Category Archives: Photography

Fiction Piece “The Final Visit”; Featuring Visual Art Submission “Old Souls”

The Final Visit

Written By: Vincent Calvarese

About the Author: 

As a writer and visual artist, he found his wings amongst his heroes of Eureka Valley. Using the San Francisco Bay Area as his canvas, he highlights themes of restorative justice in The Final Visit, familial pain in The Flesh of the Father, gun violence in Three Cloves of Garlic, the pharmaceutical crisis in The Clipboard and the gentrifying 7×7 plain in The Slanted Winds Down Guerrero Street. He is a past General and Poetry Editor for Forum Magazine.

Chapter One

I am looking up. At first, I am unaware of my positioning. Am I laying down? Or am I standing up? All I can see is blue. Maybe a ceiling. Suddenly it opens like a mouth about to grab onto a spoonful of morning cereal, and I see the kitchen from my childhood. I begin to hear the Eagles “Take It To The Limit”. Dad used to listen to it after he had a few beers. He knew the words, All Alone at the end of the evening, And the bright lights have faded to blue. Dad is bouncing me on his knee as he takes a swig of his favorite 40oz. of Olympia. I can feel his muscular leg between my legs. “Daddy, is this what it’s like to ride a real horse?” I look up at his face. I can see the small grey hairs in his goatee. His lips begin to move but he’s not saying anything. His image slowly disappears and I am now standing alone in front of a glass window. It spans at least ten feet in each direction. He’s suddenly on the other side. His body is in the sign of the cross. He’s dressed all in white. I reach out and place my hand on the glass. It’s hot to the touch. I pull my hand away quickly. Abruptly, a drape drops and I hear the sound of an emergency room privacy curtain quickly closed, when something has become very serious. It’s pitch black. I take a deep breath and I hold it. I continue to hold my breath. I begin to feel the pressure in my face as it begins to redden. I want the curtain to open. I reach out for it but my hand goes limp. I begin to feel faint. I exhale and begin coughing uncontrollably. I awaken. The morning had arrived.

I’m looking up at the ceiling. There are a few cracks intersecting towards my open unscreened window.  It’s framing a very blue sky. “Fuck! It’s a sunny day,” I say. I begin to sing, I was thinking ‘bout a woman who might have loved me, I never knew. You know I’ve always been a dreamer. The tears begin. I couldn’t stop them. I breathed deeply through my nostrils and slowly exhaled through my mouth. I turned on my side, lifted up my legs, sat upright and put my feet on the floor next to my crumpled-up “mom” jeans and balled up elastic beige-colored socks covered in little red hearts. I thought, I really need to do laundry. “Damn, I wish it was a grey, rainy day”. I thought it would be more appropriate for the last visit. I reached for a rubber band on the nightstand, stood up, fashioned a pony-tail as I walked toward the bathroom, which I am sure needed a good scrubbing. 

The shower water seemed to take extra long to warm. I ran my hand through the cold water a few times. Each time I could feel my nipples react and harden. I still don’t know why that happens but I’ve decided I like it.

I remember the first time I bathed without my father. I was probably six years old. We had a child-like yet very adult discussion, actually more like an argument about my abilities to not damage the bathroom floor and flood the apartment units below. He had witnessed my toy ship flotilla creation a year before in the bathroom sink. Niagara Falls had relocated to 1031 E. 14th Street, there were no survivors. See, none of my little girlfriends still bathed with their fathers but then again, they all had mothers at home. Tisha and Claudia had started making fun of me about it. The “discussion” ended with him sitting on the toilet seat giving me scrubbing instructions through the shower curtain. After a few more Dad and Daughter original instructional YouTube-like videos, Dad left me to my own hygiene; abet hair and teeth.

By the time I was 10-years-old, Dad’s appearances at morning showers were almost non-existent. Living in the Bay Area was becoming more and more challenging financially. Of course, at that age I thought we were rich. Flat screens in more than one room in the house, Pop Tarts at every meal (if I wanted them) and a maid. Of course, later in life I realized we didn’t have an actual maid. They were women my father had met “out-in-the-field”, brought home, fucked regularly and who didn’t mind taking care of me when Dad’s jobs took him further away from home.

Lucinda was my favorite. She had beautiful red hair, she smiled all the time, always wore bright colored long-sleeve shirts (even in summer), and her eyes twinkled. I know now she was a heroin addict but her imagination was expansive and she could always distract me when he hadn’t come home in months. I am always amazed at the ability of any drug addict to manipulate any situation, at any time with a few simple sentences. “Your Dad? Oh, he called three times when you were at school! He’ll be home….soon. He loves you dearly and can’t wait to kiss your beautiful face. How about we go watch Friends and I’ll make Mac’n Cheese?” Rachel, Ross, Monica, Phoebe, Chandler, Joey and melted cheese. Yes, I loved Lucinda most.

