outwait outrun outwit


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07.05.04, monday night

I listen as the singer of Dengue Fever belts out "22 nights", infuriated at my family. The only times I'll ever hear khmer again will probably be among strangers or alone--translating faraway memories in restaurants or phonating the bygone on roadtrips, during language tapes & records bought out of nostalgia, a sunlit memory of young Mummy humming pop songs once sung by songbirds killed by the Khmer Rouge.

. . .

We stroll along a rocky strait that narrowed to a scattering of thrump-cap, the ocean-scent, a lone willet crying kee! kee! kee!

To California
Heart of Gold
Live Up To It
Let Good Times Roll

Atop the single parapet of a lopsided castle overwrit with graffiti, these words are carved into a block of cement overlooking foamy waves, the fog-shrouded City. On the little manmade peninsula, flora & fauna flourish; their names rollercoast deliciously off tongue: brass-buttons, sea fig, silver wattle, blackwood acacia, arroyo willow, yellow star thistle, pickleweed, soft chess, rabbitfoot grass, Botta's pocket gopher, northern pintail, red-throated loon, merlin, peregrin falcon, whimbril, marbled godwit, killdeer, wandering tattler, bushtit, pine siskin, & more.

Formerly a decades-old industrial landfill built on tidelands--a most fragile, most dynamic ecosystem--the Albany Bulb has been partially reclaimed by what bulldozers had buried in vain. And home no longer for the homeless & their art of the recycled, thanks to the police & the Albany City Council. Now it is home to broken, acorn-barnacled concrete slabs laid out into paths whose post-consumer trajectories blossom luminously, like rhymes of latent reason, in the dark hard wet earth used by joggers & dogwalkers on cold windy afternoons like today.

. . .

This weekend I saw the Girls, most of whom drove from LA to celebrate the elopement. As the popped cork of a champagne bottle sailed across a crowded Senegalese restaurant (to hit, alas, a hapless diner), all cheered, Welcome to the family, Jimmy!

Needless to say, he was overwhelmed. My friends embrace often. They take too many pictures. They are gorgeous. They talk dirty. They are often the loudest people in the establishment. They love to tell stories. They love to talk about their families. (I am the quietest of them all.)

Sohini told Jimmy, My mother and father are happy for you. They say if you ever need a place to stay in India, you can stay with our uncle; he's a Communist. When my uncle heard you were getting married, he said, They shouldn't be getting married, they should be handing out red books.

My other family, quick to remember, quick to laugh, quick to dance. A joyful source of wealth. Kin to poetry, birds in flight, & Jimmy's tales.

Like the Albany Bulb, like all places--spaces composed of memory's sediment & all creatures who pass through it--family can take new forms, new meanings, forever subject to change. . . If you allow it to be so directed.


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