Archive for March, 2002

Mar 31 2002


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My apartment has the scent of childhood.

I bought a bunch of lilacs on the way home on Friday, put them in a vase that belonged to Nana, my mother’s mother, and put them on my bedside table, where they have been delighting me with their beauty and fragrance ever since.

Lilacs are my favorite flowers, and have been ever since I was a little girl. I was about three years old in this picture (I LOVED that dress and it appears in many of the pictures of me taken at that time. I had a red cardigan and red shoes to match), and standing beside one of Nana’s wonderful lilac bushes. She had purple, white, and pink, and I loved them all, though I loved the purple ones best. Still do.

Nana lived in a town called Newark, near Rochester, New York, an area justly famed for its lilacs, and where the annual Lilac Festival is held in May each year. Every time I smell them, or see them, I think of Nana, her beautiful garden, and the long-ago, happy days of my childhood.

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Mar 30 2002

Hillbilly Deluxe

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If there’s anything that can make you feel worse than taking your cats to the vet, it’s starving them all before you take the chosen victims to their doom.

Cleo had to have her teeth cleaned this morning, so that meant no food after 9 last night, since cats very sensibly insist on being knocked out before allowing their teeth to be cleaned. For those of you not fortunate enough to live in a multi-cat household, let me tell you: if one cat can’t eat, none of them can. So snacks all around at 8 last night, but at 6 this morning, they didn’t hesitate to tell us exactly how hungry they were, and how very much the snack had worn off and was a faint memory.

It really sucks to have coffee and get dressed with all your cats crying and looking at you sadly, as if to say, “Why won’t you feed me?” But we heartlessly bundled Cleo and Hannah into their carriers and walked to the vet. They took Cleo in the back and I felt so horrible seeing her in the cage. She looked exactly the same as she had in when we first saw her at the pound, huddled in the back looking terrified. We made sure to tell her “See you later,” because that’s what we say every morning when we go to work, so she’d know she wasn’t doomed to be there forever.

While Cleo was getting ready, we had Hannah’s ears checked and cleaned. She has had a problem with ear infections since we first got her, because she was, at barely a month old, too young to be away from her mother, and didn’t develop the antibodies she needed. That plus the fact that our vet suspects that she is as inbred as an Arkansas hillbilly (no offense to y’all, especially Mr. Clinton), since she knows something of Hannah’s litter and this is apparently a problem with inbred AND purebred cats, which is kind of interesting. Both royalty and hillbillies subject to the same affliction. There is some kind of poetic justice in that…

Oh, the vet just called and Cleo’s ready to be picked up! See ya!

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Mar 29 2002

Love/Hate: Travel 2

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Love/Hate for Friday, March 29, 2002

Travel: Being There

Once you’re decanted off the plane, have thanked whatever gods or spirits or what have you for your safe arrival (and that of your beloved baggage, too), have cleared Customs and are in the new place, that’s where the fun begins.

Even though the actual plane ride is hideous, isn’t it amazing that you can wake up in London and have dinner the same day in San Francisco?

I should probably admit right off that in addition to rarely having hangovers, I don’t suffer from jet lag, either. I have been as far as 12 time zones away from home and been perfectly fine, as Jacques P?pin would say. My usual technique is to stay awake until 9:00 p.m. on the first day I arrive in Europe, and then go to sleep for up to 12 hours. When I wake up, I’m on the right time zone and ready to go.

Now John will tell you that he has jet lag whenever we are in Europe because I deprive him of a nap on arrival. Naps are fatal to time adjustment, and can only be indulged in for a good reason, such as being able to stay awake until midnight and beyond on New Year’s Eve in Edinburgh, which is one of the best possible reasons. But I do realize that many people have a hard time with the time change.

However, even the worst case of jet lag is more than made up for the wonders of travel. I live in a very new state (California joined the Union in 1850, 31st out of 50) in a very new country, so I am fascinated and delighted by the ancient buildings and culture in other countries. Churches and houses still in use after centuries. Eating a meal or drinking a pint in the same place as Charles Dickens or William Shakespeare. Walking the same streets as kings, queens, poets, artists and ordinary people have for hundreds of years. There’s a wonderful sense of continuity, being connected to the past.

