Live Video of “Howling at the Moon!”

It’s been almost a year since Antonio and I biked up Nob Hill and howled at the full moon with all those 200 or so San Franciscans and here is a spoken word recording of the grand borderline fiction it inspired. Marshall Deerfield, front and center with Antonio Bandalini making an appearance, facing the stagnant contrasts of Skid Row in midst of the Tech Boomed-out streets of San Francisco. Here in its entirety is “Howling At The Moon!”, a fraction of a novel about all those wayward zig zags across the west coast last year, but definitely one of my favorite tales to tell.

This was filmed back in April by Andrew Galati at the Random Tea Room in Philadelphia at the book release party for my collection of psychedelic erotica, Fire. Sun. Salutation. It took me a few more weeks to talk out all the tongue ties and stutters of the narrative, but this night in particular still has my heart hanging heavy. Thanks to Becky Goldschmidt for hosting, the other performers for setting the stage, and to everyone who attended. That night we became a bunch of wild wolves hooting and hollering at the muse above. Also thanks to my parents for giving me a quiet place to write these beginnings to a novel that’ll hopefully soon be finished. Without that brief pause from the 9-5 all this material would still be stuck up in my head or randomly notated throughout several journals on some dusty bookshelf.

Anyway, enjoy the lofty imagery and dream-inspired beauty above!

Live Video of “Howling at the Moon!”

A very beat thing on the way to the ocean.

Last night a very beat thing happened to me. I watched a man play a saxophone to the San Francisco Bay under the carpet of stars above, backlit by a whole digital mainframe animating circuit board of city lights glittering like tiny solar systems orbiting the ground here where we stood. I was stoned and a little bit drunk from drinking more than an adequate amount of pirate’s port wine on a friend’s pink sailboat in the marina. We all feeling extra nimble with our loosened bodies we listened snapping our fingers, dancing weird jigs, and tapping our weird feet enjoying being star struck by such a quintessential imagery. It was all very merry and glorious and could’ve gone on much longer, us clown bums and dream punks and country beatniks far from over with the day’s rêvelutions, but then the Weed Ma, she came over to me and she grabbed my attention and she said, “Look, Ma! Look at the way the bay responds”, and that’s when the universe really started to click and snap its fingers back at us taking on that divine curvy glow of subliminal ecstasy.

A very beat thing on the way to the ocean.

The Beat of the Feet on Haight Street

A crusty on Haight Street asks me if I need any trees. I tell him “Yes, please! Give me the Douglas Firs. Give me some redwoods. Give me some relief. Some humble giants. That’s what I’m working towards. That’s what I live for.”

Another one a few blocks down asks if I want weed. I tell him about the scrub they cut down in the lot that they’re “turning into a farm” next door to me. Right now it looks like a giant mud pile compared to the subtle greenery it once was. I tell him I was worried, but the scrub jay still visits me. I hear his excited call first thing in the morning even before the engine of the bulldozer starts. I tell him about the other song bird I’ve noticed but not spotted yet who rises with the sun and continues throughout the morning singing it’s salutation to the new day happily and hopeful, sounding like a nightingale but displaced maybe not only from it’s normal scrub home into the tree in my neighbors yard but also from night and moon worship into day and the grand melody of being reborn.

An old hippy in a tie-dyed t-shirt asks me for some change. He’s got half a sandwich and a bunch of trash lying next to his bare feet. I give him what I’ve got but tell him I’m feeling pretty grounded. I’m feeling as steady as a mountainside with a glacier cliff face. All that alpine mind of a high yogi. There’s still change, but not as quickly. I got a couple dimes to my name, but that’s all you need when your dream is to soar like the red-tailed hawk of last week in Mendo county.

Ain’t nothing like meditating with the step of your feet. Place one foot in front of the other. All the other stuff follows.

The Beat of the Feet on Haight Street

How we made the moon blush

There’s not much left to look at in Tenderloin other than a bunch of strung out old hippies and beat up taco joints. With the light failing, we can’t really capture any more of the murals anyway, so we hop back onto our bikes and head towards North Shore.

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We pass Union Square, which is surprisingly only a few blocks away from one of San Francisco’s poorest neighborhoods. The way all this commercialism-run-rampant collides with the beggars crisscrossing the potholed streets two blocks away never ceases to amaze me. It’s November so they even got the Christmas tree up and all the window shoppers are out in droves.

