Archive for July, 2001

Jul 30 2001

Nana’s birthday

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My mother’s mother, Nana, would have been 100 today. How I wish she was still here! She would have had her favorite birthday cake: white cake “iced” with whipped cream and with whipped cream “filling”, garnished with strawberries or raspberries. I would have given her a silly present and a big birthday hug. Those of you who still have your grandparents, go and give them a big hug, whether it’s their birthday or not. You’re lucky, you know.

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Jul 29 2001

Congratulations

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Congratulations to Becky, who not only successfully completed the 24 hour blogathon, but made it so interesting and amusing. Not to mention the gorgeous Mexican layout. You’re fabulous, girl!

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Jul 28 2001

The Color Purple — it’s not what you think

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We have new ceiling lights for the kitchen, but the round things that hold them on to the ceiling are smaller than the old ones. So there is a space around the new lights which has to be filled in, sanded, then painted. Rufus filled in the holes today with glop and will sand them tomorrow. For the sanding, we bought a purple sanding sponge called “SandBlaster”. On the back of the package, it states, “The color purple is a trademark of 3M.”

Has anyone alerted Alice Walker and the Crayola corporation?

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Jul 27 2001

Seen & Heard

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So I stopped at Whole Foods on my home from work today. While searching for an acceptable peach (they were mysteriously red but unyielding), two of the guys who worked there had the following conversation:

Guy One: “Do we all look the same?”

Guy Two: “What do you mean?”

Guy One: “Maybe the aprons make us all look the same. That lady” [pointing] “said I told her these peaches were sweeter than those peaches, but I never saw her before. Did you talk to her?”

Guy One: “I never look at the customers.”

I had to go and giggle behind the salad greens. Even if he didn’t look at me, he could hear me.

I was a bad citizen and went through the express line with 11 items instead of the permitted maximum of 10, but nobody said anything.

Remember the “Dont Be an Asshole” graffiti? It has taken on a life of its own. Under the original exhortation, someone else has written “Don’t be an asshole? Don’t be a HOMO!” Following that is the perfectly reasonable question, “What does being a homo have to do with assholes?” which just led the way to the observation “Being a homo has EVERYTHING to do with assholes.” I can’t wait to see what happens next. They’re going to run ot of space on that bus stop pretty soon, though.

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Jul 26 2001

Leo vs. JFK Jr.

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It’s been two years this week since the world said goodbye to John F. Kennedy Jr., who died in the crash of his private plane along with his wife and sister-in-law. I was in England when it happened and could hardly believe it. As Rufus says, nature abhors a Kennedy. It is amazing that one family should suffer so much tragedy (and notoriety).

Did anyone else catch the original “Four Women and a Funeral ” episode during the second season of “Sex & the City”? Samantha gets caught kissing a socialite’s husband and is summarily placed on the black list of New York society. Finally, she is brought back to social life and acceptance by JFK Jr. — in the original version. In the version shown now and, disappointingly, the version out now on DVD, she is brought back by Leonardo di Caprio. What could be more absurd? The calibre of people Samantha is trying to impress — the Auchinclosses, the Mellons, the Astors — are completely unimpressed by upstart young movie starlets like Leo. They would hardly be impressed by Paul Newman or Gregory Peck. These people care about family history and breeding more than money. The Kennedys are usually referred to as America’s royal family, which is why JFK Jr. was the perfect choice to redeem Samantha. I assume HBO replaced him with Leo because they thought it was an insult to his memory, but I think the real insult to his memory is replacing him at all, let alone with someone whose star shines so much dimmer.

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Jul 25 2001

Don’t blame Cocoa

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Remember when Nixon was impeached and there were all those “Don’t blame me, I’m from Massachussetts” bumper stickers? For those who are less retro than I am or have forgotten their ancient history, Massachusetts was the only state that didn’t re-elect Tricky Dicky.

