PICTURES OF SAN FRAN; AFTER ARMISTEAD

A tour of San Francisco in search of the shadows of Tales of the City, the epic Armistead Maupin series of novels, begun as a regular feature in 1974 in the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper and following the lives of a group of family, friends and foes, career go-getters and castaways spanning over 40 decades of trials and tribulations, change and controversies:

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Where it all beings, with Mary Ann’s arrival at the Buena Vista Cafe

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The Stairway to the fictional 23 Barbary Lane, home to Mrs Magrigal and her tenants

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Macondray Lane, the real Barbary Lane

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The iconic Powell Hyde cable car Michael Tolliver rode in dressed as Pan

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Supposedly the inspiration for 23 Barbary lane, Maupin lived close by

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Maupin lived in the red rooftop house and took inspiration from his rooftop views 

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Where Mary Ann Singleton and Brain Hawkins live in unhappy matrimony

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The Transamerica Pyramid which Mrs. Madrigal believed to be a beacon from Atlantis  

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The City seen from above with the bay on the distance 

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Where Norman Neal Williams meets is fate

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The legion of Honor where Mary Ann confronts Norman

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Alamo Park where Edger and Anna have lunch and a homemade ‘brownie’

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Below the Golden Gate Bridge

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The twists of Lombard Street

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The Hosts with the Mosts, Susie and Trey, in Delores Park on the door step of the Castro, Michael Tolliver’s playing ground

All Photographs by Damien B. Donnelly

PARIS PAST; YEARS GO BY

 

Years go by
and I’m still here, remembering.
Years flying by feeling like minutes in my mind;
a decade lost in the passing,
like I’ve fallen forward through a gap in time.
Years in between
and yet that first morning still so fresh,
waking up into a home I’d gate crashed;
the Irish abroad; Jeannie,
with the flaming red hair and welcoming hug,
a son in the shadows of another country
and a daughter to fall in love with were I straight.

Unable to forget
those heated floors boards,
the note of good morning in the kitchen,
the crispy toast from a packet,
the tiled green bathroom, separate toilet
and back to the bathroom to wash hands.
The plant filled balcony,
those frosted glass doors which echoed
through the apartment as you opened them,
so mundane and ordinary
and yet so much more a part of me now
than those trivial things ever where then,
long before they became a memory to cling to,
to cherish.

I hold on to so much more now
than I ever thought possible or considered important;
the feel, the taste, the smell,
like those disgruntled old madams
who threw water from their balconies every morning,
clocked in sombre shades of black
and scowling at passers-by like me
for the demise of their youth
and their looks.

I can recall,
as if it were yesterday,
those precious summer mornings that soon followed,
the air filling with the fragrance of freshly baked croissants
as boulangeries opened their bell-ringing doors
to delighted strains of bonjour and ca’va.
Years, reaped upon years
but I still smell it as fresh now
as the day was new.

I can hear those familiar sounds of kids,
singing out in ignorant celebrations of their youth
but always hidden from view behind high walls of stone.
Paris; the city for artists,
Intellects and the amourouse,
where children are heard but rarely seen.
No tantrums in stores, no snotty noses in bistros,
no changing of nappies in sight.
Our Lady of Magic was fully grown, fully developed,
no question of who She was or where She was going.
This City was born dressed in Chanel attire
with precious pearls to match,
born a proud, free speaking, free thinking,
pompous, confident adult, without question.
Her raison d’etre;
Herself entirely.

And there I stood
in the middle of it all
trying to find my own trend
and set a route amid multitude of pathways I longed to explore,
get lost in, fall in love in
and find adventure in.

Time slips away
but it somehow leaves a part of me still there,
somewhere, wandering through covered passageways
packed with marionette cheaters and tiny trinket stores
watched over by age old glass ceilings,
discovering underground chambers of sewers and tombs,
lost generations of the past,
slipping unnoticed through graveyards of forgotten faces
and heralded names decorated with weeping women,
stone eyed Madonna’s and cast-iron wings, never to fly,
remembering those I’d never known
and wondering who’d remember me,
sitting by Seurat to make connections in his colours
and wondering what Mr. Wilde
would make of us now.

Years gone by
and I still go back there;
left side, art style, boho chic,
where Oscar last laughed
and Sartre sighed
and I remember who I was,
laugh at who I’ve become
and wonder why I’ve fled so far
from the city that never changes
whilst I never stop.

Saturday afternoons, after lazy lie-in’s
rising through the cobbled hills
of once moulin covered Montmartre
with Abi’s and Vincent’s and Yasmine’s and Shaun’s,
where artists ghosts,
intoxicated by the green fairy’s potent mix
and the ruffling of high kicking can-can skirts
would swept through air
that you had only to touch to feel a part of,
while tourists flocked to pick up
as many copies and replicas as they could carry
without so much as breathing in
all that surrounded them for free.
I was a free man in Paris too, my dear Joni,
and have wandered down that Champs Elysees
in search of those I once knew and cared for
and loved and lost.

