Reading Obituaries
by Art Goodtimes
Jun 26, 2008 | 537 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print

Around the Cone

BUD’S ICE CREAM … I find myself reading obituaries a lot lately. It’s not really morbid. Just where I’m at. Focused on providing comfort, not a cure, for my dad as his life winds to a close. So I find it interesting to see what marks people leave on the world around them. Or maybe just how the newspapers mark those who served us … Alvin Edlin isn’t a name anyone outside San Francisco would remember. I’d moved into Noe Valley in the early Seventies. Bounced around a bit until I found a middling railroad flat on Noe St. between 24th and Elizabeth. Window on the street. Loft on the backporch. Nice neighbors on most sides. When Barbara found her own place, I started subletting out the two front rooms – shared bath and toilet, but no kitchen – which paid a big chunk of the rent … Noe Valley was an old Irish neighborhood – Diamond St. had a green stripe for a centerline. And a pretty conservative pocket in a generally liberal city. But urban flight and gay gentrification were turning a marginal outlier into a regional gem – cheap rooms, lots of artists and street people, coffeehouses and cafes springing up … When Alvin Edlin bought Bud’s Ice Cream corner hole-in-the-wall on 24th and Castro, at the bottom of the hill where the bus lines crossed, nobody much noticed. Bud’s Ice Cream was lame. So Alvin decided to try a different tack. He’d had a roustabout life. Played third base to Joe Dimaggio’s shortshop on the San Francisco Seals. He figured he’d try a different niche. To use real ingredients and make ice cream that tasted good as home-made. Pretty soon word got around and people came from all over the City to stand in long lines waiting for gobs of superfat ice delight with fudge and walnuts and chocolate espresso bean nibs … I once backpacked several days into the rugged Ventana Wilderness inland from Big Sur and hiked into the back entrance of Tassajara Zen Center. It just so happened to be Buddha’s birthday. And I was treated like a king. Given a royal bath, no charge, in the hot springs and ushered in to see the abbot -- such an auspicious day. I imagined all kind of zen koans emanating from his eminence. But when I told him I’d come from Noe Valley in the City, all he could talk about was “Bud’s Ice Cream.” Maybe not spiritual enlightenment but a kind of commercial wisdom. And social panache … With a single stroke of class, Alvin upped the ante on quality over quantity and turned Bud’s in Noe Valley into one of the City’s least-kept secrets … Thanks, Alvin. Many a friend I met and partied with on 24th and Castro in front of your store, longing for dessert.

RAINBOW FAMILY … I’m already grieving that I’ll miss the gathering this year. Up in Wyoming. Jim Rosenthal from down in Naturita Canyon is on his way up. As is Mary and the kids – we met at the gathering up in Oregon about a decade ago. So it’s kind of our anniversary … But no celebrations this year. First things first. I have to take care of my dad. He’s dying. Out here in California. Becoming more and more the little child, as the brain tumor blocks synapses in his frontal lobes. And it’s a great blessing that I can be with him, and still do my commissioner work by phone and email … Even if I don’t get welcomed home this year.

WEEKLY QUOTA … “Death is caused by swallowing small amounts of saliva over a long period of time.” –Comedian George Carlin, dead earlier this week.

SOLSTICE … I was far from Lone Cone this summer solstice. But being on duty 24 hours a day seven days a week takes its toll. And the Pathways Hospice people, who are assisting me in providing care for dad as he declines, have been doing things to help me cope as well … So, when I asked, they found me a sweet young woman, Chrissie, to watch my dad for four hours on Saturday as the Sun stood still for the longest day of the year … My poet buddy Kirk Lumpkin of the East Bay’s Ecology Center had organized a Solstice Salmon Celebration at the Farmer’s Market at Civic Center Park. And he’d invited me to read. So I drove mad dash on scorcher freeways up to Berserkeley. It’s an hour’s drive on MapQuest but after a late start, a wrong turn in Milpitas, and confusion over a phone number I’d forgot and had to cell phone instructions to find while I was driving, I barely made it in time to park the car backstage and rush on after Dr. Julia Lamont’s pleas for restoration of the coast’s animal totem, there in salmon nation … Bringing greetings from the Colorado mountains, I did a guest shot reading Skinning the Elk, honoring the totem animal of our mountain clime … And who should amble by but one of my seminary buddies who I hadn’t seen in 40 years. Gus Guinan. Then I got to trade addresses and hugs with fellow performer and poet professor from Laney College whom I hadn’t seen in 35 years, Rafael Jesús González … And for the finale, I danced the last song of the set of Kirk’s band, Wild Buds, together with my wild stilt-walking friend Shawn Dubin (whose 70th birthday it was) – the two of us carrying on in front of the crowd like paleohippie dervishes … And then it was the witching hour. Like Cinderella I was on deadline. And I had to mad dash through onramps, signal lights, mergers and traffic slowdowns to return only reasonably late to relieve Chrissie, who was doing crossword puzzles with my dad. I gave her a box of cookies. I got my dad a few cherries to munch. And I took a long nap … A great day!

(© 2008 Art Goodtimes)


Seeing Badly

a hai-uncouth


a real-time sniff

than mere lint in the fluff of appearances.

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