Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Meditative Prayer


I tried to sleep tonight...I even made sure that I went to bed at a reasonable hour. Sleep is my drug especially when I don't want to think or feel anything at all. But alas, tonight...while I slept for a few hours...I awoke abruptly at 5:38 AM and was completely wide awake. This is not something that is like me as I can sleep through an entire day without anyone noticing that I have done so.

Awake...I carefully opened my front door, locked it behind me and walked downtown towards the financial district where I stopped and got a coffee...something that I hadn't done in a long time. I walked in the dark amongst folks rushing to work...they all had purpose, somewhere to be, something to do, someone to meet...but they didn't know...they didn't know what my dear friend was about to go through. I couldn't blame them for not knowing or caring because their lives would go on and if they really knew...they would give their condolences and then move on with their lives.

I on the other hand...couldn't sleep and that was why I was there...roaming the streets of San Francisco at this god awful hour. I picked up my phone and called her and was glad that I was able to catch her in the car...her mother and sister were in the front seat looking for parking at the UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento. She was crying. I would be too and I couldn't blame her. I couldn't even console her and wouldn't even try to attempt to as I didn't and wouldn't ever know what it feels like to be in her situation.

As I type this...now after 6:30 in the morning...after I had the chance to get a coffee and pick up the latest SF Weekly...after I have found myself safely in my home...she is checking in with doctors and signing her final paperwork. I have wondered time and time again...why her and not me? She has led a healthy life and I have not. It should really be me there in her place. However, that is not the hand that I have been dealt and unfortunately...in less than one hour...Kayle will be losing a part of her body permanently and there is nothing that anyone can do about it. Any glimpse of hope in the last two years has ended and it has all come down to this.

She has gone through some miraculous changes and has had amazing adventures since first diagnosed. I can tell that she is no longer the person that she once was and has instead transformed into something amazing. It's only the beginning now for her new life and I am so happy to be one of the many people that will be able to witness it first hand.

While she may be losing a huge part of her being...her body...her soul with this mastectomy...I am confident that something good is going to come of this. For those of you that know her, she is afraid and who shouldn't be? I would be. You would be. After more than a year of writing for Kayle...telling her story and sharing her wishes...I am somewhat beside myself. Is this it? Is this what was to happen all along?

Her doctors are but human as well...and for what has been discovered in science...it seems that this is it for the time being. I only hope that her doctors...the oncologists, reconstructive surgeons, and most definitely the mentors and psychologists will be able to help her heal mentally and physically in no time at all.

Now, only 30 minutes away before she has to endure this painful and life-altering procedure...I will stay awake and meditate...send positive energy...and pray for a speedy recovery.

For Kayle...know that you are loved by so many. Kick some ass Cowgirl!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

I Think That It's Almost Finished


After almost two years of writing and work...I think that my first book is almost finished and ready to go to the editors. For those of you that know me this has been a long and emotional process so I am glad that I am finally feeling like the end is near. Or maybe this is just the beginning I am not quite sure. Thank you to those that have contributed portions to this and to those that have read pieces and have given me insight. I hope that this finally gets into the hands of readers in the next six months or so. Now...time to nap and then get started on the next project!

Friday, January 22, 2010

So What's Next?


I received a phone call the other day from my new filmmaker friend that I had written about previously. I was excited to hear about her new projects and what would be next for her. I hoped that I would be able to get some insider information. However, while we did talk about what things she would be working on next...she was more interested in discussing what I would be doing next. I was stumped actually. I knew what I wanted to do but for some reason I have been having a difficult time figuring out how to get "there" in the last month or so. I asked her...how the heck do I do this? How do I make this work? Her response was something so simple and something in which I have been meditating on for the last couple of days.

"All you have to do is just show up," she said.

It sounds so easy, but when one has so many ideas in their head...so many projects that they want to work on it's often difficult to figure out where to start. Just show up huh? That's the least thing that anyone can do when tackling a new creative endeavor so this is what I am going to do. Just show up. Knowing that I just need to show up everyday and work harder and stronger than I have ever worked before is comfort enough.

So what's next for me I ask myself? ...I know that I need to just show up but now show up for what?

How about this...