It’s also fascinating to see how other people live and think, how their daily lives are different from yours and how they are the same. To have coffee in a Parisian caf?, watching the crowds go by. To buy wine in an ancient hill town in Italy, where old men play chess in the town square beside a thousand-year old well. To look at masterpieces of artists and sculptors in London’s National Gallery, Paris’ Mus?e d’Orsay, Florence’s Uffizi. To see families strolling hand in hand after dinner in an ancient Mexican town. To see the sun setting over the Grand Canal in Venice and the pink lights beside it all going on at once to illuminate the twilight.

But no matter how wonderful the trip, how dazzling the sights, nothing makes my heart leap like the first sight of the Golden Gate Bridge from the plane or the road, telling me that I’m almost home, home in one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

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Mar 28 2002

It’s official

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I have our tickets to England. No turning back now, though I’m slightly dismayed to see that we’ll arrive in London on…9/11. Not that I’m superstitious or anything, and I should have thought of that when I booked the tickets. So my sis and I leave SF at 7 pm, arriving in London at 1 the next afternoon (less time to have to stay awake). Home on October 1, when we both leave and arrive on the same day, which I still find amazing, no matter how many times I’ve done it.

Amazing seems to be my word of the week. Guess I’m not so blas&eacute(e?), after all.

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Mar 27 2002

Old friends

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Last weekend, I had a call from my old friend Peter, and we talked for an hour. Even if we haven’t talked for months, when we do it’s as if no time has passed. Then today, I had a call from my friend, Mary-Lou, telling me that her first novel is being published today. She’s going to send me an autographed copy. It has been favorably reviewed by Roddy Doyle, who wrote The Commitments, and Yoko Ono has personally requested a copy. Mary-Lou is doing book signings and readings, and is being interviewed for Talk TV today (it’s a CTV show, so if you don’t live in Canada, you probably can’t see it). I’m so thrilled and proud of her!

Mary-Lou and I have been friends since high school. She was my bridesmaid, along with my sister Megan, and I feel lucky to have had her in my life for so many years.

Her good news got me to thinking. I have four friends from high school days: Mary-Lou and Peter, who both live in Toronto; Richard, who lives in San Francisco, and Alice, who lives in Amsterdam. Mary-Lou, Peter, and Richard all are free-lance journalists and are single. Alice and I are the only married ones, and the only property owners. Alice recently started working at Aot, after completing her PhD in math last year, and it’s her first real job. She used to be a model, doing the collection in New York, Paris, and Milan; she was in Vogue, Elle, etc., and once when I was in London, I saw banners with her face on them in the cosmetics department at Harrod’s.

It was fun when she was a model. I got to see what goes on behind the scenes at fashion shows (complete chaos), I learned everything I ever needed to know about make-up, and I hardly ever had to pay for dinner or drinks, because guys will pay for anything to hang out with models. So if you have a friend who is one, you get the perks, too. Eventually, she married a very handsome and sweet Dutch photographer (even though he always said he’d never date a model and she always said she’d never date a photographer) and moved to Amsterdam, where they have lived happily ever after.

But whether their lives have turned out glamorous or ordinary, I’m so glad they’re all still my friends. If someone knew you in when you were a dork in high school and still loves you, that’s amazing.

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Mar 26 2002

Bad mail day

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You know how I had the great mail day a couple of weeks ago? Yesterday, I had the hell mail day, brought to me by our friendly government, local and federal: a summons to jury duty for the Superior Court of California, made extra scary by including a form to be filled out and brought with me (suggests to me a case that will go on for months); and an extremely invasive and personal census form which I’m supposed to fill out and return to Big Brother.

I had jury duty 4 or 5 years ago for the first time, and I’m still recovering from the horror of it. In the City and County of San Francisco, you have to serve five days, whether or not you actually sit on a jury. I have heard of people who have been called for JD and only had to call in, but my own experience was quite the opposite.

Report to the waiting room (which I call the pit of despair, because that’s where you sit for hours before possibly being called into a courtroom — or not) at 8:00 and sit around, waiting, waiting, waiting, like the beginning of Casablanca. A couple of times I did get called into courtrooms, where you can’t read or do anything other than participate in a scientific experiment to see whether it is actually possible for a human being to die of boredom. I am extremely boredom-intolerant, and on the third day, after going home in the pouring rain after 8 hours of this, I sat on the floor of my living room and cried from the horror of having to do it again the next day, and the day after that.

