New book & a nice day

New book, The Founding by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles (cool name!), the first in a truly enormous series of historical novels starting during the Wars of the Roses. I was sold on the intro which is a huge bibliography of sources for her historical research.

Today, very intense work day again, but then I went out and bought a tiny Christmas tree, back at work again, then out to work at a cafe with visiting friends, more errands (post office, to mail my contribution to an APAzine, etc), more work, wrapping christmas presents (still a huge mess all over the living room floor) and out to sushi, which was excellent. (Ichi Sushi, best in San Francisco!) You should definitely have the ocean trout. We bought beers for the sushi chefs and toasted them, it was so amazing. Also nice, other friends just kept seeing us through the window and then coming in to hug us. !!! Now that’s living.

It’s fun to be in an APAzine – I’ve always thought it sounded so neat and old school. I want to do it better justice than a sort of diary entry so I will be thinking about that for the next go-round.

After all this I am too tired to say anything super meaningful. I’m so happy to have this enormous book series to read over the holidays!

Low key neighborhood day

I am reading Kintu by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi and I highly recommend it! It’s an epic novel about a family in Uganda over a 300-year time span. Here’s a review of Kintu in the NY Review of Books. But take it from me this is a fabulous book. My favorite sort of long, complicated novel with multiple dimensions, that really creates a holographic body of knowledge you would not otherwise have a way to express or learn, through stories of chance and causality over many generations.

My day was a usual Wednesday; I woke up around 7, had coffee, sat in front of my special winter daylight lamp doing Duolingo practices, read for a while, then to work, meetings, more work, more meetings. At 10am I went off to the neighborhood center for senior tai chi class (free!) where I’ve been going for the last couple of years. It turned out that later in the afternoon there was a holiday party & choir performance, so after some more work and one of the amazing, tasty vegan salads I get delivered from Thistle, I went back up the hill to the party. It’s a good thing I dressed up for it because most everyone was dressed to kill!

The choir sang a Chinese tune (in English, but in what sounded to me like the Chinese scale) that was quoting Confucius (When there is harmony in the house, there is order in the nation, etc), a Hanukkah song in Ladino (Ocho Candelitas), When I’m 64 (but they sang 94 instead) and a Grateful Dead song to round out our cultural tour (as the conductor commented, he felt that it was important to represent that aspect of San Francisco cultural diversity). I was in the back of the room next to a lady with an adorable baby who was doing baby sign language. Saw several of my friends from tai chi (Gerry, Violeta, Anastasia, and others) but it was a big crowd and I could not get to the cookies or the potluck food…. alas. I discovered though during the Silent Night singalong (audience sings regular version, choir sang some sort of counterpoint) that I can still sing the alto part and my voice is not horrible (Also not great). Thanks, years of choir.

I sent a short clip of the Grateful Dead song to my son, who last year took a college class that was just about the Grateful Dead, taught by the archivist at UC Santa Cruz of their archives, and by the end of that class he appreciated them but was also kind of tortured by Too Much Dead, All The Time and having to study very hard to be able to identify different songs and versions of the songs BY YEAR. Anyway, I trolled my son by sending him this video clip.

Then back home in a leisurely fashion, catching Pokémon and hacking Ingress portals all the way down the hill, back to work and providing a useful, warm platform for the cat.

I will likely finish Kintu before bed and start something else!

Imagining the SF Disability Cultural Center

A bunch of us tonight got to meet with folks from the Longmore Institute to brainstorm about a Disability Cultural Center for San Francisco. What would we want it to be? What services or facilities should it have?

Please take the survey if you are local and would be interested in this sort of center!

“Local disability leaders are planning a community cultural center where people with disabilities can get services, build community, learn about disability history, and build disability culture.

Dream big! This will be the first center of its kind, so we need to hear from YOU.”

