Garden, Berkeley, 2019

Strawberries, salvia, iris, more salvia, thyme

The first glimmer was long ago pictures of some New Zealand cottage gardens. Then the gardens at City of Hope Cancer Hospital near LA. And Mitta Angel’s front garden and riding around with David when he was learning to drive – in Old East Dallas, especially Hollywood Heights, seeing gardens in front of homes – cottage gardens… From my Cottage Garden page – put up in 2003.

Sweet peas on the compost, recycle “corral”

Now I’m in Berkeley, which must surely be the cottage garden (and hippie garden) capital of the universe! We took out the front garden to revision the front – including putting in a fence to keep the deer out. Now, in addition to the beautiful flowers that were here in the front garden before, there is a kitchen/herb garden in front. A pretty curving stone path starts at the arbor and splits to go to the kitchen door (the one everyone uses) and to the front door. No lawn – all flowers and herbs.

Herbs in the front (kitchen) garden:

Going up path from kitchen steps

Lemon thyme
French tarragon
Lemon grass
Sweet marjoram
Lemon verbena

Map of the garden – posted on corral gate

Lemon balm
Basil (sweet, lime and Genovese)

Other good things in front include about 25 ever-bearing strawberries (Seascape and a few other strains). We have two blueberry bushes, which will give a few berries this year. Lemon tree. Lime tree. Garlic is coming up. Raspberries look strong. We put in one Sungold tomato in front. I planted cantaloupes (Ambrosia) and cucumbers yesterday.

I’m excited that this year is the first time I’ve ever grown sweet peas and foxglove. One of the sweet peas is blooming,

Front gate. Sculpture by Bill Sorich.

but I think the ones I planted from seed will need another 3-4 weeks to bloom.

Flowers in bloom right now. There is a beautiful clematis with white flowers on the arbor. Also, the aforementioned sweet peas, manzanita, coreopsis, sweet alyssum, lantana, rosemary, lavender, tansy, rose, blue salvia, butterfly sage, purple bell vine (rhodochiton), maroon salvia, orange-red salvia, iris (from Jean’s father and from Sydney), camellia, helleboros, calla lilies, borage, nasturtium, persicaria, loropetalum, Aztec marigold, and impatiens sodenii. Alstromarium, foxglove, and hollyhocks are budding.

Berries photographed in 2018

And so the garden grows. Baked chocolate chunk cookies yesterday. Gave some to the people across the street. A few weeks ago we got a bale of straw for the strawberries (to keep the berries off the dirt so they won’t rot as they ripen). Now we seem to be growing a fine crop of hay alongside the strawberries.


Hong Kong 2018

Hong Kong Island, Central

50 years ago this month I first was in Hong Kong. Since then I’ve been in this city about 20 times. The first time was on R&R from the war in Vietnam. The last time was with Leslie in 2013, less than a year before she passed away. Most of the times it was on the way into Asia and again on the way out, with Hong Kong bookending two month trips into the magic of travels with Leslie. Now I’m with Jean and the magic is alive. It’s different, of course, but undeniably beautifully magical.

At the moment we’re on the big A-350 jet riding high and smooth above the mighty Pacific Ocean – the same Pacific we see from the deck of our home in Berkeley.


The first time in HK was a surreal respite from

Exactly 50 years ago, after R&R in HK

war. I stayed in an anonymous hotel, had anonymous sex with several women (I was anonymous; they were anonymous), drank a lot, hung out with several British soldiers, rode the Star Ferry, ate at Ricky’s Café, drank more – one night I got everyone in a bar to stand while I stood on a table singing The Eyes of Texas, yeah – I was a piece of work alright – and most notably spent a few days with a nice Chinese girl. On the way back

to Vietnam, I got a

Jean resting at the (people’s) Fa Yuen Market

quart of gin and a bottle of champagne, which Jeff Wiseman, Mike Noumov, and I drank on an epic drunk at battalion headquarters on Hill 55 before I staggered back insensate into the war.