I never did get on a jury. Also, that spell of JD coincided with our busy time at work, and so does this one, slated for April 22. I don’t know if I can stand it.

As for the census thing: I can’t believe we have to tell the government what our mortgage payment is, how much our monthly bills are, etc. They probably ask for bra size and frequency of sexual intercourse somewhere in the questionnaire, which is approximately the length of War and Peace, though I didn’t finish reading it. I’m under no illusion that the government doesn’t already know frightening amounts of information about every one of us, personal and otherwise, probably including bra size, but I just can’t make myself complete that document and send it back to make their invasion of what little privacy, or illusion of privacy, I have any easier.

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Mar 25 2002


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Well, I needn’t have worried about my trip to England conflicting with Candi and Brian’s visit in June. I just got back from the United ticket office, where I learned that there are no upgrade-able seats available on non-stop flights between San Francisco and London in June or July. Some flights have one seat, but that’s no help when two of you are travelling together, and I can’t stand to change planes (increases your chances of death if you have more take-offs and landings, and it makes a long trip even longer). We could be waitlisted, but what if the waitlist doesn’t clear?

So it looks like we’ll be going in September instead, which is probably just as well.

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Mar 24 2002


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Proof, as if any is needed, of how very shallow and trivial I am:

Every time I see this banner around town:

sfla (13k image)

I read it one of two ways without stopping to think.

1. In English, as “Laid SF”.

2. In French, as, well, “Laid SF” (“Laid” is French for “ugly”. Doesn’t everything sound better in French?).

It’s an important cause, and I happen to be sponsoring someone who’s riding in it, but I can’t help but wonder if I’m the only one who reads the banners that way.

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Mar 23 2002

Laziness is its own reward

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Sometimes, procrastination is its own reward.

My stepmother asked me months ago if I’d come to London, where she lives, sometime this year to help her to clear out my father’s things and send them/bring them/give them to the right people/places/things. Of course I agreed, since taking care of her is about all I can do for my father now.

Once I started telling people I was going, I started getting e-mails from friends, who are either meeting me in London or having me stay with them in various parts of England. So there started to be some fun in the mix of duty and grief. My little sister decided she wanted to go with me, and it seems it will pretty much take three weeks to get everything done. With one thing and another, mid-June seemed to be the best time to go.

When Dad was alive, I used to plan my trips to England and beyond — since we almost always went to Europe or something, a road trip, as we called it, even if we flew or took a ferry — months ahead. Both Dad and I enjoyed the planning and the anticipation of being together. But for this trip, I still haven’t booked the tickets or finalized plans, even though my failing to do so is mildly inconveniencing all concerned.

The awful truth is: I’m waiting for the air miles in my father’s account to be transferred to mine so I can upgrade both my sister and me to Business Class for the long flight to London. I have enough miles to upgrade my ticket, but not enough to upgrade Megan’s, and even I am not mean enough to make my sis sit wedged in the back while I stretch out up front and drink free champagne. Plus she’s completely fearless and I’m relying on her to hold my hand and reassure me during take-off. Pretty ironic considering I used to change her diapers.

Anyway, this selfish leaning on the rake has been rewarded, because Candi is planning to come out to San Francisco for the first time ever, accompanied by her adorable fianc? Brian, on the very week I should have left for England. Good thing I didn’t have the tix booked, though I would have changed them for this. Candi is one of my dearest friends, practically a sister to me, and we have never met in real life. So this is something to look forward to. And hey, the house is as good as it’s going to get from the obsessive cleaning for the in-laws last month, so it will be worry-free fun, too. I can hardly wait!

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Mar 22 2002

Love/Hate: Travel

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Love/Hate for Friday, March 22, 2002

Travel: The Process

I have travelled a fair bit in my life, mostly because my father was English. When his parents were alive, we’d visit them every other year, and when my father retired back to England, I visited him there at least once a year. Since he was conveniently located in London, it was easy to go all over Europe and even as far as Russia.