Sometimes when Dad would finally come home, he was always wearing the same clothes he left with, as if only a morning and afternoon had passed. Sometimes when he came home, he’d be wearing really nice clothes and have a bunch of expensive jewelry for me. Gold chains, silver bracelets, pearl earrings and even diamond rings. Nothing ever matched and the rings never fit.

Dad and I had started living in Alameda County. First in Oakland, then El Cerrito and then finally El Sobrante. Alma was his newest and she was the strictest, at least with me. I had to be in bed by 8:30pm. If I forgot to brush my teeth, take out the garbage or leave just one dirty dish in the sink, I would be punished. Sometimes I’d be hit with a wooden spoon. When I hid the wooden spoon, Alma would spank me really hard with her braided belt. After a while, I found it easier to obey her demands and stop hiding utensils.

However, Alma did have a positive influence on me. She taught me about the power in the stars, the earth and the flowers. She told me stories about the radiance of sunrays and their relationship with the waning and waxing of the moonbeams. I learned to see the universe in the eyes of my first German Shepard puppy and the ultimate joy in the laughter and smiles of the young children running around our local playground. She always said, “Always look for the happiness in everything.”

Alma did have one ultimate rule. I wasn’t allowed to ever answer the telephone. However, one night, Alma was showering and the telephone rang. I let it ring. Then it stopped. A few minutes passed and it began again. The phone and I danced a few times and I finally picked it up. I said, “Hello?” No answer. I cleared my throat and said a little louder, “Hello?” Finally, a voice said, “HELLO, YOU HAVE RECEIVED A TELEPHONE CALL FROM A PRISONER IN THE ALAMEDA COUNTY JAIL SYSTEM. PLEASE PUSH THE NUMBER ONE TO ACCEPT.” I quickly hung up the phone. We didn’t know any prisoners, and after that call, I was afraid to pick up the phone ever again.

Visual Art Piece Photographed by Nadine Peralta

Old Souls_Visual Arts_Photography

“She tipped her head, and the world twisted on its axis.” (Zach Hauptman)

D Grey Comfort_Visual Arts_Photography
Comfort by Daine Grey, photograph

Four Trees for a Name

by Zach Hauptman

Firsts are powerful. They’re seeds devouring the last of their nutrients to grow towards sunlight. They follow patterns laid out by the lines of the universe–a riot of roots that grow into flowers, the first thorn on a blackberry bush precisely placed, even when the thorn pierces a thumb.

But firsts are deceptive. Energy undirected can kill. Split cells become cancerous.

The Fair Folk devour firsts, are made of energy in potentia. Follow their promises on the lines laid out exactly and reap the benefits. Step off the path and never find your way home again.

This is why humans are such fascinating creatures. Potential energy is converted to action, breaking patterns and putting them back together. Creative energy is the peculiar synthesis of habit and creation. Beneath the bark of our defenses, the fae, like mistletoe, seem young and soft but are deadly and pointed towards the heart.

*   *   *

In the earliest memories, all you knew was the pair of iron shears hung with red ribbon above your crib, a mobile that you watched turn in air currents. And then you closed your eyes and slept.

*   *   *

This is what happened the first time you met a fairy.

You were six, and finally allowed to sit on your own horse at the Golden Gate Park Carousel. Your hands were sticky from the bar of pink popcorn your mothers bought, and you left fingerprints on the mane of your caramel-colored horse. The only things you knew about fairies were what you learned from Peter Pan, and even then you knew better than to believe technicolor lies.

The horse was one of the ones that didn’t move, so you could watch the dingy carousel glass and line of children waiting for their turn without getting sick and falling off. Somewhere on the third rotation, you saw, in a space between older children, something broken with glassine skin and wings that sputtered and flapped at the wrong angles.

With the bravery of a small child, you climbed down from your horse. Probably it was a good thing that the carousel was coming to a stop then, because even now you’re not sure you wouldn’t have just taken a leap of faith off the platform. Maybe your mothers called to you, but you had eyes for cotton candy blue dandelion hair and wings with edges that stuck out at 90 degree angles but somehow still managed to fly just far enough ahead of you that you had to run a little to catch up across the expanse of pavement. It settled beneath a tree, the sweep of dirt and grass extending out to lap at the edge of the sidewalk.

“I want to play with you,” it said, and it had too many teeth. “Tell me your name.”

