A thing I intensely dislike about urban living is its chronic inherent transience; the way things and people flit by, sharpen into focus and, before you can even say a second "hello," vanish. The ground-or better, the sidewalk-shifts, the view changes and you're staring at an empty spot, sorry you even blinked.
Sometimes it's a favorite restaurant-such as Aki Sushi on Piedmont Avenue in Oakland-or, more often, a favorite bookstore, such as Cody's.
This constant waving and rumbling may be acceptable--or even great--for the young who bore easily, who always itch for the new, for whom death is still way off there in the foggy distance.
The hardest thing is when it's the people who keep disappearing, sliiping away anbd out from under you. We get older, time ticks faster, and it slowly dawns on us that the Last Sunset is falling and it's our storefront that'll stand empty, we may ask, Will anyone care? Will anyone sigh when they go by the place where I once lived, drank, walked or shopped?
Some will sigh, most won't and if you've been a genuinely evil fool, maybe none at all.
My Male Parent died in July 2006. I didn't learn about it until (ohhh let's see, look at ceiling), around August 2007, thanks only to periodic Googling. I won't say I didn't feel nothing, but even that feeling faded (The closing of Aki Sushi still upsets me more. Hey! Great food! Friendly staff! My Male Issuer, in contrast, could refreeze the Arctic ice cap just by flying over it, ka-boom.)
A couple of weeks ago, noted Bay Area textile artist Jacob Alexander died. Jacob was my neighbor when I lived on Masonic Avenue in San Francisco's Haight neighborhood from 1991 to 1996.
Jacob was a man who hugged each day, hugged the world, hugged life, even hugged the rain. When I moved, I was glad to be away from most everything in the Haight, except Jacob.
Sometimes when walking home from the Club Deluxe, I'd find him on his stoop and stop for awhile. If I was on the bus, I'd look out the window and if he was there, I'd pull the cord and get off. (I still recall the look of appalled horror on his face when I briefly related the tale of the previous container of my Y chromosome.)
Then I moved to Emeryville (land of Ikea) in 2002 and lost touch with him.
Then, two weeks ago, Jacob died. He did not die alone. Most everyone who lived or jogged through his sphere came to say good-bye, as though he were a father to all.
But I was one of those who didn't. I only found out about Jacob's passing a week later from Leah Garchik's column in the San Francisco Chronicle.
City life again, goddamnit.
For Jacob, there was a memorial walk through Golden Gate Park to Ocean Beach, tributes, tears and vodka toasts at the end. I told the crwod of around 200 about looking out the bus window and growled to myself about Heaven's Lucky Bastards. My soul is still hoisting toasts, still imagining the good-byes I didn't get to say. He won't go away from my mind and he's welcome to stay.
The Other Guy? Well, I've been rolling Pascal's Dice as of late. Awhile back I stopped by Grace Cathedral and spontaneously lit a candle for him (maybe more for my own sake than for his). Anyone who admired both Hitler and Stalin needs some kind of help and I like to think he got more than pissed off that I even went that far. ("Who the hell turned the heat down around here!?" I can hear him shrieking).
Let's say there's a Heaven and let's say they admit me (likely after some long detailed negotiations). I'm hoping Jake will be waiting there, right by the gate. He'd better be. I'm bringing the vodka.
And at least there, we'll have all eternity.
Causes Thomas Burchfield Supports
The Nature Conservancy; Africare; Capitol Public Radio