Finish up that pesky first book that is almost done...it's so close and get it to the editors so that it can finally get published.

Set aside second book for the time being to focus on the first project.

Dust off the first ten pages of a screenplay that I started awhile back and revisit that story...pitch it to my new filmmaker friend. :)

Continue to write freelance articles to make some more dough. Post more ads online...and send out more writing samples to potential buyers.

Whew...I think that this will keep me busy enough for the time being...so now I'll just have to show up. I don't think that I want to miss out on this appointment...

Words to Live By


Thanks for sharing this with me Eric:

"Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan 'Press On' has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race." - Calvin Coolidge

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Young and the Restless


It's quiet here in this neighborhood...there are also a lot more trees here than my previous location which is nice. There are less bums but more trannies...more hipsters than hippies...more boutiques than liquor stores and yet I am finding it more and more difficult to find anything interesting here. Maybe I find some sort of comfort in the comforts of castaways, those that are down on their luck, or just regular guys as the man in front of me at the market put it as he mumbled to himself. That doesn't mean, however, that I don't dream to live on the 24th floor of the penthouse I can see from my window down Post Street. It just seems so far away.

I heard a man yelling at no one in particular today. He was screaming to someone and demanding that whomever was listening, "live each day to the fullest." I know that this is cliche and trust me...I am getting pretty tired of hearing self-help motivational, pseudo spiritual speak. Especially when I have been struggling so much to stay afloat these last few months. I don't mean to be snarky or ungrateful with this sentiment...I guess that I am just tired and things aren't moving as quickly as I had hoped that they would for my writing career. But as cliche and tiresome this man was who was yelling on the streets, it was enough to remind me that I am still on the right path and that I can do more and still do better.

{Pep Talk to Myself}

Do more...do better...wake up at a reasonable hour...go to a coffee shop that you have never visited before...talk to strangers...eat more vegetables...Make more time for reading for pleasure...go to strange parts of the city just to observe...stop sleeping so much when you don't need to...visit those art galleries with the crazy sculptures that you have admired through the window...think about what adventures lie ahead of you and be excited for them...dream...and don't worry so much about being cliche...you're money...you're so money and you don't even know it...

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Lemonade


It seems like creative juices are flowing everywhere lately by people who have been recently laid off from their jobs...more interestingly though, is the fact that so many of these same people have opted not to follow the norm. I came across this short film (only 35 mins. in length) where laid off advertising professionals talk about being fired as the best thing that has ever happened to them. They have also followed some pretty crazy and inspiring dreams as well.

Watch the film here:

A Dreamers Dreams Come True


Tonight I had the opportunity to experience something that I have never experienced before...I was able to see first hand all of the excitement, blood, sweat and tears that it takes to create something beautiful and see it come to life. Even better, I was able to see it on the big screen.

There is a little known screening room on The Embarcadero here in San Francisco that is used for filmmakers, large and small, well known and not so well known to give first glimpses into what has often taken years to create so that they can share it with the world...or at least a small select group of people before the films are submitted to various film festivals for review. I walked to this nondescript location without a sign or an address even on the building with anticipation to see someone's baby...someone's creative joy...well...someone's entire being scrutinized on the silver screen. My name was on the guest list and I was excited...I felt important, even if just for a moment.

I spoke with the filmmaker, lead actor, editor, and director on the telephone a mere week before the screening and was impressed with her story and how similar hers was to mine...at least in philosophy. She spoke passionately about her work and why she needed to make this film...a film that told her story and one that I would later learn was to essentially incorporate her younger and unfortunately deceased brother's story into the dialogue. In a fictional conversation in the film, filmmaker Carissa Weir sums up what it means to live in the moment and to live life to the fullest. We only have one life..."this life is temporary" says one of the characters and it was clear that everyone in the audience was moved by this sentiment.

While the film was only 20 or so minutes in length, what was said and more importantly, what wasn't said was enough to invoke a sense of purpose that each and every member of the audience could understand. There was almost a feeling of envy by what Weir had accomplished because we all felt a connection but hadn't had the opportunity to be as vulnerable as to share it on screen like she had...or maybe it was just me because I identified with her story...I'm not sure.