There are plenty of hills between us and North Shore and at this point in the trip my buddy Andrew Galati and I aren’t dodging them. The first goes for three or four blocks before we reach the peak and then it’s a straight shot down for six or seven blocks more. What impresses me most is how at some point the engineers of the Bay Area figured out how to build not just roads, but houses and apartment buildings on these hills. Not to mention, that most of them are built to survive earthquakes.

We haven’t felt an earthquake yet in our travels, and I just can’t imagine. Pushing the gear shifter down all the way into the lowest gear I climb that first hill breaking into a sweat at the top. I look back and Andrew is following me zig-zagging back and forth to compensate the push back of his single speed bicycle.

“Well, that was something else,” I say when he reaches the top.

“Yeah, it gets easier each time, though,” he replies. “I been cruising up and down these hills all day”.

I let him push off first and I quickly follow as we sprint the hundred or two hundred feet back down to the bottom at the other side. I keep a steady hand on the brake while Andrew shoots ahead a block or two, going full speed like a daredevil until we hit another hill. I quickly catch up to him and pass him as we ascend. At the top this time my legs don’t hurt so much and the sweat is invigorating.

“I’m a king,” I shout back down at Andrew still climbing. “I’m king of the mountain.”

When he reaches the top he tells me, “I passed some hills earlier, man. They had steps for sidewalks.”

“Reminds me of Barcelona. Only it’s the entire city.”

“Yeah, man. You’ll see.”

After about 3 or 4 more of these hills we start to lose our sense of direction and focus more on the exploring. And even then it becomes more about aimlessly wandering, climbing each one of these hills to get a better perspective of the whole city.

At a certain point somewhere on the edge of Chinatown we’re hopping from one hill to another, and I see a bright light on the horizon.

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“Hey, Andrew,” I shout back. “I think the full moon is coming up.”

We push forward and come to a peak that seems to be the highest in the surrounding neighborhood. I start first and while climbing, I see her pushing up over the horizon coming now into view between two skyscraper apartment buildings further east in town.

She’s huge. Bigger than I’ve seen her before. The last super moon of the year. I’m pretty sure.

I’m hypnotized.

I hop off and start to walk my bike over to the sidewalk. The peak of the hill is only half a block wide, and at each corner is a sudden drop off. There’s a woman already standing on the corner doing exactly what I was about to do. I pull out my phone and try to take a picture.

But the moon, no matter how large in the mind’s eye, is never as big on the digital display. No matter how many attempts I make, I just can’t get her to be more than a pin dot in an infinity of dark sky. I can’t get the shot I want. But still I keep trying. And she keeps rising.

Andrew has caught up and he walks over to do the same.

Then I notice a car pulling over slowly but very erratically. The driver and passenger get out and they too take out their phones and try to snap a picture. Two more people walk up from behind me and stand next to me with their camera phones out. Them I notice there’s a person three stories up now standing on her balcony doing the same. I look around and out of thin air there’s thirty or forty people all gathered now, hypnotized, just like me, all in the same pose with phones in the air. They are of all different backgrounds but mostly what I would consider yuppies, they’re public dress making me feel slightly more self-conscious of my knee-torn jeans. But still these are people of the earth being pulled up by that moon. And all they can think to do is try to capture her in a 2’ x 3’ frame.

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And that moon is glowing so bright now. She’s growing in intensity as she moves ever so slightly skywards into the heavens. Her gait taking her on a diagonal from the bay up into the starry night cutting across the city for all these hill hoppers to see.

It’s glorious and I step back now to get a better view of the whole thing that is happening. What with this increasingly large group that has formed now taking up the entire peak of the hill.

And that’s when it strikes me.

It doesn’t come from somewhere conscious but much more guttural. Like internally. It penetrates me from deep down below. And at first it catches me off guard. But as it starts it only feels natural.

I begin to howl.

At first to myself like a low hum. But then I stare up at the moon and I just can’t help myself. She pulls it out of me. And it grows louder now for all to hear and see.

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I stand there with my legs firmly planted, my head leaned back, and my voice directed at the sky, howling at the moon.

I get more than a few strange looks from the huge group of fellow moon watchers in front of me. But then I hear Andrew joining in too, with the same general absurdity.

We’re like that. Two mad men on top of a hill howling at our moon.

And then it happens.

First there are a few voices in the air more like laughter, but slowly they grow into something more primal. And then more people join in, each with their own syllable and tone. Some barking and others just solemnly singing. Some laughing while others really raise a ruckus going back into their roots and really bringing it all out into the air. It’s otherworldly. And that moon glowing even greater than a few moments before. And there we are a hundred or so people gathered at the top of a hill in San Francisco, totally deranged and off our rockers, converted into jackals, wolves, and coyotes, feeling all loony inside and letting it all out in this feral symphony. There we are a hundred or so people, on top of a hill, lost in our madness and howling at the moon.