In 1978 when Leslie and I were living in Austin, she came home from work one day and asked what would I think about going to Thailand? Yes! Sure! We bought one-way tickets in the back room of a Thai grocery store going from Dallas to Hong Kong to Bangkok.

That first time we stayed in a place in the Chung King Mansions. Leslie was nauseated every time we got into the back hallways. We rode the very funky, very small elevators crowded in like sardines with people from across the world – Indians, Arabs, Europeans, Africans, not many Americans. I would wake at 2 or 3 in the mornings and sit all folded up in the tiny, tiny bathroom reading a Larry McMurtry book. We rode the Star Ferry, ate at Ricky’s, and walked and walked and walked, high on life. Then onward to Thailand, Burma, Nepal, and on around the world.

The view from our room

In 2005, David and Jeff and I were there on our pilgrimage back to Vietnam (for Jeff and me) and the first visit to Cambodia (David’s other homeland). We stopped off in HK on the way in and the way out of Asia. Sometime during those days I was riding the Star Ferry alone (I thought probably my last ride). There was a little girl and her father sitting directly in front me. She was singing, first in Chinese, then in English,

“Row, row, row your boat,

gently down the stream,

Merrily, merrily, merrily,

Life is but a dream.”

The day before we left we were in Big John’s Café, a small place in Tsim Sha Tsui, and on the sound system was,

“Those were days, my friend,

We thought they’d never end,

Writing on the Cathay Pacific plane


We’d sing and dance forever and a day.

We’d live the life we choose

We’d fight and never lose,


Those were the days,

Oh yes those were the days.”

And so it has been.

And now it’s three hours before we land (we slept for about six hours)… Jean and I in our life together, 22 months and still our magic unfolding. I’m writing and Jean is creating art – because that’s what she does. My jukebox is playing Brandi Carlisle, Chopin, Van Morrison…

These are the days.

These are the days that

Wonton noodle soup (shrimp) at Tsim She Kee

will last forever,

You got to hold them

In your heart.

I’m so high!

In the Fa Yuen Market (photo by Jean)

Two nights ago we went to a party at Peter N R’s house. It was a total Berkeley party. Stood out front smoking a joint. Inside the question arose, who was Joe Hill? Three people broke into song – “I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night, alive as you and me.” Someone was talking enthusiastically about her meditation teacher. I laid a little something from the Bible on her – “In my Father’s house are many

Tsim Sha Kee

rooms.” Jean danced, I didn’t. An old friend of hers and I talked about how just because someone is gone from our lives doesn’t mean that they have to really be gone. Jean and I were talking with a Jewish woman and Jean said, “I have Jewish guilt.” I could see the woman prepping for something weird. Jean said, “I’m the only person who didn’t bring any food.” LMAO.

From Victoria Peak

New Years Day lunch with David and Charles and John and Sherry at a restaurant on the water in San Francisco. David updated

Jean’s Global Entry on his iPad. We talked of music and writing and art and life.

“Baby, ain’t it all worthwhile.”

Tuesday I went to San Francisco to see David. We talked about travel and Leslie and what David said a few days about he and his Mom and I never really had any issues – any big anger or angst – it has always been all of us trying hard, knowing what we have, just like now.


A couple of days later (night before last): I went for an evening walk along the crazy crowded streets and saw a place I had looked for several times since David and Jeff and I were in HK in 2005. It was Big John’s Café. I had wanted to take Leslie there, but never could find it, and now here it was! The next morning Jean and I went there for breakfast. On the sound system was The Sounds of Silence.

On the Star Ferry. Deep personal meaning to this photo

Life is a miracle!


Endless summer, Wyoming, Colorado, grief, love, camping, road trip

Our “endless summer” started in May 2016, though we didn’t name it until May 2017. 
A small section of a very big sky!

…into Wyoming, highway up and down and around in rolling high arid steppe – lots of sage, scattered livestock, a few herds of antelope, into a fertile river valley with green fields, herds of livestock, the majestic mountains in the near distance, the Snowy Range coming into view, coming closer to Centennial, where Jean came deeper into herself. 

