Neeli Cherkovski is posting a picture to Facebook: the cover of the Italian translation of one of his books. Can I help? I'm distracted by the shelves and shelves of poetry lining his snug study, but I dutifully follow to his computer, bag full of recording equipment still on my shoulder. It turns out I actually know what to do. I help. But this is a small gift compared to the one Neeli will give me.
He and his fifteen year-old behemoth of a dog, Cosmo, lead me to the deck in the small yard behind Neeli's house in Bernal Heights, San Francisco's most vertiginous neighborhood. It's 11:30 in the morning on a typically sunny and comfortably warm/cool day. The house is quiet. Neeli's partner of thirty years is at work. The dog is trying to bark, but has a respiratory ailment that renders his bark more of a faint chuff. The only other sound is the breeze--The breeze must be perpetual here--rustling through the potted bamboo.
Neeli sits on a patio chair in the corner of the deck. I switch on the voice recorder. Neeli begins talking, I fumble with the video camera, afraid, as he speaks to its lens, that I'm not actually recording him. Which is a shame, because Neeli is a trove. So I pace the deck, wanting my body language to match the genuine intensity of my interest. Every once in a while I tweak the camera, all the time listening to one insight after another.