Archive for the ‘Found’ Category

Falling Leaves

February 15, 2014

I grew up in bookstores.

When I was eight, my family moved back to the States after a couple years on a typhoon-ridden island1 Back in California, with its lovely beaches and high cost of living, my mom had to get a job to help us make ends meet. Enter Books West, the only new book store in the five-cities area. She worked there for 15 years, until the owners retired.

Books West was my house for 10 years. Instead of being a latch-key kid, my mom insisted I hop on the bus and come down to her work. I read every book in the YA section, half the books in the mystery and sci-fi sections, and a smattering of books from farther-flung shelves, all for free. We even got to take home some of the ones that didn’t sell, their covers torn off and returned to the publisher as “proof” that we destroyed them.

It was paradise. I had my favorite hidey-holes where paying customers wouldn’t disturb me. Self-Help was largely unvisited in our beach town2. I would read from 3pm-6pm (closing), then we’d swing past Round Table and grab dinner before heading home.

Over the years, they employed me from time to time (as did the amazing used bookstore across the way), but for the most part, my hours in that house were full of lazy page-turning and idleness. I loved it. There’s kind of a golden haze over that whole period in my life.

Toward the later years, when I was no longer an indulged child and had to actually buy the books I read, I came across a very expensive, very enticing novel3. It was in the mystery section, and, unlike some of the silly you-solve-it books that I loved that began that section4, it was in fact a novel. But it didn’t look like any novel I’d ever seen; text inside changed fonts, colors, directions. White space was used like crazy. It was huge: 9x6ish, with at least a thousand pages5. I wanted that book like mad. But $21 was well outside my budget. I re-shelved it, and vowed to remember it.

And I did. Mostly. Everything but the name. Okay, I forgot almost everything about it. But it haunted me. I described it to other bookstore employees, in that maddening-customer way (“you know, it’s big and black and… just weird”), tried to quiz my friends with similar reading tastes, even searched the blossoming internet for sign of it (but “big black and weird” leads you down an internet rabbit hole that will never lead to a simple novel).

Years later, I finally found a friend who remembered it, who loved it. She gave me the name; I diligently marked it down. But the pull had lessened over the years, and I didn’t seek it out.

More years later, I fell into a leadership role for an apocalyptic book group. While soliciting recommendations from group members, one hesitantly mentioned this book. “It’s not really apocalyptic,” he said. “But it kinda is.”

All this is to say: I finished “The House of Leaves” by Mark Z. Danielewski today. And I feel a little bit more mentally unstable for having done so. But dang, was it worth the wait.


1 Oddly enough, my most vivid memories from the island are book related as well. During Super Typhoon Kim, we had to abandon our house and run to the neighbors, during what we hoped was the eye of the storm (it was not6). I tucked a Judy Blume book securely under my shirt before the run, and was nearly unconsolable when I discovered the wind had whisked it away. I was only brought back from tears when the neighbors shared their stash of Garfield books. After the typhoon truly had passed, there was great adventure to be had and much work to be done. My job was laying out the wet books from our house, squeezing out the water, and thumbing through the pages as they dried to get them to not stick together. Our library, even after we moved back to California, smelled like wet books for years.

2 Self-Help was also where I first discovered sex7, which led me to a treasure hunt throughout the store, particularly to the western section8, and taught me to refine my ability to scan for naughty bits.


4 Ken Weber, Five-Minute Mysteries (Running Press, 1989)

5 709 pages.

6 During the run, my mom was physically lifted up by the wind, and blown into the neighbor’s banyan tree. She broke a couple ribs. I don’t remember this – but my sister assures me it happened. What I remember was my lost book. I was kind of a shitty kid.

7 Nancy Friday, My Secret Garden (Trident Press, 1973)

8 Wesley Ellis, Lone Star #35 (Jove, 1985); pp 52-56, 74-75, 112-114.

On the back roads of yesteryear

November 24, 2010

I should be writing. Writing things other than this blog. Really, really should. I can’t tell you how far I am in the hole, word-debt-wise. But hey, that’s why this blog started, right? This is what I write when I’m not Writing.

