Sunday, October 16, 2011

San Francisco

Duck Shop

"All intimacy is rare -- that's what makes it precious. And it involves the revelation of one's self and the loving gaze upon another's true self (no makeup, no fancy car, no defensive charm, no seduction) -- that's what makes it so damn hard. Intimacy requires honesty and kindness in almost equal measure (a little more kindness, I think), trust and trustworthiness, forgiveness and the capacity to be forgiven . . . It's more than worth it -- just don't let them tell you it's bliss." - Amy Bloom

I was raised as a small boy in Berkeley and then came of age in San Jose just a little more than fifty miles down the El Camino Real from San Francisco. I know this distance because in 1963, during John Kennedy's Presidency I joined a small group who went on a fifty mile hike, walking up the El Camino from Santa Clara's Buchser High School where I was a Senior to San Francisco. In our day this was Highway 101, but it is now State Route 82. I went on this hike from a standing start, so to speak, in shape to play sports but not to take this long a walk. I ended up with two sprained ankles just from wearing inadequate shoes. I had no blisters though. We started in the early morning and took a late Greyhound Bus back to Santa Clara. It was a very long day. Folks of my vintage may remember this. It was common to go on the fifty mile hike to show solidarity with Kennedy's call for physical fitness. Go to *this link* for the history.

Here's an alternative history for those who find that one too mundane:

San Francisco

In old Chinatown
I pace myself, following
remembered odors,
butchers and bakers,
the pitched tones and high voices,
the sheen of fabric
and the haze, gamblers
up bright stairs, the smoke under
them, dark stories down
where I spent my time
before you broke me.

The corner duck shop is here.
I would go two doors
beyond the duck shop, two doors
to the opium
seller and his den.

Written October 16,2011 9:36 AM

Hey!  Where's Mom?

This post composed for Magpie Tales Mag 87. Go to *this link* to see all the contributions.


  1. The entire post was very engaging Christopher, and the poem was especially powerful -- well written...

  2. The dense sounds and took me there...

  3. Two sides of the same coin - both interesting and arresting.

  4. Like Tess, I love the smells and doors of Chinatown. (I live near New York's.) And surprise of end.

    I had a harder time following the Kennedy link, but will look for it as I remember those times well too.

  5. Hey, I love what you did with both
    pieces and the picture- I miss my farm ducks- next year! Thanks.

  6. What a wonderful sense of place you evoke, especially with the poem...but that's my thing, poetry. Interesting what that simple picture conjures.

  7. Those were the times... love this unique take on the prompt, Christopher.

  8. The "up" and "under", "down" and "duck" go together nicely.

  9. I love this ... the personal history directing the prompt. Great story and poem.

  10. Intense and beautiful-- thanks for stopping by my blog. I too am a meat-lover and a fowl-lover, but there was a sense of carnage that jumped out at me and I thought of the child sex trade in Thailand... I have other meditations derived from Rilke poems... xxxj

  11. smoked duck?

    excellent poem and introduction

  12. very interesting,join me on my blog named as desire

  13. I love your writing style. What a great write.

  14. thank you for your comments on my blog....very special!!...i liked the images and scents you gave in your poem, and also that you are an underground hippie (in you profile),made me laugh..

  15. You took me way back to 1963 ~ a naive 22 year old ~ a flower child with three little boys! Your writing is powerful.

  16. An underground hippie--I like that. Amazing there are any of us left. I like the poem and the story of the march.

  17. oh i felt the sting of that last pic...nice textures in your verse too bringing the place alive...much like being broken out of those places as well...

  18. Thanks all. I am pleased you all dropped by. I hope I put on a good show.

    As for the hippie stuff...I went into deep cover in the seventies. I even got into monogamous marriage to a mainstream (basically) woman, who knew who I was but was not that herself. I turned more away than toward a hippie lifestyle and joined up with corporate America. In the parlance of the day I was co-opted in order to get my life in order. I quit smoking dope and all that other stuff. I cut my hair.

    I never did leave some of the sentiments behind, but my wife with her special vantage on my style often said I warn't no hippie. I be redneck. Hmmm.

    Brian, I wondered if people were going to get it, the thread of personal history, the Chinatown story, and yes, a little bittersweet humor considering ducks and ducklings. Of all that I tried to thread the gaps. The top picture is actually Thailand and reveals how the Chinese travel throughout Asia as merchants and shop owners (had them in Bangladesh too). While the image of the youth is sexless to Western eyes and several people tagged her as a girl, the photo is actually a of a young man according to the source blog. In my work here I put the photo in a side stream so I didn't have to deal that much with accuracy.

  19. what a great post ... journeys and destinations of infinite variety... kind of like intimacy.

  20. Sounds like you should have stopped at the duck shop instead! :) Very interesting, the whole post. But you killed me with the bottom photo... poor little babies.

  21. Gosh, what a cool article on so many levels. I'm a tad younger than you but was born in California and returned after moving with my family all over the US, spending my remaining teens (till moving to Colorado) traipsing around the California 'electric Koolaid acid' trail.

    With that said, I remember still the somewhat rigid fitness attitudes of our WWII parents (mine served at the tail-end of the war when the country was in terrible need of pilots and, without checking his ID, took this lying 17-year-old crop duster to fly transport planes to Cairo - I kid you not). And, till way into his Jack LaLane days, I remember the little military fitness pamphlet that my father followed religiously every morning.

    Your poem was lovely, but photo of cute little ducklings waiting for their mother oh so comically sad.

    Cheers and have a great week!

  22. Good of you to stop by, Shers. I checked your site out and see you are working hard. Way cool. Thank you for your kindness here.

    Your Dad's story - there were many of them, of course. My birth father was a war hero.

    My step dad went to Saipan and Okinawa and because the bomb stopped the invasion of Japan, he then had duty in China before returning to become a key player in UC Berkeley's 1948 Rose Bowl team. He almost went pro with the 49ers after that but didn't make the cut. He couldn't support himself while playing farm team ball with the Bethlehem Pa Bulldogs so he quit and eventually became a teacher and school admin guy.

  23. I liked both your introduction and your poem. Redolent of nostalgic memories...

  24. This is amazing,

    I have been to Chinatown many times, never thought about write the experience in poetry.

    and your humor twist in the end, wow,

    perfect and charming.

  25. I felt a sense of nostalgia, which was strange because it's the first time I felt second-hand nostalgia. I didn't even know that existed! :)

    Arnab Majumdar on

  26. Life down shady lane, huh? Your fluffy ducklings are delicious...


The chicken crossed the road. That's poultry in motion.

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