Archive for February, 2002

Feb 27 2002

Classic year

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Looks like it’s going to be somewhat expensive to get the iMac out of the hospital — like $300 — but still worth it. I hope it’s home by the weekend. I’m very, very tired of being in incommunicado (incommunicada?) and inefficient world. I miss happy, speedy, beautiful iMac world. There’s no place like home.

And there’s no year like 1962. What a vintage year it was! Despite seeing the exit of the incomparable Marilyn, it also saw the d&eacutebuts of my old friends Peter and Richard (a day apart, and they have been friends since the age of 7), and John and me. Happy birthday today to Richard! You look mahvellous, darling.

And by the way, 1962 was also an excEt year for Bordeaux, Burgundy, and Champagne. So here’s to a fabulous vintage!

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Feb 26 2002


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Yesterday, I went to the allergist for the first time in my life. One thing I have noticed since I have started going to doctors this year is the similarity to travelling, i.e., you spend more time waiting than you do actual travelling or seeing the doctor. I never mind waiting at the dentist’s, because, well, waiting is better than their ministrations and because my dentist has all the best and most current magazines, like Architectural Digest. I have never been able to spend more than a few wishful moments mentally redecorating before being whisked away to the torture chamber.

At the allergist’s, who is also John’s allergist, I had to make do with Readers Digest and People, and most of it was spent semi-naked while the allergy tests did their thing. They tested me for 80 different things on my back and arms, and it turned out that my suspicions were correct.

Here’s the culprit! Turns out that yes, I do have allergies, and I am allergic to three things: two different kinds of house dust mites, d. farinae and d. ptero, to give them their Latin names, and, oddly, Valley oak trees. So I have been doing the right thing in living in the city and avoiding housework all these years. After all, whenever I have attempted it myself, it has been a nasal disaster.

Just noticed that my archives are on strike, so you’ll have to take my word for it.

The allergist himself looks much like a younger Professor Farnsworth from Futurama, complete with the glasses and mole-like way of peering at you. He is very earnest and hails from Montreal. He seems to be very homesick, so I gotta wonder why he lives here instead of there. Probably because he can make more money here, and it’s 70 degrees and sunny instead of 39 degrees.

That reminds me: happy birthday to my old friend Peter, who grew up in Montreal. Happy 40th, baby! I’m right behind you!

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Feb 25 2002


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God, I hope our Mac gets fixed soon. I’m really sick of being completely cut off from e-mail, not to mention the fact that the old PC we have been using while the Mac is indisposed swoons like a Victorian lady whenever I try to access Movable Type. I had forgotten how much fun it is to have your computer crash over and over again, for no apparent reason. And I pity the people who can’t or won’t give the Mac a try. On the other hand, once you’re hooked, it’s just about impossible to go back to the evil old PC.

So think good thoughts for our little grey iMac, OK?

By the way…thanks to Babs for the care package, which arrived on Saturday, after a long journey from coast to coast. You are the sweetest!

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Feb 23 2002


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Here’s a coincidence: for the first time in years, John & I were idly watching cartoons on this sunny Saturday morning (yes, the minute John’s parents returned to the frozen north, it became warm and sunny here), only to discover later that the creator of the cartoons, the brilliant Chuck Jones, had died at his home yesterday. He had a long and innovative career, and his creations will live on and entertain generations to come.

Since we’ve spent the past month either feverishly preparing for visitors, or amusing them, we have given ourselves the weekend off. It will be devoted to unreportable lethargy if I have anything to say about it.

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Feb 22 2002

Parrots & plumbing

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I was bitten by a parrot yesterday.

This doesn’t happen very often to a city girl like me. I have never once been molested by the wild parrots, whom I often see flying overhead with a clatter of green wings glinting in the sun, calling out with their distinctive, rough voices, “You’ll never get us in a cage!” They are the descendants of a pet parrot who escaped many years ago, according to local legend, and I find them one of the many delightful details of living in San Francisco.

