halloween1 (6k image)

Happy Halloween, kiddies! And happy 40th birthday to my brother-in-law Harry (how scary is that?!) and happy 8th birthday to our little black cat, Cleo. It was good luck when she crossed our paths. Actually, black cats crossing your path is considered good luck in England, though bad luck in the US. Think I’ll lean to my English side on this one. Happy birthday, you two, and happy Halloween to all!


The fact is, I’m never going to wake up today. It’s a) Monday; and 2) scheduled to rain, so why bother? It’s after 1:00 pm, so clearly I should give in gracefully and just stay in the haze until bedtime. Even though the clocks went back an hour on Sunday morning (more time for having fun or more time for doing chores — you decide!), it didn’t help me to get up this morning or wake up at all. Yet I rarely, if ever, suffer from jet lag. Wherever I am, I more or less keep on the same schedule.

Now, Rufus, on the other hand, stays up *really* late on Friday and Saturday nights, and then has to readjust to our normal, *really* early weekday schedule on Sunday. But he gets terrible jet lag whenever we go anywhere with any kind of time change. He claims it’s because I won’t let him nap on arrival, but experts everywhere (including me) agree that napping is completely fatal when trying to adjust to a new time zone. Next time we go to Europe, he can nap and then we’ll just see.

Great expectations

Sometimes, you know, it really is the company rather than the actual event. I know I keep saying this (especially on Sundays, which seems to be my day for getting morbid), but I really miss my Dad. The Ansel Adams exhibit at MOMA was wonderful, and I wish he had been there with me instead of my aunt. Dad really saw pictures and responded to them both intellectually and emotionally. He always had an insight to share, an idea, a thought, an emotion. Alice basically ditched me when we were in the first room and breezed through the exhibit, so I had no-one to say, “Isn’t that beautiful” or “How on earth did he get that shot?” to. And yet, she studies art and photography all the time. The thing is, this is what she usually does, and I never seem to learn. I always think it’s going to be different — the triumph of optimism over experience.

The exhibit was set up chronologically, showing what other artists and photographers were doing at the time Adams began his long career (in the 1920’s), putting his beginnings in context. The following rooms showed his evolution as an artist, from the sweeping photos showing the majesty of Yosemite and Alaska and the Grand Canyon through to moodier, more abstract works. You could see the artist honing his craft, learning. One of my favorites showed a desert town in New Mexico at night, an ancient graveyard in the foreground and the small adobe houses behind. A lone horse grazes in the moonlight, and the moon looks so close to the earth that you feel you could reach up and put your arms around it. Another wonderful photo showed how the spiky needles of a grove of pine trees was echoed in the starry grasses at its feet.

About the only thing we were both amazed by was an indescribable sculpture by Sara Sze, called “Things Fall Apart”. I can tell you that it was essentially a deconstructed red Jeep Cherokee in five parts, swooping up and up from the atrium of the museum, but that can’t even begin to give an idea of what a powerful, moving piece it is — both literally and metaphorically, since it includes electric fans that move various items of urban detritus within the sculpture.

We were rather late in meeting Rufus for dinner at Le Petit Robert. It was our first time there, and it won’t be the last. It’s a charming, simply decorated space, and the food is excEt. As in the adjacent bakery, the staff is French and both know and appreciate the food they are serving. Alice and Rufus had beer, but I had a perfect kir royale (champagne with black currant liqueur), which had the added fillip of a lemon twist on top. There were radishes with coarse salt already on the table, and a basket of the wonderful bread from the next door bakery. Alice had the traditional French onion soup, and two separate small plates: one of creamy potatoes baked with garlic and cr?me fra&icircche, and one of fried artichokes sliced very thinly. Rufus had roast chicken with matchstick thin frites, just like Paris. I had a salad of roasted baby beets with ch?vre, toasted hazelnuts, and tarragon, followed by mussels steamed with wine, saffron, and sweet onions. I had a glass of 1994 Sterling chardonnay with it. Again, I wished Dad had been there to read the menu and the wine list with me. We always had such a good time choosing the wine and the food to go with it (not the other way around), and figuring out what was in each dish and tasting each other’s. Sometimes we would reproduce dishes we really liked at home. There really is no-one I would rather cook with, drink a glass of wine with, or see an art exhibit with.