And there she is smiling back down on us, calm as usual, but also blushing.

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How we made the moon blush

I Watched the Sun Set on America

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The sun has just set on America
I watched it
from the furthest point west
that I could bike to
in San Francisco.

Today, another black man’s killer
has been set free
with no criminal charges
commended for his actions
by the fraternal order of police.
There’s an energy in the air
that’s full of empathy
for all the oppressed people
like Eric Garner or Michael Brown or Trayvon Martin or Tamir Rice or Oscar Grant or Rodney King
(or the long list of young people of color
who have died at the hands of police
during the 27 years I have been alive
that just goes on and on and on)
and lose their lives
for no reason
in this supposedly democratic society.

Tonight, the streets of Oakland
will be filled with protestors
who set fires, smash the banks, and take the highways.
This is a generation
that has grown up
during a silent revolution
that can’t remain quiet any longer.

The people cry,
“No justice, no peace.”
And they ask,
“Why are we still having to fight against this?
“Don’t people understand black lives matter?”
Their parents ask, “Yeah, what about the 60s?”
But Haight Street is quiet tonight
Its history of civil disobedience
and cultural creativity
has been replaced by retail stores
and overpriced rent fees.
Instead the protests
will be on the streets
of the disenfranchised
the desolate
the starving
the noble underbelly
that just can’t take it any longer.

They ask,
“Isn’t it time we ended this institutionalized racism?
“These hate crimes?
“These steps backwards in history?
“Isn’t it time we ended this brutality?”

The police feign fear
They are trained to be scared of the people
that they “serve and protect”
the people of color
the people that are “different”
scared of college students and working men and women
of fathers, husbands, wives, and mothers
of sons and daughters, brothers and sisters.
They are conditioned to believe that every person secretly carries a gun
when in fact the only people
who control the weapons
are the police themselves.

The protestors, they ask for accountability
for the same law to be held for every citizen
They want these hired brutes
to recognize
their abuses of power
will be taken no longer
The people have had enough
It’s time for change
Take the guns out of the pigs’ hands
teach them how to use their words instead
These “keepers of the peace”
need to learn to de-escalate a situation
and not be so trigger happy
If any one of them steps over the line
Fire them,
lock them up,
at the very least
they’ve committed manslaughter
and they should stand a fair trial
like anyone else would in this land

Our civilization relies on the courts
upkeeping the laws we all live by
Until these demands of fairness are met,
there will continue to be unrest on the streets.
End the drug war!
End police brutality!
End the war on the people you’re supposed to serve!

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I Watched the Sun Set on America

Jorge’s Bookstore Warehouse

Today, I discovered “an anomaly” in the Mission District of San Francisco. I was biking around and I saw a large billboard on a building advertising a bookstore featuring a large selection of rare Latin literature located on the top floor of the building. My curiosity got the best of me and I followed the printed signs into the first floor which resembled a strip mall. Up the stairs and I entered a corridor that resembled an office building with each door given a different suite number. I followed signs for a book store called Valhalla. But they featured rare books by 19th century western authors. I was told unless I was buying, I couldn’t look at the books. So up another flight of stairs and I entered an open door. The book clerk there told me I was in a stock room, which was off limits to customers. He told me the bookstores were further down the hall. I went back into the hallway and entered the first door on my left that was slightly ajar. Inside there were hundreds of shelves with thousands of books each with handwritten labels taped to their plastic covers.

