Archive for August, 2002

Aug 30 2002

Love/hate: Shaving

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Love/hate for Friday, August 30, 2002
Shaving

Shaving – I’m all for it. When I shave my legs (and I’m sorry to say that when a girl has been married as long as I have, it’s no longer the daily ritual that it was when I was single, the idea being, I suppose, that one’s husband is more forgiving of imperfections than potential suitors may potentially be), they feel like dolphins, and I love that. I’m also a big believer in pit shaving, for both aesthetic and olfactory reasons. Crunchy granola girls and Europeans be damned. Fuzzy arm pits would ruin the look of the most exquisite strapless gown or lacy bra. And anyway, I generally prefer artifice to nature.

Perhaps familiarity also breeds contempt for men, too, as far as grooming goes, because I’ll tell you, I’m lucky if John shaves twice a week. Even though he mostly feels that the entire world should be arranged to suit my convenience. Even though he knows I love it when he has just shaved and his face is all smooth, instead of doing a convincing cactus imitation which in turn wreaks havoc with my delicate porcelain complexion.

So shaving your face must be wore than shaving your legs and pits, since all men seem to hate it. But as usual, we women have more to do and bitch about it less. The ones who have the most work are definitely transvestites. They have all the boy shaving, and all the girl shaving, plus make-up, wigs, and other et ceteras to deal with. It must take them ages to get ready, especially since they are really guys. In my experience, girls always have to wait on the guys to get ready. But that’s another story.

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Aug 29 2002

The New Yankee

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By now, you’ve probably noticed that I’m one of those annoying people who remember birthdays and anniversaries and do their Christmas shopping before December 24. I might as well admit that most of mine is already done, and in fact I’m bringing presents for the UK twig of the family tree when I go to London on September 10. This character flaw, coupled with an indefatigable desire to get up early no matter what time zone I’m in makes me pretty much unfit for human consumption, but you have been warned (to quote Meryl Streep in Death Becomes Her: “NOW a warning?!”

Pause for slings, arrows, sighs of disgust, and the mental composition of insulting e-mails which may or may not be sent.

But to resume, today marks the day six years ago that John became an American citizen. The ceremony took place at the Masonic Hall on California Street, across from Grace Cathedral (which I always think of as the Ce-ment Church, pronounced Beverly Hillbillies style, because, well, it is).

There were hundreds and hundreds of new citizens, and I seem to think the actual count was something like 1,500, and that was only for one day. It’s no surprise to me that over 25% of the Bay Area’s population was born somewhere else.

The ceremony was moving, and at the end one of the new citizens, who had emigrated from China, led the others in the Pledge of Allegiance. He recited it with great enthusiasm, but what I’ll never forget is how he ended with “And liberty and justice for ALL!” with emphasis on the “all”. You got the distinct impression that this was a novelty for him and a real improvement, too.

It was a relief to me that we were finally finished with the hell of dealing with the INS and filling out form after form after form, all of which seemed to cost $200 non-refundable to file, whether they approved you or not. It was an astonishingly lengthy process, choked with bureaucracy and stupidity at every step, yet worth it in the end. To anyone else currently dealing with the INS: you have my deepest sympathy. And don’t let the bastards get you down.

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Aug 27 2002

Repo Girl?

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When you have the joy and serious responsibility of being the caretaker of a piece of American history, you look at the world a little differently than lesser mortals. Ever since I became the curator of Josephine, I notice other Mustangs, though I think they were really at the height of their beauty in the 1960’s and the new ones are unworthy of the name.

I was walking home yesterday and I saw a guy parking his a couple of blocks from Chez Moi. It looked to be about the same vintage as Josephine, though his was Tahoe Turquoise instead of Silver Blue. So I asked him and yes, it was a 1966. His interior was in better shape than mine, and he said he’d just bought it. So we chatted for a while, and it didn’t take long for the topic of parking to come up.

It’s hard to find a parking place ever in my neighborhood, and even if it was easy, leaving Josie on the street is dumber than a third generation Bush. You can start that car with a hairpin, and it has a soft top, inviting thievery or defacement (in fact, someone keyed her formerly perfect paint job while she was parked at the Pier 39 garage). Human nature: see something beautiful and steal it or wreck it.

Mr. Tahoe Turquoise said that a rental car place about 6 blocks from my place has parking for $129 a month. The catch is that you only have access to your car between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. But since Mom is moving to Petaluma and we’ll be logging a lot of miles going back and forth across the Bridge, (just after the toll goes up to $5 a shot from $3), I should probably bring Josie back from her country vacation instead of renting a car every time I want to go up there, or taking the bus. But can I live with the 7 to 7 thing? is the question. Thoughts? Suggestions? Notionettes? Lay ’em on me, baby!