Well, now Florida can have their very own “Don’t blame Cocoa” bumper stickers. Palm Beach County, home of the user-unfriendly and unreadable ballots, has registered a lovely little brown poodle named Cocoa to vote. Personally, I would take Cocoa’s vote over Jeb Bush’s any day, but (s)he was only registered to vote this month. Wonder if Cocoa’s Democrat or Republican?

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Jul 24 2001

Postcards from Paris

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Not going anywhere fun for your summer vacation? Can’t stand to go to work, but have run out of sick days? Convince friends and boss alike that you are in Paris, having a fabulous time (or, in the case of your boss, your plane is having indefinite mechanical problems and/or there’s one of those ad hoc strikes they love so much in France, so you just can’t get home) by sending a postcard from Paris. Link via Becky, who would love it if you’d be her sponsor for the 24 hour blogathon this Saturday. She might even send you a real postcard from Paris!

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Jul 23 2001

Bittersweet

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On my way home from work today, I saw an elderly couple walking along the tree-lined street, hand in hand. They were both very well-dressed in an old-fashioned manner (i.e., they both wore hats, and he was wearing a vest) and were having an animated conversation. As I got closer to them, I saw that the gentleman was walking with the aid of a cane, and the lady was wheeling along his oxygen tank in the hand that wasn’t holding his. I don’t think either of them was really aware of the cane or the oxygen tank, or anything other than the beautiful summer day, their conversation, and each other.

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Jul 23 2001

Kitten pictures

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At last, pictures of my brother’s kitten, Iggy!


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Jul 21 2001

Saturday

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My sister and her husband just left to go home. It was great having them here last night. This morning, we went out for breakfast to our favorite place on Polk Street, the one you have to get to early or you have to line up forever (which I just will not do). It’s still really good, but it has definitely gotten more expensive.

Leaving the boys to watch Dennis Miller tapes, Megan and I ran a few errands. When we passed one of the many nail places (how do they all stay in business, I wonder?), we saw a woman with a greyhound. We stopped to pet the dog, and it turned out that she had been rescued from the racetrack. The dog’s owner said that 30,000 were killed every year in this country, because they weren’t fast enough or were too old. It was horribly sad, but nice to see this dog had a good home.

While we were petting the first dog, another woman came up walking her greyhound, who was the same age as the first (4 years old) and also rescued from the track. Then a guy came up and said he had just finished running with his own, rescued greyhound! I had no idea we had so many in my neighborhood. And if you’re thinking of getting a dog, maybe you should think about rescuing one yourself. All three owners said they are very affectionate, great with kids and cats, and don’t need to run every day, just normal dog walking. So we learned something new and met some nice dogs.

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Jul 20 2001

Better late than never

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My sister Megan’s flight left London an hour late today. So I bet she will be pretty grumpy by the time she is decanted from the cramped plane, full of screaming brats, after 11 hours’ flight. She will get back just in time for rush hour, so I think she and her husband will be spending the night chez moi before headng home tomorrow.

I really missed Megan the past two weeks, especially dealing with Mom and all her drama. Maybe because Megan has taught pre-schoolers for years she has much more patience than I do, and I think the histrionics don’t drive her as crazy. I have definitely missed the support! Can’t wait to see her this evening and catch up on her trip.

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Jul 19 2001

Oh, Canada….

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Our neighbors to the north pick the dumbest times to overcome their national passivity. Legendary bluesman Wilson Pickett, world famous for classic songs like “Mustang Sally” and “Midnight Hour”, was allegedly strip-searched at the Ottawa airport, where customs officials claim they were looking for drugs. Pickett says he may never play Canada again, and I certainly don’t blame him. I have never been strip-searched anywhere (though I came perilously close to it once when returning to Heathrow after a long weekend in Amsterdam), but I have had bad experiences with bureaucratic stupidity at Canadian customs. In fact, I have not been back to Canada since the last incident, in 1994.