The desserts looked fantastic: coffee cr?me caramel; bittersweet chocolate mousse with an orange-caramel snap; canel? de Bordeaux with Bing cherries and custard sauce. But Alice had decided it was now too noisy and she wanted to go, so no dessert for Suzy (and I still want some!). Next time, I’m going to go there and order all three desserts and have them for dinner. You can do that when you’re a grown-up (or just look like one). It’s some compensation for having to go to work every day and pay taxes.

Lisa Marie

What with all the gloom and doom in the news these days, I have fallen seriously behind on celebrity gossip. The two weirdest stories to me both involve Lisa Maries — one being the curvacious actress of “Sleepy Hollow” and “Ed Wood” and the other the deeply strange daughter of The King.

Lisa Marie One, long-time girlfriend and inspiration of Tim Burton, has been summarily dumped by him in favor of Helena Bonham Carter. According to this article, they are celebrating their 3 week anniversary. Newsflash: anniversary means a year, not three weeks (or even a month). What an odd little couple they make.

And speaking of odd: Lisa Marie Two, Elvis’ little girl, is apparently now set to marry Nicolas Cage by the end of the year. You may recall that Lisa Marie was married to Michael Jackson at one point, and that Cage has a pretty flaky romantic past himself, though nothing as odd as being married to a gay black guy who is trying desperately to look both white and exactly like Diana Ross at the same time. At MOMA yesterday I saw Jeff Koon’s white and gold porcelain sculpture of Jackson and his chimp, Bubbles, and it was *very* life-like.

And speaking of denial, Anne Heche says she was never gay. Guess she was faking it all those years with E. That must be some kind of world record for faking of any kind. And finally, Kate Winslet says her divorce was caused by the pressures of her career, which is pretty surprising considering it’s all been downhill for Winslet since “Titanic” (insert joke here).

Answer Guy

To paraphrase the divine Jane Austen, it is a truth universally acknowledged, that the minds of girls are completely mysterious to most men. If you’re a guy in search of answers, my good friend Richard is the answer guy. Yup, he is the total guru of how to talk to girls. Got a question? Just ask!

Shot in the Heart

HBO, one of my favorite TV stations, has made a movie of “Shot in the Heart”, one of my favorite books (and if you follow this link, it’s worth the time to read the excerpt). The book was written by Mikal Gilmore, Gary Gilmore’s little brother. More than an examination of the crimes that led to Gary’s execution in January, 1977, it’s the story of a tragic and deeply flawed family. It must have taken considerable courage for Mikal Gilmore to research generations of his family’s history, sifting through the secrets and lies to face the painful truths that lay beneath. In reading Gilmore’s brilliant book, I felt as if I were watching a Greek tragedy unfold before my eyes, the events of generations of lives all leading inevitably to that cold January morning. It’s a deeply moving and troubling book, and one which isn’t easily forgotten.

My first reaction when I heard about the film was to be glad it was HBO, but I couldn’t see how the book could be translated to film, since there is so much family history and background in it — it’s not just about Gary’s crime and punishment. The answer is that it couldn’t. Unfortunately, the film jumps back and forth and goes for an arty feel and look rather than telling the story. If I hadn’t read the book, I wouldn’t have known what was going on most of the time, and we had to keep pausing the film so I could explain to Rufus wat was going on or who these people were. That said, Elias Koteas gave an outstanding performance. Not only did he look like Gary, he was able to convey the conflicted emotions of this complex man. I guess it’s always hard for a movie made of a book one loves to live up to such high expectations. So check it out and make up your own mind. But read the book.

My watch

OK, my watch is in the adorable embroidered handbag I bought in London in August (proving definitively that I am never too depressed to shop), waiting for me to bring it to Charles after work today to be repaired. In case you’re wondering what it looks like, here are a couple of pictures: an overview and a close-up. Hope the pictures aren’t too teeny! And y’all are right — better to repair the original as best I can. Same approach I take to my 1966 Mustang, come to think of it. Encouraging thought: maybe older really is more stylish!

