Foliage and Concrete.

The Sword and Rose is a lovely, hidden cove of calm in a fervent, foggy city. Any spirituality you can think of seeps from out of the two-section doors, wafting on the trails of hand-made incense to passers-by and Cole Valley regulars alike. One can almost sense the finger-like tendrils of quiet, pulling the unknowing, would-be punter inside, and indelibly impressing fond remembrance and happy returns upon the already-enlightened who covet the place like a religion, itself. We’ve come to call Randy ‘The Alchemist’, and this is really not very far from the truth. Hidden in the back of a long, trellis-lined San Francisco courtyard in between lengths of slatted houses, under a canopy of lush trees and exotic flora delicately interspersed with arcane and familiar statuary, a carved stone bench guards the pathway within. Just through the door, a small room holds seven continents’ worth of consecrated paraphernalia, from whatever mystic denomination you choose. Sage sticks from the deserts of California, Egyptian shabti statuettes, dried roses everywhere. Two overstuffed chairs in the center of the room framing an ever-burning wood-stove. Behind the counter, row upon row of colored oil vials and massive, glass jars of powdered incense. And the most remarkable quiet I’ve ever felt in a modern, urban space.

The Alchemist. You go in, tell him what you are feeling, and what you’d like to connect with. Whether its actually Randy waiting on you or his well-schooled partner, you’ll get what you want…if you believe in ritual. If you believe that this shit actually works. Me, I’ve been having trouble concentrating – not having the ability to cut off. Not finding the time and space to read and write in peace, without other thoughts and ideas and plans flooding my imagination and creativity. With certain intention and one mean sweep of an arm-cradled jar full of powder, with one gingerly-snuffled test of smell, I knew that the honey-hued Horus was my drug of choice. Focus. Concentration. One vial, please. Would it hurt to do lines of this shit?

I always leave The Sword and Rose feeling healthy and pleased, perhaps just because this place exists. Randy and his boys belong in every city, but I’m sure glad he chose this one. As for belief, the only thing I believe in is the sickly-sweet smell of these fabulous incenses. I love lighting the lines of brightly-colored powder and watching them burn all aquamarine before a puff of white smoke signals the release of tiny clouds of olfactory euphoria. I love the swirls of sacred haze and how they hang in the air, and I get endless comfort from walking through the house and smelling the remnants of a recent lighting. This is ritual, regardless of sanctity or spirit. This is what helps concentration.

Yesterday, the space directly in front of Randy’s shop was totally changed. The owners of the surrounding buildings decided that they needed to paint, and it was necessary to clear cut all the gorgeous foliage surrounding the entrance to the place. In its stead were freshly-planted sprouts of lovely greeneries-to-come, new soil, and bare statuary, looking not just a small bit cold and lonely. I asked how it felt to have such a huge change to this environment, quietly thinking within myself how terrible and helpless it must be to have someone else dictating such a massive alteration – how uncaring, how unknowing. “It feels different,” was all I was told.

14 Responses to “Foliage and Concrete.”

  1. hermiston Says:
    October 27th, 2005 at 2:54 am

    the zen garden –
    a crack on the wall
    in exactly the right place
    (alan spence)

  2. angledge Says:
    October 27th, 2005 at 6:03 am

    What do you mean they trimmed the foliage??

  3. FunkyPlaid Says:
    October 27th, 2005 at 9:37 am

    I said nothing about trimming, my dear. The landlord CLEAR CUT every living thing in the garden. It's all been planted anew.

  4. redshrike Says:
    October 27th, 2005 at 9:51 am

    i can't decide whether i want to run there directly after work to see for my own eyes, or whether i want to pretend it didn't happen. i've loved that place for so long. thanks for posting this.

  5. FunkyPlaid Says:
    October 29th, 2005 at 8:47 pm

    If you wait long enough, you won't even know it's been cut. But I don't expect that you will.

  6. angledge Says:
    October 27th, 2005 at 1:34 pm


  7. thistlelurid Says:
    October 27th, 2005 at 9:32 am

    dewy drops of glistening 'clever' scattered atop that.
    we are all your humble hummingbirds. thank you horus.
    <small>use mine sparingly…for calm…and sometimes release.</small>

  8. FunkyPlaid Says:
    October 29th, 2005 at 8:50 pm

    It's ALL Horus, to my horror. How honorific this homage is, however!

  9. dirtbaby Says:
    October 27th, 2005 at 12:54 pm

    Derek writes very nicely. Thank you for sharing.

  10. FunkyPlaid Says:
    October 29th, 2005 at 8:51 pm

    Yes, he's good. Notes from the City, to be followed and enjoyed.

  11. agntprovocateur Says:
    October 27th, 2005 at 6:54 pm

    i must go back soon. i still have quite an arsenal of randy's concoctions here. i loved walking through the doorway and looking above the open top area just before you hit the garden.

  12. FunkyPlaid Says:
    October 29th, 2005 at 9:01 pm

    I'm going to try dropping some incense in our fireplace tonight. Together, we can all make the world a better-smelling place. Quite important when you consider my line of work.

  13. agntprovocateur Says:
    October 30th, 2005 at 7:23 pm

    very good indeed!
    your line of work?gamer geeks or dead marine mammals?

  14. FunkyPlaid Says:
    October 30th, 2005 at 7:26 pm

    In this case, both. But I was thinking of the former. 🙂

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