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Aug 26 2002

And the winner is…

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Sometimes, television triumphs over the movies.

Our plan for Friday night was: go to the Oak Town Caf&eacute for dinner, and then see Jaws at the glorious Paramount Theater. But that’s not what happened.

Before I tell you what really did happen, I’ll have to give you a (hopefully brief) overview of the events beyond our control which led to the destruction of our evening plans.

John is a well known telephile in addition to having a lifelong movie addiction, which is why our apartment closely resembles a BlockBuster (though with much better d&eacutecor) and also why we have 4 VCR’s and a satellite dish. The satellite “service” is provided by DirecTV, which seems to be entirely staffed by poor relatives of the Bush family. For reasons unknown to us, DirecTV decided recently that the access card in the receiver needed to be replaced for the first time in the nearly 10 years we have had it, though they neglected to inform us of this interesting and essential factoid. So we didn’t have HBO and other necessities of life.

John called them, they said they’d send us the new card. This happened three times, though without the card ever actually showing up. Finally, John got so irate with someone high enough up on the food chain that they promised to Fed Ex us the new card to be here on Friday. By now wise to their stupidity and capriciousness, he asked that they check the “leave without signature” box, since we would both be at work, slaving away to pay our DirecTV bill.

So I came home from a day of slaving away only to find a Fed Ex slip and no access card. I called John and told him, and we foolishly decided to go to Fed Ex and pick the damned thing up before heading to Oakland.

I called a cab half an hour before the time appointed to meet John, but cab was late and traffic horrendous, as befits Friday night. So I was late, and cab driver went the wrong way, so we ended up at a steeet going the wrong way, at which point I abandoned hope and the cab, paid up, and got out.

Met John and decided to walk the 6 blocks to Fed Ex, having forgotten that the blocks south of Market are industrial sized, being in an industrial area. Felt much like the Red Queen in “Through the Looking Glass”, getting nowhere fast. Finally got to Fed Ex. There were four people behind the counter, but the line refused to move. We waited in line for nearly half an hour. When we finally got up to the counter, we were informed that the package was next door and would have to be brought over. The procedure, possibly due to the industrial-sized blocks or the intelligence ceiling of the employees (more Bush relatives? Was it all a conspiracy?), also took half an hour. At this point, we realized that we were not going to make it to the movie.

So we did the only possible thing: went to Victor’s for dinner. The warm greetings of the waiters, the cozy, humble surroundings, the excEt food, the cheesy AM radio station playing the Rolling Stones, ZZ Top, and other 70’s favorites, and a couple of glasses of wine were all it took to restore our good humor and faith in human nature.

I am beginning to think I’ll never see that movie in the theater!

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Aug 23 2002

Love/hate: Clothing variety

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Love/hate for Friday, August 23, 2002
Clothing variety

This may be one of the classic male/female situations that lead to clich&eacutes: women feel that one can never have too many clothes, and men feel the opposite. Women can stand in front of a closet stuffed with clothes and say with all seriousness, “I have nothing to wear!”, a remark greeted by her husband/boyfriend with utter disbelief. I mean, look at all those clothes in there!, he thinks (though if he is wise, he keeps this observation to himself). But what he doesn’t understand is that once you have eliminated:

– things that are too big (but which you might have altered, so you’re keeping them)

– things that are too small (but which you might lose enough weight to fit into, so you’re keeping them)

– things that need repairs which you haven’t gotten around to doing yet, but you will, so you’re keeping them

– things that are too heavy or too light for the weather du jour

– things that are too formal or not formal enough for the occasion du jour

– things that no longer make you feel good when you wear them (i.e., have lost their fun factor)

there really is nothing left in the closet to wear.

The same thing applies to shoes. At a working lunch, one of my colleagues said that when she and her husband were in Italy on vacation, she had bought 5 or 6 pairs of shoes. Her husband gazed at the new shoes with bemusement and said, “But honey, you already have a pair of black shoes.” All the women in the group laughed at the utter absurdity of his remark. All the men looked at each other in bemusement. Men think one pair of black shoes, a pair of sneakers, and possibly a pair of brown shoes is all you need. They don’t realize that women need shoes with heels of varying heights, some suede, some leather, pumps, mules, boots…the possibilities are endless, and if you don’t have the right shoes, it ruins your whole outfit.

You can tell that guys wrote Star Trek and other shows set in the future, because the first thing they do is get rid of fashion completely and make everyone wear stretchy uniforms. If the future is like that, or the most recent remakes of The Time Machine, where everyone lives in sconces and has the most deplorable rags to wear (and no jewelry), or Planet of the Apes, then no thanks. I would have a hard time living in such aesthetically unpleasing times. On the other hand, no-one has ever predicted the future with any real accuracy, so I can take comfort in that.

