Archive for September, 2010

Progress Report #42: Back from the Past

September 28, 2010
In Greece in 1969

Me in my Cretan boots with a Greek pal in 1969

I got back from my trip a few days ago. My jet lag has nearly passed, and I hope to get back to my writing desk tomorrow. The trip turned out to be highly successful. The writing I did in Greece fulfilled the plan, albeit in ways that I didn’t foresee exactly. Of course.

The photo above was taken during the period that I went over to write about. A Cretan bootmaker in the village of Pitsidia made those boots specifically for my feet. During this most recent trip I met a man who knew that bootmaker and filled in a couple of blank spots in my memory. The bootmaker was a musician who sat in front of his shop and played the Cretan lyra (yes, I remember now). He also spoke some German. I did, too, so that’s how he and I must have communicated. These are the endless, small details that create the universe within the pages of a book.

I think some people might object to this statement (I’m sure some will, actually), but looking at this photo and looking at the shots I took on this return trip reaffirm my view that the world was more real then. People were more real, places were more real. (More real because more sincere.) I’ll probably get into this in a later post, but I saw again that globalization is relentlessly trashing every culture on the planet. It’s hard for me to think of any place on earth that I’d like to travel to. Every place is the same now or in the process of becoming the same. Some people find this exciting. I think it’s lunacy.

Progress Report #41: View From a Cave

September 19, 2010

For the last five days I’ve been in Matala on the Greek island of Crete. In November of 1969 I spent some time living in a cave here. There had been a cover article in a 1968 edition of Life Magazine about the scene in Matala where hundreds of hippies were living in caves. It sounded good to me. Joni Mitchell came here a few months after me and wrote the song “Carey” for her album Blue about her experiences here. “Carey” will play a very strange role in Street Song.

I went back to do some research three years ago and I was able to find my old cave. I couldn’t have found it by looking—I’d been away for 39 years—but, incredibly, my feet found it for me. They remembered where to go. My old cave is inside the white circle.

The cave in Matala

My Cave at Matala

Here’s the view from inside the cave.

The View from Inside

The View From Inside

When I was here in ’69, Matala was a small fishing village of around 30 people and two to three hundred hippies. Today it’s a resort–a small one at least.

I’ve been getting some good work done here.

Progress Report #40: The Best Laid Plans

September 11, 2010

Kettwig an der Ruhr

For the last five days I’ve been in Kettwig, Germany working on my book. (I spent time here when I first left home at age 17.) Tomorrow I head for Crete. Before leaving the States I carefully devised an elaborate plan for how best to use my time here. Reality has interceded, however, and after two or three days of frustration and resistance (jet leg lasting longer than planned for, the “wrong” kind of weather, an unexpected, noisy street fair happening just below my room), I’ve adapted. My time here has not been a failure, by any means, but it has been quite different than what I intended.

I brought a book with me, Suzuki Roshi’s Branching Streams Flow in the Darkness. Late last night, while waiting for the noise of the street fair to end, I found this passage:

The thinking mind is like a river. When we think, we think in a universal, river way, ignoring physical and physiological conditions. If we focused on the various possible conditions–five, ten, twenty, one hundred, or more–it would not be possible to think. A characteristic of the thinking mind is to ignore all the conditions and follow its own track, so a person tends to just think and go on. Whatever happens, it doesn’t matter. “What are you talking about? We should do this!” This may be more of a man’s way. A woman’s way may be to attend to the various conditions, carefully observing them and figuring out what to do bit by bit.

View From a Hill

September 4, 2010
View from the Mountain

The View From Mt. Tamalpais

I’m leaving for Europe (Germany and Greece) on Labor Day to work on some third draft-type material for my book, Street Song. Since I’m going alone, Judy and I decided we should spend a few days together at West Point Inn on Mount Tamalpais. The inn is a two-mile hike from the nearest road and has a great view of San Francisco and San Francisco Bay. (You can see the city a little to the right of the middle of the photo.) The cabin had only a cold water tap and no electricity. We enjoyed three serene days together above the summer fog. It was a pleasure to get away from e-mail and all the noise and distractions of city life. No news was good news. Now I’m back and getting ready for my flight. I intend to do all my work by hand on this trip. Pen and paper. If I get the chance, I’ll post a progress report or two. I return on September 25, after which I’ll spend a few days recuperating before returning to the second draft in earnest.

Our Cabin on Mt. Tam

Our Cabin on Mt. Tamalpais