Tag Archives: San Francisco

We Might Not Come Back. Drink Anyway.

I’m moving away, and I’d like to talk about The Tavern.

Scene: Adventurer’s tavern. Night. The bar is full, and the old friends, gather at the same table. Again.

Well twas long, long ago, back when the trees were talkin’

T’was only yesterday.

Yes, yes, I’m getting to it, there’s a formula you know.
Where was I?
A long time ago, long ago, so long ago that no one can remember and no tree can remember and no rock can remember, a place so far away beyon’t that –

It was last night across the river. Now tell the fighty bits.

Alright, if you’ll have all the heart taken out if it.

Moving is the most stressful thing a human can experience. It’s loss, change, and the elimination of all points of reference. It can also be incredibly rewarding. I’m moving from Oakland, CA to a red state, and true to form, I’m all set to inject drama into this situation where perhaps there was none.

When I left New York, there were parties, yes, but there was also crying, gnashing of teeth, and “don’t go!” conversations.

When I moved from Seattle to San Francisco, only two friends came over to help me load the U-haul. There was no pomp or circumstance. We chatted and taped boxes as though it were any other Saturday afternoon, and parted with a “see ya.”

The lack of drama surprised me a bit.

I don’t typically keep friends for longer than five years. A friend once told me that your friends aren’t people you share values with; they’re the people you do stuff with. That made me think that friendships end because interests change. Another told me that when we move, we create a self-shaped void in the lives of those we left behind — but our life becomes a giant mass of voids (where do I hang out? Where’s the grocery store, place to watch the sun rise? Dojo? Job? Hospital? Coffee shop? Diner?). We get stressed, while everyone else is fine. The world rolls on without us, and the place we left disappears.

The last time I visited familiar places in New York, it felt like wearing a sweater that was too small. License plates were a different color. People had grown physically and emotionally. Items from my childhood that should have been dear sparked nothing in me. I was so unmoored from the things that were supposed to be meaningful that I felt the foundation of my identity crumble.

Because of those experiences, I anticipate losing people as soon as I meet them. The impermanence of relationships looms large in my brain. This fear became self-fulfilling. I freaked out with my New York friends, and tried to keep everything the same with an obsessive fervor. You can guess how badly that ended.

Since that time, I’ve tried to accept that paths diverge. My interests change, so do others’. People drift apart, so that’s ok.

The problem is that I’ve applied the same obsessive fervor to ACCEPTING THAT PATHS DIVERGE so I pull out the scissors as quickly as I once pulled out needle and thread.

It’s not the drifting or the grasping that’s destructive; it’s the fervor. 

Leaving my core group in California will be hard, just like it was hard to leave my core group in New York. These relationships have been special and illuminating — supportive and challenging. They’re all very different people, with different specialties and perspectives I would never have had access to. I felt sad, not that I was going to leave them; but that I was going to lose them.

When I mentioned this to one of them, they responded with an eye-roll.

“I’ve always taken some issue with your idea about paths diverging and not diverging and all that.”

“In what way?”

“In every way. You’ve been asking if we’re about to diverge since the second time we met.”

Even in my writing, the opening paragraph is usually this is the story of how it all went wrong. I’m so scared of the ending that it colors the beginning.

My friend said, “I see us on different adventures, constantly meeting in the tavern between quests, and then setting off on new ones in the morning. You’re my brother forever and I’ve been fucking loving you across the current of you asking me if our paths were diverging for, like, seven years. Calm down.”

Which brings us back to the tavern. It’s got a million names. It’s The Winchester, The Bronze, Ten-Forward, The Hanged Man, Cafe Solstice, Cafe La Boheme. Facebook. Twitter.

“This may be the last time we drink together in this tavern,” Felimir gloomed into his tankard.

“Dude,” said Fergus, “you get like this every time. Drink your fucking mead, we’ll be back in two days. Chill.”

Tomorrow morning we all have to get up and fight dragons, my friend said. I get that we’re all nervous about it, and we all have our own way of coping. Maybe you’re right, and it won’t be the same. That doesn’t mean it’s over. For fuck’s sake, just drink.

Where do you gather with your friends? A living room? A cafe? A chat box, or a number on speed-dial?

Where’s your tavern?

*Excerpt from: The Sorrows, or Deirdre From The Legend Kills Herself In Every Version But That Doesn’t Mean You Always Have To, currently under development through Custom Made Theater’s Undiscovered Works Series.


No Story is Too Small

In the wake of the Seahawks victory, there was some noise about defaced public property. People got drunk and made silly decisions. It was reminiscent of excited fans’ absurd behavior when the SF Giants won the World Series. During the celebration of a baseball victory, a shoe-shine stand on the street corner was burned to the ground.

A man lost his livelihood because of a sports victory.

It turns out that this man, Larry, had struggled for many years with his heroin addiction, and wore a suit to work every day—even though he was sleeping under a bridge. When he was contacted by reporters, he told his story, and said that giving up is not an option.  It’s something he doesn’t believe in.

I must have passed him a hundred times before I learned his name — much less the trials he had overcome before the burning. I’m too fixated on my story, and my own main characters.  I think in movie culture we don’t see the value of having a huge cast, but in text it can be used to extraordinary effect. They crop up in the story later and reveal their importance, even if you didn’t notice at first.

Seemingly small stories like this are all part of something bigger. As we’re writing, we fall in love with main characters, main events, and main ideas—forgetting that ‘throwaway’ characters also have histories, families and dreams. They don’t carry the burden of the main narrative on their shoulders, and are free to explore the world you’ve created. They’re free to be afraid, to spy, to run from one scene to the next—and surprise you with what they reveal.

Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.
— Vincent Van Gogh

There is nothing insignificant in the world. It all depends on the point of view.
— Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

Any path that narrows future possibilities may become a lethal trap. Humans are not threading their way through a maze; they scan a vast horizon filled with unique opportunities.
— The Spacing Guild Handbook

Welcome to Katana Pen!


Wee Ninja arrives in San Francisco.

Hello and welcome to Katana Pen.  If you now have Mahna Mahna in your head, you belong here.

This blog will focus on:

  1. Fiction stuff
  2. Fancy rants about martial arts
  3. …and lots of opportunities for audience participation!

I look forward to getting better acquainted with you. Let’s dive right in.

When I was driving cross-country to move from New York to Washington, I listened to a number of audio-books. While Neil Gaiman’s American Gods pumped through my speakers, I started passing signs for roadside attractions he described in the story. My dad told me it meant I was in the right place at the right time.
These coincidences have been cropping up more and more for me now that I’m in San Francisco. I’ve started reading books recommended to me ages ago. On the surface, they don’t have much in common, but as I learn more about the authors, a common thread emerged. Jack London was born in San Francisco. The interview in Interview with a Vampire takes place on Market & 6th, in San Francisco. Christopher Moore’s Bloodsucking Fiends trilogy takes place in North Beach, San Francisco. Robert M. Pirsig’s son was killed in the Haight district, San Francisco.  Either I’m seeing what I want to see, or I’m seeing what I need to see. I’m where I need to be right now.
Environment shapes perception, and perception shapes writing. Even if you don’t write about your city, or your family, or your era, all of those seeds of truth will be in your writing. You have a story to tell. Bring it forth. Be here now, and know that you’re in the right place at the right time.
Just because you are seeing divine light, experiencing waves of bliss, or conversing with Gods and Goddesses is no reason to not know your zip code.
― Ram Dass
What kind of stuff from your travels (or your house!) shows up in your writing?  Leave a message in the comments.