I left the screening room feeling inspired...I received a special gift bag that was created for those who attended...There was a very cool T-Shirt with the name of the movie title on the front (Two Weeks From Monday) and the word "Crew" on the back. I'll wear it proudly and actually believe that I am now part of the crew...at least I would like to think that I am. Fear not...that's what I have learned tonight...continue to follow your dreams even if it hurts at times...and stay true to what is your purpose.

Thank you Carissa Weir for following your dreams and making a very inspirational film. I hope that you win many awards at the festivals and can't wait to see your next short and feature film.

...A Fan.

Watch the trailer at: http://www.cacaofilms.com/TWFMtrailer.html

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Ode to My Past


I have fond memories of my friends and I in college sitting in the dorm lounge, listening to the latest music and eating junk food. 2 Pac had just passed away so that's all that we really listened to...in tribute so to speak...a creative young guy with huge aspirations just like the rest of us but happened to die too young. All of us nodded our heads in solidarity with the words...just as if we were all serious about living and dying in LA. We didn't have to say a word to each other whether we agreed with the lyrics or not...it didn't matter where each and every one of us came from...it didn't matter if I was white...my brother next to me Mexican...the brother next to him Hmong...Filipino...Indian...Black...Chomoro...Vietnamese...Burmese...It didn't matter.

Years later...far apart...just once in awhile we hear something as simple as the music that once caused us to do silly things and remember...that time when it was so foggy that we couldn't see more than a few feet in front of our faces but we still played basketball nonetheless...we were all drunk off of bud ice because that was the strongest that we could get someone older to buy for us...remember? We had Hong Kong Deli in our bellies because they had that special...fried chicken...remember? We went there when Kaofu died...remember? I couldn't go back there after that though...it hurt too much.

We rode in the funeral procession with that fucked up orange sticker in the window...we never even went up close to his body...remember? We just stood back and watched his parents wail and we never said a word. We left and each of us went our own separate ways without saying anything but we didn't have to...we all knew what each other was thinking and feeling.

Remember that party that we had in the dining hall? The one where all of the gangs showed up and and we had to keep the peace. Remember that? Remember that huge wad of cash that you and I had in our pockets and stored in our dorm room just in case we might get jumped? Remember that huge bag of weed they gave us as payment which none of us smoked because we didn't like the taste?

Remember that time when we all said goodbye? We all pulled our cars into the lot and each of us blasted our music as loud as we could. Mine was a little funky though because we could never get the wiring right...but you guys didn't care. I remember that. I remember that well...

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Out of Many You Have One People



Out of Many, You Have One People

By Nathan Falstreau

Oakland filmmaker pushes through tragedy to release first short film Two Weeks From Monday

Societal norms and expectations are so familiar it is easy to forget what it feels like to dream. Even more important, it takes someone with some serious vision and guts to actually follow those dreams. For filmmaker Carissa Weir, this is exactly what she has done.

An immigrant originally from Jamaica who now calls Oakland her home, Weir has experienced more than most in her life; and through her struggles has realized the most important thing for her and for her soul is to tell a story through film. In 2006, she cashed everything in and founded her own production company, Cacao Films, with the help of a bank loan and savings.

Where it all Began

Like many, after high school Weir worked several unsatisfying jobs to make ends meet. She even enrolled in a local community college and completed general education requirements, but as a person with many interests had difficulty finding what she intended to do with the rest of her life. Her breaking point came at age 25 while working two jobs in the business world. Weir claims, “I knew that I needed to do something else but I didn’t know what it was. Something just wasn’t right.”

A Call to Act

After talking to one of her mentors about her situation, he began to ask her to remember what she liked to do most as a child. Weir recalled enjoying acting in her younger years. After being persuaded by her friend to look into theater companies, she eventually found her home at the American Conservatory Theater (A.C.T) “This is where I discovered myself,” Weir states. “I used to never even laugh out loud in public before. Then I took a clowning class and was surprised at how much I had changed as a person through acting.” Through A.C.T. she received screen work on several major films, including Sweet November, the Matrix, and Twisted. More importantly, she found that she learned the most just from being on the set. “I absorbed everything that I could while on set. I watched the producers, the directors, the actors, everything, so that I could understand the process,” says Weir. Her business background and passion for the entire world of art was a perfect fit for the production side of the film industry.