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Aug 21 2002

Good news!

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Before you proceed any further, I have to warn you that on the rare occasions that I venture to sing, the cats flee in horror at the first few notes.

You have been warned. Continue at your own peril.

(Singing and skipping):

“Mom got the apartment! Mom got the apartment!”

Yesterday, I learned that Mom was approved to get the apartment John and I went to look at last month. It’s in Peggy Sue Got Married post, you’ve seen the town. It’s as lovely as it looks in the movies – a farming town with a beautifully preserved historic center, on the Petaluma River. Not too big, not too small, and best of all, less than an hour’s drive from where I live, instead of more than 500 miles away, the way it is now.

She can move in at the end of September, so my sisters and I have to get all the arrangements made before Megan and I go to England. Can we do it? Stay tuned. And I’ll try to stop singing.

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Aug 20 2002

Too many books?

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Can a girl have too many books? I have to admit that I tend to just buy them, although I have current library cards for both San Francisco and Wimbledon. If I know I won’t read the book again, or need to refer to it in the future, I’ll put it in a bag and when enough have accumulated, bring them to the local second-hand bookstore, where I trade them for store credit so I can…buy more books.

The truth is, I am never going to have time before I go to England (three weeks from today) to read all the books that are temptingly piled up on my bedside table, luring me away from the dull daily tasks I should be doing:

Diamond Grill, by Fred Wah
Recommended by my friend Kathleen, it is a charming collection of memories, reflections, social and family history which center around the Diamond Grill, a Chinese caf&eacute in small town Saskatchewan in the 1950’s. Wah is a noted Canadian poet and it shows in this delightful collection.

Under the Net, by Iris Murdoch
I have read nearly all of Murdoch’s clever, witty novels, so it’s a real pleasure to come across one I haven’t yet read, especially since she is no longer with us. This one involves a series of madcap adventures on a film set in Rome.

Carl Wilcox Quartet, by Harold Adams
Those who think that reading about the Depression-era Dakotas couldn’t possibly be fun owe it to themselves to read at least one of Adams’ delightful whodunits starring detective Carl Wilcox (based on Adams’ charming, ne’er do well uncle) and see if they’re wrong. Wilcox is an unusual and engrossing hero.

The Go Between, by L.P. Hartley
Set in England in the golden era at the turn of the last century, Hartley’s book explores what happens when an innocent schoolboy, visiting a friend’s palatial home during a hot summer, acts a messenger between his friend’s beautiful sister, who is engaged, and her secret lover. Richly evocative of time and place.

The Bay of Angels, by Anita Brookner
All I had to know was: it’s a new Anita Brookner. I have all of her novels and it would be embarrassing to tell you how often I have re-read them. She is a writer of elegant prose and a keen observer of human nature.

Isaac’s Storm, by Erik Larson
John passed this one on to me, after reading it all over the house and staying up late in its company. It’s about the great Galveston hurricane of 1900, and tells the story both from a weather/science point of view and that of the people caught up in it.

Beethoven’s Hair, by Russell Martin
In 1994, a lock of the great composer’s hair was auctioned off at Sotheby’s. This prompted Russell Martin to not only wonder how the hair got to be auctioned at all, but to trace its history and to have extensive tests run on it to learn as much as possible about his health and what really caused his death at the age of 57.

Dead Sleep, by Greg Iles
Another one from John. We both loved The Quiet Game, so I’m looking forward to another thriller that really thrills. Maybe I should bring this with me on the trip to London?

A Darkness More than Night, by Michael Connelly
With the same hero as in the brilliant Blood Work (yes, the novel the movie is based on, and yes, the book is better), Connelly’s other famous detective, Harry Bosch, Connelly’s brilliant writing, and a great mystery, what’s not to love?

Renoir, My Father, by Jean Renoir
Film director Jean Renoir just happens to be the son of the great artist, Pierre Auguste Renoir. This delightful book recounts Jean’s conversations with his father, on every topic under the sun.

And that’s not counting the books I am saving for the flight to England, along with all of the August New Yorkers, which I am currently hoarding for the express purpose of distracting me from the horror and boredom of that 11 hour trip. The perfidious wretches only produced one issue for the weeks of August 19 & 26, too. Like they all had to go on vacation at the same time, or something. How inconsiderate can you get?