Years outrun years
but I can still close my eyes
and feel the sun on my skin
as we filled Victor’s fine square with resounding laughter
that soared around the fountains
and columns and palaces fit for queens.
14th of July ’98, Champ du mars,
Three tenors, fireworks, Mary and me
and a thousand others.
We were the luckiest in the world.

I can see myself at 23,
cast bright in the lamp lights
that I sailed past on the back of a motorbike
tearing through world of Hemingway
on the slumbering market street of Rue Mouffetard
before the bank side approached
and Notre Dame lay reflected in the sleeping waters.
My arms wrapped tight around my leather clad driver
with Spanish blood and gallic looks,
willing to show me it all.

The years may continue to build on years,
time will continue to tick-tock away,
but there are lifetimes in moments
which years can do nothing to suppress
or erase if the heart wills
not to forget.

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All Words and, almost all, photographs by Damien B. Donnelly

 

POCKETS OF TIME

 

I have crossed many oceans and have known
few limits, I have travelled many roads
and have folded my favourites into pockets
of time, stored in a hundred boxes, marked
with a thousand names who have touched me,
sealed with a hundred souls who have moved me,
taped with a dozen men who may have loved me.
I have travelled many roads and I have packed
many boxes, I have folded so much of time,
and lost too many friends, but memories
cannot be stored in boxes and time cannot
be held in pockets, roads are only the beginning
and friends are never truly lost. Home is not
housed in bricks and mortar, home is like the ocean; 
                       it knows no limits if the water is willing.

All Words and Photographs by Damien B. Donnelly

THE BENCH ALONG THE WAY

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And the leaves
leaned back

by the bench
beneath the branches

to let the light
linger longer

on the memory
now maintained

when two sat together

and dreamed
of the distance

they had yet
to discover.

All Words and Photography by Damien B. Donnelly

Photograph taken in the Jardin du Palais-Royal, Paris

CAUGHT IN THE CONSCIOUSNESS

 

Curious are the occasions 
you come into consciousness, 
like colours caught 
out of season, without 
a reason you slip in 
between the solace 
to accentuate the silence,
the stillness and the distance.
 
Curious are the occasions 
you come into consciousness,
like lyrics lost
to their line, without
reason or rhyme, you are mine
through the miles, a million
smiles emerging for time
to divide, derail and deride.

Curious are the occasions
you come into consciousness,
like a photo forgotten
then found as if to remind,
to rebound on possibilities
pondered, attachments
attempted and those
connections long cemented.

Curious are the occasions 
you come into consciousness,
like a hold that can be held 
in hindsight, and suddenly
there is kindness in the place
of confusion, comfort
in the place of exclusion,
hope in between the illusion…

All Words and Photographs by Damien B. Donnelly

Listen to the audio version on Soundcloud:

https://soundcloud.com/damien-donnelly-2/caught-in-the-consciousness

AMSTERDAM CALLING

I heard you today 
on the metro, 
in the morning, 
words falling
from foreign tongues 
as the train took me
so much further 
than the tracks permitted. 

I heard you today
in the distance,
calling, 
after the departure, 
a language dissolving the borders 
that bind us now broken 
but a hold still held
that I hadn’t considered. 

I heard you today 
from the other side of the track,
on the other side of goodbye 
where I knew 
the grass was greener,
where the felt 
the need was greater,
I heard you
still existing 
encore
nog steeds 
within me
but buried deep
under movement, metros 
and current concerns. 

I heard you today
on the other side of the metro,
in this new metropolis of old
unstoppable,
unbreakable, 
unforgiving,
unchanging,
while I stop
and fall
and break
and change
yearly
monthly
weekly
daily
 
I heard you today
as you whispered 
from my memories
a delightful
hello. 

All Words and Photographs by Damien B. Donnelly

PAST POSTS

 

1

Beneath the pillars 
of your past, 
I posted letters 
between your walls 
and wondered 
if they rubbed up against 
the souls of your saviours,
if they met with memories 
that were made and measured 
bruised and battered
between your bricks and mortar
before being buried in blood

2

How many letters of love, 
lined in lust and longing, 
have perfumed your pillars
working their way 
through your worthy walls
and haunted halls 
in search of hungry hearts 
to hold them
to open them
to hear them

All words by Damien B. Donnelly

 

IRELAND, THE EMERALD AND I

Reposting this oldie about Ireland for Saint Patrick’s Day

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And again I found myself, of a morning, that morning,
on a winding road, once more, meandering like a stream,
before it opened up to unveil a vast expanse of stillness
where brook and lake entwined, where rugged roads
wandered into wilder woods and the light, that sat upon mossy mountain,
reflected the break of another boorishly boisterous day in a landscape
where Yeats, having left the Mauds of his world to fight the battle
without him, had climbed nightly The Thoor Ballylee to find rest, and so,
that morning, I revelled in what it meant to be connected to these often harsh,
sometimes barren but seldom anything less than breathtaking lands.
 
Immense clouds hanging on the horizon, fertile lands out front,
awash with the 40 shades and a silence, amid so much
awe-inspiring nature, that the Emerald in her name seemed so justified.
 