Sunday morning

I never know what to do with myself now on Sunday mornings when Rufus and the cats are sleeping. I used to look forward to this time every week, because I always wrote to my father and always found an email from him waiting for me on Sunday mornings. He wrote to me at the end of the day, when he had changed for dinner and had dinner on its way. Then he’d go up to his study with a glass of wine from his collection and write to me, overlooking the garden. I would write to him on Sunday morning, quiet but for church bells and fog horns, the day before me. I have to say I have much less interest in my email now I know I will never again see one with the subject “Letter from Pooh” (our nickname for Dad since we were kids and he would tell us Pooh stories), but a part of me keeps on hoping I will.

Friday from Hell

So far, the day is not going exactly well, despite the fact that it’s a) Friday; and 2) a beautiful, sunny day. I had to take our cat Sophie to the vet this morning, for what will certainly be a hugely expensive teeth cleaning, in spite of having the healthcare plan. When you have four cats, insuring at least one of them per year is an economic necessity, since it makes things like hugely expensive teeth cleaning half price, or just expensive. So we usually pick whoever needs the most treatment or the most expensive treatment. Knowing that Sophie needed teeth cleaning, we chose her for this year. Last year it was Jack, with her 8 million kitten appointments.

Rufus put together the cardboard cat carrier yesterday, but didn’t notice that the handles were broken. So imagine my surprise when, after capturing the very large and very shy Sophie and stuffing her in the carrier, that I couldn’t actually carry her in it. Looked in the closet for another carrier, put it together, opened the first one, and Sophie catapulted out of it (no pun intended). I barely managed to grab her and my first attempt to get her in the second carrier was not a success. She booted it across the hall while I was still holding her, so I had to go and get it while holding on a struggling 12 pound muscular cat. And did I mention she’s a redhead? Finally managed to wrestle her into the carrier. It was like fighting a bear cub. She’s very sweet and very shy, but when you make her mad, look the fuck out.

By this time, it was too late to walk to the vet’s as planned, so I ended up calling a cab. When I got to the vet it was dark inside, but I could see people moving around, so I pounded on the door until they opened. They were all grumpy and snotty even though it was 10 minutes past their stated opening time. So I bid Sophie a hasty good-bye and went to work, where there was a flurry of vague and bizarre voicemails and “must be handled right now” emails. Notice I just got right on it. Procrastination should be my middle name.

Chez le dentiste

So work was the fun part of the day today. This afternoon I went to the dentist for a cleaning, even though it seemed like I had just been there (it turns out it was in April, though). As the song says, life roars by you in a blur*.

I really like my dentist and have been going to him for almost a decade. He has great magazines in the waiting room (like the newest Architectural Digest) and a great receptionist but plays horrible muzak radio all over the office. Also I always seem to get a different hygienist. Today, oddly, I got his partner, Dr. Sun, and it was a really gruesome experience. Maybe it’s like how nurses are so much better at taking blood and giving shots than doctors, but damn. She split my lip with the ultrasonic watery cleaning thing, which was also her weapon of choice for removing my makeup. She was unclear on the concept of the extractor thing, so it was a pretty gagacious ride. My mouth now tastes like gritty blood. Mmmmm!

Our cat Sophie is having her teeth cleaned on Friday. I’ll drop her off first thing in the morning and we can pick her up after work. At least they’ll knock her out before they start their evil dental machinations.

I’m going to have a hot bath, drink cold white wine bought on our trip up north, and read “Harry Potter”. That should cheer me up!

*Repo Man by Iggy Pop, for those of you too un-Dennis Millerish to catch that particular arcane reference.

Country weekend

Rufus and I went to visit my brother and sister this weekend. They live near the little town of Albion, about 150 miles north of San Francisco. Their houses are a little on the rustic side for Rufus’ taste (bet you thought I’d be the picky one here, didn’t you?), so we stayed at the lovely Fensalden Inn in this pretty room. The inn was a stage coach stop in the 1860’s, and you can still see gunshot holes in the redwood ceiling of the old tavern, now a spacious living and dining room. From this room’s windows there is a spectacular view of the ocean and a garden visited all day long by hummingbirds. Other than the ocean, all you can hear is the wind in the trees and the birds singing. And since it’s about 7 miles from where my brother and sister live, it was the perfect place to stay.

It was a beautiful drive up, not a cloud in the deep blue sky. Across the Bridge into Marin and then into Sonoma County, where things really start getting pretty. Fields were full of glowing pumpkins, the vineyards turning gold and red, their grapes harvested. I love the golden brown of the hills with the live oaks making pools of dark green and much-needed shade, and the tall redwoods that line parts of Highway 128.

