Waves Breaking Forms on My Horizons
Bye-bye, San Francisco! So long to my new friends. So long to Alan Chao and my kind young amigos of San Rafael High--go Dawgs. Adios to my comrades in the high schools of the Mission District. Good-bye to the bookstores and the street people, the limo drivers and the writers, the staff at the Monaco Hotel, and the rock stars in the lobby thinking they're not visible in their torn jeans and flannels. Good-bye to the Sheriff and the mayor. I am home and the siege is nearly over. Too much travel to too many places.

Do you ever listen to The Chemical Brothers? They have a song called "The Test." Do you know it. I have been in a big etst these last seven months. Non-stop action! The song says, "I'm seeing waves breaking forms on my horizons, I'm shining./ I'm seeing waves breaking forms on my horizons, Lord I'm shining./Oh, are you hearing me like I'm hearing you?/ You know I always lost my mind/ I can't explain where I've been. / You know I almost lost my mind/ I couldn't explain the things I've seen."

This last SF week was full and rich. Ripe. Juicy as a peach. I can only sketch in for you what it was like, since it's late and I have classes to teach in the morning, then another plane to catch on Wednesday.

I got in and took a limo to my friends Kathi Goldmark and Sam Barry's house in the hills. They rescued me from hotel living and established me in their rock and roll honkytonk home. We went to dinner in a food court with Amy Tan. Yes, this is full of writer gossip. You don't expect to eat at a food court with Amy Tan, but they were going to the sneak preview of the new Will Farrell movie. I had to go do my reading at Books Inc. at Opera Plaza. It was a funny night in the city--Bill Clinto was across the street giving a talk. No, he didn't come over. But 182 people did come. I couldn't believe it. My friend White Eagle from the Shawn Phillips universe was there, and my writer pals Malin and May-lee were there, too. I didn't read, just talked about the book and fielded questions as best I could.

Cabbed it back to Kathi'n'Sam's place. If you read BookPage, you might know them--they're the Author Enablers of the monthly column. Sam is Dave Barry's handsomer brother. Kathi is the goddess of the Rock Bottom Remainders. Thanks to Kathi I not only got to meet Stephen King and the gang once, but I got to be onstage with Bruce Springsteen bellowing "G-L-O-R-I-A...Gloria!" Perhaps I should have retired then. It was definitely a high school fantasist's high point.

But onward and to bed and up early the next day for my visit to the county jail, the one some inmates call "The Glamor Slammer." I wanted spend the day with the women who were locked up, just us. My one request of the city. Little Brown kindly made free books available. I was a little sad to see reporters and photgraphers there. Though the reporter was an intrepid alum of Clairemont High School like me, though I went when they were still using whale oil in lamps and writing on slate with charcoal.

The day with my sisters inside was the high point of the journey, no question. And the article from that day seems to be everybody's favorite artifact. I was told by many people that they cried when they read it. You have to give back. You have to serve. Even if you end up in the media like some cut-rate Bono and look like the worse attention-pig. It was going to be my secret. On the other hand, God has His sly reasons for the Saint Luis thing to pop up once in a while. I've been invited to go back and take writing to lifers at San Quentin. Hey, if Johnny Cash could do it, so can I. Luis: El Santo de Cabora.

That night, dinner with librarians and power peeps I didn't know who had gone on many safaris and epic trips and scuba adventures and stuff like that. I was still smelling the hallways, hearing the echoes of D Pod and E Pod, but you have to swing with the changes. Paella. Vino. For a Diet Pepsi guy, I sure get lots of exquisite vino to drink that I can't really appreciate. Bold, yet indecisive--a full bloom with just the hint of buttered arugula. Piquant, quaint, yet liberal and slightly sadomasochistic in its savor.

Up early, damn it, again. High schools! Hung with many dear young folks, and we laughed all day long. That night, to my great fear and dread--shock and awe, y'all--we sat at the Friends and Family table of Dr. Maya Angelou and had supper with her. OK, right. Picture that! I shant even get into it: nuff sed that it was absolutely tasteful and gorgeous and stirring. And each lovely place setting had a fresh copy of her new book placed on the plate. I tried to hide behind Kathi and Sam as much as possible.

The whole SF experiment ended on Saturday at the Mission Branch Library, and event in Spanish. My ol' honey-bunny from 1974, the eternal Rains, came. My limo driver snuck in and enjoyed some Mexican pastries. Some ladies there took me to task for anachronisms in the translation into Spanish, but you see, this is why you have a translator. Angry Mexicans can yell at my cousin, except he's the Consul General, so they're scared to yell at him!

Finally, that night, we had a gathering and supper at the house. My new friend David Corbett, mystery writer extraordinaire, was there. As well as my boyhood Rolling Stone hero, Ben Fong-Torres. We stayed into the night having big love and laughter. I was so tired from all of it that I couldn't really focus. When they started singing, I just sat in the shadows and watched. Before I went to bed, Kathi gave me a Johnny Cash autograph she had in the house. You couldn't have given me a better thing than that.

So, once again, I fell into bed and said the only prayer worth a damn: "Thank you, thank you, thank you. PS--what's next?"

Bless me, Johnny, from wherever you've gone.

And I hope the woman in jail who asked me to pray for her is praying for me tonight--I know her prayers are powerful.

...waves breaking forms on my horizons...

...Lord, I'm shining.

Buenas noches, mis queridos amigos--L

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