Tragedy Strikes

Her dream of acting and making films came to a halt with the death of her younger brother from complications due to Muscular Dystrophy (MD). “His diagnosis was unexpected and the disease spread through his body quickly,” Weir remembers. “My mother is a single mother and has never driven a car so I was responsible for taking him to his appointments and much of his general care. It was tough. I had to put my dreams on hold indefinitely at that point.” It wasn’t long before it was clear that her brother was dying. He passed at age 13.

The death of her brother was the final breaking point for Weir, she realized that she needed to get back on track and follow her dreams. “I had something to say,” She states. “I bought a laptop and just said to myself, I am going to do this.” In December of 2006, Cacao Films was incorporated.

Pushing beyond Fears

Weir talks about society and humanity in her work and most interestingly incorporates the concept of fear in very subtle ways. “Some people battle with what traditional society wants but I have noticed creative people battle with the fear that they won’t make it trying to follow their dreams and cling to what traditional society expects of them.” Her first short film, Two Weeks From Monday explores this very topic.

Two Weeks From Monday Debuts

On January 16, 2010 Weir hosted a screening of her first project, Two Weeks from Monday, at the Delancey Screening Room in San Francisco. This film was inspired by her brother’s death from MD. This event was also a fundraiser for the MD Association. While the film was only 20 in length, the powerful message invoked a sense of purpose. Weir sums up what it means to live in the moment and to the fullest. “Life is temporary. Time is sacred. Having a choice is a gift," says one of the lead characters.

I left the screening room feeling inspired. The room was buzzing with a sense of admiration by what Weir had accomplished; as many of us let dreams and ideas lie dormant. All of the attendees received a T-shirt with the name of the movie title on the front and the word “Crew” on the back. I will proudly wear this shirt, believing I am now part of the crew of doers and not just dreamers.

When asked about her audience, Weir states, “I write my films so that they can be appreciated by any audience regardless of ethnicity, age, or creed. In Jamaica, there is a code of arms that states, ‘Out of Many, You Have One People.’ That’s what I want people to remember when viewing my films.

Look for Two Weeks From Monday at various film festivals around the country.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Art of Life


The weather finally changed, it felt like winter even though it came a little late this year. The brick buildings as seen from the inside out, littered with wires attaching themselves precariously like vines, amongst splashes of color, hangers, t-shirts, socks, pajamas, second and third floor, dangling.

It was art of life, survival, unintended space used to capacity for lack of anywhere else to go. Outside in, inside out, cappuccinos and cigars, tattered, yellow pages and garlic, stale beer, the smell of bleach, inside out.

Grey skies ne’er seemed less depressing, comforting, art of life, gum stuck to the bottom of my shoe, snapping pictures by my overweight neighbor with the loud shirt, he was welcome here too.

Outside in, flashing neon signs on Broadway Street, Columbus Avenue no more, Cuban Jazz on Grant and Green, girls, girls, girls, they were all welcome here too.

Red, white and green, climbing up the poles, bells ringing not in the distance but right here, up close, and loud, calling someone, anyone outside in but I’d rather stay inside out I thought. It might be safer out here on the streets rather than on the steps to the steeple or the ones that led to the park.

Rust colored facades were also part of the staple steeple, foggy light still creeping in through the cracks.

I was the king of San Francisco and these were my subjects. All were welcome here, outside in, inside out, so is the art of life.

...

Photo by Navid Baraty of San Francisco

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Geary Street


I stood inside, looking out of the fast food, bulletproof glass window out onto Geary Street at the theatre,
Comedy, Geary, Tragedy it said and I laughed and cried at the thought of both, silently.

Cup in hand, just behind the front door, was a request and I didn’t want to help him fulfill it even though I could.
It seemed it was not real and just a fa├žade, oh the times, they are a-changing.

It’s that time of year, they said, even though the phrase had recently been banned from the Queen’s English
But I didn’t know this Queen as there hadn’t been a Queen of San Francisco since I could remember.

Modern signs, neon, begging, street sleeping, cupa, cupa, cupa, can you please just buy me a hamburger? 64 more cents and I can get the super burrito
50 more cents so that I can get drunk, can you help me?