The weather was perfect all weekend, clear and in the 80’s during the day, cool and starry at night. On Saturday, we looked around the charming little village of Mendocino. Mendocino was built in the 1800’s and has retained its charm by burying power lines and having any alteration to existing buildings, or proposal to build a new one, approved by its very strict Historical Society (known locally as the “Hysterical Society”). There are no cell phone towers or fast food restaurants, either — nothing to mar the old village’s tranquil beauty, perched on cliffs overlooking the Pacific.

We did some shopping, had lunch at the deli, and walked my brother Jonathan’s dog Jed on the headlands. Walking Jed always involves throwing the ball, which is why my sister Megan keeps a supply of balls (also a towel, thermos of water, and plastic bowl — her “Jed kit”) in the car, and we had a heart-stopping moment when the ball flew over the cliff. We all yelled “No!” at once and Jed stopped. I don’t think she would really have gone over the cliff in pursuit of the ball, but we certainly weren’t going to risk it!

We had a barbecue at Jonathan’s on Saturday night, accompanied with corn we had bought at Gowan’s on the way up, and potatoes from Megan’s garden. Gowan’s has had a produce stand outside Philo for generations. The eldest Gowan, now in his 80’s, still helps to pick apples every Fall, and the family steadfastly refuses to sell their extremely valuable land, in the prime grape-growing area of Anderson Valley, to the wineries.

All the “firsts” are hard, and I’m glad I had Rufus with me for this one. My father loved Albion, and he is everywhere up there. But it was good to be with my family, be happy, and start to build new memories together.

Doing good & feeling good

Seldom is doing good as enjoyable as it was on the evening of October 11. Rufus and I had a splendid dinner at the always fabulous Millennium, which was participating in the worldwide Windows of Hope campaign. Restaurants all over the world pledged to donate a percentage of the night’s sales to the September 11 relief fund, and were hoping to make $1 million.

I made quite a stir as we entered the already bustling restaurant. I sat on the edge of the tablecloth of the (fortunately empty) table next to ours, knocking off the bread plate, which smashed loudly on the floor. Despite this faux pas, the waiter tidied up the plate remains smoothly and quickly and never made me feel like the idiot I was. That’s one thing I have noticed about Millennium since the first time I went there: the service is perfect and the servers attitude-free.

Rufus and I are off to spend a long weekend with my brother and sister in the country. Can’t wait!

With sympathy

My thoughts are with Anathea, who lost her beloved father on Tuesday. Anathea, I’m so very sorry. Sending you hugs and wishing you peace and courage. Remember: it only hurts so bad because you loved each other so much.

There has just been too much death and sadness lately, as Candi (whose mother’s husband’s father — correction there, and an apology for any undue horror! — passed away last night) has remarked. In addition to my father, this makes six deaths of people I am somehow connected to in the past two months. Not counting the September 11 disasters. Too much death, too much sadness in such a short period of time. Things have got to get better soon.

Life during wartime

I was surprised to learn about our attacks on Afghanistan yesterday and today. I had thought that the powers that be in Washington were still researching who was responsible for the September 11 disasters. I had no idea that they were prepared to respond so soon — though on second thought, it obviously had to be kept secret.

I feel conflicted about this. I feel sorry that more people have to die, but if we didn’t retaliate against these terrorists, we would be sending the message that they could get away with it. And if they could attack the most powerful nation on earth without any consequences, no country would be safe. But I also fear their retaliation and what form it will take. This will probably go on a long, long time.

It does appear that our government took care to select targets that are Taliban/bin Laden related, and tried to minimize the loss of life of innocent people, and I’m glad about that. I would think that the Afghan people would welcome the end of the Taliban’s tyrannical rule. Imagine how terrible it would be to live a fairly free life and suddenly have a regime come into power that decrees that women must be covered up completely in public, can’t drive, can’t work, can be beaten for talking to a man in public to whom she is not related — all one’s civil rights and liberties removed like that! Much worse than if that was all you had ever known. So perhaps we, the free and the brave, can help the Afghans to restore their own freedom and courage to fight back against the Taliban and its terrorists.

By the way, whoever is writing Bush’s speeches these days is doing a great job.