When your mothers swept you into their arms, two steps into the span of dirt and just before the line of flat-capped yellow mushrooms curved into an uneven oval, the fairy hissed and bared silver needle fangs. It sounded too loud, as though you’d left the sounds of shrieking kids at the carousel far away.

At school the next day, the wind whipped your hair into knots so tight your mothers had to cut them out, and the scrape on your leg from where you fell off the swings looked like a hemicircle of too sharp teeth.

The iron nail sat beside your backpack the next day and, though your mothers never said anything, you pocketed it and hugged them both.

Continue reading “She tipped her head, and the world twisted on its axis.” (Zach Hauptman)

“I may be as average as they come in so many respects, … but I’m not a dummy.” (Dana Wagner)

Old Town Parking_photography
Old Town Parking by Chiao En Huang
Chiao En Huang studies Graphic Design in CCSF. Currently, Chiao works at speciality coffee shop SPRO. “Obviously, [to] create is one of my biggest hobbies. I also do a lot of painting and drawing. Line (geometric) and color are two really big inspiration for me.” More work can be viewed at Chiao En Huang’s website: www.chiaondesign.com.

A Simple Task

by Dana Wagner

Call me Kobayashi.

That’s what the short, clean-cut Japanese man in the dark suit had said when he’d given me the small package.  If his name had actually been Kobayashi, he wouldn’t have said it the way he had, but as I walked through the afternoon crowd in the Ginza district with the brown-paper-covered parcel under my arm, I was still wondering why he’d picked that as his cipher … and why he’d picked a cipher at all, an obviously fabricated pseudonym that had been completely unnecessary since I was highly unlikely to ever see him again.  It seemed pointless, a deception merely for the sake of itself.  Maybe that had been the point, simply to impress upon me how little I knew.  You do not know my name, he was saying, you do not know anything about me, and there is very little of this you will ever understand.

Not that I needed much reminding.  As a foreigner living in Tokyo, I felt uncertain and unwelcome even on the best of days.  The man allowed into the party solely because he could score something everyone there wanted, tolerated and even spoken to, but with whom no one wanted any kind of personal connection.  The Japanese would smile, buy you business meals, make small talk, get drunk with you, and play at being your guides through their complex society while they sought to exploit your knowledge of western markets, but they would never, ever let you in or do anything to give you any illusions about being truly trusted or included.  They barely let each other into their inner lives, and they weren’t about to shake off centuries of xenophobia and emotional repression for a nondescript American businessman like me.  I was no stranger to being the painfully self-aware stranger in their midst.  So why was it eating at me that this Japanese man of indeterminate age, whom I had never seen before and would hope never to see again, had bothered to give me a transparently fake name?

Because he had bothered.  That was the thing about the Japanese I dealt with in my business interactions, whether inside or outside the office.  They never bothered with anything gratuitous.  If they had to suck it up and place a veneer of hospitality on top of their forced relationships with the corporate emissaries of the West, they would, but they weren’t going to put anything more into it than necessary.  Everything they did and shared with a gaijin like me was a deliberate choice and had a desired purpose.  Often it was immediately clear to me what it was, sometimes it wouldn’t become clear until much later, and sometimes I would never figure it out.  But always I knew it was there.  There was always something.  If this squat Japanese man who’d pushed the package towards me across his desk had told me to call him Kobayashi, then there had been a reason, and I was focused on trying to puzzle out what it had been.

Continue reading “I may be as average as they come in so many respects, … but I’m not a dummy.” (Dana Wagner)

Photography: The Quarterback by Ted Herzberg

the quarterback
The Quarterback by Ted Herzberg
Ted Herzberg is the photographer of The Quarterback and St. Slim. He has had a long history with City College. In the late ’70’s Ted took life drawing classes at Fort Mason and in the mid-90’s an acrylic painting class there. He has taken ti chi classes at the main college and on 18th St. at various times. He took senior computer classes at the Oakdale campus about ten years ago. Ted also appeared as Trotsky in the musical Frida and Diego in the Diego Rivera Theatre. The last classes Ted took at the main campus was a semester of Cantonese about seven years ago.

Photography: St Slim by Ted Herzberg

st slim
St Slim by Ted Herzberg
Ted Herzberg is the photographer of The Quarterback and St. Slim. He has had a long history with City College. In the late ’70’s Ted took life drawing classes at Fort Mason and in the mid-90’s an acrylic painting class there. He has taken ti chi classes at the main college and on 18th St. at various times. He took senior computer classes at the Oakdale campus about ten years ago. Ted also appeared as Trotsky in the musical Frida and Diego in the Diego Rivera Theatre. The last classes Ted took at the main campus was a semester of Cantonese about seven years ago.