Show playing across the street didn’t matter as most passed it by unnoticing, the Euro is strong and as long as it was, the City would thrive,
I’ll close my eyes and go back there, as I wasn’t born of this time.

Biscuits and Blues, forgotten by most but still part of the story, 3119 Filmore not gone but forgotten as well, still standing but selling rugs,
The reading at the 6th was something of the past.

Ghosts of culture past, lingering, blistering, beckoning, but not becoming of what the picture postcards,
Depicted of the streets of a City no more.

Protest through creativity is now taken to the streets and I truly wonder, which is the most effective, pop, pop, pop, it’s normal, quasi-radical
Same, karaoke, supermarket poster, I’ll sign your petition with indifference.

At least it was something, I forgot what it was that I was fighting for, passion, peace, peas, instant pleasure, go home to your wife, they are
Waiting there for you to do something, anything

Shirt and tie, not wrong just easy to get too involved, rush, rush to wherever you are going, you have bills to pay
Why else would I get up this early?

Eyes closed, I’ll walk home, it’s familiar and routine will follow, I just hope that I remember in the morning
What is right and where I am from, nay, what I have become

Rest easy I am sure, all is well, Ben and Jerry’s is on the corner at Ashbury and if you go up Haight
You will find retail, retail, resale, I’ll sleep easy even though it’s all gone

Sepia vision goggles is how I would like to view the existence of time travel and that corner where I’ll sleep
Just suits me, I’ll be fine.

I’ll live through picture perfect, picture present, presents under the tree and all is well,
Summer comes and a new tribe descends on the City

Looking for the same, days that have been lost under a vale of curiosity or normalcy,
Fishbowl, picture taking, it doesn’t matter, it thrives.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Tweet


I don't tweet...but if I tweeted...this would be my tweet. However mine is much much longer than the mere 140 characters that twitter allows.

"Slept way too long today...it was dark when I woke up. Ate at McDonald's because it's all that I can afford. Checked my email, nothing but spam. Walked up and down Sutter Street in both directions not sure where I should be going. Got a call from Eric. Called Eric back. Went to Eunice's apartment to watch the football game and bitch about life. Overstayed my welcome at Eunice's. Went to get a slice. Ate my pesto slice while standing up. Thought about where to go next. Couldn't figure it out so I walked in circles on the corner of Hyde and Post. Started to look and feel crazy so I stopped. Walked to the Outsider and said hi to Mina but she was drunk so I left. Smoked a cig. Watched a trailer for a film that I was asked to review. Wrote a little but not enough. Set my alarm for noon the next day. Made a reminder to call the filmmaker in the morning. Wished I had an iron so that I could look presentable. Watched an attractive woman receive a parking ticket for 53 bucks. Noticed that there weren't many pigeons in the neighborhood. Listened to a defunct Los Angeles radio station that I use to love online. Decided to go to Sacramento tomorrow to crash a concert and party. Eunice said she'll drive. Lit a candle and burned some sage. Noticed that I don't have any clean underwear. Wished that I could dance hip hop. Reminded myself that I wanted to start jogging. Listened to Bob Dylan. Saw stars outside for the first time in a long time. Decided to call it a night."

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

To Write or Not to Write


Calling myself a writer has honestly been a difficult challenge for me. When I worked in academia it wasn't difficult to rattle off my title and shove my business card engraved with the word "Director" on it to interested parties. It didn't matter if they really understood what my job at the time really entailed, it only mattered that I had the title and with that they assumed that I had large amounts of money and that it carried some kind of importance. Sure, for the most part I called the shots in the office and did as I pleased, however, I was never truly happy and never really had any true power. Now when people ask what I do and I tell them that I am a writer there is the inevitable question about what books I have published and where they can find them... not that they are really interested in reading them but only that I might say Amazon or Barnes and Nobles instead to give credibility or notoriety to my response.

So here is the rub: I have written a book and have been working on a second and even a third but at this time...there are no buyers. Does that make me less of a writer because I am not quite there yet or do I forge on? I'll answer my own question with an affirmative answer. Yes. The problem with being a writer is that we absorb so much information, see so many things, want to write and document so many things that it is often difficult to know where to begin.