Even though I have done this, and am planning to go to London yet again this year, I hate the travelling process. Number one, I’m afraid of flying. I was worried about it even before 9/11, and that certainly didn’t help matters. Mostly, it’s just that I can’t believe this huge hunk of metal is going to stay in the sky, and if you’re flying between San Francisco and London (11 fun-filled hours, and that’s non-stop), much of it is over the Arctic, so if the worst happens, you’re pretty much toast (or ice cubes). But I have developed my own guide to surviving air travel:

1. Avoid going coach if at all possible. Somehow I feel less likely to die when I have more legroom and am being pampered. You also get something close to real food and get to get off the plane first. Negative: If the plane crashes nose first, you’ll get a few less seconds than the poor folks in cattle class. Of course, you could look at it as the express lane to the afterlife.

2. Drink as much champagne as possible. If you have avoided going coach, the champagne is free, so you have no excuse not to drink it. You also get a glass before you take off, which is when you really need it. Both the likelihood of the plane crashing and the fear of it are severely diminished by at least two glasses of champagne. Negative: You will have to pee a lot. So get an aisle seat.

3. Try and get a Valium or two. You probably know someone who has it. Think of all those neurotic friends and relatives, not to mention co-workers. Make something up if you have to so they feel sorry enough for you to give it to you. Who cares if they think you’re neurotic? They’re the ones with a whole prescription, for God’s sake. It’s worth the trouble to get some — it really does take the edge off the horror.

4. Diversion is critical. Bring lots of things to read, and a Walkman or portable DVD player is good, too (though with the DVD player, you’ll probably get unwanted people looking over your shoulder). I usually hoard “New Yorkers” for about a month before the flight and bring at least two books. It amazes me that people will get on a plane knowing the flight is 11 hours long with NOTHING TO READ. The in-flight magazine is not that interesting. Trust me.

Basically, air travel is public transportation, and that’s the other main drawback to it. PT is something I try to avoid as much as possible. I walk to work, and I should walk home, but when I don’t feel like it, I take a cab. The closest I get to public transportation is taking the cable car, but its charm kind of overrides the public transit aspect. As Dorothy Parker observed, other people are hell, and being stuck in lines behind them for hours doesn’t endear the human race to you. I will never understand why the people ahead of me are always checking huge boxes held together with string, countless suitcases, and have to talk to the person checking them in for 15-20 minutes. Whereas when I get to the desk, I’m done in 30 seconds. This may have something to do with the fact that even if I’m doomed to cattle class, I only have one carry-on bag and have my seat pre-assigned.

Once wedged on the plane, you are surrounded by the people who held you up in line. There will be at least one screaming baby and one kid who keeps meandering up and down the aisle, pursued by its ineffectual parent(s). The person in front of you will jack his/her seat back as far as it can go and leave it there for the duration of the flight, eliminating what little personal space you had to begin with. You will be served unidentifiable and inedible food at very strange times. You will be at the mercy of the various diseases owned by your fellow travellers, who are only too happy to share. You will have to wait in line for the bathroom, which gets less and less salubrious with every hour that passes. Someone will be drunk and loud. People will take pictures of each other sitting on the plane. There will be boring conversations (time for the Walkman). If you’re a girl on your own, guys will feel not only that they can talk to you, but that talking to them is preferable to being left alone. You explain the error of their ways firmly enough that they go away. Time will slow to a crawl. You will doze weirdly and wonder if you’re there yet.

Then when you do get there, more waiting in line at Customs, and if you checked your bags, fervent praying that your bags made it, too. There are no atheists in Baggage Claim.

It’s definitely better than the days when you either had to sail around the even more deadly than air travel Cape Horn or take a train across the vast expanse of the USA, then cross the also deadly Atlantic by ship, all of this taking weeks and weeks. And the Concorde, when it isn’t killing people, is pretty fast, though it only goes from New York. But why haven’t the scientists gotten together and developed a faster way to get where you’re going, as featured in Star Trek? That would pretty much eliminate most of the horrors of the way we travel now, and it would be almost fast enough for me, too.

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Mar 21 2002


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My horoscope for today, from the Chronicle: “You’ve spent too many nights worrying. Let matters run their course.”

Considering I’m writing this at 1:00 a.m., it’s probably good advice.

Reward for walking home on Tuesday: I finally got to see Nicolas Cage! He has a house (one of many, I’m sure) three blocks from our place, and in the 7 years we’ve lived on this street, I have never seen him. But on Tuesday, there he was, chatting to two guys in his garage with the garage door open. He has quite a messy garage. As I passed, I smiled, and he smiled back and said “Hey”. Brush with fame!