Yesterday, I stopped off at Petco on the way home to get some cat-related supplies. While paying for my purchases, one of the tame parrots who belongs to the owner perched on my hand, happily saying his name. Everything seemed to be going OK, but suddenly, he decided that my hand was a chew toy, and started biting me really hard. If you’ve never been bitten by a parrot, I can tell you: they bite very hard and their beaks are as much like rock as possible without actually being rocks. As John pointed out to me later, they crack nuts with their beaks.

I think I should be commended for keeping my hand still until the parrot could be removed, because it hurt like hell. My hand today is covered with parrot marks. The parrot also has a keen sense of humor, besides being sneaky. He laughed his ass off after being removed from my (bleeding) hand, and the apologetic owner said he always laughs when he’s done something naughty. Who says animals aren’t sentient beings? That bird has a better sense of humor than many people I know.

So I arrived home with my parrot-injured hand to find that our upstairs neighbor is having her bathroom re-re-done. So not only considerable construction noise directly overhead, but the water was brown and not warm enough to have a bath. In fact, it reminded me of the plumbing in Russia, where the water was always brown (I brushed my teeth in mineral water while there) and not very hot, besides smelling quite odd. Also, they don’t seem to understand that the goal of flushing a toilet is to make the contents actually go away, rather than making more farewell appearances than Barbra Streisand. Fortunately, though, it was only the bath water that was Russian-style and nothing else.

However, I have to wonder about the other inhabitants of our small apartment building. There are 6 apartments, all the same size and configuration, two to a floor. The Same Names across the hall paid nearly half a million dollars for their place, and appear to barely be 30 years old. Rich parents? Dot commers who got out in time? Who knows? But the real mystery is Miss Upstairs. She is dumb enough to be a member of the Bush family, with their trademark inability to put a sentence together, yet she paid considerably more for her apartment than we did, and is single. She has also renovated said apartment 3 times in the 7 years we have lived there, which begs the question: how does someone who is so stupid have so much money? Our two favorite theories are porn star and heartless divorc?e who took her very wealthy husband to the cleaners, but we’ll never know for sure. Any other theories?

So that pretty much makes us the white trash of the building, since we aren’t rich and don’t drive a BMW or Land Rover and don’t give a crap, either.

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Feb 20 2002

Au Revoir

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Well, John’s folks are on their way back home. I think they really did have a great time, and it was good to spend time with them. From time to time over the past 11 years that John and I have been married, I wondered if they minded that I took the baby of the family away to another country, and that I was so very lame about going to see them. But now I’m not worried. All they care about is that John and I are happy together. So now they can head back to their quiet haven on Kennebec Lake with lots of happy memories of their visit to San Francisco, and they can now imagine us in our apartment, going shopping on Polk Street, and things like that.

However…you knew there had to be a qualifier here…our Imac is gravely ill. Its outlook on life has been getting darker and darker by the day, reaching Sartre-like proportions yesterday, when its screen went black, apparently for good (or evil). John bravely carried it by its handle, wrapped up against the rain, to the guy who fixes our VCR’s and who is supposed to be able to cure our little grey Imac, too.

So I’m writing this on a beat-up old PC which John the pack rat refused to give away when we got the Imac, and it’s really horrible. Our site looks like crap on it (a five year old version of Netscape is what it has), and it’s noisy and I can’t hook up DSL to it, so it’s ultra-slow on top of everything else. Also it doesn’t have Outlook, so if you’ve e-mailed me in the last 48 hours, I haven’t seen your message and I won’t until next week sometime.

This whole thing has made me wonder why this great city does not seem to have anyone like Candi’s Brian, a Mac God who will make house calls to cure ailing Macs. It seems that SF Macs have to be brought in to the doctors, which is especially remarkable when you think that Apple is based here. Hmmm.

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Feb 19 2002

Day Four

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Well, the rain finally caught up to us, but John and I are both working today, so the rain won’t hamper our tour guide activities. John’s parents are going to pack their stuff and watch the Olympics all day, and we’ll meet them for drinks and dinner later on. Tomorrow, they’re heading back home, and I think it’s been a wonderful visit.

