Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Love and Hot Water

The hot water at my apartment is back on.

This morning I made an unsuccessful charcoal rubbing of a carving I made in the door of the third floor landing of some backstairs in this building, during the time period I was diagnosed psychotic. (I've had episodes before and since, but there was only one time in my life I was involuntarily psychiatric-ally hospitalized--last November.) The charcoal rubbing today didn't turn out as well as the carving did then.

The carving, sometime last October, happened because I had felt urged/compelled to heal the apartment building by filling in the "Fuck" part of the "Fuck Quan" graffiti already carved in that door, and by then carving the Chinese character for "love" in between that and "Quan." (The Quan family are the owners and landlord. I feel safe to say their name, because this is not their only building, and because they are not the only Quan's in San Francisco to own buildings, I would bet. And because no one, for the most part, uses the back stairs--which is why I used to use them.)

I had made a little camp on the second floor landing on a couple of the stairs and floor with all my rags, equipment and coffee. I remember, vividly, filling in the "Fuck," carefully with mahogany-stain furniture filler, then sanding the surface smooth, dusting that, then blending the color, never perfectly enough, with brown shoe polish. It took hours. I was afraid someone would hear me, and I would abandon my little campsite and come back to it went it felt safe.

I used my Leatherman pocket-knife and a stencil I already had that I had bought from a crafts store in Chinatown, where I live, to carve the character for "love." (The front side of my building is definitely another neighborhood--rich, but the building is the edge, and I am on the back side of it, looking out over a roof of colorful clotheslines to the mid-level of the tall buildings of the financial district down the hill; I can see a little of the blue bay behind the Hilton, and the ships from faraway passing this side of Treasure Island, and the pink-orange sunlight gleams off the Transamerica Pyramid back at me, and twinkles off the slope of Berkeley beyond in the evenings. When there is no fog. My cat watches very few birds--seagulls, and the Blue Angels during Fleet Week--she's become fearless about that--and fireworks for the fourth of July and for many Chinese Festivals every year. We have a lot of sky in these two rooms.) I'm sure there is more than one character for "love," but I used the stencil that I had.

It took a long time. I cut myself, and unintentionally bled on my work.

When it was perfect enough--(it really is well-crafted, which is why I wanted to make a charcoal rubbing of it for my apartment--I don't know why today),--I dusted it off, and collected my stuff. I went down later to sweep the whole stairwell, quietly, from top to bottom--fifth floor, fourth floor, third (--my cat's and mine), second, first, the basement (--where the dollar-and-seventy-five-cent washers that don't always, but usually, work are), and then the scary floor below the basement (--where the dumpsters are). I didn't go below that, (which you can, to get to the heavy dungeon-clanging, arched, black metal gate into the inside of the Stockton Tunnel).

Someone--I think I know who--I think it was the woman who used to live on the first floor who was evicted six months ago for making terrorist death threats--who told me privately she was going to kill the landlord's family--later scratched out the word "Quan" in what looks like a frenzy. She--I'm guessing, did not stain her mad scratches, which are now a little furied scratchy cloud below the careful Chinese "love," below the "healed" "fuck". She left the "love" alone. And what is the landlord going to do about that.

1 comment:

Sarah said...

I can imagine you sitting there filling, carving, sanding, staining the word "love," from your Chinatown stencil. And then doing a rubbing. To heal a building or a day. Love.