Wednesday, October 01, 2003

On the Road II

Back now. The last day in San Francisco began with what's becoming a quintessential city experience, the trip to reclaim a car from city towing. Not enough to give a ticket at a little past 9 a.m. for parking in a zone a bumpkin like me has never heard of, which mandates you disappear your car between 7 and 9 a.m. during the morning commute. It was stupid, but the stupidity-or at least the oversight-was shared. Fortunately, reclaiming the car was fairly painless, except for the repulsive cost. The city of San Francisco does it very efficiently; it's apparently just another part of the car business, like that particular car's home, a rental lot.

The drive back included an unexpectedly close view of a forest fire in southern Humboldt. It was a flare-up of a fire that had been under control. From 101 we could see rivelets of smoking trees and at one point some flames at the top of a hill. It was a small enough fire that 101 remained open, and also that we could be so close to it. Even a fire this small in scale was an awesome, as also in awe-ful and awe-inspiring, sight.

The good news of the trip is the on again, off again assignment for a story on a project investigating the influence of Buddhism in the arts is on again, this time in probably the best possible venue, the Sunday Datebook section of the Chronicle. It was neat meeting people at the Chronicle, some I'd worked with by phone and email, some not. And getting reacquainted with Kenneth Baker, who I haven't seen since I was his editor at the Boston Phoenix in the early 1970s. Nice to know that my younger self made a lasting good impression.

My day in the Zen Center was a mixed experience. I didn't feel like I spent much time there really---I had hardly settled in my very pleasant room in the afternoon (and a brief moment in the lovely Japanese tea garden) before I had to go off to Berkeley again to attend a performance for this story. When I got back I could read for only awhile before sleeping, since I was to be up early for meditation instruction and the Saturday lecture and discussion. I did pick up a few pointers on the sitting meditation, and the lecture was good. I liked being in the group for meditation and lecture, but I have to say that as a fervently lapsed Catholic, even though I believe in ceremony and ritual, the priesty robes and apparent hierarchies, the bowing before statues etc., made me a bit nervous.

The day took a different turn when more or less on the spur of the moment I headed down to the ballyard, bought a great seat from an independent vendor, and saw my first Giant's game at Pac Bell Park. Two spiritual experiences in one Saturday! I watched Barry Bonds many times as a Pittsburgh Pirate, from his rookie year to his last in the burgh, but this was the first time I'd seen him since. The crowd was fun, there were some nice fielding plays, but it was not a good game for the Giants or Barry. It's a great park. ESPN's exhaustive survey rated it the second best in the majors, with PNC Park in Pittsburgh being the best---which is where I saw a game last summer. I liked this park better, but I suspect it was because of the feeling in it---people knew the Giants are a good team, and they're on their way to the playoffs. There were some great teams in Pittsburgh when I went to games at Three Rivers and Forbes Field, but that was a long time ago.

So that's the chatty blog stuff about the trip. Still a bit fatigued, but I'll be back to my usual trenchant blather soon.