This brings me to a grand total of 4 brushes with fame:

1. Driving through Seacliff in my convertible with the top down, passed Robin Williams’ house with a birthday party going on for one of his kids. Balloons and kids everywhere, Robin severely outnumbered but taking it well. Exchanged a smile and wave, my usual MO when encountering famous people.

2. Walking across the Hungerford Bridge in London, saw Elvis Costello shooting a video. I was with my Dad, which really limited the fun, because he had no idea who Elvis Costello was and there was no point in trying to explain it. Usual smile & wave exchange. Elvis was wearing a silly hat.

3. While visiting Althorp, Princess Diana’s childhood home, met her brother and had an actual conversation for a change. He’s really a celebrity by association, so it may not count and might be the reason I was able to exchange words instead of the drive/walk by wave’n’smile.

4. The Nicolas Cage walk by wave’n’smile.

Why is it that I can never come up with a clever and/or witty thing to say when faced with a famous person?

Reward for taking a cab home yesterday:

Cab driver looked very Japanese, much like Pat Morita, but talked like a hick from Arkansas, the total hillbilly accent. The contrast was so delightful that it was hard not to laugh. Cab driver also a conspiracy theory nut who held forth all the way home. He was wasted on me, since he was really John’s dream cab driver. He also reminds me of a story John tells of when he lived in Edinburgh and was going home late one night. The only other person on the bus was a very drunk Indian (as in Indiah) guy, beautifully singing “Danny Boy” with a deep Scottish accent.

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Mar 20 2002

Getting there

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It was a lovely drive from San Francisco to Albion on Friday morning. Despite the gloomy weather forecast, the sun was shining, and the usually “golden” (read: brown) hills were still green from the winter rains. Delicate, orange California poppies, waxy white Calla lilies and bright yellow daffodils bloomed together by the side of the freeway. I even saw little fawns poking around the flowers, completely unperturbed by the noise of the freeway. My brother and sister consider deer to be garden-destroying nuisances, but I’m a city girl, so I think they’re cute.

I never pass San Quentin without thinking of when my sister taught in a preschool where San Quentin could be seen in the distance. The kids thought it was a castle, and she never told them otherwise.

Maybe I’ve been married to John too long, but a big sign for a luxury housing development in Sonoma County caught my eye. In big, bold letters, it shouts, Captain John’s Passage is now open! There’s something both vulgar and amusing in that. I can’t imagine proudly telling people that I live in Captain John’s Passage.

When you’re going to Albion, you get off Highway 101 in Cloverdale, “where the vineyards meet the redwoods”. I finally realized how the town got its name. What looked like drifts of snow were actually drifts of snow white clover.

Stopped at the Anderson Valley Brewery in Boonville for lunch (though we didn’t drink beer), and bought a pint glass for John. It was nice to have lunch overlooking the beautiful valley, with hummingbirds buzzing outside the window like giant bees, and turkey vultures and red tailed hawks swooping overhead, looking for their own lunches.

Boonville is a small town, but the brewery has been listed in the top ten in two World Beer Championships. Boonville also has its own language, called Boontling. For example, signs above telephone booths in Boonville all say “Bucky Walter”, which is Boontling for telephone. It’s a pretty interesting place for having a grand total population of 700. I’ve been reading Robert Mailer Anderson’s very entertaining first novel, Boonville, lately, and only the names have been changed to protect the guilty.

For those unfamiliar with Highway 128, take a look at the curves and you’ll see why it takes almost 4 hours to drive from San Francisco to Albion, despite the fact that it’s only 150 miles. Because of the curves, there are signs every few miles reading “SLOWER TRAFFIC MUST PULL OVER”, so those who haven’t driven the road before will do the right thing. But sometimes you get stuck behind someone (particularly RV’s driven by ancient, withered people who can barely see over the steering wheel) who just won’t pull over. Then you honk the horn and flash your headlights. I can tell that recently someone had a bad experience, because on one of the signs, someone had spray painted a circle around the “MUST” and underlined the “PULL OVER.”

But it’s all worth it to end up here.

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Mar 19 2002

Jed Arm

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Jed Arm: Pronunciation: jed ‘ahrm (noun); a condition of the human upper limb, with varying degrees of pain, caused by throwing a ball or stick for hours at a time. Similar to housemaid’s knee or tennis elbow in cause and effect.

