Cherokee Kid

Jim Alberty is a member of the Bird Clan of the Cherokee Tribe of Oklahoma. Born in Claremore, OK he now lives in Maine, working as a composer, writer and Creative for Apple. He is active in the Casco Bay area arts and education communities as a composer, musician, social dancer and actor.

Old Friends on Nob Hill


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1977 was my first visit to Grace Cathedral at the top of Nob Hill in San Francisco. My then very significant other, Nancy, an even greater devoteé of Madeline L'Engle (and her book "A Wrinkle in Time") than I, knew that Madeline's son-in-law was the dean of the Cathedral and I just had to go by to see it and its Einstein window.

I fell in love with the place and still regret that I was such a heel to poor innocent Nancy that she wasn't there to see it with me all the times I've managed to do so.

Such are the echoes of all first loves, I suppose.

Still, my week of training at Apple gave me a chance to visit on Wednesday and Thursday nights.

The first was a single run to the Cathedral Close to walk the labyrinth on the plaza to the facing right of the Great Doors.

A maze is a multicursal path, designed to get you lost. A labyrinth has a unicursal path, and is meant to help you find yourself.

The Cathedral website tells me that walking a labyrinth has three parts:

Purgation - walking in - where you release thoughts, cleansing the mind, opening the heart. Follow the path.

Illumination - at the center - where you stop, stay as long as needed, to receive peace and purpose.

Union - returning along the path that got you there - connecting with the Universe, the world around you - God, if you will.

Oddly I'd had this walk in my mind for a while, since it became clear I'd earned this week of training - it was very sudden and a lot of plans didn't come to fruition but I'm very glad this one did. I'd made a promise to the spirit of my late friend Eckart Horn, that I would do so with his contemplative spirit beside me.

And it was.

The Cathedral labyrinth is a copy of the one in Chartres cathedral - if you can trace the path you'll see it leads you almost directly to the center after only three turns - and then you have to navigate almost the whole thing before you finally arrive. It gives you a taste of success and then you have to trust that if you just continue on the way you will arrive safely.

It's a good lesson, one driven home by my week's work at Apple. I can't talk about process but it confirmed that I made the right choice in switching careers and that there is more that I can do, much more.

The next visit was Thursday, again a quick run in because we needed to get packed to check out early the next day - we were leaving to the airport later on Friday.

My carmate, Steve, from the Rockaway store, had never been to SFO before and we both knew we had to pack to check out. So I copped out and took him back to Nob Hill, parking at the Masonic Temple (another place I'd like to get in to explore) and took him down California Street and over down Pine to Grant and Chinatown.

I was right in later thinking we might have gone to Fisherman's Wharf or ridden the cable car - but time was tight and I didn't know those areas enough to get us in and out in a single commando-style strike.

Needless to say the Dragon Gate and bizarre little shops on Grant Street did not disappoint. The night was comfortable and warm - in fact the whole October week would have qualified as a great August weather spell back in Maine.

Being both photographers - well, I point a camera, he's a photographer - we got a lot of fairly tidy shots of nighttime sights. No vampires (that I could see) but still an atmospheric bit of scenery.

I had first really discovered Chinatown after watching John Carpenter's movie "Big Trouble in Little China". I strongly commend this film to you as it's full of Jackie Chan-style martial arts mayhem and has a strange, meandering, stylish script by W.D Richter (author of "Buckaroo Banzai and his Adventures Across the Eight Dimension" - which also has the coolest end credit sequence ever made).

A friend had joined me to see the movie, in SFO, just outside Chinatown - we had settled in when two hones-to-Confucius tongs showed up to watch too. We hunkered down in our chairs while about 60 really butch looking Chinese guys yelled and cheered at the screen in Mandarin.

Then they started yelling and screaming at each other. That's when we sneaked out the side exit.

Still, it made for an adventurous evening - both then and now. And that seems to be the theme of the entire trip - adventures, discoveries, conclusions and confirmations both interior and exterior. I'm grateful to have had the experience. Now I'm headed off to South Paris for a week of vacation and rest - and thinking about who I am now. Somewhere inside me I think there is something that already knows - I just need to listen to its voice and get organized.

Portland, Maine