Yesterday, while I was not Writing, I found myself uploading all of my photos from my roadtrip. Luckily it wasn’t that huge a job; back in 2004, the images on the disc they gave you would barely be considered web-worthy nowadays, resolution-wise.

I can’t tell you how sad I am that I didn’t document it more thoroughly. I was so sure I would remember everything. I took photos and blogged, certain that whatever I left out of the public eye, my own memory would fill in on later perusals.

Lesson learned. My memory sucks. Document everything, make it all public (cuz otherwise you’ll lose it, and hey, a life lived in public is a life without shame) (mostly).

For example. Somehow it seems that I never blogged about the Troll Tree (not that I can find, anyway).

tree in minneapolis with a little door at its base

The Minneapolis Troll Tree

Before leaving home, and at every possible point along the way, I asked friends and strangers what sights and sites they loved in America. Not the ones in the guidebooks, not the awe-inspiring places or the Parks full of Natural Wonder. The little spots. The bits and pieces that are mostly overlooked, but that hold a bit of wonder, for at least one person.

Some people looked at me in confusion, and said, “Well, you have to see Yellowstone.” Phlbbt. Others gave me some great tips, and some led me to places that even had me wondering what on earth they saw in them.

One friend, Carrie, knew exactly what I meant. “The Troll Tree!” she immediately burst out with. “You have to visit the Troll Tree!”

She had grown up in Minneapolis, running field and track, and she often ran around one of the darling lakes they have in the city there. (I’m sorry; this is where my lost notes let me down. There’s more than one lake. This was by one of them. Maybe not knowing which one makes the search even more fun!)

She had a favorite spot on her route, a tree by a little bridge, with a knot hole at the bottom that someone had fashioned a door to cover. Over the years, kids (and a few wacky adults) had started to leave treats for the troll outside its door, along with a little note, sometimes of thanks, sometimes begging the troll to grant a wish.

It’s tiny. It’s not much to see. Most people run right by it. But it was probably one of the most magical places I visited, on a late fall afternoon, leaving my honorarium of Bertie Bott’s Every-Flavor Jelly Beans and my note.

The here and now is looking a bit bleak. I’m one of the people running by the little treasures, and it’s starting to get to me. Work is crazy, with 12-hour days common, and 16-hour days not unheard of. I commute with my eyes on the tailpipe ahead of my, plugged into my news podcast.

I need a reboot. I need a roadtrip. I know these little wonders are not just in someone else’s city, they are all around me, but I’m just not seeing them. It’s time to consciously break out and open my eyes again, ’cause I miss being the person that sees those things.

Next week. Okay, maybe after Christmas. Oooo, Ireland in March! My goal is to reboot before then, so I can completely enjoy myself on my very first European visit.

In a lonely graveyard

April 7, 2010

I was walking through Mountain View cemetery yesterday, wishing there was some kind of camera that I could use to take a snapshot of a sound.

Oh. Wait. I guess a voice recorder does that.

Okay, I wish that I had quick and easy access to it, like the phone on my camera.

Oh. Wait. I think there’s something like a memo recorder on my iPod, and on my phone.

Okay, I wish there was a place and a community that encouraged the sharing and appreciation of sounds, the way that Flickr does for photographs…

Oh. Wait.

Okay, scratch all that. Starting again.

I was walking through the Mountain View cemetery yesterday, just before sunset, appreciating the silence. I had headed off to one of the lesser maintained corners. That place has stunning private mausoleums, and amazing historic sections, and beautifully maintained grounds, but there are a few corners that are… different.

Last week I found the corner that was reserved for “Homes” back in the 1800s. They must have donated the space, since they certainly don’t do a thing to keep it up. It’s covered with pine needles instead of grass, and most of the stone is broken or missing. There are a slew of identical cement-framed rectangles, with a step at the front proclaiming them for use of the Oakland Orphanage, or for a Home for Unfortunate Ladies, or a dozen other fascinating charity names. No personal names inside the plot (except for a few prominent Sisters), just the place name at the front, and a big communal square of anonymity.