Yesterday, we took them to see the Cable Car Barn, where you can see the actual cables that pull the country’s only moving national monuments up and down the dizzying hills. It’s amazing that the cars are powered only by these cables, running under the streets.

After they saw how the cars worked, we jumped on the Hyde Street car, which has the best views heading towards Fisherman’s Wharf. The rain was still somewhere else, so both the sky and the Bay were postcard blue as we sped towards them on the steep slope of Hyde Street, past the crooked part of Lombard Street.

This time, it was John who created a scene. He was hanging off the side of the cable car as usual, and when he was going to pay the brakeman, his $20 bill was whisked from his hand by a frisky breeze and deposited about half a block away. The car waited while he ran back and got the money, though.

The rest of the day was spent looking around on the Wharf and at the historic ships at Hyde Street Pier. All in all, I think they’ve had a great time, and it was so good to see them. I have promised myself that we will go and visit them next year.

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Feb 18 2002

Day Three

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Our attempts to sleep in this semi-holiday morning were sabotaged ruthlessly by: 1. our loser neighbor downstairs, whose idea of a good time is to blast the local classical music station with extra bass while marinating in the stench of cheap cee-gars; and 2. our neighbor on the Vallejo Street side, who is retrofitting the former Brooks Brothers’ private enclave, including jackhammers at 7:45 a.m.

So much for recovering from being amateur tour guides.

Although our neighbors are annoying, the weather behaved perfectly yesterday. We took a cab across the city to Cliff House, where John’s father and stepmother were greeted by their first sight of the Pacific, looking its best in the bright sunlight. We had lunch overlooking the ocean, and it was so warm in the sun that John’s folks actually retreated into the shade, a real treat for them in the middle of February. They live in Ontario, Canada, where their neighbors tell us they have gotten an extra six inches of snow since they arrived here.

We drove back via Golden Gate Park, and headed out to Alcatraz in the late afternoon, for the night tour.

John and I have both been to Alcatraz a few times, but seeing it at night is really different. Not only do you get stunning views of the city and Bay at sunset, you see the city all lit up after dark. And you gain a new appreciation for what it was like in that cold, dark prison at night, with the sights and sounds of the city so close, but so far.

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Feb 17 2002

Day Two

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The fire engine tour was fantastic. The couple who run it called us the night before to move it up to 11 in the morning instead of 1 in the afternoon, because rain was forecast for yesterday afternoon. Fortunately for us, the rain was fashionably late and didn’t show up until the evening, when we were home for the day.

After the tour, we had lunch at Pompei’s Grotto, a charming family-run restaurant which has been around since the 1940’s, and then visited the WWII submarine Pampanito, which served in the Pacific. It’s a truly fascinating experience, and one of the few where those audio tours really work. As you visit each room of the submarine — and talk about close quarters! — the men who served on the Pampanito during WWII tell you what it was really like, from the cook to the machinist to the engineer. I still can’t believe that 73 men squeezed into that tiny place! Well worth a visit, and very inspiring.

Today’s plan is Cliff House, where we will see the remains of the Sutro Baths, seals lounging on rocks in the Pacific, and the wonderful Camera Obscura, before having lunch in the Cliff House dining room, overlooking the ocean. Later, we’re going on a sunset cruise of the Bay followed by an evening tour of Alcatraz. Stay tuned….

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Feb 16 2002

Day One

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So far, so good, despite my causing a minor ruckus at the airport. Bet you thought John was the half of this couple most likley to make a scene in public, but lately, it seems to be me.

We picked John’s father & stepmother up at the airport. I saw them approaching and went forward to meet them — you can no longer meet people at the gate — and set off flashing lights and an alarm. An armed guard told me to step back, and briefly scared John’s parents, who thought they had caused the alarm. Welcome to America!

They were absolutely enchanted by the city. I guess we are so used to its beauty that we take it for granted, but this was Ed and Marj’s first visit to California and they were pretty much blown away by the hills, the Victorian houses, the Bay, the flowering cherry trees, and the fact that you can buy booze in the corner store. In Canada, you have to get it at The Liquor Store, which is government-run and closes by 5:30. Welcome to America!

