo ships sweeping the gusty harbors.
There’s nothing no more, but Her and here.
Here was all She ever wanted.
coming to you from San Francisco, California. the heart of the Beats and thousands of hearts carelessly left and scattered.
20 years old. halfway through with my junior year at the University of San Francisco where i am an English writing major. of course, that entails me writing. that's my main purpose for getting By Paris Kim up and out there-- to showcase and share my writing and thoughts, my observations in the City and the little things in life that make me happy and inspire me.
you won't find my writing not really anything like Amy Tan or most Asian-American writers. I represent Gen Y, the youth and young adults of the Bay Area. most of my stories deal with a lot of young adults in transition between their innocence and the real world ahead. with them comes the observances i've made from living my whole life in the San Francisco Bay Area. i was born and grew up in the East Bay, and all i've ever really known is the beauty and diversity of the Bay. it's really given me much to write about-- relationships, music (MUSIC!!!) strangers, grocery shopping, road trips, nights on a billboard. yeah, those sort of things, i like to write about.
everyday matters to me. it is everyday i write about and find inspiration.