Jean’s work, 1970s
What does it mean to be with a woman like you – who opens me to my tears – who opens me to deep awe and joy. Driving across the Wyoming high country, across the BIG SKY country feeling as if we’d taken something psychedelic – so high and so good. “It’s good to have been high before, because now we know what’s happening now.” 
The dream is reality.


In the Snowy Range
You told me I help open places in you – as you help open places in me.
That song you sang – “Wy-Wy-WY-oming.”
We stayed with Helen in Golden and with Kenny and Diane in Silverthorne. Good shopping trip with Kenny. Wonderful hospitality from nice people. Colorado and into Wyoming after a stop at Cataract Lake.

Centennial, Wyoming. Population 270. Jean called the woman who bought her house 40 years ago to see if we could come by and walk past the house to the river. The woman told Jean that she was out of town, but the back door was unlocked, so we could just come on in. And we did. And we walked the 30-40 feet from the back door to the river running fast (we heard a big fish break water). Standing there in the cold rain in this place of tremendous growth for Jean.

In the Snowy Range
We spent the night at the Old Corral Hotel, Peet’s coffee and fruit and yogurt for breakfast in our room. 

The highway (opened yesterday) up out of Centennial into the Snowy Mountains. I first saw these beautiful mountains about 1963 off in the distance on the way to somewhere in Wyoming with my friend, Renn Fenton***. I’ve seen them in the distance 5 or 6 times since; and now, driving into the mountains through pine trees dusted with snow and a little snow on the ground, now more, stopping the car down a smaller side road and getting out to be in the snow surrounded by trees with the snow too deep to walk in. Driving up and up with deep drifts on the side of the road and the snow coming down and at the top of the pass the snow is coming down sideways, stinging our faces – Yes!

The Bighorns

The endless arching of this endless summer from Berkeley to Mendocino to Dallas to Santa Cruz to San Francisco to Vancouver to the golden afternoon of Big Sur to Marcia’s house to Indian Rock to The Temple to Flagging to the Edge of the World, to Yosemite (walking with faeries in the forest) to the beach the seashore the waterfront to La Honda to Esalen(!) to massage class to New York to Spain to our beautiful life in Berkeley to Colorado into Wyoming into the place where Jean became so much and arching across the beautiful Snowy Range! This isthe train. Here is a moment on a Mendocino beach that captures when the endless summer started.

At the beginning of the Endless
Summer – Mendocino beach
Driving out of the Snowy Range it was a short drive to Saratoga, to visit the hot springs there. The Saratoga Hot Springs hotel was overpriced and the restaurant mediocre, but we had a great time along the river and in the room. (More later on the municipal hot springs – a much better option than the “resort.”)

From Saratoga, we drove north – first to Medicine Bow for breakfast with bikers (and not 50 year old divorced guy “bikers” with do-rags) – and onward to the Sheridan area to visit Jean’s friends, Katie and Hal for a few days. We hung out on their ranch, then drove up into the hills, parked, and walked along a dirt road lined with lupines. Hal forged ahead with the dogs (Dan and Marty) and Katie and Jean walked through the lupines and I wandered along in my own world. Lunch was at a café in Bighorn. After lunch we went to a “roping” – a cowboy Memorial Day get-together and a birthday party and so there we were, standing along the corral fence with the “headers” and “heelers” roping the steers and the other people sitting on their horses and a few along the fence.

Sheridan roping
And THEN, it was time for the “boil” – a huge pot of boiling seasoned water, with potatoes, sausage, corn, and shrimp – plus bread and slaw and macaroni salad and watermelon and rhubarb (harvested yesterday) pie and coconut cream pie and a humongous tub of ice cream and nice people – though most are probably farther to the right than I am to the left.
A great Memorial Day.
At the “boil” after roping
Memorial Day 2017
From Sheridan we headed south to Thermopolis for a short time in their municipal hot springs, then on to Lander (home of the National Outdoor Leadership School – NOLS). Good times and good food in this pretty Wyoming town.
We drove the few miles from Lander to Sinks Canyon where we camped in a state park. This was Jean’s first night in a tent in 40 years. Very windy and rained for awhile – a great night.
(“Grief is the final act of love, and recovery from it is the necessary betrayal on which the future depends. There is only this one life, and we are the ones who are here to live it.” From NYT review of Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant.)