It was a lot of fun talking about what we’d love to see in this hypothetical new place. Meeting and event rooms, spacious public areas that are homey and beautiful with natural light and lots of seating, with lots of art, good acoustics (not loud or echoing), a cafe and workspace, some kind of workshop or maker area, references to other services, and so on. There would be built in equipment to livestream and conference in people remotely so that people who can’t make it to events could still participate.

History of a foot

The gradual releasing of something in my right foot, from a solid mass of clenched up muscle spasms that I couldn’t straighten out, stretched, massaged, rolled, smeared with Voltaren, ketamine cream, and marijuana salve, dragged and limped on since the early 90s, coddled with orthotics for its inward roll which destroys my shoes, folded over in a tremendous crunch in a surfing wipe-out at Corona del Mar while I was 5 months pregnant, walked on the edge of, stuck with torture needles by heartless neurologists, handshaking oddly with sciatica, blended into a shiver of allodynia with the outside of my calf and the superficial peroneal nerve, and the cruel roots of achilles tendinopathy, stuffed into a moon boot for a year propped up on wedges, I feel guilty for calling you my “bad leg” or “bad foot” as if I’m a parent playing favorites among children. It is not always “bad” but it’s always with me like an imaginary friend that I’m aware of as a separate entity with feelings and behavior of its own that I can’t predict or control. Embodied pain is a familiar companion. You get to know its personality.

Years of putting my foot in my partners’ lap to beg for them to try and work out a cramp. Electric shock zaps, buzzing, numb, a million needles, deep ache. Icy cold, suddenly burning like fire ants. The touch of even just air, though an actual breeze is so much worse, feeling like icy fire. When the touch of clothes or weight of a blanket is horrible but has to be borne. I want to protect this leg, don’t bump into it, don’t touch it, not even gently — I could hunch over it fiercely, snarling like a mother wildcat.

In some ways I think of how it felt to be pregnant. I didn’t realize it until my son was born, but while I was pregnant, I was not alone in my body. I was always thinking of him and aware of him as a presence doing things independently from within, next to me and separately animated and motivated, but still contained. A roller coaster you can’t get off, disturbing, rocking your sense of self and power over your body. It was a comforting companionship, even if that sometimes meant having someone hiccuping inside your abdomen at 4am. Then he was born and I was like, “Oh! You’re not there now! You’re somewhere else! I didn’t even hardly realize how much I knew you were there with me, in me!”

My awareness of my leg has some echoes of that experience. I am almost always aware of it (of the pain or odd sensations). I can block it out for a while, but the wall, or the box, to contain it takes effort to maintain. I am in an unwilling, more or less constant, dialogue with the pain. When I’m tired over the course of day it can be very distracting. Hard to focus, or listen to people, or engage socially even though I’m wildly outgoing, because I’m listening to my demanding embodied companion. I have to get kind of like Ninshubar and her little minions the kurgarra and the galatur are to Erishkegal. “Oh! my insides!” “Oh! Your insides!” Honestly, it isn’t even that bad, but it means I have to make space for it to happen. You can’t not listen to it indefinitely. That doesn’t turn out well. You have to have some empathy and be decent to it. A little acknowledgement.

Like having a magnetic sense, or knowing where north is at all times by wearing a little buzzer and compass combination, or another kind of sense or orientation inexplicable by the most commonly understood senses, I have this paranormal awareness, some region of my brain has overdeveloped to handle the signals and try to separate them from the noise, like SETI or a Very Large Array scattered around the nerve cells of my calf. It’s there, and sometimes I have to just stuff it all inside its box, or the underworld, until there’s space to listen properly.

A sweet massage therapist who has been willing to come to my house and just work on that leg, foot, ankle, for 3 hours at a time even, with subtle movements of the joint, loosening it strand by strand over the last few years. She wants to cure it, to find the magic button, to be a healer, to fix me, to re-route the channels. I want a little space, a little relief, gentleness and movement that isn’t a struggle. She doesn’t know the power of her healing, thinking it lies in another direction. It is ongoing, like those lumpy rubber rolling pins underfoot, ice packs, hot pillows, soft braces even in the swimming pool to save it from the sway of the water, the comforting hug of the night splint keeping something like an 85 degree angle, compression socks.