Back from my long weekend in the country with a mild case of Jed Arm. Jed is my brother’s dog, and she lives to retrieve the stick/ball/pine cone/giant, unwieldy branch. Playing with her is one of the joys of visiting my brother & sister. She is literally unbelievably well-trained: no-one believes it until they see it.

On Saturday, we visited Point Cabrillo light house. When Jed jumped out of the car, the ranger said she should be on a leash. The thing is, Jed doesn’t have a leash, because she doesn’t need one. So my sister Megan demonstrated Jed’s heeling and obedience abilities, which made the ranger say he wished his kids were as good as Jed, and told us to go on down to the light house. Jed sat nicely by the light house until we came out and said she could come with us to watch whales.

The whales are migrating back from Baja, and they are closer to the coast during their home migration than they are on their way south in the winter. So we had good views of giant tails, spouting blow holes, and massive, curving backs carving the cold waves. It was amazing. The rangers had a box of binoculars so you could see the amazing creatures up close.

But the ranger we encountered at Van Damme State Park was a dramatic contrast to the Pt. Cabrillo rangers. Megan and I were throwing the ball for Jed, who despite the chilly temperature, was happily chasing the ball into the ocean, swimming around, and then bringing it back to us, bounding with joy. Megan noticed the ranger approaching before I did, and said, “Oh, great.” He came up to us and said Jed couldn’t be on the beach without a leash. Megan apologized, put Jed on a heel, and we started back to the car immediately.

Either this wasn’t enough for him, or he just felt like exercising his authority that day (and it’s never wise to argue with a man carrying a gun, especially in a small town, where you know you’ll see him again), but he actually ran Megan’s license and put a warning on it. He also acted like he was doing us a giant favor by not giving her a ticket. Megan was really mad, and we got home in record time — without a ticket.

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Mar 15 2002

Au revoir

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OK, kiddies, I’m off to visit my brother & sister in the country for a long weekend, leaving John to his own devices (staying up late, watching horror movies, eating frightening junk food). But never fear, here’s your Friday Love/Hate (see below). Have a good one!

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Mar 15 2002

Love/Hate: Birthdays

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Love/Hate, Friday, March 15, 2002


John and I both turn 40 this banner year. He is much older than I am, since his birthday is in April and mine is in distant June, but his feelings about his birthday verge from the indifferent to active dislike, whereas I love my birthday. I always have. There have only been two birthdays where I had mixed emotions:

1. When I was 8, going on 9 (at what age do you stop “going on” or being a fraction, like 5 and 1/2? Probably when you realize growing up is much less fun than you previously thought) and my mother was expecting my little sister Megan on MY birthday. Of all days. I considered this an outrage, since it was my birthday and that’s what counted. Clearly, having a baby born on my birthday would take attention way from me on the one day when I should be able to count on it. But good news, she was born 9 days before my birthday. And OK, she did come home from the hospital on my birthday, but it was after the cake had been eaten by my friends and me and thus was more in the nature of a floor show than the main event of the day.

2. When I turned 30 and realized that my youth was speeding by faster than I could spend a thousand dollars at Tiffany’s, and I would never be a child prodigy, or any kind of prodigy, and pretty soon, high school boys would stop noticing me, and then it was just a greased slide into wrinkles and all the other horrors of aging and then death and oh my GOD is that a wrinkle?! John applied jewelry, which calmed me down considerably. Guys, note this technique for future reference.

But other than that, I love my birthday. It is completely satisfactory. I like the date (June 4) and it isn’t during one of those bummer months with bad weather, not that there’s real weather in San Francisco, but still. I grew up in upstate New York, and it was nice enough to have my birthday party outside, but it was not yet the zillion degrees that made us flee to Maine every summer, and there weren’t mosquitoes yet. School was almost over, the glorious summer vacation stretching ahead.

Also, my birthday is not on or near a holiday, so I don’t get chintzed on the presents, which is, after all, one of the best things about birthdays. My birthday is conveniently located 6 months before (or depending on how you look at it, after) Christmas, the other major present date of the year, and what could be better than that? The people I know with birthdays even 2 or 3 weeks before Christmas get routinely ripped off and made to do with a combined present, which is one of the worst notions ever invented, right up there with Republican presidents and school all year round.