But I digress. That was last week. Yesterday I was in my other favorite corner, just as old, also bereft of fertilized green grass, but slightly more maintained, with several intact personal headstones. It’s actually my favorite spot, with eucalyptus trees covering the gentle hills, and there’s always the sound of a breeze coming through the trees there.

Yesterday there was another noise. The rain from the weekend was still coming down from the many hills above this spot, and about 50 feet from the bottom of the path, the old gutters had split, and were clogged with leaves and debris. The water could not get any further, and it clearly had made its own path. Straight down. I could hear a muted waterfall, diving into god-knows-what space below the graves.

Are there catacombs in California? If not, there may soon be.

Saipan, 1985

January 13, 2010

I have a boonie dog, a dog I affectionately named Boonie. I’m not real inventive sometimes.

I spotted her at a dog adoption fair in Alamo Square years ago, and kinda froze. She looked JUST like the dogs from my childhood. The ones that ran out of the jungle, the boonies, from time to time, and that the Americans on the island just couldn’t help adopting. Like these guys, Molly and Peanut:

Dog, tree, island

Rachael rubbing Molly's stomach

They were pretty spazzy dogs, as I remember, but pretty awesome, too. Most of the boonie dogs snarled and ran off if you got to close, but a few of them were just as sweet as can be and desperate to be pampered pups. I ran into those pics last week, rejects from our Saipan kodachrome days, and I was reminded again why Boonie caught my eye.

You know, Boonie.

Lucky girl. Happy 4th Birthday, Boonie!

(and, funny enough, she poses just like Molly used to in that second photograph, when Rachael rubs her tummy. Real ladylike.)

Ft. Mason Bathroom

August 20, 2009

Haiku for a Sparkly:

Lovely green sequin
Hiding in a bathroom drain,
You captivate me.
A drain in a Ft. Mason bathroom

A drain in a Ft. Mason bathroom

Home, distracted

August 16, 2009

I just found an old piece of graph paper that I found in 2004 in the first rest-stop in Florida, just across the Georgia border. I should really scan it, but for now, a transcription.


Delaware – 10:26. Rolling Stones is the ultimate Gonzo Allyallie.

11:something AM, SomeWhere in America. Waltzing for Zizi little by little till we find our way. My smile has turned to habitual clenching of the jaw.

A culture born from the Nhile river, the cradle of civiliz evolved and blamed it all on pot. Weed is a synthetic response to all of life’s problems.

“Waves of paranoia. Creeping down my spine.” It’s 2 PM now and we’re well on our way. We’ve pushed confusion aside and swallowed paranoia. It’s not easy to avoid when your in a foreign state with a trunkload of drugs. But for now these thoughts of unsettling nature can rest; we’ve got Rage to calm us. Not calm. Sedate. Ever since I first discovered music, I’ve put it on so I wouldn’t need to talk. Vanishing is fun. The majority of this day was spent on I95 South, staring at the sky and communicating like never before. Road trips kick ass.

4:16 – We’re in South Carolina? Maybe? We’re being sleeted on. Jesus Christ Almighty. We’re coming nearer and nearer to our stated destination and there’s snow fucking everywhere! We have been continuously passing discarded cars, colored by some fanatic soccer moms in their menopause.

I just saw a crane flapping in a puddle of its own shit.

Still on I95 – Sting and the Police are soothing us now. He’s hel You all should thank him, he’s the reason I still retain the ability to write (breath, function, live; all with a human head) I, myself, am fine. AO-fuckin-KAY! but him? he’s fucking loosing it. He took too much to compensate for the loss of sleep. He’s driving after all. Now is not the time for that, not with a 3-ton steel box moving at 80 mph at his fingertips. Ha Ha, I trust him though – even if it is with my life. Edobz, don’t let me down.

“If by some fucking miracle we made it there alive… we’d have so much fun” – the help

No More Snow! We’re close. Green Life! We’re closer. 3 hundred and 33 and 3 tenths – reads the ‘trip’ meter.

We might actually… the sunset. It’s beautiful. I haven’t seen something so beautiful since I can remember. – – Red sky @ night, sailors delight.

Wait, I didn’t tell my parents I was coming here, did I? Is it 6 PM? feh, my body.