They admired the apartment and our cats, taking pictures of everything, so I guess all the hassles of Operation House Beautiful were worth it in the end.

Dinner turned out fine, and they either didn’t notice or were too polite to remark on the Frankenstein-ness of the pie. However, John and I are both suffering the effects of two glasses of wine (me) and two beers (him), plus not getting to bed until after midnight. We are just so pathetic!

The clouds even obligingly withdrew to the horizon, so we took them up on the roof to show them our view of the Bay, the Golden Gate Bridge, and Russian Hill. Even today, the clouds and rain which have been on the menu for the past few days seem to have been sent to Seattle, or one of those other places where it’s supposed to be cloudy and rainy. I’m hoping the rain will at least hold off until we have finished our tour across the GG Bridge today.

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Feb 15 2002

Farewell to a Princess

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Time to stop whining about my petty little problems and take a moment to think of Princess Margaret’s family. The Princess’s funeral was held at Windsor Castle this afternoon, 50 years to the day after her father’s. It must be so terrible for the Queen to lose her baby sister, and for the fragile Queen Mother to lose her youngest child.

I like the fact that the Princess maintained her considerable individuality and flair to the last, having the exact funeral service she wished, including music from Swan Lake, since she was a patron of the Royal Ballet and a life-long lover of the ballet; being carried by her own Scottish Regiment (the Princess was born in Scotland — the first royal birth in that country in 300 years); and finally, being cremated privately, with no family or friends in attendance, which is practically unheard-of in the Royal Family.

Her ashes will rest with her ancestors in St. George’s Chapel, including her beloved father.

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Feb 15 2002

In law visit

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Well, it’s the big day, when John’s parents arrive to visit us the first time ever. I guess I’m as ready as I’ll ever be, though it’s hard to overcome my native superstition to think it’s all going to go great.

After days, or possibly even weeks of sunshine, the weather reports vary from rain through Tuesday to just rain all weekend, or some rain Saturday night…you get the picture. So the five days of the year when we really want to the weather to behave and show off the city, it’s being as perverse as I am. That sunset cruise of the Bay and night tour of Alcatraz will be just so much fun in the pouring rain.

I’ve had a busy and annoying week at work, in addition to the exhaustion induced by Operation House Beautiful not only occupying the past three or four weekends, but spilling over into the work week. I haven’t slept well for the past three nights, so am tired and grumpier than usual. It took me two attempts to make the top crust of the apple pie for dessert tonight, and on the second attempt, it acquired a 4 inch tear which I was able to repair, but it’s still in need of attention from a top plastic surgeon. There’s no doubt that one’s emotions do come out in one’s pastry. I’m beginning to think I’m going to make a horrible dinner tonight (menu is: lemon-herb roast chicken; Yukon Gold garlic mashed potatoes; asparagus; Suzy’s famous cheese biscuits; Frankenstein pie). I haven’t cooked for John’s parents in about 10 years, so no pressure there.

Then getting out the door this morning was beset with minor, gravity-induced disasters (John’s open bottle of water making a suicide leap for freedom off the living room desk; the crystal soap dish in the shape of a duck copying the water bottle and leaping to its death in the cast-iron bath tub, etc.), so we ended up taking a cab in to work to limit the lateness.

Only 6 hours until airport time.

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Feb 14 2002

Wall o’love

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Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!

From Becky’s always informative and charming blog, The Wall of Love. In Paris, where else? The place that invented romance, if not Valentine’s Day.

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Feb 12 2002


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John has added a bunch of links to our links page, so go on over and check ’em out. Guaranteed 100% boredom free!

Finally! Oreos Suzy style! I never did like the traditional ones, especially the mystery white goo (what is that, anyway?). But these are excEt, the lemony tartness cooling the spicy ginger. And they really are spicy. Mmm.

This reminds me of something that happened when I was about 7 years old. At that time, we lived in an old house on 5 acres of land in upstate New York, not far from Cornell, where my father taught. The land was a gift to a Revolutionary War soldier in recognition of his service. Pretty ironic that 200 years later an Englishman was living in his house.