My birthday is the one day of the year which should be exactly as I want. I feel like that about the other 364, too, but it’s much harder to enforce on non-birthday days. I never, ever work on my birthday, because work does not fall into the category of what I want to do. It falls into the “I have to do it to pay the mortgage” category. So no work on the great day, and sleeping in and waking up sans alarm is also required. After that, we’ll see. It’s my birthday and I’ll do what I want to.

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Mar 14 2002

Yesterday (not the sucky Beatles one, either)

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OK, so yesterday was a fairly Z grade day as days go: exhausted and cranky with teeny burning holes in my face where my eyes should have been; endless crazed phone calls from my mother; mathy work requiring cognitive thought when sleep-deprived.

Now, bad days are always improved by getting the hell out of work and getting home, and yesterday was no exception. But fun things happened between leaving the office and returning home:

1. Saw a pair of red, high-heeled sandals abandoned outside an elegant building on Nob Hill, facing toward the door as if their owner had vanished before she could go inside.

2. A total stranger sitting at a sidewalk caf? said, “Hey, nice hair!” as I passed. I’m pretty sure he was serious, however strange that may be.

3. I stopped by to see my HBO deprived friend Richard, and his cat, the appropriately named Kitty Kelly, bearing a shopping bag from the Mus?e d’Orsay stuffed with tapes of the Sopranos, Sex & the City, and that 9/11 special (he taped from 8-10 instead of 9-11). I’m beginning to feel like a drug dealer. Lat week, he asked to borrow Six Feet Under, of which he had heard much acclaim, and then when he was hooked on that, I hit him with the other HBO Big S shows. Maybe TV really is the opiate of the masses, and not religion. Anyway, it was fun to see him and have Kitty bite me and play with me. I’m still trying to decide if the bites are a compliment or an insult. She comes out to see me, and rolls around, but then she bites me. Maybe she’s just me in cat form.

When I got home, I discovered that it was an especially good mail day. Since letters have been almost universally replaced by e-mail, mail mostly now is bills and possibly magazines, along with the usual junk mail. But yesterday (it seems to be a list-y sort of day):

1. No bills!

2. A little welcome card from the allergist I first saw a couple of weeks ago, endearingly signed by hand, “Dr. Jeff”.

3. A whole box of the Caffe Trieste Mocha Java coffee of my total addiction, with handwritten thank you note on the equally handwritten packing slip. Also, they have new, cute packaging! I am the packaging fan the packaging designers are inspired by.

4. An original drawing by the tragi-comic genius, Lynda Barry! Dedicated to ME! And with an extra, spring-inspired drawing, too. Oh!My!God! Lynda, you are so Number One!

And just to top it all off, one of my travel diaries was lying open in the hallway, as if one of the cats had been reading it and was interrupted.

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Mar 13 2002

Sleep deprived

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I wish I could call in sleep deprived. Not sick, but impaired. Somehow, I don’t think my boss would take kindly to that phone call. “I’m sorry, but I’m staying home to sleep. We’ll all be better off.”

For the past three nights, I have fallen asleep exhausted, slept for 3 hours, woken up, stayed awake for another three or four, and then fallen back asleep for an hour or so before the alarm goes off. So I’m in the deeply sleepy phase when I get yanked awake. I am beginning to think I’d be better off just staying awake.

In addition to this, last night I had those weird dreams that leave you with a bizarreness hangover, making the whole day seem completely surreal. I feel like I’m sleepwalking (although that would mean I was actually asleep). According to the National Sleep Foundation, more than 60% of Americans are sleep-deprived, so I can stop feeling special right now. But if that’s the case, and since sleep deprivation has been shown in study after study to cause slower thinking, less creativity, memory loss, and an increased likelihood of accidents when driving or operating machinery, among other undesirable effects, we really should be able to call in sleep deprived.

I just hope I can make it through the day, not to mention the night.

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Mar 12 2002

Paris vs. San Francisco

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San Francisco’s mayor, Willie Brown (who refers to himself in the ebonics third person as “Da Mayor”, and I’m not kidding), decided that he’d rather be in Paris than attend his city’s very first coalition meeting on homelessness, which many San Franciscans consider the city’s biggest problem.