In the last year the solid feeling mass of pain eased up. It differentiated. I could feel specific muscles to work on. The part of my foot that was folded over in the surfing sprain “wants” to be folded “up” in a particular, non intuitive way. Standing on the steps, backwards, hanging my heels off the edge, rising and lowering. Braced against the door to try a painful hamstring stretch. Curled against the pool wall doing the same. Lying on the floor or in bed, my hips up on a pillow, legs going along the wall, feet in the air, trying to get them to calm down. Trying to be mindful as I step. What muscles in the foot are hitting the ground, which are working, am I pushing off? What is happening with my gait? In an odd way, I can feel new, different things, trying to name them and address them one at a time. There is more subtlety.

It isn’t that there are no good sensations. Like the good moments of being in the really, truly warm sun, with no wind, and my leg luxuriating in no pain, in a no-motion warmth, or buried in warm sand on a beach, with so many sensations that aren’t pain — it is extra wonderful and exceptional. Or what I try to do, and I’m sure Erishkegal would have been into, slathering my leg with several kinds of lotion, because why not, it’s something different to feel and a way to connect and it passes the time — capsaicin cream, that hopeful but ethereal Voltaren, maybe some lemon balm or something nice smelling, the funky hippie-couch stank of weed salve lightly disguised with menthol. Or, when I sink into a soft bed with feather light, warm alpaca comforters, leg encased in half of one quilt, protected, safe, away from the air or any roughness, with the promise of rest.

Last week I had gotten some groceries and then a flowerpot and some cat litter at the top of the hill. I didn’t have enough grocery bags. The cat litter and flowerpot were on my powerchair footplate and my feet resting on top to keep them from falling off, a bit awkward but I could do it for a few blocks to get home. I hit a plastic bag on the sidewalk just in front of the house, skidded sideways by just a little, and came up against the tree planter, bending my Bad Foot backwards in a hideous parody of the surfing fold and reverse massage move – The right outside half of my foot, the bones leading to my smallest toes, folded UP. A warm feeling flooded my ankle and foot.

I got back into the house heavily leaning on my cane not wanting to put weight on the foot. It felt almost good! How strange! It didn’t hurt! How was that possible? I put ice on it and stayed off it. Then realized the reason it didn’t hurt was because it was numb.

Of course, I have imagined the foot being gone. What if it… it just wasn’t there? What if I was in an accident and it happened to be that this foot had to go its own way? I would miss it, or would I? Would I have phantom pain, worse than the pain now? Surely, it would just be a whole different dialogue, a dialogue with a ghost. It would be even more omnipresent yet invisible to others like the guy who got chased around town by his own nose. It becomes a nonsensical thought, like having a sinus infection and wishing you could remove your sinuses, which of course you can’t since they are holes in your head and you can’t make a hole be any less than it is. There is no getting away from our embodiments.

At some point in the evening the numbness thawed and became needles jabbing. After the needles subsided a day later, it was like something had torn in many places, but a good tear. My working theory is that maybe some scar tissue was loosened up, even maybe some scar tissue around a nerve sheath? It’s not like I know anything. The shape of my leg awareness is different now. It isn’t fixed. But it’s wildly different. I’m playing with it, with stretches and tai chi and in how I think about weight distribution when I take a step.

That strange experience last week (still ongoing) made me think about my complex relationship with my leg, and its weird fluctuations of pain and functionality. Apparently the Queen of the Underworld will continue to strike hard bargains with me, and there really is no moral to the story and i’m not going to literally name my leg, it’s just that I had this lyrical feeling about my leg and wanted to honor it beyond its badness, and to respect how we coexist, like a witch with her familiar.