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Aug 18 2002

One Year

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dad.jpg

“As I watched my family sip champagne, I thought about how their lives trailed backward and forward from my death and then became borne aloft away from it. These were the lovely bones that had grown around my absence: the connections – sometimes tenuous, sometimes made at great cost, but often magnificent – that happened after I was gone. And I began to see things in a way that let me hold the world without me in it. The events that my death wrought were merely the bones of a body that would become whole at some unpredictable time in the future. The price of what I came to see as this miraculous body had been my life.”

— Alice Sebold, The Lovely Bones

Dad,

A year ago today, our lives changed forever because you suddenly lost yours.

Somehow, we have gotten through 12 months, three hundred and sixty-five days, without you. This is how we have to live the rest of our lives, whether they be short or long: without you. But we are united by, and find strength in, our deep and abiding love for you and each other, as well as the unspeakable grief of losing not only a father, but a trusted and beloved friend.

In the year since we lost you, your youngest child has become an Emergency Medical Technician, working alongside those who saved you that dark November night in Albion and granted us another 9 months with you. Your only son has become a full-fledged member of the fire department which also helped to save you that night, and is teaching science now – the only son of a great scientist. Doesn’t that seem fitting? Your oldest child is now running a homeless shelter to help people get their lives back on track, in addition to getting her Master’s degree. Your granddaughter is starting university this fall, and your grandson is over 6 feet tall and 18 years old. I think you would be – or are – very proud of all these accomplishments. We wish you were here to share them with us, but we know that they were only possible at all in part because of the father you were, and the way you raised us to be who we are and in the belief that we could do anything.

In the past year, I have received literally hundreds of letters, e-mails, and cards from people all over the world who knew and loved you. Nearly every one of them had a special story or anecdote to tell me about you, how you had touched their lives in a way that was meaningful to them. What struck me most was that this was true of those who knew you professionally or personally. I began to think that to know you really was to love you. Each of these stories was a gift.

I recently sent some photos of you to The Peregrine Fund. They are writing a book about how the Peregrine was removed from the endangered list, and of course your pioneering efforts will be included. The Auk is working on a memorial journal, and the journal you co-founded, Ecotoxicology, has already published theirs. I hear that The Auk may have to do two volumes because there are so many tributes. The books you left to the British Trust for Ornithology were received with joy. They are going to form the core collection of the new BTO library in Scotland! Your important work in getting DDT banned, among other things, will live on always, as young scientists are inspired by you and continue to cite your work in new papers, new discoveries. The beacon has been passed.

And for me? You have noticed I have no changes to report. Losing you was such a big change that I couldn’t consider any others. I have spent this year taking care of our family, including Mom, who is very ill, and your beloved Margaret. I think of you every day and although I often cry with sorrow and sometimes with anger, I am grateful every day that you were not only my father, but my dearly loved friend and confidant. We had so many things naturally in common, and we knew each other’s faults (I can hear you saying, “And they are neither small nor few”) well, but loved each other all the more for them. No-one can ever, or will ever, love me the way you did, and I am lucky to have known that at all, let alone nearly 40 years. That was your greatest gift – of so many – to me.

I love you, old bear. With all my heart, with all my memories, now and forever.

5 responses so far

Aug 16 2002

Love/hate: Stately Homes

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Love/hate for Friday, August 16, 2002
Stately Homes

I love to visit stately homes when I’m in the U.K. Though I have been visiting there all of my remembered life, I still haven’t seen them all. On my trip to England next month, I’m planning to see Chatsworth, one of the houses Bess of Hardwick built (one of the others she built, Hardwick Hall, is on my to see list, too, as is Castle Howard, where Brideshead Revisited was filmed). Bess was an amazing woman. Born in 1527, she managed to amass more wealth than anyone other than the Queen, whose name she shared. She outlived her many husbands and died at the age of 81, well beyond the normal lifespan in those days, leaving the legacy of her remarkable homes and their outstanding collections.

The great houses appeal to me on many levels. I am half English and have spent a fair amount of time in that sceptr’ed isle. I feel the strength of my family’s roots there, increasingly so as I get older. So I appreciate being in the presence of our common history, and the wonder of walking the same floors as Kings, Queens, and other greats of the past, noble and otherwise. I’m thankful that the National Trust has helped to preserve so many of these wonderful buildings, from Bess’ splendid mansions to Beatrix Potter’s cottage.

I also appreciate the sheer beauty of the buildings and gardens, their architecture and decoration. I think it’s wonderful to see centuries-old wood carved by the great and delightfully named Grinling Gibbons, or an exquisite Adam fireplace. Whether austere or baroque, I never get tired of the glorious architecture of the past, so infinitely superior to anything being built now. I have to agree with the Prince of Wales that most modern architecture is hideous, though I don’t know if I would go as far as he did when he observed that all the Germans did during WWII was to destroy buildings, not build ugly new ones.