Now, I’m a big Paris fan, but surely Brown could have timed his visit better. Not only did Da Mayor commit this stunning faux pas, but while in Paris, he actually blamed the lack of safety and hygiene on San Francisco streets on — I do hope you’re sitting down to read this — the independent press, such as SF Weekly and other free newspapers.

Brown says that people open up these newspaper boxes and scatter their contents to the winds, and that’s what the whole problem is. Newsflash for you, Willie: that’s the tip of the iceberg. The real problem is a city whose mayor gave up on even trying to solve the homeless problem shortly after taking office, saying it was insoluble. But the City still spends $200 million a year on this problem, which has only gotten worse in Brown’s reign, and is as “insoluble” as ever. According to a recent Chronicle article, San Francisco has more homeless people than New York City, which has ten times the population. Something is very wrong here, and it’s not newspapers, free or otherwise, scattered on the street.

I hope Brown takes a good look around while in Paris. I have visited that beautiful city many times over the past 20 years, and I can tell you what Paris has that San Francisco doesn’t: a fleet of green street cleaners with “Propret? de Paris” on the side, which clean up everything from newspapers to Gitane butts to empty Orangina bottles every morning. Paris apparently feels that it should spend some of its tax dollars on keeping the city streets clean for the citizens who pay those taxes. How’s that for a concept?

And by the way, Willie: no-one has ever confused San Francisco with Miami, and they never will.

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Mar 09 2002


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We took all four of our cats to the vet today for their annual check-ups. Cleo has to have her teeth cleaned, Hannah has one of her recurring ear infections, and Sophie is on diet food again to lose 2 pounds, but otherwise, they’re all in good health. Jack, who is the naughtiest cat in the entire world, is absoutely perfect. But then, she is the youngest.

I almost had a heart attack when we got the total bill, though. Both Cleo and Sophie are now officially geriatric, so their blood work is a lot more expensive, and the bill was a frightening $750. Eeek!

It seems that we’re the white trash of the vet office, just like we’re the white trash of our apartment building. Dr. M’s patients include one of the best-known newscasters in the Bay Area (who had to give up his cats after his allergies to them caused him to code out not once, but twice, and his wife totally begged him to), and a millionaire who had his dog’s teeth polished so he’d look his best before taking the dog to spend the spring on his yacht in Monaco. I’m not kidding. Whereas we wait until we get our tax return and then take the cats in for their check-ups, and we could only afford to have Sophie’s teeth cleaned last year and Cleo’s this year. But we don’t love our cats any less than the rich folks. In fact, we probably love them more. And they love us back. Check out this picture of Hannah sleeping on my pillow last night.

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Mar 08 2002

Love & Hate #1: Buffy’s New Hair

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Love/Hate – Friday, March 8, 2002

John and I are going to try and start our very own Friday tradition, though with my limited attention span and capricious temperament, who knows how long the tradition will last? The idea is we’ll pick something and each take a side, one of us for and the other against.

And for our first foray, what could be better than starting with our favorite TV heroine, the adorable Sarah Michelle Gellar of Buffy the Vampire Slayer? We’ve been Buffyphiles since the show first started — though I must admit that John had to talk me into it, the premise sounding so goofy and all. But it has the best writing on TV, with a wit to match Frasier and emotions deeper and truer than anything on the small screen. And what other show could have a musical episode that was so fantastic I had to watch it twice (and I would pay not to see any Broadway musical you care to name)? Not to mention the fact that the cast is very, very cute and can out-act almost any other TV cast. So it’s completely satisfying on just about every level.

Which brings us to the topic du jour: what was Buffy thinking when she chopped off her hair? For the purposes of this blog, I’ll refer to the character (Buffy) rather than the actress (Sarah Michelle). OK.

I freely admit that I have long hair and in general, I think long hair is prettier. Some girls can carry off the short hair and look great, but Buffy’s hair looks like a little Dutch girl hat. I think the chopping is supposed to be symbolic and has something to do with her, uh, relationship with Spike (is there an “R” rating for TV?) and her coming back from the dead, but who cares why she did it? It looks icky. And I’m talking about a girl who is completely cute in a fast food uniform.

Also, part of the fun of watching Buffy in action is the contrast of the monster-killing with her stylish clothes and hair flying.

I think she’s already realized it was, as Ahnuld would say, a big mistake, because it looks like it’s growing back already. Hopefully her tressage will be restored by the time she gets married (the actress, not the character).

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