Mail, votes and taxes

Our letter carrier rarely manages to deliver the mail before I get home in the afternoon. So most days, I end up going downstairs to get the mail first thing in the morning, usually dressed only in my pink bathrobe and bare feet, which could really traumatize innocent passers-by. Fortunately for the innocent passers-by, they are hardly ever passing by at 4:00 a.m.

This morning, yesterday’s mail held no sympathy cards or letters (yay!), but it did have big Municipal Election booklets (boo!). We seem to have Municipal Elections as often as the Olympics are held, i.e., constantly. As I walked upstairs with the booklets, I realized that it was actually pretty despicable that I was annoyed by having to read through the voting materials, make my decisions, and then exercise my right to vote (maybe it’s because it’s exercise and I hate that in any form), considering that so many people in this world still don’t have this right, and that women in this country had to fight for years to get the vote. When my grandmother was born, women still couldn’t vote.

Both my grandmother’s father and Lucy Stone’s felt there was no point in educating women. Both these ladies defied their fathers and went to college. Lucy, born in 1818, was the first woman in Massachusetts to get a college degree. Lucy kept her maiden name (so did I) on marrying Henry Blackwell, and together they fought for blacks and women to have the right to vote. Lucy refused to pay taxes on the grounds that since she couldn’t vote, it was taxation without representation — the very principal our country was founded on. The government repossessed her furniture to pay the taxes, but Lucy had made her point.

So in Lucy’s honor and my grandmother’s, I will stop whining and read that election material this weekend.

Good deed

I did a good deed yesterday when Rufus and I were shopping. You can see that doing good deeds is such a rarity for me that I consider it newsworthy.

We were waiting in line at the grocery store with the usual schizophrenic assortment of food (junk for Rufus; healthy food for me — I swear the junkie shopping expedition last week is not my shopping norm!), and a girl got in line behind us. All she had was a bottle of champagne. I asked her if that was all she had, and she said yes, so I asked her if she’d like to go ahead of us. She was totally thrilled, since the Express lines were much longer than the non-Express lines. Also people hardly ever do that. Maybe we need those courtesy commercials at the movies after all. But hey, she was buying champagne. And she paid cash. A girl after my own heart.

Late start

I had a bad night last night, so I stayed in bed for an extra 45 minutes this morning, trying to make up for lost sleep. Receiving a copy of my stepmother’s finalized complaint to the hospital regarding their negligence in treating my father (and probably causing his death), an email from the Royal Society of the Protection of Birds listing the many donations they have received so far in my father’s memory, and two more condolence letters in yesterday’s mail didn’t help. Sometimes I am reminded of a line from Sylvia Plath’s poem “The Rival”: No day is safe from news of you. Yet if I didn’t receive all these cards, letters and messages from people who know and love my father and grieve his loss with me, I would be angry that no-one cared. There really is no pleasing me, as Rufus knows all too well.

So I left the house later than usual this morning. It’s surprising the difference such a short time can make. There are more people on the streets, many of them walking dogs. It’s always nice to meet new dogs. It’s very foggy this morning, with the fog coming down almost to the ground. But I can tell it will burn off because you can see the blue sky behind it, like a veil over blue silk.

As I walked down California Street toward the Financial District, there was a wonderful San Francisco moment. The bright eye of the cable car’s front light burned through the fog as it made its way down the hill toward Van Ness, appearing like magic through the mist. As it approached the end of the line, a tall, slim young man wearing black leather pants and no shirt ballet danced down the street and with a final pirouette jumped gracefully onto the cable car.


I’m probably one of the few people in America who doesn’t own a pair of jeans. There are many reasons for this, chief among them being that as far as I can see, they emphasize the least attractive points of one’s figure, especially on women. You don’t have to be a historian or a student of the history of fashion to know that these garments were designed for men.

Another thing is that heavy fabric and those heavy seams. How can that be comfortable, especially in those personal areas (and again, this is often an emphasized area that really shouldn’t be)? And why on earth would you want to notify the world of your waist size? There you are, walking down the street, telling complete strangers that your waist size is 38 and you have stubby little 29 inch legs. Why is this a good idea?

And finally, in my case it would be 10 pounds of glamor in a 5 pound bag. And honey, there are already enough gay men in this fair city!