SF International Hip Hop Dancefest

A few weeks ago Milo and I went to the San Francisco International Hip Hop Dancefest at the Palace of Fine Arts. It’s always an amazing show! It’s one of San Francisco’s great treasures, and this is year 20 of the annual festival run by Micaya. The festival itself conveys how deep the Bay Area community runs and fosters these strong ties across countries to other dancers. Really a beautiful community.

Highlights, Loyalty Dance Team from Murfreesboro, Tennessee’s performance of This Is Wakanda!!! So dynamic! So creative! The skill! They express such joy! Last year I loved their 101 Dalmations dance so much I became a staunch fan! Maybe that sounds weird, but it was a beautiful narrative transformation and celebration of pop culture. They are just superstars.

I also really loved Duwane Taylor (from London) in his piece It’s Time to Speak. It was incredibly moving. I think the first half, or certainly a long intro, of it was Duwane dancing but without speaking, enacting some of the history of black folks (I think, particularly in the United States, the Civil Rights Movement). He stood (silently) at a podium and danced out Martin Luther King’s speeches and assassination. He danced Malcolm X. He was dance-miming out a more and more impassioned protest at this podium that went faster and faster. Krump style dance with explosive, convulsive movement, he is really a genius! At some point the dance seemed to lead into present day struggles against police violence and police murder of black people. I would even say of disabled black people, which transcends the situation in the U.S. I wish for a video of this particular performance online because it was different than the earlier version I was able to find. Then, at some point Duwane did begin to speak, and rap. The civil rights movement improved things but here we still are in a world with such violent injustice. Speaking out and activism are just what we have to keep on doing.

Here is what looks like an older version of the piece:

Amenti Movement was also absolutely mindblowing. Emotional, intimate, I would even say it felt somehow they were dancing ways that men heal each other from a culture of toxic masculinity, and so many other damages, to one of tenderness and support, painful as that can be. Not sure if that was part of their intent, but it’s what I was seeing from their performance.

This would be incomplete without mentioning the cool as hell Hip Hop Nutcracker performance by The Tribe! Wow!!!! They took it to the next level. And you can still see this as it’s coming up December 16th in Redwood City at the Fox Theater!

Some science fiction/fantasy with disabled characters

Or with an interesting take on variations of ability or human/machine integration/enhancement.

I might mention some or all of these in the panel today at CripTech. And, I’ll come back later today and add links to this list and some notes on the panel.

“Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction” – magazine issue/anthology
On the Edge of Gone – Corinne Duyvis
Murderbot by Martha Wells
Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie
Various books by Becky Chambers
The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
Brain Plague and The Highest Frontier by Joan Slonczewski
Autonomous by Annalee Newitz
“We Who Are About To…” Joanna Russ
A Study in Honor, Claire O’Dell
Borderline – Mishell Baker
Of course, the Vorkosigan series by Lois McMaster Bujold

Heading over to CripTech

Heading over to the CripTech symposium now. Its full title is: CripTech: Disability and Technology in Japan and the United States – an International Symposium. I spent the morning yesterday with some of the conference speakers as we toured SF Lighthouse.

Technology has the potential to greatly improve access and the full social participation of disabled individuals in Japan and the United States. Both countries have invested considerable sums in these directions, but often this research is being conducted separately from the key stakeholders. This symposium brings together technologists, anthropologists, educators, and other researchers who are working on the nexus of technology, access, and design in Japan together with scholars, engineers, researchers, and activists in the United States for a four-day symposium and workshop in Berkeley, California, the home of the independent living movement. The majority of the participants identify as disabled people.

I’ll be speaking Saturday morning after the showing of Fixed: The Science/Fiction of Human Enhancement, on a panel with Ian Smith and Gregor Wolbring, moderated by Franchesca Spektor.