We had flown from San Francisco to Toronto, and connected on to Ottawa, scene of Wilson Pickett’s humiliation, spent a few days with my in-laws in Ottawa, and then flew to Boston. Returning home from Boston, we were routed through Toronto, where we had to change planes. We were forced to go through customs in Toronto, even though we were only getting onto a connecting flight home to San Francisco. We damn near missed the flight because the wait in the customs line was so long, and fear of missing our flight and being trapped there led me to make a great big noisy fuss. When we finally got to the front of the line, the stupid customs guy asked us how long we were going to be in Canada. I looked at my watch and said, “Half an hour, unless you make us miss our plane”. After more pointless questioning, we literally ran across the airport and barely made the flight.

Maybe they are worried that people are going to stay there and mooch off their socialized medicine and welfare system, but surely you should not have to go through customs when you have a ticket to the USA in your hand, for a flight leaving that same day, and in our case, within an hour and a half of landing there in the first place. And hey, you go through AMERICAN customs in CANADA, so they know you’re out of there. Time to stop picking on the Yanks, Canadian customs guys, from famous senior citizens to obscure chics like me. You’ll be lucky if Wilson doesn’t sue your sad little asses.

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Jul 19 2001

Whistler’s Secret?

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It seems that Whistler (of “Whistler’s Mother” fame) might have had a secret. Whistler is surely one of the most interesting and unclassifiable of artists, and now it seems that he may also have been an arms smuggler. It’s all very circumstantial, but nonetheless intriguing, and it does seem like just the kind of thing he would do, partly because he needed money at this time in his life, and partly because he liked to make trouble and yank people’s chains.

Whistler was bankrupted by a lawsuit he brought against John Ruskin, an art critic who trashed his inventive new style of paintings which Whistler called “Nocturnes”. Personally, I find them beautiful, particularly this one , but Ruskin described these paintings as “flinging a pot of paint in the public’s face.” Though Whistler won the lawsuit against Ruskin, he was awarded only a farthing and the cost of the court proceedings bankrupted him.

I’m sure wherever he is, he would love the fact that he’s still in the news and still making trouble.

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Jul 18 2001

What’s next?

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Please, please click here and sign this petition. I can’t believe that these right wing lunatics are trying to amend the Constitution to make sure that only heterosexual marriages are legal in this country. If gay marriages are banned by the Constitution, that will open the door to banning domestic partner benefits, too. I can’t believe that these narrow-minded idiots are trying to do this in what used to be the home of the free. And I am very afraid of what three & 1/2 more years of the Bush dictatorship will do to this country and our personal freedom — if we have any left by then.

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Jul 16 2001

Books

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Today is the 50th birthday of The Catcher in the Rye. This is one of the few books which was not destroyed for me forever by studying it in school. Having to compare and contrast and pick a story to pieces, reading all kinds of symbolism into it which probably never even entered the author’s mind is enough to ruin a book for anyone. But there’s something about Holden Caulfield that overcomes high school study and the fact that his creator is one of the weirdest guys on the planet. Amazon is selling it for today only at its original price of $3, so if you haven’t read it or feel like renewing your acquaintance, now’s the time.

Thanks in part to our trip to Barnes & Noble on Saturday, I have a pile of books on my bedside table, just waiting for me. This has to be one of the more luxurious feelings in life. There’s an anthology of Louisa May Alcott’s diaries, letters, and early short stories (LM and I share a weakness for “being overly fond of the company of cats”); Independence Day, the Pulitzer-Prize winning sequel to my favorite Richard Ford book, The Sportswriter, despite the fact that I loathe all sports and live a completely sports-free life; Ilene Beckerman’s charming Love, Loss and What I Wore, which she both wrote and illustrated; and Truman Capote’s classic Breakfast at Tiffany’s — I think Capote was a genius and love his books. Someone once said, “Anyone who says they love Truman Capote hasn’t actually met him”. I guess geniuses are hard to live with.

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Jul 15 2001

Peaches

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I had a peach for breakfast this morning, one of the peaches I bought at the Farmers Market on Tuesday. I never smell or eat peaches without thinking of both of my grandmothers.