And yet, as if forever ingrained and known, but for a moment forgotten,
from somewhere deep inside resurfaced the notion that it was not these lands
that I missed but the memory of laughter that blew above these lands
on the breeze that crossed fields of verdant greens, that skirted over grass
waiting to be grazed on and found rest in trees that longed for lovers to kiss beneath.
 
And then, as normal as the nodding of the cap to the passing stranger
along the roadside, I was taken back to those lucidly liquid days shining
from my youth when the patriotic spirit of a nation, so small but spirited,
more laughed with than laughed at, doused itself in shamrocks
and drowned itself merrily in spirits of an altogether other nature,
a time when neighbours knew each other like family
and a new face in town was merely a friend we did not yet know…
 
And there I stood, home again, spun on that same laughing breeze
into the past and I saw before me the Me of today reflected
in my childhood form of yesterday with teddy in one hand
and Tayto’s in the other, smiling amid laughter I had heard
but was far too young to understand in a land that I’ve fled so far from,
swept up and away on other breezes, and yet, however high I fly
or however much I roam, I never seem to feel too far
From that Fair Green Isle called home.

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All Words and Photographs by Damien B. Donnelly

First 4 photographs in Skerries and Lusk, Co. Dublin, Ireland

Bottom photographs at Ailwee Caves and along the shoreline in Dingle, Ireland 

SALUTATIONS FROM THE SHADOWS OF SLEEP

 

In the shadows of the night
He threads his way, carefully,
Like a needle running silk,
Through distant dreams
He yearned for in younger days,
Carefree then, the dainty drifter,
The doe-eyed dandy with a want
To witness the world, to flitter
And flap like a starling in first flight,
To seek sustenance in substance,
To search himself far from the familiar,
Far from familial ovations
Too treasured to be trusted and trophied,

I have no idea how long I’ll stay,
He told a perfect stranger
In a yellow raincoat and ruined
Leather shoes, in a bar,
On a Tuesday, in November
As the rain ran down the window.

In the shadows of the night
He mildly meanders his way
Through the myriad of memories
Of what once was, recollections
Recounted, fleeting follies, temporary
Footholds in rugged rocks
And misconstrued meanings
He fortuned to be forever
In the hands that held him,
In the hearts that hungered him,
Hampered him, hung him,
Tempted and twisted him,
Like gum turned by teeth,
Conformed him into complacency,
Seduced him with a security
That never existed, packaged him,
Boxed him in, labeled him
Incorrectly, return to sender,
Destination unknown,

He opened his eyes on their third night
Together to find him watching him sleep,
How do you know when love begins,
The man beside him asked,
But he had no answer
So he moved in and held him,
Knowing this wasn’t love,
But there was comfort, nonetheless.

In the shadows of the night
He recalls the role plays,
The stages and scenarios,
The sensational sets
That serenaded him
With a roaring crowd,
The ostentatious ovation,
Bowing, with applause,
Into the gaping abyss
Of the void that lies within,
That truth tentatively twinkling
In the fading spotlight
Before each fall,
Before every failure,

You’re a wonderful person, they said,
But it wasn’t what he remembered
He recalled the line ‘but we can’t keep you,’
Realising that bullshit covered
Head to toe in a tailored suit of sugar
Still smells like shit in the end.

In the shadows of the night
He leans in, towards the light,
To the places made precious,
The moments moulded into memory,
To the faces that favoured him,
Fed him, found him, for a while,
Along the line of life, he bows
Down to all the embraces
That bedded him, bettered him,
Made him and mattered to him,
The naked truth of naked bodies
Kneading and knowing, counting
Not the cost, not the length,
But the height of unhindered
Happiness, held and heralded,

In a basement restaurant,
6 of them ate together,
At an old round wooden table,
Told jokes, swapped stories, made plans
And only later, days later, did he discover
That they had all been strangers, all been drifters,
All just seeking shelter from the storm.

In the shadows of the night,
As he slumbers, he slips along
The paths once taken,
The routes that enriched him,
Beneath the palaces
Of huts that became shelters,
Stop gaps, the humble home
He dedicated to the spirits
Of all the souls
Who lead him there,
Hail the voyage,
Of all the voices
That joined him there,
Repeat the chorus,
Of the kind creatures
Who cared for him there,
Savour the sacred,
And the trusted travellers
Who rested for a while
From their journey
And left him there,
Smiling and satisfied,
Sleeping in the presence
Of so many souls
Who still salute him
From the shadows.

 

All words and sketches by Damien B. Donnelly

BOX OF DREAMS

 

I am a box
Filled to capacity,
A million personalities
Drawn and decorated,
Cut out creations,
Caricatures casting me
In a more tangible light
Throughout the years.

I am a box
Sealed with sentiment,
Souvenirs of scenes,
Themes and thoughts
Cradled and cared for,
Partied and played out,
Sometimes reused,
More times reinvented.

I am a box
Cluttered and cramped,
Jokes joining heartache,
Love letters lost
Amid numbers of homes
Now forgotten and faces
In photos slowly fading
Through time.

I am a box,
Four sturdy walls,
A floor and a roof,
Ordinary to all who see me
But inside there’s this life
Now busting at the seams
But with plenty of places
To fill with more dreams.