We talk of our spouses and the terrible grief. Driving up the highway across the Wyoming steppe and through the mountains, singing Grateful Dead and Beatles songs together – Here Comes the Sun! Such an emotional trip. Tears just beneath the surface… Attics of My Life – not about a person as much as self… attics = past – I laughed with delight.
In the tent

Onward back across this magnificent big sky country to Saratoga, where we stayed in Hacienda motel on the edge of this small town and drove five minutes to the municipal hot springs – free, sandy bottom, convivial scene. Back at the cowboy motel we rested then went to the Wolf Hotel for a prime rib dinner.

Vedauwoo campsite

Continuing south we again camped, this time in the Vedauwoo area – we had a great campsite among the hoodoos. Our nearest neighbors were a hippie family on their way to the Rainbow Gathering in a great bus. The man and I were talking about an Incredible String Band song quote on the side of bus (“We love you, but Jesus loves you the best”) and he and I sang a few lines together. Later I recalled that I sang that song to Keo as she was dying last January.

Camping with Jean was great. We were comfortable in our warm sleeping bag and tent, enjoyed our camping food, and had good times hiking around and watching sunsets.
From the Vedauwoos we drove to Fort Collins to spend the night, but it was too cityish, so we drove into the mountains and rented a cabin along the Fall River in Estes Park. This was a great move – clean mountain air, rushing river, and… a bear walked by less than 20 yards from Jean!!! This happened a day after we talked about our spirit animals (mountain lion for me; bear for Jean)!
Sunset Vedauwoo

In the morning we took off up Trail Ridge Road across the Rockies. It’s been more than 50 years since I was there and Jean had never made it across that pass at 12,183 feet. Wow! Surrounded by tundra and snowy peaks and the thin air and clear skies. Now over the pass toward Winter Park and then Golden to spend the night at Helen’s (and her dogs, Louie and Stella).

Jean and Helen were talking about a car we saw with a bumper sticker – Women for Trump. Jean said, “Don’t they realize their bodies are sacred.”
Denver airport and flying from one paradise (Wyoming/Colorado) to another (Berkeley/Bay Area).
Bear outside our cabin. Photo by Karen

*** Renn Fenton and I lived together in a cabin in Estes Park and climbed in Estes and the Needles in South Dakota. While Jean and I were traveling in Wyoming and Colorado, I told her a little about Renn. When we got home I googled him. I discovered that he died in 2007. Here is something from an internet forum: “I am a travel nurse who has taken care of Renn while he was in the hospital. I wanted all of you to know that I have felt privileged to be one who got to spend time caring for Renn during his last days. It was clear to me the first time I laid eyes on Renn that he was quite a character – when I googled him, I found this site and saw a comment that made me want to respond. I was actually able to “break through” with Renn and get him to talk back to me and say my name. I will forever remember his vivid blue eyes and “cat that got the canary” smile. I just wanted all of his friends to know that there are several of his nurses who have appreciated Renn for being the kind of person who makes this world interesting and feel honored to have cared for your friend.” 