Many of these great houses, besides being inherently beautiful and of historical interest, also house great collections of art and sculpture that would not otherwise be seen by the public. Even John has to admit that this is the egalitarian truth. The owners of these homes are charged with a great responsibility, both to their family, preserving their heritage for generations to come, and to the nation, indeed the world.

With the changes in our modern world, the introduction of income tax, spiralling inflation and chaos in the financial world, many of these owners do have to open their homes to the public to try and cover the crippling cost of keeping the houses in repair. It must be rather uncomfortable to have strangers walking through your home and examining it, and surely noblemen have feelings as well as commoners? And they may also be motivated by wishing to share the richness of their home and family history as well. I don’t think it’s fair to assume their motives are selfish just because they happen to be descended from nobility. None of us chooses our parents, and surely it’s only prejudice or jealousy to impugn the motives or lives of the owners of these great houses, who are preserving our common history for generations to come.

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Aug 14 2002

August

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I have never liked August.

For me, it has always a month of endings. We used to go to Maine every summer, where my father worked at the Mt. Desert Island Marine Biological Lab, or MDIBL for short. So all four of us kids were packed up the day after school ended, and we drove to Maine from NY state. We stayed there until the day before school, when we drove back. In retrospect, I am amazed at my parents’ fortitude, since it was a 12+ hour drive, and well, four kids.

So we had three glorious months of summer to fill with nothing but pleasure: swimming, sailing, climbing mountains, exploring the woods, seeing friends, buying penny candy at Bee’s (est. 1874), the annual lab picnic and the Fourth of July boat races. This is an unparalleled luxury to be savored, because once you grow up, you never, ever get that again. When August reared its ugly head, you started seeing school supply sales, a grim reminder that prison doors would soon be yawning and the joy of the summer would be over for another year.

In August, 1977, my mother’s mother died, two weeks after Elvis Presley (I find it odd that Elvis’ daughter chose not only the month her father died, but the 25th anniversary of his death, to get married yet again. But then again, she did marry Michael Jackson, which automatically puts her in the certifiable freak category). All of my grandparents would die within the year: my father’s father on Christmas Eve, 1977; my mother’s father less than three weeks later; and my father’s mother in August, 1978. They were all born in the 1800’s and lived into their 80’s, but it was a staggering blow to lose them all in such quick succession, and it didn’t help August’s cred with me, either.

And it’s not just my family. The dark month also saw the death of the beautiful, doomed Marilyn Monroe, just as she was really starting to get her life together and at the height of her beauty – she never looked lovelier than she did in the photos Bert Stern took of her shortly before her death. She is surely one of the few women who can make a scar actually add to her beauty. Marilyn had this to say about aging: “I want to grow old without face-lifts…I want to have the courage to be loyal to the face I have made. Sometimes I think it would be easier to avoid old age, to die young, but then you’d never complete your life, would you? You’d never wholly know yourself.”

The talented, lovely singer Aaliyah died in a plane crash last August. She was at the beginning of a very promising career and life, being just 22 when she died. The brilliant guitarist and songwriter Stevie Ray Vaughan also left us in August in a fiery helicopter crash caused by pilot error. Note to self: never fly with anyone in show business. It does not improve your chances of survival.

On the last day of August 5 years go, Princess Diana was killed in Paris. I remember waking up very late that night to see John standing in front of the TV, saying “Oh my God” over and over again. When he told me what had happened, I couldn’t believe it. A year later, I visited her family home and her peaceful resting place, overwhelmed with sadness at the loss of this beautiful, complicated woman who had just wanted to be loved.

This Sunday marks a year since my father died, suddenly and unexpectedly, in his beloved and native London. In the catalogue of death and disaster in the month of August, this will always be the worst for me. I don’t think I will ever see the advent of the eighth month of the year without thinking of the phone ringing at 6:30 in the morning and hearing my little sister’s tight, unnatural voice saying, “Suzy, Dad’s dead.”

6 responses so far

Aug 13 2002

Censorship

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I have suspected for a while that my office e-mail system, which is routed through the head office in Washington D.C. (where censorship begins for all citizens of this great country), has been filtering out mail from yahoo and hotmail, and other usual suspects. I realize that the point of this is to minimize or eliminate personal e-mails, but the narrow minds that came up with this concept failed to take into account that some people do send and receive work related e-mails from their personal e-mail accounts.

Yes, it’s somewhat unethical to send and receive personal e-mails at work, and to visit non-work related Web sites, but is it really any worse than long lunches or gossiping in the halls for extended periods or chatting on the phone to your boyfriend? These occur in any given office on a daily basis, and I submit that limited amounts of e-mailing or blog reading is no more detrimental to work than these behaviors.

