Friday, July 27, 2007

Early and cold (blurt #2)

i am over the crippling need
to know your name and she is under
my heart and the reason is clear
there is no god but he is behind
the purple velvet scarred with burn
holes from a cigarette smoked
on a sunday morning in june
when we could see the moon against
the pale blue air around us and they
talked about representing the sky
and seeing the sky and knowing the sky

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Fact of the Day

A dentist invented the electric chair. A patient told us this today, all gleeful, as she got into the chair (which all of a sudden signaled death) for her cleaning. Not that I would ever wish death on anyone, but just that it made sense. It does. I looked it up on wikipedia, and it's true.

The idea, at least, came from a dentist, one Alfred P. Southwick, who thought of it while witnessing a wet, drunk man being hit by lightning on a fateful night.

How did the dentists in my office today react to the niblet of trivia? They both smiled. One said, "Oh," and barely rolled his eyes, which I think he meant to sound like: "Who cares?" but actually seemed more like: "Hmmm. Interesting." And the other said, "See? Dentists are creative people."

Saturday, July 14, 2007

What am I doing?

This is a question that graduate students of creative writing ask ourselves all the time.

Very unhelpful and disconcerting are internet posts like this, which highlight every possible anxiety we might have about the practicality and ultimate feasability of our writerly pursuits.

Much more heartening is an article like this, which reviews a newly released debut by a recent sfsu grad. Thanks to Lizzy for the tip.

If my life is mine and I have the privilege to spend it following a thing I love, I choose to stay hopeful.

(Lizzy has inspired me to proclaim this. She is a splendid soul.)

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Palestine Story

In the miasma of all the stories coming out of the middle east, particularly lately, I have a hard time paying attention. It's hard to know who to listen to, sometimes, and what to think. A good adviser on such matters is a previous roommate and dear friend, Jonas. Jonas was living in Palestine, working with the ISM, up until two weeks ago, when he was taken off a bus at a border-crossing for having a "fake" passport. He had recently changed his name and the passport bore his new name, which he obtained since his old name was on a list of people the Israeli government did not want in their country. Jonas was jailed, tried, and deported. Being Jonas, he somehow managed to make it Cairo, instead of back to the States. And now he is on a tropical getaway far, far away from America and the Middle East.

Below, I'm posting his most recent dispatch from his blog, followed by an entry from his "partner-in-crime" Katie about the day he was arrested. Of course Jonas is a million times more fortunate than the thousands of Palestinians who are confined to the borders Jonas was expelled from, but I think Jonas's story is an important one to pay attention to since it shows, not only how unjustly the Israeli authority treats the citizens of Palestine, but, on top of that, how the Israeli authority thwarts outside attempts to help those citizens.

What Jonas wrote:

"Battling Billions, Final Dispatch (for now)"

Well, they did it again. Another refugee to add to the ante. Of course, I
have a 'home' to return to in the States. I can go back if I choose and
continue to contribute to the fascist continuation of Occupation by paying
those tax dollars--watch them manifest themselves into a panel of the
Apartheid Wall, maybe morph into one of those atrocious watchtowers or
into a rubber-coated steel bullet to be shot at the non-violent
demonstrators in Bil'in. Sure, I have that dreadful home to return to.

But my home is in Palestine. My life is there. Those who favor and work
for human rights, however, have no place in an Apartheid State, and the
Israeli government does everything in their "God-given" power to eliminate
this problem, through intimidation or by placing them on a plane and
exporting them.

That scene of a field of apricot trees being ripped from the Earth by an
Israeli bulldozer has been on replay ever since I lay in the Israeli
prison bed. Israeli soliders and police throwing men and women to the
ground as they pray to Allah for this moment in time to cease. Sons are
handcuffed. Activists are seen like rag dolls being tossed from here to
there. Hundreds of years of livelihood dismantled by the Middle East's
only democracy. And soon I find myself forced onto a plane by Israeli
security because I bared witness, video-taped and photographed all that
this democracy had to offer. I saw this democracy bare its teeth with its
unpleasant smile, seeping through a stench of death, a 60 year old rotting
lie of innocense.

And I am sent elsewhere. "Go back to your own country--aren't there enough
problems with your own government," sneers the judge. God, if she only
knew. Those problems with my government brought me here in the first

I wonder if when Oprah makes her solidarity visit for those "terrorized
Israelis" she will see what's happening across the "border," listening to
my or the thousands of other e-mails pleading that America's #1 talk show
host experience the Palestinian plight, to see what terrorism means at 2am
when an entourage of soldiers invades your village and practices a war
games scenario, wreaking havoc on the inhabitants. Somehow I doubt it.