Renn’s country – Jean’s country – my country

Spain: Barcelona, Granada, Valle de Abdalajis, Cordoba, Barcelona

Valle de Abdalajis
We flew Newark to Barcelona in Delta coach. It was a seven hour flight and we were glad we’d paid extra for a little extra legroom. Aeroport bus to the center of the city, then taxi to the Air BnB where we met Gemma, the woman we were renting from She was still cleaning the apartment after previous renters, so we dropped our luggage off and walked to the nearby Cathedral Familia Sagrada, hung out in a park, had something to eat, went back to apartment and settled in.
La Familia Sagruda
Thursday notes: Sitting in a coffee shop near the university, soft guitar music, watching all the pretty people walking by, decent salad, good espresso, feeling good with Jean. We visited the Catedral de Barcelona (more traditional than the far-out La Familia). There were many shrines within the cathedral, some old tombs (from 1500s), and a realistic wax figure of a priest in a confessional. When I leaned in to look closer, he blinked! It was a living person, not wax – talk about startled!
We went to La Familia Sagrada, a strange edifice designed by Antonio Gaudi, the penultimate Barcelona architect. The cathedral has been under construction since 1882 and is scheduled for completion in 2026
Walked to Barrio Gotic, a maze of narrow streets, upscale shops, a whole tourist scene. Jean went into the Picasso Museum and I hung out on the streets. Got a text from Kristina, who has passed her state boards (NCLEX) – congratulations!
Las feministas 💖
Walking back to our apartment and up ahead we hear chanting, cheering, lots of people. Checking it out – las feministas! Into the flow now, joining in long enough to be able to say we were there. It was a happy and intense time – yet another life bookend for me – thinking of Leslie and when she bought the early Our Bodies/Our Selves at the Whole Earth Store in Austin; how in those early days feminism seemed radical (it was, actually); how she was an avowed feminist until the end of her life; how she put her beliefs into action, working with and lifting up women all her life. We were raised in the 1950s, raised ourselves in the 1960s and now, 50 years later, in a march with Jean, another serious feminist! Fortunate me! Days later, walking through an area of Barcelona called, “El Clot,” we picked up a flyer that said, “El Clot esta FEMINISTA o no sera.” Yes!
At dinner in a neighborhood-oriented tapas café we watched part of a soccer semifinals game. Barcelona won and the café erupted, as did the streets – honking, cheering, fireworks. Great fun.

On to Granada – we missed our flight, and got another flight. After several misadventures, we got to the Hotel Leo for our first night in Granada, and then moved to an apartment. The taxi to the apartment couldn’t take us all the way because of a religious parade. So we hiked quite a ways and when we were in the middle of the parade, a parade marshal let us through and we kept on hiking and hiking up narrow cobblestone streets until finally reaching our apartment at #90 San Juan de los Reyes.

La feminista; mi corazon


The apartment was incredible. First floor entry, second floor two bedrooms and bathroom, and third floor living room, kitchen, and veranda. From the bedroom and from the veranda, there were stunning views of Alhambra. And at night, when the fortress/palace/mosque was lighted, our bed and we were bathed in the light.
Our tickets to see Alhambra were on a cold and rainy day and so there we were again, walking in misty gardens all wet with rain. Happy days. Alhambra was spectacular, though somewhat crowded. We could see our apartment across the little river running beneath the ramparts.
By now, I’d lost track of regular writing.
While we were traveling, we observed the date of Leslie’s passing, Leslie’s birthday, the anniversary of Jean’s husband’s passing, and Jean’s wedding anniversary – March is quite a month, grief-wise! On Leslie’s birthday, Jean asked me what time it was. I said I didn’t know and so Jean checked her phone. As she opened the phone, the time clicked over from 7:46 to 7:47 – 747 being the number of greatest meaning to Leslie. Hi Leslie! Sigh.
Our bedroom in Granada

Leslie and Jean are different in some ways and similar in others. One profound similarity is that both of these women do something I call believing in people. And through the power of this belief (and other factors), somehow, some people are lifted up, sometimes literally saved. Once again, I ask, how can this be? How can I have ended up with these women!?

Granada was a high point of the trip: our incredible apartment and view, narrow cobblestone streets, little bus up to (what we called) hippie hill, street musicians, good food, good Spanish wine, romantic everything. I actually had not thought that Spain would be any more or less romantic than our usual life. But it was very romantic.
Our street in Granada

We rented a car in Granada and drove to Antequera and from there through the countryside to the Valle de Abdalajis, near one of the “white villages” – so-called because all the houses are painted white. The drive was beautiful, though to me (the driver), stressful because of the difficulties finding our way. But after some challenges, we found where we were spending the night – at Maggie and Elio’s house. We were able to walk into Elio’s olive tree grove – several acres of trees!