It was summer, and I was sent to bed while it was still kind of light outside. I didn’t feel like sleeping, so I was sitting in my window seat, which looked over the fields to our nearest neighbor’s house, about half a mile away. I noticed a reddish glow in the sky, and I thought it was the carnival for some reason, even though if there were one, it would be in town, several miles in the opposite direction and invisible from our house anyway.

I called out, “There’s a funny light outside!” and my father came up the stairs to tell me to go to bed in person, one notch up from yelling up the stairs at us to go to bed. He took one look out the window and said, “Oh my God” and went running out of the house. From my window seat, I could see him running as fast as he could across the fields, and making the discovery that there was a creek between our place and our neighbor’s. Those pants were never the same after that.

I went and got my brother Jonathan, who was four years old. He brought a blanket from his bed and got the cookie jar from the kitchen. We sat together on the flagstone front steps, watching as our neighbor’s barn burned. Jonathan peacefully ate Oreos with mint filling and said, from time to time, “I’m scared”, very calmly. I have never seen mint filled Oreos again, and they don’t appear on the Nabisco website, but according to this story, I’m not making them up.

Eventually, Dad came home, smoky, muddy and sweaty. He and the neighbor had saved all the cows and horses, and the house hadn’t been touched. We didn’t get in trouble for being up, or for eating all those cookies.

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Feb 09 2002

True Romance

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Who needs Valentine’s Day when you have a spontaneously romantic guy? Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for romance, but not for being romantic on a day appointed by our friends at Hallmark and FTD, when roses cost twice what they should, even in the dead of winter, and every guy in a relationship feels pressured to come up with the perfect gift, the perfect romantic gesture/evening.

Those not in a relationship have 24 hours of feeling like complete losers, and the whole day becomes a kind of contest. You know what I mean. Women at work checking out what flowers and gifts the other women got and either being jealous or feeling inadequate. Ick. In some ways, we never really leave high school. How’s that for the horrifying thought of the day?

You might be surprised to hear that the salty half of this blog is a very romantic guy, who gives me flowers for no reason and puts little notes in my luggage when I go away without him. We often surprise each other with silly little gifts. Yesterday, I had a bad day at work and mentioned it in passing to John in an e-mail. He turned up at my office on his lunch break to give me a fuzzy pen with a floppy kitty on top to cheer me up.

Who needs to be told to be romantic on one day a year, when you have it on the other 364 without being told?

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Feb 08 2002


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Is there any job, possibly other than Appointed Leader of these great United States, with less accountability than that of weatherman? Our forecast yesterday called for “possibility of light showers in the afternoon and evening.”

When I left work, it was cloudy and misty, but after I had gone a few blocks, it started pouring, with gale force winds. I had to give up completely on my umbrella, because it was either being plastered down around my head by said wind, bending its sad little ribs to the breaking point, or threatening to yank me skyward like a cranky Mary Poppins.

Having given up on the umbrella, my hair became wet, brownish strings, like a very old mop, and my make-up was scoured off before I was even home. Look, Ma! No face!

No matter how wrong weather forecasters are, no-one complains. They don’t have to repay part of their salary or pay a fine for every incorrect forecast. Angry mobs don’t show up at the station, demanding accuracy. The anchors don’t say things like, “He was wrong again, folks!” The weather guy (or girl) just goes on making predictions that are about as accurate as Miss Cleo’s, and they just get away with it. I want a job like that.

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Feb 07 2002

Crankiness & compliments

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Note to self: a night when you work late and then run errands for an hour on the way home is really not the optimum time to try a new recipe for the first time. Better buy a cross patch to patch up my frayed temper. Dinner was great, though, in spite of dinner-induced hissy fit.

And this is cool: John sent an e-mail to Angry Asian Man, notifying him of this story, which John blogged about recently. Not only did AAM link to John’s blog entry, he gave him a compliment while doing it (see February 5 entry). Mmm, compliments!

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Feb 06 2002


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In order to complain, I’m going to have to make a confession. That’s enough of an incentive for me to admit that I have been something of a slacker lately, arriving at work after the appointed hour of 6 am.