CripTech-Poster-small

The ultra-unreal

Enjoying this essay a lot: Modern China is So Crazy It Needs a New Literary GenreOn Living Through the “Ultra-Unreal,” and Writing About It

Many of China’s “ultra-unreal” phenomena are written about on the internet immediately after they occur. Reality is a text to begin with, and now that the internet can show us “ultra-unreal” phenomena that we otherwise would not know about, we end up with a sort of doubled “ultra-unreal.” This has created a huge challenge for fiction. Fiction can no longer just tell straightforward stories about single topics following single narrative arcs; reality is providing us with all sorts of rich possibilities for experiments in fictional form. To some degree, the more true to reality fiction is these days, the more avant-garde it will seem. The way we look at things determines the way we write about them. Reality is mutable.

There are some interesting statements about the nature of “magical realism”.

I need to read this author’s books. This sounds glorious & ridiculous. I lost the thread just reading a single paragraph of the synopsis of PART of the book.

There are three layers to my novel. The first is the story of a man who has been infatuated with libraries since childhood. He is the narrator of the novel. His dream is to live in a library, and in his apartment he has a lot of books and a lot of mirrors. Because of the infinite regress effect of the reflection of the books in the mirrors, he is able to approximate his childhood dream of living inside a library. He has no disability, but he likes to do his reading while sitting in a wheelchair. He likes to wheel himself around among his books and mirrors. He becomes a volunteer companion to inmates on death row, and he moves into the prison for a while. He talks to the inmates the way a priest would. He thinks of the prison as another sort of library.

Ifigenia in Aulide

Last weekend I saw another opera production by Ars Minerva, Ifigenia in Aulide. I saw Circe a while back and it blew my mind! Ifigenia did not disappoint as with minimal staging and what must have been a tiny budget (for an opera) Ars Minerva was absolutely brilliant. It was like a mindfuck gem of genderbent baroque. If you know me you know those words are like catnip to a cat! Lots of operas have some sort of Furious Woman number (what my friend Lisa called a “rage aria”) but this was like one giant long rage aria. Like Hothead Paisan from 1738 came to visit. (You realize if we have any call to be Hothead nowadays, some chick from Italy in 1738, or Greece in 408 B.C., has several orders of magnitude more reason.) The music was composed by Giovanni Porta and the libretto by Apostolo Zeno. (Of course, I read about them on Wikipedia from the program notes before the show. Thank you Wikipedia!) I am not going to perfectly remember things, but here is a stab at a synopsis.

First of all there was an ominous “chorus” of people on stage a lot of the time in purple satin hooded robes and creepy tragedy masks. They also made me think of the kodama from Spirited Away. They were characters, chorus, props, and sort of the zeitgeist, very well done. I’ll say more about them in a moment!

We encounter Elisena who has been captured by Achille in battle (in either Lesbos or Thessaly, but I never got that quite straight.) She is now enslaved and worried about her fate. If she ever finds out her real identity she will DIE. Teucro loves her and she loves Achille.

I enjoyed the costumes and makeup very much by the way – each character was dressed in a distinctive color combo of velvet, some with a sort of tinfoil (but much classier) hats with very lovely styling — the warriors Achille and Agamennone with helmets and the Queen and Princess with more Lothlorien style elegant crowns. Ifigenia in particular had a cool Isis/Hathor crescent moon on top of her Galadriel headdress, kinda giving the impression of Cretan horns or a Minoan statue. Very beautiful! Ulysses and Teucro strode around in combat boots. Elisena had a super sexy red dress and no crown. They had unusual & gorgeous cyberpunk style makeup that matched their outfits – big asymmetrical swoops and hash marks accentuating cheekbones or facial lines – and Elisena’s face smudged in red like she was both enraged and had been running around like a maenid in the woods drinking blood. OK, now you have the fashion picture!

Achilles shows up and sings to Elisena about how he loves Ifigenia and is going to marry her. Omg, awkward. Elisena then gets a damn good rage aria! She was going full tilt about how she would sacrifice herself on the altar in a blaze of bloody glory rather than watch her beloved Achille marry stuck up Ifigenia! Foreshadowing much?!

