What does the American flag symbol currently represent?

My friend Annie recently mentioned a grocery trip during which her daughter insisted upon wearing her American flag dress. “What does the American flag symbol currently represent?” she asked. “In my opinion, it’s ignorance and greed at best. What can we do each day to resurrect the pillars this county stands on? We’re so much better than this.”

Annie: I hear you! I don’t claim to have any answers, but I love this question, particularly as an American abroad at this moment in history. I also love that children, like your daughter, aren’t caught up in the outer OR inner turmoil.

To further the conversation, I’ve just dug up this article I wrote some years ago for the Bolinas Hearsay (then my local newspaper). If you don’t want to read the whole thing, at least scroll down to the Wendell Berry poem at the bottom!


The Psychedelic Seniors: StuArt and friends

A bit of context for those of you unfamiliar: Bolinas is a town that takes it’s July 4th celebrations Verrrrrrry Seriously. It’s easily the biggest celebration of the year, drawing tourists from far and wide for the parade, a showcase for small-town agrarianism, creative genius, and a heavy dose of progressive politics. The day also features a tug-of-war between Bolinas and Stinson, the small town across the lagoon channel.


Bolinas women about to win the tug-of-war against Stinson 2015

I almost used the tug-of-war metaphor to represent the place we find ourselves in today, as citizens of countries and as humans with hearts, but as Annie says, “we’re so much better than this!” What about something along the lines of… let’s forego sides and ALL take up the rope and use it as a tool to achieve some shared goal? I want to stay optimistic, as angry as I am. Tonight I’m joining a class on Buddhism, social change, and non-violent action. I am curious to see what tools present themselves, and hope to report back soon.


Bolinas Hearsay, July 2011

On the afternoon of July 5th 2010, I was wandering up from the beach on Wharf Road. I followed the stars and stripes painted in red, white, and blue along the road, beaming at the memory of watching them magically appear a day earlier behind the tractor during the parade, our latest gift from the always-inspiring, always-surprising Gospel Flat Farmer-artist-provocateurs.

Just then, Mickey and Sam Murch themselves drove up in the farm truck. Still grinning, I told them that they – the farmers and their art – were the highlight of my Fourth of July!

But Sam’s look was somber. “Some people complained to [name omitted]. We’re here to clean up,” he told me, nodding toward the pressure washer and lengths of hose in the back of the truck. “Apparently people aren’t necessarily mad that we painted on the road – it’s that they don’t want to look at American flags.” Continue reading


Looping back around: music, memory, and meeting Scott

Every time Scott puts Wild Nothing on:

I remember that I had invited him (via the old-and-inferior OKCupid messaging system) to check out Bombay Bicycle Club at the Warfield as a first date.

As it turned out, neither of us ended up going to that show. We did meet in person to see Zakir Hussein at SF Jazz Center the following weekend, easily one of the best dates, much less first dates, I’d ever been on…

…but it was too late. I ignored his texts for a couple days. My stomach knotted with the decision I’d been mulling over, I called to tell him I had chosen to focus my energy into a different (also brand new) relationship.


There’s much more to say, of course, about all the things that happened between then and now. But this afternoon we’re checking out the visuals from that Bombay Bicycle Club tour and trying to figure out the best way to get the album box set to our home in New Zealand.


Resources for dating in small communities

For most of the decade from 2007-2017, I lived in West Marin. Bolinas was home for most of that time but I also spent a lot of time in Point Reyes Station (where I rented office space for a couple of years). These small towns are nestled amongst some of the most beautiful places I have ever laid eyes upon, much less had the privilege of living in.


West Marin’s relatively small population presented (and still presents, I assume?) some challenges in the realm of intimate relationships. Though serial monogamy seemed to be the norm, it wasn’t the only relationship structure practiced within in this constellation of towns. We dated one or more of our neighbors; we became exclusive and shacked up for a spell; we broke up, moved away, and/or moved on to new partners… and not always in that order.


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Don’t rob yourself of the now: Timmy’s tribute to José as a balm for those who grieve


My interview with climber, comedian, friend, and _____* Timmy O’Neill is now live on Xero Gravity, please check it out!

Timmy was a consistent presence during my Yosemite years, and he recently wrote a beautiful tribute to our late friend José, asking:

How do you bring someone long gone, back to life, and what are the physical and emotional artifacts that allow you to personify him?

I feel similarly trying to describe Timmy; *there are precious few words for describing those people who just vibrate at a higher level, even when they are still with us Continue reading


Chris van Leuven: my other “brother”

chris-vlChris van Leuven spent quite a bit of time at our house in high school, so much so that I often thought of him as the third sibling in the family. Things at his house weren’t going that well, we gathered, but neither my brother nor I asked many questions. Instead, we would bring him home after our afternoon sessions at the local boulders or climbing gym. We’d let his endless stream of words, spoken in such animated, rapid succession that anyone else would have struggled to comprehend, melt into our own stories from the day. Often, all three of us would be speaking at the same time, but that didn’t hinder our understanding.

In the Spring of 1996, I was just finishing my first year of college in Montreal while Chris was actually living our high school dream of dirtbagging in Yosemite Valley. Continue reading


Appreciating the wizards behind the musical curtains

Last night I drove up to Sonoma to see, among other bands that I like, Sandy’s play in a barn at the Huichica Music Festival.

One of the things I really appreciate about live performances, and especially intimate ones like last night’s, is that we get to experience all the work that we hear the results of but never get to see on the records: the load-in, the sound checks, the broken strings and forgotten lyrics, the moments of accidental ear-piercing feedback, and the communication between the musicians and people like Jeremy Harris behind the soundboard supporting Sandy’s.

Jeremy ripped it up onstage during Vetiver‘s set later in the night. A lovely human being in general, Continue reading


Interconnected journeys / imagined realities


Sometime back in 2012 or so, Geoff played this record for me:


About a month ago I listened to Scott’s Ethereal Drifting mix again for the first time in a while and I cracked right open starting at about 13:30 (start from 7:06 for a good entry point for the connection I’m making here, but please listen to the whole thing at some point!):

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The point your love song misses

I’m going to see Andrew Bird tomorrow night, so I’m trying to catch up on his latest… but since discovering this duet I’ve barely been able to focus on anything else. What a spot-on depiction of That sort of conversation, gah!

The whole album (what I’ve made it through so far, at least) is stabbing me between the ribs in that Andrew-Bird-is-a-fucking-genius, “how does he KNOW this is perfect?!” kind of way Continue reading


Good grief

Yesterday Dean let me know that Stanley, a long-ago friend of mine that he was still close to, has passed.


Each time I hear news like this, I remember my other since-departed friends from that era of my life, their number growing with the number of years since I have been in touch with any of them. And so today I think of Jose and Micah in addition to Stanley.



[All photographs (c) Dean Fidelman]

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We know what we know

Last October/November, I caught that horrible cold/cough that was going around… and it stuck around for more than five weeks by the time I finally got over it.

My friend Mike knew exactly why I was sick.

The day before I woke up with the telltale tickle in the back of my throat, Mike and Penny and I had biked to the Clement Street farmers market. I bought a bunch of carrots. And proceeded to eat several of them. Unwashed. Much to Mike’s horror.

A devout germ-o-phobe, Mike hates touching things in public places Continue reading