And if you are going to censor employees’ e-mail, have the courtesy to inform them that you are doing so. I do think we have a right to know that we are being censored. But I only began to figure it out when friends with yahoo or other taboo addresses asked me if I had gotten their e-mails, and I never had. Final proof was provided by my husband, who had sent me a quick e-mail which included, among other news, the fact that he still, after more than a week of having the flu in the middle of summer, “felt like shit”. This offensive e-mail, which would undoubtedly have caused me to swoon at my desk from its appalling vulgarity, thereby costing even more valuable work time, was returned to him with the following as its SUBJECT LINE:

Your message did not reach its intended recipient (Explicit Language(shit))

And with this little billet doux in the body of the e-mail:

[Employer Name] filters inbound messages from the Internet in an effort to reduce the administrative burden caused by non-business related, explicit language, or unsolicited (SPAM) messages to our employees. The message you have sent has been quarantined by one of those filters. If your message should not have been quarantined, please notify us by REPLYING to this message.

Proof at last of the filtering, unbeknownst to us worker bees. And, let me get this straight: “shit” is too offensive to be in the body of an e-mail, but it’s OK to broadcast it in the subject line? OK, just checking.

3 responses so far

Aug 12 2002

L-O-L-A

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I have that Kinks song Lola on my mind. Maybe it’s all those transvestite hookers I see on my way to work in the morning. I leave for work so early that the night, in the form of hookers and people stumbling home with their buzz wearing off, is just beginning to give way to the day, in the form of stockbrokers. It’s a piquant mixture.

The hookers, transvestite and otherwise, usually say something like, “How you doin’ today, honey?” to which I usually say something like, “Pretty good, and you?” (imagine if we answered that most rhetorical of questions truthfully! “Barely able to keep it together, and you?”). Then we admire each other for a minute or so. They generally appreciate my hair (?) and jewelry, and I always love their shoes, though I could probably walk in them about as far and convincingly as a five year old playing Dress Up with her mother’s shoes. Then I go off to work and so do they, though theirs is far more honest, I think. I mean, you definitely get what you pay for with them.

We saw Blood Work this weekend. I like Clint, I do, but he is at least 20 years too old for the part. It’s kind of creepy to watch him getting it on with a 30 year old, even if that’s what he does in real life. I kept mentally re-casting the part (Ray Liotta? Gary Sinise?). For some unknown reason, they changed the ending from that in the book, which was already perfect. Though if you haven’t read the book, you’ll be fine with the ending. It was good, but not great.

Look at that. I didn’t give away the ending! Movie reviewers, take note. And whoever is responsible for making trailers, take note of this notion-ette: trailers should be appetizers, not entr&eacutees, OK? I don’t want to see the whole damn movie in the trailer. Just give me an idea of what it’s about and who’s in it and get out of there. Tease me, baby, don’t sate me.

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Aug 11 2002

A brand new car!

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Well, I didn’t win the Elvis car after all. I entered a raffle for it at the San Diego County Fair when I was visiting my mother a couple of months ago, hoping to win it and give it to my sister Megan, who had become the filling in a car sandwich when sitting at a stop sign minding her own business a couple of days earlier. Her tiny little plastic Geo Metro was completely totalled, and her seat snapped right off. Remarkably, she was pretty much OK, other than minor injuries.

So yesterday, Megan and her husband Rob took the insurance money and went to Ukiah in search of a new car. They bought a silver, 1996 Saturn! Our brother Jonathan checked it out on Carfax.com, where you can learn about your car’s past, whether seedy or innocent, before you commit to the relationship. If only they had a site like that for people! Megan’s car came up clean, so she and Rob drove home in a (insert game show host voice here) brand new car! Well, to us, anyway.

My 1966 Mustang Josephine is on a seemingly endless vacation at Jonathan’s place, in the company of his 1960 Valiant, Scout; his 1962 truck, John Henry; and his newest and as-yet unnamed 1970 truck. Rob has a 1960 Falcon and a 1972 truck (he doesn’t go in for nonsense like naming his vehicles). So Megan’s new car is the youngest and prettiest in the family, just like she is.

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Aug 10 2002

Work Malaise

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You know you had a bad day at work when:

– You don’t even have time to complain about it until the following day, your every waking minute and atom of energy on the day in question being completely sucked up by work.