We drove up above the village for a lovely time along a deserted road. Dinner in Antequera was unusual – including an orange and salted cod salad, rabbit and garlic stew, a sausage potato and egg dish, and bread with olives and olive oil.
From the valley we drove to Cordoba, where we stayed at a hotel half a block from the entrance to la Mezquita de Cordoba. Once again, we were in narrow, cobblestone streets, sidewalk cafes, and among friendly people.
The Hope of a Condemned Man III.
Miro finished this on the day the man was executed

From Cordoba, we drove back to Granada, where we stayed one night at the Leo Hotel, then flew back to Barcelona. We stayed at another Air BnB in an urban neighborhood, nice, very quiet.

We walked from our apartment to El Clot, a transitional middle class and art-oriented neighborhood. Nice espresso at a nice community center, where we picked up the flyer that said, “El Clot esta FEMINISTA o no sera.” Yes! I read a few days ago that at the University of Texas approximately 1 in 7 women has been raped. The president “just grab ‘em by the pussy” of the united states is a misogynist sexual predator leading a republican party that despises women, except as sex objects – in case anyone thinks feminism isn’t an immediate issue.
Enduring Granada memory –
a little psychedelic band

I had an epiphany on a visit to the Joan Miro Museum. I was looking at large triptych titled, The Hope of a Condemned Man. I learned that “Miró painted this triptych in reference to the hope of grace as he prayed for the life of the young anarchist Salvador Puig Antich, finally executed by garotte” (from Wikipedia). I understood then that my life of seeking justice for the dispossessed and underserved could be connected to art. This mattered a lot to me, since Jean has dedicated her life to art.

Easy days and nights in Barcelona. Several wonderful dinners at a small upscale restaurant, Vivant. These are the days!


Home in Berkeley

We flew Delta business class from Barcelona to NYC (great flight), then Virgin America NYC to SFO (poor flight). Ahhh, back to Paradise (Berkeley).



I want to be like Mary Magdalene

I was coming twice daily as life slowly slipped away from her wracked and wasted body. Three weeks since she first said, “I’m ready to go” and now she’s whispering, “I want to die…” and “Why can’t I die?” Her suffering is infinitely sad and unnecessary. That’s the way suffering seems to go so often. I notice that despite the sadness I don’t seem to completely connect with it. I wonder if I’ve lost so much I don’t have that much connection left.
I remember in Vietnam when I became impervious to the horror, I thought…
It was dark by the time I got into the perimeter of a Marine battalion on an operation at the DMZ. I reported to the commanding officer, who told me to stay with the command group. Some of them were asleep by then, so I lay down beside them and slept the night through.
In the morning I discovered that I was sleeping next to some dead men wrapped in ponchos and laid out next to the command group. Their gear was lying piled nearby and I found a C-ration can of cinnamon roll (my favorite) in one man’s pack. I had started to eat it when some Marines asked for help lifting bodies onto the back of a quad 20 tracked/armored vehicle. There were two men on top of the vehicle and two of us below and I was holding the cinnamon roll in my teeth as we lifted the first man up. His body was tilted up and I was below and a dark liquid ran out of the poncho and down my upraised arm and I couldn’t let go or the body would have gone to the ground and the liquid slid down my arm, down my side.

It was the heart of darkness. The horror. So much for impervious.

Photo of photos of condemned children
S21/Tuol Sleng in Phnom Penh


Later it got worse, when the bodies and ponchos started to cook on top of the engine vents as we fought through the morning.

When I first started seeing my friend after she had become so sick, she would ask me to stay and I would. When she went home from the hospital I committed to coming twice daily to her apartment and I did. At first it was a lot of time and a lot to do. Later, there was less to do, but I’m still coming because I said I would. Now I’m only a witness to her suffering.

I thought about Jesus’ agony in the garden of Gethsemane right before he was murdered. “Remain here… watch with me,” he said to his disciples. They didn’t do it. I deeply don’t want to let my friend down like the disciples let Jesus down. I want to be like Mary Magdalene, the one who didn’t give up, the one who watched with Jesus through the awful suffering and through the end, who was witness to the suffering, the one who stayed. (And I get it that three weeks isn’t very long.)