Israel wouldn't deport a high-profile Amercian woman like Oprah because
she reported on Israeli settlers attacking an 8-year old Palestinian boy
in Hebron, would they?

You know, I wouldn't put anything past the Middle East's only democracy.

So, I am taking six weeks to redirect this anger, sadness, emptiness, and
frustration, and hoping to manifest these emotions into something
beautiful. A regime of ugliness has no defense against this kind of

But can this beauty battle billions of American tax dollars?

One can only hope.

Signing off until further notice...


What Katie wrote:

Thursday Jonas and I were on our way from Ramallah to Jerusalem. It
was the evening of the gay pride parade. Jonas was composing the
opening sentence of his future report outloud.. it was something
along the lines of "what brings Jews, Muslims and Christians together
in Jerusalem like nothing else..." except it was more clever than
that and I'm feeling more depressed than clever at the moment so I
can't recall the exact line. As some of you know, the only thing that
unified all faiths was their violent opposition to the gay pride
parade this past week. The previous week the Haredi Jews had a
counter demonstration. The police were going to be out in full force
because last year there were some serious injuries.

Jonas's visa was expired but he had an appointment slip from the
ministry of the interior to renew his visa on July 2nd. This means it
is still legal for him to be in the country. We approached Qalandia
checkpoint in a service. The driver stopped and a soldier boarded the
bus to check our passports. I showed mine and Jonas showed his and
the appointment slip. The soldier took his passport and exited the
bus. He returned and told Jonas to get off the bus and come with him.
I followed to see what was going on. In less than 4 minutes, they'd
handcuffed Jonas and started taking him over to the police terminal
at Qalandia, accusing him of having a fake passport. Not sure whether
it was better to try to get away myself and start calling the lawyer,
or go with him, I wavered for a few minutes, initially refusing to go
with the police officers who insisted I come as well. In the end I
decided it would be better to be with him and quickly sent off some
text messages saying what was happening. They took us into a police
trailer and told us Jonas's passport was fake and that he was under
arrest and they wanted to ask me some questions. I ignored their
questions and continued text messaging the peeps telling them what
was happening and what Jonas needed. The cop told me to give him my
phone. I refused because I know that that police have no authority to
take my possessions unless they arrest me. He tried to grab my phone
out of my hand, I jerked my hand away. He threatened to use force, I
told him if he wanted any of my possessions, he'd have to arrest me.
I tried to resume text messaging and he grabbed the phone. I twisted
it out of his hand. (Thanks for that, Sifu Phil) He said if I didn't
give him the phone, he'd arrest me. "Fuck you," I replied. Then he
called a female cop in who put me in handcuffs and they took my phone
away. But it's all good cuz by then all of our peeps knew and could
get the ball rolling on getting us out of there and I'd be with
Jonas, at least for the time being.

Jonas and I waited in that room for about an hour while the cops went
through our stuff and filled out my arrest paperwork.

I've always been afraid that when I was interrogated or arrested, I
would end up talking and saying something I shouldn't because of the
way they pressure you in an interrogation. Somehow though I was able
to just withdraw into my head and I didn't say a single word to the
the whole time except to tell Jonas I loved him.

After an hour they took both of us out of the trailer, they put me in
the back of a police vehicle and that was the last I saw of Jonas
that day. I was taken to the police station at the Giv'at Ze'ev
settlement and told by a bitchy policewoman that I had been arrested
for resisting a police officer. She wanted to hear my side of the
story but I refused to answer any questions until I could talk to my
lawyer. (television is good for something, right ?) When I was
finally able to call Yael, she said that Gaby Lasky was working on
Jonas's situation and that I should just tell the police officer what
happened, say I was sorry, and that I should be released and the
charges against me would be dropped. I'm not very good at ass-kissing
because I feel it is undignified, but I was able to do a sufficient
enough job to get un-arrested.

The most interesting part of my conversation with this police officer
was the lecture I got about being in Ramallah.

"Why were you in Ramallah ?" she asked me.

For those of you reading who haven't been to Palestine I will explain
some of the political/geographic situation. Ramallah is a part of the
West Bank that is classified as Area A. This means it is under
control of the Palestinian Authority and Israeli civilians are
prohibited from entering. "For their own safety" is the standard
line. The Israeli army can, and does still invade. I tried to picture
the look on the cop's face if I told her that actually, I live there.

"I was picking up something from a friend," I said.