A middle-aged man with long wispy blonde hair sitting behind a desk with piles and piles of uncategorized books on its surface asked, “What’s your poison?”.
“What?”
And he said again, “What can I help you with? What’s your poison?”
I replied, “Oh. I was interested in some Latin literature.”
He laughed and told me, “You want Libros Latinos, this is Bolerium Books. But yeah, go down the hall and it’s the last door on the right.”
“Okay. Thanks. But what types of books do you carry?”
“We feature books of a more political narrative. Like criticism, theory, activism, Marxism. Books with movement,” he told me. “We have some Chicano literature if that interests you.”
“I was thinking more something along the lines of magical realism.”
“Yeah, Libros Latinos will have what you want.”
“Thank you. I do need to ask though. What caused all these different bookstores to be in this giant office building?”
He laughed again and answered very simply, “Dementia.”
I laughed too and thought maybe this was something like the book warehouse called Bookspace in Philadelphia that sells their books on eBay, “Do you mostly sell your books online?”
“Yeah, I guess you could say that. You’re looking at the new model for book services. We use various networks on the internet to exchange our literature.”
“Like eBay and Amazon?”
“No,” he scowled a bit. “We don’t use eBay. We have a group of very interested parties. Specific collectors and buyers.”
I thanked him for his time and exited heading down the hall for Libros Latinos. I passed several other suites each with bookstores on the way. Some were open. Some were closed. There were newspaper articles hung on the walls about different Bay Area publishers and happenings and fliers for readings from a long time ago. There was that musty smell you find in old pages that haven’t been turned in a while. There were “free” piles spilling out into the walkway. And yet all this existed under the fluorescent light typical to a doctor’s office.
Finally, after passing ten or so doors, I found the door labeled Libros Latinos. It was slightly ajar so I pushed it open and entered. There were 20 or so bookshelves and an empty desk at the entrance. At first I thought the bookstore was empty and there was no clerk at all, but then I heard a cough. I noticed at the very far end of the room there was a young thirty something book clerk sitting at a desk covered in old typewritten manuscripts. Though of Hispanic ethnicity, the clerk and the scene made me think of Melville’s Bartleby the Scrivener. He stood and smiled and I walked towards him.
“Is there anything I can help you find?”
“I was interested in maybe seeing some magical realist literature,” I answered.
“Ah, well. We only have a very small section of fiction or poetry. We mostly carry nonfiction. But I can show you what we have.”
He directed me to a single shelf labeled “Mexican Poetry”.
I looked at it and back at him, “Do you sell most of your books online too?”
“Sort of. Mostly we sell directly to libraries and other collections,” he said.
I wanted to tell him I felt like I had wandered into a Borges novel, but I said, “It’s very interesting to find this place with all of these bookstores catering to such specific interests.”
“Yes, you’ve definitely discovered an anomaly. Not many people come up here, actually. It’s usually very quiet.”

I sat down to look through the small pile of handbound books of Mexican prose and the clerk returned to his desk. Some of the books lacked a normal cover and were published as chapbooks. There was one book by Octavio Paz. But no Marquez. No Neruda. No Bolano. Instead there were many writers whose names I didn’t recognize. I selected a handbound book titled “Poesia Erotica” and paid the $8 for it. It seemed to be a journal from the 70s that was probably now no longer distributed. Though I couldn’t read its Spanish I knew I had found something quite distinct.
The experience itself was bizarre. I found a warehouse full of bookstores. Not just a warehouse of books, but a warehouse of fully defined bookstores each with their specific genre of interest and similar styled bookstore clerks donning the attitude and air of the books they watch over. Their clientele ranged from libraries to collectors from around the world, though they received very little foot traffic if any during the day. But the main thing, is there are office buildings in the Mission District that have been turned into facilities that store entire bookstores. These pieces of history are ready to be explored by anyone who just follows the signs.

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Jorge’s Bookstore Warehouse

Smoke, Fire, and Fog

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This morning I watched the fog roll in off the ocean, expand over the bay, and traverse the hillside like an invisibility cloak transporting us all into the spirit world with ghostly wonder. I felt the sadness in the stillness when I looked at it from afar behind a closed window, but once outside in its embrace I felt its potential for casting magic, the full moon already set and the sun not quite over the horizon though gaining momentum, the whole scene ripe for a vision. In my half awakened stupor I light a block of palo santo wood and a stick of incense for vitality. The sunlight begins to break through and for a moment I breathe out huge funnels of smoke and behind it what I expect is fire. There is a gift in this rebirth, this revolution in the fog, the dense vapors passing over me and soaking every living thing in its wake. There is the insight that every day is temporal and this reality a shift in perspective from dreamworld to the living. Ultimately, the trick is being able to lessen the instituted divide between waking life and the wandering dream body. But I already know this from my own studies and I think to myself about each time I have been faced with the metaphysical transportation through a cloud and what it has offered along this trip. The animal spirits found in Crater Lake and the dreams of giants up on Shasta. I laugh a little that perhaps the next time I find myself in the fog again drifting so deep I will finally have the balls to take the leap and attempt to fly. Perhaps my dream body will carry me higher up into the sky. And my vision will take me to a place deep inside myself and closer to my own being than I have ever been before. The invisibility cloak wraps around me tighter and I and this city, still blowing smoke and fire, we all disappear.

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Smoke, Fire, and Fog