I was lucky enough to spend the last two summers of my grandmothers’ lives visiting them (these were the summers of 1976 and 1977). In the summer of 1976, I spent the summer with my mother’s mother, Nana, in her big old Victorian house in upstate New York. Nana’s house had three floors plus an attic (full of wonderful things like Civil War dresses and swords and mementoes of Nana’s brother’s Grand Tour of Europe) and a basement. The ceilings were very high, and the windows on the ground floor were 7 feet tall. Next door, in a mysterious mansion, lived Mrs. Newton, a widow whose only son had been killed during WWII, and she had never been seen since his funeral. Her grounds were immaculately kept up by a gardener and her groceries delivered, but no-one ever saw her.

This Bicentennial summer, my grandfather (nicknamed Hoho by my older sister because he was always laughing) was in the hospital, so I was keeping Nana company. We did visit Hoho every day, but we also made crabapple jelly from the crabapples we picked from the tree in Nana’s yard. I still remember the jewel-like color of the jelly and sealing the jars with wax. One day, Nana took me to a farm where she carefully chose a bushel of peaches. I remember the delicious fragrance of the fruit and the warm, fuzzy feel of their velvet skins. When we got home, Nana showed me how to ripen them to perfection by keeping them in brown paper bags in her amazing cellar. The field stone cellar was whitewashed every year and had separate compartments for root vegetables and apples, and shelves and shelves of preserves. My grandmother had been born on a farm at the end of the 19th century and did not waste anything, ever.

I am so glad I had that summer with Nana. She died the following August, and that is where my childhood ended.

1977 was Jubilee year in England, 25 years since the Queen had ascended to the throne. I spent that summer in England with my father’s parents, Grammie and Daddy’s Daddy (we found it amazing that our Daddy had one of his own). Grammie went shopping every day except Sunday, partly because of the teeniness of English refrigerators in those days (bar fridge size to Americans), partly to catch up on the village gossip, and partly, I think, because it was tradition. Daddy’s Daddy, of course, never went shopping since he was a Victorian gentleman to the core, but if we were late returning from the shops, he would be hovering anxiously in the front garden.

One day when we were at the Lincoln sisters’ greengrocers (the four unmarried Lincoln sisters ran the greengrocers after their father’s death and until their own), I saw peaches for sale. I asked Grammie if we could buy some, and she said she didn’t like them. I found this astonishing, and on further questioning it emerged that my grandmother, in her more than 80 years of life, had only ever eaten canned peaches.

So I bought some peaches and that evening, sliced them up and dusted them very lightly with sugar and served them for dessert. It was apparently a culinary revelation to my grandparents, because they loved them. In my memory of that long-ago summer, we had peaches every night after that, though it seems a little unlikely. But what I am sure of is that we had them in little clear glass faceted dishes. Each facet had a little blue star painted on it, and the dishes had a gilt edging. I wish I knew what had happened to those star dishes.

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Jul 14 2001

Bastille Day

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I had a bad day with my mother yesterday, and before I went to sleep last night I decided to take a walk down to Aquatic Park the next morning. Usually Rufus sleeps in on the weekends, which gives me time to drink coffee, read, write my blog, and things like that. But this morning, he woke up and decided to come with me, which was an added bonus.

It’s a cold, foggy day, so Aquatic Park was mercifully free of tourists. We sat on the shallow stone steps and talked with our arms around each other while we watched the waves roll in and the Polar Bears swimming. The PB’s are human, not ursine, and swim in the cold Bay waters year round, jauntily wearing their neon swimming caps and apparently unconcerned by how bacteria laden the water is. I admire the PB’s but don’t want to emulate them. To our right was Hyde Street Pier, where there are several historic ships. My brother used to work there when he still lived in the City. I noticed that the “Balclutha”, a fine old clipper ship that has sailed around the hazardous Horn many times, was flying the French flag, and I realized today is Bastille Day.

The first time I ever experienced Bastille Day was on my very first trip to France, when I was 17. I spent the whole summer there, the first two weeks in Paris, and the rest in Nice, in the South of France. This is where I got my coffee addiction. And I still remember that summer as a magical one.