Before 6:00, everyone, no matter what floor they work on, has to use their card key to gain access to their floor. You can push the button a zillion times, and it won’t light up or let you go there without your magic card key being swiped in front of the elevator’s tiny, baleful red eye. Now, my firm enforces this rule until 7:30 on all three of the floors we occupy, which is when the receptionist arrives. So this means you have to use your card key if you arrive any time before the magic hour (or half hour) of 7:30.

However, of the four elevators that go to my floor – it’s a tall building, so the floors are divided in lots of ten – only two have card key readers. So if one of the illterate elavtors arrives first, I can’t take it, however much I want to. Here’s what I don’t understand. It appears that only 2 of the 4 elevators are operating at any given time, so why not make them both the ones with the readers? Especially since my firm occupies a third of the floors that bank of elevators services. I don’t get it. So I have to wait around, filled with resentment, until one of the magic elevators can whisk me up for my day of honest toil.

Here’s another thing that drives me crazy. I get on and press 15. Other people pile on and press floors much higher than mine, then stand right in front of the doors, even when they open at my floor. I have to ask them to move. They know perfectly well they aren’t the first one off, so why stand there? And why stand there after the doors have opened, when you know you aren’t getting out? These idiots should exclusively ride the illiterate elevators.

And finally: people wearing so much perfume in an enclosed space that innocent bystanders like me can actually taste it. This morning, it was a woman wearing my least favorite perfume, Calvin Klein’s ultra-revolting Eternity (so named beacsue you can smell it and taste it for, you guessed it, an eternity), which John assures me smells exactly like the urinal cakes used in men’s rooms. I have to take his word on that one. And the only thing worse than the stinky perfume is the horrible ghostly reek of the McDonald’s someone has taken up to their floor to torment their co-workers with. *shudder*

Such are the petty annoyances of a petty girl who works in an office in a big city.

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Feb 05 2002

Happy Birthday, Amber!

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Happy birthday to Amber the Adorable One!

Hope your birthday’s a great one, girl!!!

And PS: You don’t look a year older from here.

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Feb 03 2002


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We spent the whole day yesterday painting, or prepping for painting, or recovering from the horror of painting. Today, we’re mostly dealing with the aftermath, including feeling about 110 years old from unaccustomed muscular abuse.

It has been seven years, to the month, since we first bought this place, and seven years of gracious living have taken their toll on the paintwork. So it definitely needed to be done, especially with the arrival of my in-laws looming (only one more weekend to go!).

Fortunately, my trivial mind remembered the two paint colors we needed, for the bedroom (Northern Green) and the pantry (Kid Glove). The bedroom paint looked frighteningly similar to that green favored by mental hospitals and other institutions (now, is that cause or effect?) when first applied, but fortunately dried to a lovely sage green as advertised. But it was all downhill from there. a) The horror and boredom of painting (how do professionals stand it?); b) getting stoned on the paint fumes (only me, though, and it’s not as much fun as it sounds); c) our shocking incompetence; d) general bad luck, which also provided comic relief.

Hannah, who is also our fuzziest cat, decided that it would be a good idea to step in the green paint in the roller tray, and then make fuzzy green pawprints all over the hardwood floors and pure wool carpets, until we finally noticed. John freaked out, grabbed her, and gave her a quick bath, which they both hated. In the course of the bath, he noticed she had one of her recurring ear infections, and dosed both ears with medicine, with the result that she refused to sleep with us last night and is continuing snippy today, to punish us for our bad behavior.

John also ended up stepping in the same tray of paint, which I had thoughtfully moved to the foot of the ladder he was standing on, without mentioning this useful information to him. So while he stood on one foot like a flamingo, I untied his shoe and took it off. We tried to get the paint off it, but it has never been the same since. This was the first of four times that John stepped in the paint tray, and I really don’t think the other three were my fault.

John has used up his quota of swear words for this year, and for the rest of the year will be reduced to saying “Gosh”, or possibly, “Gee whillikers.”

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