Actually, I wish I had the libretto and translation. By the middle of the opera I was picking up the Italian a lot better and thinking of how I would translate it myself. (I love to do songs and, with this sort of opera, half the words are going to be glory, sigh, lament, beloved, and weep, so you’re basically half done from the get-go.) The translation grew on me towards Act 3 and I thought it had some amazing moments so I’d like to read through it with more time and a dictionary and grammar at hand.

Ulyses then struts around explaining to Agamennone that they had to sacrifice Ifigenia their beloved daughter. The sacrifice for fair winds must be a princess of the blood of Helen! (GEE I WONDER WHAT ELISENA’S SECRET IDENTITY IS.) He is challenging Agamennone’s masculinity and leadership and sense of duty to the Greeks and (male) honor as he tries to amp him up and fails.

Ifigenia dances around like a modern dance music box ballerina sweetly singing of her innocent love and how being a dutiful daughter means her loving parents picked a good husband for her who is a hero and who she luckily came to fall in love with. Yay she is going to be a happy bride etc.

I forgot in my comments on the fashion and headdresses to mention the subtle brilliance of how Achille had her hair (up in a top-and-back ponytail, like the decoration on a greek helmet in itself!) There were lots of little details like this in the production that made me so happy. (ACHILLE WAS SO BRILLIANT OMG and you could tell she was running everything and the genius behind it all – from her mastery of the entire thing)

I think at this point Ifigenia has heard a rumor that Achille is actually going to marry Elisena instead of her. She has a rage aria and goes off in a huff. (Or maybe this was later?)

Achille and Elisena have a scene. He beats her up and it is quite horrible. The production somehow makes it clear that the whole opera is about toxic masculinity! Achille somehow did the most Liquid Sky level authentically horrible lesbian rape scene I’ve ever seen while singing GLORIOUSLY at the top of her lungs, manhandling Elisena, throwing her around by the hair, and tracing down her body with swordpoint. (!!!!!!!!!!)

Containing myself with difficulty . . .

Elisena is now super, super pissed. Bloody rage is sung. Her face goes through another 50 levels of insane and vengeful. I have to suppress the urge to cheer for her beautiful rage. She orders Teucro to go disrupt the wedding. Teucro, throughout, gives the impression of a smirking, drippy, creepy harasser, basically in a virtual fedora, oozing “m’lady” at the Renaissance Festival right before he mansplains to you why you should totally enjoy him stalking you. It made Elisena’s rage even better.

Ulises comes back to infuse Agamennone with more toxic masculinity. He must show his wife and daughter what’s what! While singing, Ulises threatens the purple robed masked chorus, grabs one, and beats (her) up. Just to give Agamennone a little example of the proper manly warrior king way to behave.

Agamennone then abuses Klytemnestra, singing Obey me!

Klytemnestra then has like, infinite rage arias and reprises of her rage!!! Oh, she’s pissed!

Angstamennone has some more nail biting freakouts! I think he changes his mind like 3 times about whether to send his wife and daughter home, or what.

Ifigenia desperately hopes it is all a lie. SHe offers herself to Agamennone while Klytemnestra continues to rage and says in despair that only death is left to her. I can’t remember their exact works but the trio (what do you call it when it is a duet but 3 people singing at once in counterpoint?) was really beautiful and moving. Agamennon freaking out with guilt, Ifigenia saying she would kiss the beloved hand that killed her, Klytemnestra giving epic side eye to her abusive murderous husband who cares more for war and its honors and duties than for his family.

I kind of lose the thread here, but Elisena runs off to tell the troops in the camp about this horrible plan to sacrifice Ifigenia. Achille sits on a rock with Ifigenia for their romantic duet. Ulises and Achille face off with swords! “A armi!!!” Achille slayed me with her singing again.