– By 8 a.m., you have had the following sartorial embarrassment: you move the water glass which you are holding and which you have recently used from your hand and hold it against your chest to answer the phone*, resulting in a smear of lipstick on your left breast, close to your heart, which, like the Grinch’s, is three sizes too small. You repair to the ladies’ room and scrub it off your pale apple green linen top, but are left with a damp spot for the next half hour, looking suspiciously like the aftermath of a physically impossible lactaction accident. *shudder*

– You work almost 12 hours, yet your to do list is as long, if not longer, than it was at the beginning of the day. The truth about being a grown-up, or a convincing facsimile thereof, appears with blinding and sudden clarity: it’s an endless procession of obligations, personal and professional, and you’ll never get caught up. You do not realize this when you are, say, 18, and all you want is to grow up, thinking it to be a paradise of doing whatever you want instead of what your parents and teachers want you to, but in fact teachers are merely replaced by bosses, and you and your parents switch roles with you as you get older, and it’s a lot less fun than you would think.

– You have dozens of unanswered e-mails, not having time for such things. When my niece takes a few days to get back to me, it’s because she’s having so much fun. For me, it’s the opposite.

– You don’t get paid overtime, since you supposedly already make enough money, even though you can’t afford to rent a parking space for your car, and the monthly mortgage payment on your one bedroom apartment with neighbors above and below you and without benefit of parking space would shock and horrify anyone other than a fellow San Franciscan or a New Yorker.

Added to which it was a record-breaking 90 degrees when I finally escaped from the treadmill. I hate the heat, and if I wanted real weather, I wouldn’t live here.

I can’t believe that I’ll have to do it all over again on Monday. Why can’t we win the lottery, which is almost $50 million? Then I could finally achieve my life-long ambition of being idle rich. At last, something I’d actually be good at!

* How I long to be like the heroine in Salinger’s “A Good Day for Bananafish”, of whom the great J.D. writes, “She was girl, who for a ringing phone, dropped exactly nothing.”

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Aug 09 2002

Love/hate: Public Transit

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Love/hate for Friday, August 9, 2002
Public Transit

I hate public transit. In fact, my very first post on this blog was on that very topic. That’s why I walk to work and back every day, up and down the unforgiving, dizzying hills of this beautiful city.

Despite being exercise- and sweat-averse, I’d rather do both than be packed into a smelly bus, at the mercy of other people’s boring conversation and lethal cologne. I don’t want to wait around for the bus, either. I’d rather just go out the door and walk to work as fast as I can. I have actually gotten the time down to half an hour, door to door, and it’s more than a mile and a half each way. Yay me.

I think that’s partly why I hate flying, too, besides the fear and boredom. Basically, it’s a really big flying bus, with an even longer wait time to get on and off, with all the unattractions of the bus but with added public bathroom horror potential.

The one exception – and I nearly always have one exception, if not more – is the cable car. Yes, it’s Muni, but it’s so charming that it more than makes up for it. And some days, the temptation to hop on one of America’s only moving landmarks and be pulled up the hill by the H.G. Wells-type cables at a stately 9 miles per hour can be almost overwhelming. Especially if it’s raining.

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Aug 08 2002

Ramones, Republicans, and Legal Age

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When I passed the historic Fairmont Hotel at o’dark thirty yesterday morning (the Fairmont survived the ’06 quake and was used as the exterior for the hotel in the cheesy TV series “Hotel” before also surviving the ’89 quake), I noticed that there were a lot more news trucks, including one from CNN with a satellite dish, than usual, ditto cops, sitting outside. But I didn’t care enough to stop listening to the Ramones long enough to ask who was here.

Turns out it was Dick Cheney, and I can just hear fellow resident Robin Williams saying, &agrave la “Good Morning Vietnam”, “The Big Dick is here! Get ready!” So I’m glad I didn’t forsake even a moment of Ramones to be informed of this, since in my opinion even a dead Ramone (and we are rapidly running out of live ones) is smarter and more articulate than a live Republican.

Today, however, is my one and only nephew Ben’s 18th birthday, which means that he can now legally do (in England, where he resides under protest until he can make a break for it and move to Canada) all the things he’s been doing all along. I really can’t understand why we in the US will allow people to get married and fight in wars at 18, but not permit these very same folks a glass of champagne at their wedding or on the eve of battle. Surely the commitment to one person for the rest of your life, or defending truth, justice and the American way by putting your ass on the line requires greater cognitive thought than whether you can drink red wine with fish*, and how much. We should pick an age – 18, 19, 21 – who cares? I’m past all of them so it doesn’t affect me – and go with it for all these things.

This has been a public service announcement. And Ben, happy birthday from the old and short. Love you!

*I say it depends on the fish and the wine.