"Where were you ?" she asked.

"Al Manara square."

"Did you know it is illegal for you, as an Israeli citizen, to be in
Ramallah ?"


She began the lecture, "I know you are new here so I need to explain
some things to you. It is very VERY dangerous for you to be in
Ramallah. Those people will kill and mutilate you if they find out
you are Jewish. They kill each other all the time. I hope for your
own good that you never go back there. If they see you have this
Israeli ID on you, they will kill you."

At this point I was picturing my nice apartment on the edge of the
wadi and my nice friends who live in Ramallah and know I have an
Israeli ID. I don't hide it, if someone asks how I am able to stay in
the West Bank for so long, I tell them. When I open my wallet to buy
something, anyone can see my ID. I feel very safe in Ramallah. My
Israeli friend Neta walks down the street in Ramallah speaking Hebrew
on the phone. I tried to imagine what would happen if I told the cop
these things, if I said to her, "Listen, either you're wrong or I'm
crazy. Take your pick."

But that's a conversation for another time and another place. I just
wanted to get the hell out of there and see what was going on with

I called him immediately and found out the bad news that he was
already at Ben Gurion airport and was likely to be deported. Jonas is
my partner in (non-violent) crime. We've been beaten by settlers
together, gotten sick from poisoned water (courtesy of the Israeli
army) together, given 11 speeches together, done the fire circus
together, lived together, worked together, been arrested together,
discussed the benefits and drawbacks of doing a fire circus at
Huwarra checkpoint at night (we both decided we'd probably get killed
so we shelved that plan), and been subjected to all kinds of threats
and intimidation from police, soldiers, settlers, and Hillel students
etc.. Jonas is my home boy. We even used to live on the same street
in San Francisco before we knew each other back when I was a blue-
haired art student and he was the bitchy waiter who served me and my
goth krew at Sparky's Diner in San Francisco. Yeah I remember Jonas
back then, I thought he was a prick because it took him an hour to
bring me my veggie burger at 2am and I'm sure he thought I was some
stuck-up goth bitch. We were both right.

Turns out "They" had found out that Jonas had been here last year
under a different name and passport. Which is not illegal, but it
means he got back in the country without "Them" knowing and that's a
bruise to the ego of the security-conscious, paranoid Israeli

I decided to try to go to the airport and at least see him, not
really sure if it would help. Unfortunately getting there turned out
being pretty difficult because of the parade. Jerusalem was more or
less locked down and few busses were running. I managed to convince
an Israeli girl to let me follow her to the central bus station by
foot. She said we couldn't get a bus there and she was on her way to
the area anyway. It took us 45 minutes to reach the bus station on
foot. There were police EVERYWHERE. She pointed out some special
police on motorcycles and told me they carry huge clubs and their
only job is to beat people with them. We walked through some Haredi
neighborhoods and found the that the residents had already begun to
wind themselves up for the parade. In a show of displeasure, they'd
overturned dumpsters in the middle of the street and set the trash on
fire. I asked the girl if the parade was going through this
neighborhood. She said no. In a different situation I probably would
have enjoyed the walk through Jerusalem, you can learn lot about
human nature if pay attention to the way people behave when they're
gearing up for some violent confrontation, but I spent the entire
time on the phone trying to figure out what was going on with Jonas.

By the time I actually got to the central bus station to get a bus to
the airport, I learned from Kobi, one of the Israeli anarchists who
was trying help Jonas, that going to the airport would be useless
because they had transferred him to the immigration prison in Lod. I
sat down in the bus station and had a tearful conversation with Jonas
on the phone. There's something about being in Israeli bus stations
that really magnifies one's despair. Maybe it's the fact that every
other person in the bus station is carrying a gun, or maybe it's just
the bitchy lady at the entrance to the bathroom who won't let you
relieve yourself unless you give her a shekel.

Since there was nothing I could do but wait until his hearing before
a judge on Sunday, I decided to go back to Jerusalem and stay the
night at the Faisal. I left the bus station and flagged down a cab. I
asked the driver how much would it be to go to Damascus Gate. He told
me 40 shekels. He drove me to Jaffa Gate and said "here we are, this
is Jaffa Gate." Jaffa Gate is in Jewish West Jerusalem and is about a
20 minute walk from Damascus Gate in Arab East Jerusalem, the place I
had asked him to bring me.

"I told you to take me to Damascus Gate," I reminded him.

"I can't take you there, you can get out here and walk."

"Why can't you take me there ?" I asked. (This is a rhetorical
question because I know what he's going to say)

"Because of the Arabs," he answered. (I was right !!!)