On Bastille Day, there were fireworks, of course, but there was also music and dancing in the streets. Total strangers grabbed my hands, danced with me, gave me glasses of wine, and kissed my cheek. It was a joyful celebration and I was so happy to be part of it.

On the way home today, Rufus and I stopped off at Barnes & Noble and of course bought lots of books. Books are one of our vices. This Barnes & Noble is very comfortable, with lots of deep armchairs, couches, fireplaces, and a cafe. Really, you could spend all day there.

Our final stop was at a new French bakery, where we got French bread that tastes pretty close to the real thing. Just our little way of celebrating Bastille Day. After all, the French Revolution was really about bread.

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Jul 13 2001

Biblical curse generator

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Try The Biblical Curse Generator! Perfect for those who are at a loss for just the right insult using thees and thous. Here’s what I got:

Behold, thou shalt be whipped with a thousand scorpions, O thou son of a Philistine!

I wonder if they’re talking about me, or one of my many enemies?

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Jul 12 2001

Petty, petty!

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My horoscope today tells me to “spread my charm”, but I have been a charm-free girl this week. For some reason — and I don’t know what it is — my inability to suffer fools and my own utter pettiness have combined to make me really intolerant of practically everyone this week. Most of my co-workers are driving me crazy with their helplessness and/or just plain stupidity to the point where even things like the following bug me.

Yesterday morning I got on the elevator in my office building and pressed the button for 15, my floor. Six guys then pack on and press the button for 21. When we arrive at my floor, they won’t budge so I can get out. I have to say, “Excuse me!” really loudly twice before they move. They know they aren’t getting out at 15, so why can’t they get the hell out of my way? Way too busy discussing sports or egos too large to readily move, I guess.

I’m really sick of the new guy talking about how much better they did things at his old job. Well, why don’t you go back there, then? I’m sick of our admin assistant STILL not knowing the basics of her job after a year and getting away with it. I used to be the AA, and I swear to God that everyone who has had the job after me has been paid more and done a shittier job. And I also think that because I used to be the AA — like 4 YEARS AGO — they still treat me differently than the other analysts. Who are, by the way, all men.

I’m going to buy a lottery ticket and pray that I win so I can finally achieve my lifetime career goal of idle rich. It’s 100% true. We had “Career Day” at school when I was about 12 years old. We were supposed to write down what we wanted to be when we grew up. I wrote down “idle rich” and got in a world of trouble because my teacher thought I was being a smartass. And for once I wasn’t being a smartass. I was being completely honest. I still haven’t achieved this goal, and I haven’t grown up, either! So I hope I win. It will almost certainly improve my mood — temporarily, of course — and I know I will be soooo good at it!

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Jul 11 2001

Farmers Market

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I went to the Farmers Market yesterday, across the street from the 100+ year old Ferry Building. The Ferry Building is still in use for those commuters from the East Bay who prefer to read the paper, drink coffee, and relax as they are sped to work across the water instead of sitting and swearing in the traffic on either bridge.

I have been amused lately by the ad campaign for the City of Oakland. They have lighted signs on top of San Francisco taxis, and my favorite two slogans so far are: “I left my windbreaker in San Francisco” (due to the microclimates, it can be as much as 10 degrees warmer in Oakland) and “Give yourself a raise — move to Oakland!” (their rents are significantly cheaper).

The Farmers Market is across the Embarcadero from the Ferry Building every Tuesday, from 10:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. In addition to sparkling fresh local produce, bread, cheese, pasta, honey, and nuts (I bought sunwarmed, velvety peaches, heads of garlic streaked with violet, sweet onions, red and purple peppers, and a small loaf of Acme bread called a “twinkle”), there’s jewelry, paintings, t-shirts, and other local crafts. It’s nice to take a break from the dreary office routine and walk a few blocks to the market.

On the way there, I noticed that someone had written in heavy black magic marker on a bus stop “Don’t be an asshole.” I love the period — it makes it such a calm exhortation. And good advice, too.

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