The photograph that graces this blog is one taken by an extremely talented friend, Hannah Laycock. I met her during my sojourn in London that began on September 11, 2014 and ended on March 15, 2017. Then I went “home” to Canada, the land of my birth, deserted fifty years before. My return to Canada was actually rather short lived – March 15, 2017 until March 31, 2019. But it did serve a useful purpose as it did serve to make me cherish San Francisco. I first moved to San Francisco from Canada in 1967, the Summer of Love. I came back and miraculously am full of as much hope and optimism as I had back then. It seems nothing short of miraculous. But it was absolutely essential for me to leave Marin County (1971-2014) for London, to meet my Uncle Dave Dryburgh (1908-1948), make pilgrimages to his land of birth, Scotland, then return to Canada at the expiration of the student visa, become increasingly dissatisfied with Vancouver and return in triumph to San Francisco. I realize that I had, at some point, left my heart in San Francisco and now we are reunited.
But back to Hannah’s incredible portrait of me. It was taken on, and for, my May 29, 2016 birthday. Lunch an the photograph was taken at the British Museum. Lunch was at the Courtyard Restaurant with the funniest conversation shared by Dinham and myself and several Japanese tourists. Dinham a most handsome black man, years my junior. The conversation ended with these fine words:
He: You are cutting off my balls.
Me: You do not have any to cut off.
The Japanese tourists shocked, it is a good job that he was the boss, otherwise he would have lost his job. I am rather fast on my feet, as you can tell.
But back to the incredible photograph. When I first saw it – I wept and occasionally still do. I weep because it captures what I love about myself. I have a look of hope, of optimism that is in place despite a life marred by dreadful abuse as a child that left scars, both physically and mentally. I rather feel like a miracle child, well an old child at this point as I was born in 1943. On my good days I spread joy- living well is the best revenge. The joy I feel and spread becomes revenge as I know that those people who harmed me as well as their progeny and their progeny’s progeny are not joyful due to the fact that living in a state of denial is paralyzing. I no longer see or communicate with my nuclear family – I am under Doctor’s orders not to do so. I always tell the truth – well sometimes I exaggerate a little but in this case, I am not.
I moved to London on September 11, 2014 on a student visa. Terrible school as you will learn if you read the blog but it did get me to London for two and a half years. This blog contains some of my experiences there, in Vancouver and now here in Hayes Valley in San Francisco. That is why it is London and Beyond. I am now living in Beyond I guess. I left Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada on March 31, 2019. It is an imperfect city. Pierre Burton, a Canadian intellectual, is reported to have said that Vancouver is not a great city, it is a great place for a city, but not a great city. Vancouver is corrupt – greed spoils it and in my brief time there I have managed to meet some of the most corrupt and greedy of them all. Such a talent – I do laugh and I still have a look of hope and speak joy. So there! So there! So there!
When I lived in London people met me, scratched their heads and said: “Were you always like this?” I don’t know, underneath perhaps. While there, at the Victoria and Albert Museum I met two strangers, both black. The man said: Where do you get your energy? You are so creative. The woman said: “What you exude is confidence. Were you always like this?” I thought as I wandered about the museum, emerging at an exhibit on underwear. What is different? What is the same? I am way, way more vulnerable. I am way, way more daring and decisive. I am extremely open and opinionated. I have systematically depopulated my world of negative people and plan to keep them out of my life,. I have quite frankly been used by people, by families back home and goodness knows by people in Vancouver and several attempts have been made by Instagram ‘friends’. But I take it in stride and am happy I never have to see them neither Instagram scams nor see them again in real life. I laugh more, early and often. Seriously, tens, if not hundreds, of people comment on my laugh, in approving ways. I used to think I had to conquer evil but now I see that this is impossible. Evil plays dirty and the only way you can fight it is to adopt those techniques. Who wants to? All one can do is to step aside. Get out of evil’s clutches and watch them self destruct. It has been such a hard lesson to learn, and so against my nature. But the joy one feels when you step aside and acknowledge defeat is immense. I read somewhere that admitting defeat is energizing. It is.
But there are a couple of complicating factors to the explanations for any behaviour change. I stopped taking antidepressants in April, 2015 after a sentence of about 30 years. I developed a systemic allergy to the brand I was taking. Moreover, there are often behavioural changes after major head trauma, trauma being hit by the motorcycle on September 13, 2014. I looked the wrong way when crossing a street on my second day in London. I have post traumatic flashbacks which were suppressed for years by the antidepressants. Not fun, but they do pass. Nothing much to be done about behavioural changes say doctors and psychologists. But the most transformative thing was the realization that the accident, a near fatality, was actually a near death experience. I view the world differently as a result. In a good way as I live in the present.
My life is blessed in many ways. I have many professionals in my life who are able, competent, helpful, supportive and generally just wonderful. The main man is Chris Jackson, responsible for this blog. Well I do admit that I do the writing but he posts for me daily and is always there for me. Yeah Chris! The reunion took place in my favourite place in the world: the Rex Whistler Restaurant in the Tate Britain located in London England. We were both amazed at our number of readers, which is the mark of success on a blog.
He: I pave the road. You drive the car.
Is not that a beautiful statement about the power of collaboration?
But again back to the Hannah photograph. I had a poster made with the photograph and a quote from Albert Camus. “In the midst of winter, I found there was within me, an invincible summer.” It describes so perfectly the expression on my face. I weep as I write, but not tears of sorrow but tears of joy.
At this moment I am in heaven it seems. An apartment in Hayes Valley, San Francisco, California. The most wonderful neighbourhood close tho theatres, the Asian Museum, the San Francisco Opera, the San Francisco Ballet. A BART connection within blocks. No car is required, therefore, I have a Personal Driver. It is too ostentatious to drive in a limo, so we drive about in a Yellow Cab. Seriously, he is a cab driver but is there for me whenever a ride is needed and he is utterly and completely dependable. Knee replacement surgery took place in August, not thoroughly recovered as yet but definitely on the mend. Total recovery will allow concentration on my writing with a book launch scheduled for early October. The book is the one written about the Tate Britain. I am reachable on Instagram: alexismctwit – do not ask me why it is McTwit but it is rather cute.