"Are you afraid of the Arabs ?" (What about the Haredim on the other
side of town who have practically declared war on the gay population
of Israel ?) "Look," I told him, "I asked you how much it was to
Damascus Gate, you said it was 40 shekels, you agreed to take me
there and I'm not getting out of this taxi until you take me there."

"It'll be 50 shekels if you want me to take you to Damascus Gate."

"No, you are going to take me to Damascus Gate and I am going to pay
you 40 shekels."

He took me there and let me off. I paid him 40 shekels.

Walking back to the Faisal I realized that the Holy Land is pretty
close to Hell on Earth. Everyone here hates everyone else. Everyone
is trying their best to make everyone else's lives miserable. What
differentiates it from the US, is that all of these different people,
Palestinians, gays, Haredis, Fatah, settler hilltop youth,
anarchists, international solidarity workers, Sudanees refugees,
Hamas, secular Jews, Zionists, Islamic Jihad, Kahanists, the JDL,
communists, Ethiopians, non-Jewish Russian immigrants, Bedouins,
Druze, Armenians, Christian Palestinians, and loud-mouthed new
immigrants from New York City staking claim to their G*d-given
territory in the middle of the old city of Hebron have to live
together in an area 1/19th the size of California and all of us,
depending on our religion or ethnicity, have some form of travel
restrictions placed upon us. West Bankers and Gazan's of course can't
enter "Israel," Israelis can't be in Area A, refugees are restricted
to their moshavs, Israeli anarchists are forbidden (just like
Palestinians) from going anywhere near the settlements, Jerusalem
Palestinians can't be in Area A. It's enough to make your head spin
and democracy it ain't.

In the US, the neo-Nazis can happily snort meth in their isolated
bunkers in Idaho and no one really has to think about them very much.

Jonas was given a deportation order on Sunday. He wanted to go to
Egypt to stay with a friend and figure out what he would do from
there. He's also supposed to go to Bali next month and leave from
Amman Jordan. But "They" had other plans for him and were threatening
to fly him back to the United States. This would have been a
disaster. Luckily Kobi was able to handle the bitchy immigration
police and arrange for him to be sent to Cairo. While talking to
Jonas the phone, he told me "They" "accused" him of being Muslim
because of his beard. When he pointed out that Jews have beards too
and told them he prays to Jesus, they laughed in his face.

We brought his things to the airport and were only able to see him
for about two minutes, long enough to give him his stuff and some
food because he hadn't eaten since his arrest on Thursday, and
understandably so.

I miss Jonas. I can't wait to see him again. I don't know what is
going to happen now. There are so many things here I cannot imagine
doing without him.

Thursday, July 5, 2007


Beautiful, right? This was the setting for my good friend Darren's wedding last weekend. After the ceremony (pictured here), everyone took their seats at the ten or so tables set up on the lawn, had a tasty dinner as the sun set. There was plenty of California wine to go around to fuel all the dancing that came after. This all happened in the back garden at the home of the lovely bride's grandmother in Los Gatos.

I feel over-stimulated by celebration lately, partly guilty, partly wondering if we deserve all the indulgence, the time off... And yesterday was July 4, on a Wednesday, of all days. Smack dab in the middle of our American work week, a majority of workers got the day off. In San Francisco, we had one of the record hottest days in history and everyone seemed to be aimlessly wandering about. I made it out to Berkeley to visit a friend before her bbq got under way. We sat in her shady back garden and chatted. I got back to SF a few hours before sunset, checked out the insane party that was going on in Dolores Park. Among the hundreds gathered, my roommate organized a bbq that consisted of many kinds of meat and beer and an actual arcade game that they had somehow transported to the park and were running off a gasoline motor. There were immense piles of trash around all the trashcans and scattered on the lawn. I high-tailed it home where I met some friends for dinner and then up to my friend's roof where we had a 360-degree view of the city and surrounds. We watched fireworks shoot into the sky from different neighborhoods and rooftops, spinning on our feet, ooh-ing and aah-ing. The night was balmy and the lights and sounds were stimulating--sometimes warlike and of course we jokes about the ones set off by the city that we were seeing our tax dollars at work. Afterwards, we headed over to Dolores Park. We walked against the leaving hordes and now the trash just seemed like it was everywhere. We sat at the edge of a hill and listened to some pretty bad hippy "campfire" music.

For a few more photographs from the wedding weekend, go here. I didn't take any photos on July 4. Firework photographs are pretty tough to make interesting anyway, right?