At several points when there is tension – like with Ulises arguing with Agamennone – or Klytemnestra and Ifigenia singing about duty and love – The chorus in their fated robes grab onto someone in the throes of their dilemma & sway with them – making me think of all the forces of culture and custom and public opinion operating to fuel their moral decisions. It was done so perfectly! Holding them back, seemingly sympathetic or supportive at times, but then entangling them in terrible complexity!

Klytemnestra and Ifigenia get another amazing duet where as they reach towards each other singing of their mother and daughter love, they are torn apart by the chorus at this point!

Elisena sings of her sudden pity for Ifigenia who is actually very noble in her willingness to be sacrificed for the common good (well, for … for someone’s good)

I think Klytemnestra had like 5 more rage arias in here. I loved her singing so much. She could just keep going forever, a beautiful voice, and her acting was great, giving the impression of someone super delicate, fierce, and tough all at once.

Then something happens offstage. Ulises runs in reporting something about how fierce Death has arrived for Ifigenia. BUT as you may suspect Elisena’s secret identity is that she is Helen’s secret daughter from another marriage and was originally named Ifigenia too. And she has just bloodily driven a dagger into her heart on the altar as the sacrifice. We see her at center stage kneeling with her head swathed in red gauze by the purple-robed Fates. Ifigenia and Achille are happily married. Everyone (except Elisena) sings a happy love song but you can cherish the rage in your heart for all the despairing girls who cut themselves you have ever known, because you know Klytemnestra is going to stab SOMEONE whose name starts with an A some years later no matter what ironic syrup is pouring from her mouth.

I can’t really speak to the excellence of the singing or music but I loved it a lot. The musicians were fabulous, I loved the theorbo & cello, harpischord also, and several times (especially with Achille, Klytemnestra, and sometimes Agamennone — and with Ifigenia’s song to her mother — Madre delitta, abraccia mi!) I would get the head to toe shivers involuntarily from the beauty and inevitability of the singing, or how the music all came together.

I also don’t know how the opera was originally intended to be performed but figured some of the parts played by women were meant to be sung by castrati. It really came out well. I wish this opera were running much longer so I could persuade everyone I know in town to go see it! Or that there were a video of it! Also, I have a total crush on Céline Ricci now as I picture her poking around in dusty music library basements (or the equivalent — like i like to do with poetry anthologies) and finding this stuff, seeing the potential in it, and making it real!

Infrastructure adoption

I just went out in a light drizzle to check the storm drain nearest to my house, which I signed up to maintain a while back on SF Adopt-a-Drain. From this site, I get an email when major rain is coming. I forgot to respond to the last one, and then had to cross many intersections around Mission and 30th, enormous, roiling, leafy rivers which my new chair with its excellent clearance plowed right through. Finally as I came to “my” adopted drain I stopped (safely on the curb) and dug out all the leaves with my cane, flipping big globs of trash awkwardly onto the sidewalk where I left them neatly piled. (Unwilling to go so far as to go home and get a bag.)

Well, for a few minutes there I felt like my friend Crystal who keeps getting written up in the news either for shoveling snow in her neighborhood or for politically rustling everyone else up to properly clear the sidewalks.

My suspicion is that the guys in the restaurant on the corner saw me do this and came out to clean the drain afterwards. (Cannot help but be aware that many people would interpret my doing this normal and minor civic action as somehow full of pathos.)

The streets do get swept here every two weeks (by the absolutely adorable streetsweeping machines that I love to watch – what – I love trucks!) but since it’s a very long hill, a lot of leaves pile up during the first few rains. I’ll see tomorrow if the river re-appears or if the drain needs clearing again!

Another good “help maintain the city” tool I like and use: SeeClickFix. It is an interface to the city’s 311 service for reporting all sorts of issues. You can use the SeeClickFi phone app to take a photo and report stuff like sidewalk cracks, potholes, garbage, trees that need maintenance, and so on. Some of “my” issues get fixed and some don’t, but on the whole it’s a pretty nice interface where it is easy to see if there has been any action, or if others in the neighborhood agree about the issue.