June 27th, 2010


San Diego

It's been a lovely two days.  Our friends live in a wonderful little bungalow with summer-green sycamore trees out front and a sycamore stained-glass window in the living room in autumn colors of rust and gold and a little Jack Russel terrier mix called Olive who slept on my feet all the way through Friday night dinner, which I appreciated because my feet are always cold.  She's the most cat-like dog I've ever met, and she comes from San Miguel del Allende, where our hosts, Yale Strom and his talented wife Elizabeth Schwartz, have good friends, and where (as you may recall) I went on a writing retreat this past October.  So my past melds with my present and the world shrinks and the web of connections spreads and life is a wonderful and complicated thing.

The sun's out today, as it was Friday, burning off the marine layer and warming the air.  We took a long walk with Elizabeth on Friday, through Hillcrest to Balboa Park, through the park to the zoo, then back along University Avenue home again.  I didn't check to see how long it took (we were talking as we walked, and restraining Olive from challenging every dog she met to a Duel of Canine Honor), but it was what the French call un bon petit trot.  We were all relieved to sit in the afternoon and talk through the latest version of The Witches of Lublin script, which Ellen is writing with Yale and Elizabeth, and will tell you about herself as developments occur.  Suffice it to say there are developments, and they are good.

Yesterday was cool and grey, and we spent it eating and seeing the sights with friends.  Because we'd missed getting into the Japanese Friendship Garden when we were here 2 years ago, and we adore Japanese gardens, we went back to Balboa Park and did that thing.  It was lovely and serene and nicely laid out, and its koi pond had the largest and most magical koi I've ever seen, including in Japan.  There was one as golden as the sun and one as silver as the moon, and a couple that were actual, iridescent bronze, and some red and black and silver calicos that glowed through the shallow water like lights.

The most remarkable thing about the Japanese Friendship Garden, though, was the gathering of costumed Anime and Manga fans at the gate.  They were there when we got to Balboa Park; they were there when we'd parked the car and walked to the garden; they were there when we came out.  My knowledge of Anime being pretty much limited to Meine Liebe, Chevalier d'Eon, and Rose of Versailles, I didn't recognize any particular characters, but there were many French Maids in fluffy pastel uniforms and ninja-types with animal ears and a grey wolf arm in arm with a black wolf in a frock coat and lots of long black robes inscribed with mystical sybols.  Several were doing a line dance that looked vaguely like the Macarena, but much more complicated, in front of the entrance, being watched by a flotilla of sailors on leave, some of them Asian, all of them in dress whites.  It was a very surreal moment--especially since someone was practicing the party scene from the ballet Romeo and Juliet on the big outdoor organ.

After that, the only thing to do was go to the San Diego zoo and look at the pandas and the hippos and the spot-nosed guenons and the gorillas and the tigers and the bears and about a million birds, which we duly did.  It is a remarkable zoo.

(I interrupt this post to note that I've just been dive-bombed by a hummingbird, apparently under the delusion that I am a large and unfamiliar red tropical bloom.  Perhaps I should move out of the sun.  Or put on a hat.  Because it's still circling in a puzzled way and making little feints at my hair.  OK, it's gone now.  Phew.)

They've done their best to give the animals appropriate environments, with plenty of places to hide from curious eyes and things to climb on (if they are climbers) and swim in (if they are swimmers) and roost on (if they are roosting-types).  And some of these animals would be extinct, or closer to it, if they weren't being kept and bred in captivity.  There's still something sad about it, though--especially the larger primates, who look bored, bored, bored.  That said, I loved seeing the pandas, especially the mother and 7 month old cub, playing with his piece of bamboo like a toddler with a rusk, pausing every once in a while to chew his hind paw or the end of his tail.  And the birds were spectacular.  

Today, we're planning to lunch with Clarion Alum shweta_narayan and then proceed to UCSD to check into our suite and unpack and print out some materials in preparation for the first day of CLARION!!!!