I'm jealous of my friends who write for a living full time as reporters and journalists and in turn, they are jealous of me for the freedom that I have to do so as I please without anyone else to answer to. It seems that we are all jealous of each other but nothing is entirely perfect in either scenario. I have though, heard the words of Buddhist monks who claim to have nothing yet have complete happiness. I wonder where this happiness comes from and they tell me that it is because they have complete freedom. No bills, no family other than what they would call humanity, no car, no mortgage, no creditors, no temptations, no addictions - nothing. Nothing. No self.

While I feel that I do not have much either - I still have something. I have purpose. I have no explanations. I have no regret. If I am called to write then I will write and hope that I have at least resonated with one person, just one. With that I will be satisfied.

With Metta and Peace on this cold San Francisco evening.

Nathan.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Street Sheet


Well...it's a new year and there is a lot to look forward to for all of us. I have neglected to make a new post in the last few days not because I have nothing to say or that I don't have enough time to write. Rather, I thought that I would take this small amount of time, 48 hours or so to really reflect on this new year and what it means to me and to those around me. Plus, I was starting to feel the pressure of having to write something insightful each day, much like a lesson that Doogie Howser would have a revelation about after each 42 minute episode on television back in the day.

I have been walking the streets of the neighborhood and have truly felt the same appreciation for this city that I have always felt in the past...but maybe...my love for the grit and the grime, the smell of kim chee, old Chinese grandmas carrying way too many pink plastic bags for them to handle, ambulance sirens at alarmingly loud decibels, and people simply hanging out in the street for a lack of a better place to go has gotten the best of me. I simply love it here.

While walking tonight, I felt the urge to give a dude on the street a dollar in exchange for a paper...but not just any paper I might add...I gave the suggested donation of a buck for an 8 page weekly paper celebrating its 20th anniversary in San Francisco entitled, "Street Sheet." I don't know why I have never taken the chance to pick one of these up in the last three years that I have lived here. I have certainly seen them all over town and while I would like to consider myself a writer, why wouldn't I have wanted to check this periodical out?

I was happy that I did finally ask for a copy and read it...truly read it. While I only spent a few nights out on the streets of San Francisco, I still consider myself somewhat of a transient and felt that I might have some kind of connection to the publication. I was surprised to find out that the paper was not only created to help end homelessness in the City, but also to be a service to those that are down and out and need information and resources to help them get back on their feet again. What a cool idea this was I thought. The issue that I picked up had poetry from guys on the street, an exclusive interview with Bob Dylan about a Christmas album that he had created where all proceeds go to the homeless, as well as information about shelters and where people could go when they had no where else to.

For anyone who has lived in or visited a place like San Francisco, it is easy to ignore those folks who are living on the streets. However, the sad part is that many of these people haven't made the choice to do so...life is just rough sometimes and often leads you with no other place to go. I was surprised at how easy it was for me to find myself in similar situations and that in itself is scary. Forget politics, economics, and religion because there is no one person or entity or even concept to really blame for this kind of problem. Have compassion instead, have joy, have faith in something and do only good things towards your fellow man.

I would like to reprint a poem that was in my first copy of the Street Sheet and hopefully, the Coalition on Homelessness won't mind that I do so.

GHETTO WISHES

Living in my perimeter
Among the crooks and sinisters
You'll need more than a Sunday minister
More funds than the Government needs to administer
My ghetto wishes - My ghetto wishes
Just scattered dreams and superstitions
While I'm living under drastic conditions
Battling opposition during daily transitions
I'm caught up in this misery of my childhood memories
Thinking back from a seed only wishing to grow
Coming to the womb as an embryo
Nine months later just another Negro
Looking to break the chains that confine me to the ghetto
My ghetto wishes - My ghetto wishes
Just shattered dreams and superstitions
Searching for my daily bread
Is my only religion
My ghetto wishes - My ghetto wishes
Just shattered dreams and superstitions
Praying on my knees, trying to avoid convictions
Lawd, it's hell for a criminal
On the down-low, subliminal
Just like Malcolm, I'm looking out the window...

Vincent V-Dubb Williams.