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Aug 07 2002

Summer in the City

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Here in the land of eternal spring, where any variance of the “normal” 40 degree temperature span (rarely lower than 40&deg or higher than 80&deg) sends its spoiled denizens into a tizzy, it’s harder to tell that it’s summer than it is in places with actual seasons. But I have noticed these tell-tale signs of summer in the city:

Just forget about taking the cable car. No matter which one you want, it will be packed to the gills at the end of the line, making getting on an impossibility. At times like this, I toy with the idea of having one or two an hour that are exclusively for San Francisco residents. We would still have to pay the $2 fare, but only those with ID showing they spend an arm and a leg on taxes, rent, and/or mortgages for the privilege of living here could get on. I might even be really, really magnanimous and open this up to all Bay Area residents, not just those who reside in the Magic Kingdom of the City & County. Yes, this is the real magic kingdom, not that stupid Disney crap. (Disney Land/World is my idea of hell on earth, and don’t even get me started on the appalling pastiche of the Disney Winnie the Pooh drawings. It’s E.H. Shepard or nothing, as far as I’m concerned.)

It’s beautifully, romantically foggy in the morning. You feel like you’re the heroine of a noir film, or a Raymond Chandler novel. You look fabulous, because the fog acts as soft-focus on the lens of life. And once you get to be as vintage as I am, you need all the help you can get. At night, you can lie in bed and listen to the deep voice of the fog horns. It’s one of the sounds that I miss the most when I’m away from home.

Streets in tourist-attracting locations are full of people standing around and looking, or walking slowly and looking, or looking in puzzlement at maps (the international sign for “tourist”), or in horror at the hills, so it’s hard to walk as quickly as I would like to. At this time of year, I am stopped at least once a day by people asking for directions, and I’m always happy to help and hope they are enjoying visiting here as much as I love living here. Many are from other countries, and I wonder if they find our accents charming as I find theirs. Somehow, I doubt it.

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Aug 06 2002

Happy Day

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It’s a beautiful day today. When I left for work early this morning, the cloudless sky was the eerie electric blue seen in medieval enamel work. It was faultlessly accessorized with a single sliver of silver crescent moon. The sun was getting ready for its day of work, too, getting glorious behind a veil of pale lavender fog floating serenely on the cold, dark waters of the Bay. Surely the sun gets dressed in Oakland because it has such a great view of San Francisco.

Today is Candi’s husband Brian’s birthday! I hope he’s having a wonderful, happy day. It couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.

It’s also Andy Warhol’s birthday. Makes you wonder about horoscopes, because really, Andy and Brian could not be more different despite being born on the same day. On the other hand, I think they are both totally fabulous in totally different ways, which is classic Gemini.

Last, but definitely not least, today is Jo Day. Ten years ago today, we first met her as a tiny kitten and brought her home. Our time with her was short, but happy, and she changed our lives forever. Every year since she died, we have honored her memory with a gift to Animal Care & Control, to help other strays find loving homes. And remembering the day we first met the one and only Jo always makes me smile.

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Aug 03 2002

Saturday Surprise

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When the phone rings at my house before 7 in the morning, I can be reasonably sure that it’s a member of my family, since they know I am congenitally incapable of sleeping in, even with the best of intentions. Of course, I can’t know if it will be bad news (my younger sister calling me at 6:30 a.m. to tell me that Dad was dead) or good. Wouldn’t it be great if they could make a caller ID that told you it was bad news so you could just ignore it and pretend it isn’t happening? I wish my reality was as stringently edited as “Jaws” playing on the Family Channel. I never want to know the bad news.

Since those in charge of technology development consistently ignore what I want, like the bad news caller ID and teleportation to Europe, I have to just answer the phone and hope for the best. Today, it was my city-hatin’ brother Jonathan, unexpectedly in town and inviting me for breakfast across town with a bunch of people I had never met before.

So I got dressed and took a cab to the Lower Haight. The Haight is not a place I go to very often, so it was fun to hang out in someone else’s neighborhood for a change. It’s a funny thing: although I live in a city, I don’t often venture outside my neighborhood or the Financial District, where I work. Jonathan’s friend C lives in a converted brake shop in a block of lovely Victorian houses. His place has a huge hammock hanging from the industrial-sized skylight in the livingroom, which also features a bar, found art, and a fairly impressive record collection. Definitely a bachelor pad.

A couple of C’s friends, who live around the corner, joined us for breakfast at the euphoniously named Squat & Gobble, where we had fresh OJ and eggs scrambled with chicken apple sausage. We sat outside with Jonathan’s faithful dog Jed at our feet, whose usual patience and good manners were rewarded by her very own plate of sausage, as well as miscellaneous breakfast food items that were surplus to requirements. It was nice to hang out and laugh and talk, especially since I had such an exhausting and horrible week. No-one can be uncheered around Jed. Happiness is, as Charles Schultz so truly observed, a warm puppy. Even when she’s almost 9 years old. Maybe especially.

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