Archive for October, 2002

Oct 31 2002


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Here’s your Halloween frisson of horror: The venerable Samaritaine in Paris has started charging for access to its roof, which has a panoramic view of Paris. I personally prefer the Samaritaine to dealing with the horrors of waiting in line at the Eiffel Tower and the slight yet terrifying sway of the tower, not to mention the overly close proximity to other tourists. Also, La Samaritaine has what the Eiffel Tower never has, and never will: shopping.

It seems ironic that a store named Samaritan (as in Good) is behaving as its antithesis. Unless you spend 30 Euros or more, and then roof access is included.

And now, a Halloween memory.

In the long-ago days of my childhood, back when England still used shillings and sixpences and there were no Euros, the rule in my family was that you couldn’t go trick or treating until you were 5. I don’t know how my parents arrived at this edict; many, if not most, parental edicts have a very arbitrary quality about them.

Anyway, my brother, who is three years younger than I am, was dying to go trick or treating. Just imagine the hell this boy was in: his two older sisters, besides being bossy and worst of all, girls, got to go out and get free candy while he had to stay home. Unbelievable. I think there’s something like that in Dante’s Purgatory somewhere.

The year my brother was four years old, we all went to a Halloween party at the house of our friends, the Cades (digression: Tom Cade, the host of this party, is the founder of The Peregrine Fund). At that time, they lived in a wonderful Victorian mansion perched on top of a hill. The house had its own graveyard, which was not unusual for a house in the country built so long ago, but you can imagine how fascinating that was to those of us who lived in houses with cemetery-free backyards, and also made it the perfect setting for a Halloween party.

The plan was that after the party, the parents would take the kids into the village to go trick or treating. My brother saw his chance and piled into someone else’s car, along with a bunch of other kids. By the time my parents realized what was going on, it was too late (this feeling became increasingly familiar to them as my brother grew up). I will never forget seeing my brother running down the sidewalk of the first house he visited with his bag of candy, calling out joyfully, “It works! It works!” He just couldn’t get over the fact that one day a year, all you had to do was say the magic words and you’d actually get candy.

At least one a day a year should definitely be magic.

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Oct 29 2002

What a difference…

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…a few days can make. Since I last checked in with you:

  • Senator Wellstone, his wife, and daughter were killed in a plane crash along with some of their loyal staff. Just heartbreaking. In death they were not divided.
  • 118 hostages died tragically and senselessly in Moscow.
  • The wonderful actor Richard Harris left us, and left the world wondering who can possibly play Albus Dumbledore in the remaining Harry Potter movies series. Harris was so perfect for that part, it could have been written for him.
  • I missed the fabulous Candi’s birthday (though I did send her a card and a presentette before I left town last week).
  • Stupid, stupid daylight savings time started up again. Or ended. Or whatever. It’s all retarded.
  • The San Francisco Giants lost the World Series to goddamn Anaheim. A place that has Disney in it. A place that is located in Southern California (and everyone knows civilization stops at Santa Barbara). I would rather have lost to a different state, even one of the square ones.
  • I actually had to wear a coat this morning, because it’s 57&deg and as everyone knows, that equals freezing on the Suzy scale.
  • I got home late last night, and have failed to unpack or wash my hair or anything, so I’m kind of fran?aise at the moment, with my hair all smelling like cigarette smoke (but at least not Gitanes or Gauloises).

But on the bright side:

  • It’s sunny.
  • I’m back home in the most beautiful city in the entire USA in my opinion.
  • I’m still alive.
  • No crises occurred while I was away, or at least none that have been drawn to my attention, so that means they didn’t happen as far as I’m concerned.
  • The boys I work with (I’m the only female analyst in our office) left a bunch of daisies in my office with a pencilled note saying they missed me. Awww. And amazing because they are still riding the bummer about the Giants and it’s so bad that not even Krispy Kremes can cheer them up. They’ll just have to wait for Time, the great healer, to work its magic, even though Time is an unbelievable slacker.

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Oct 25 2002

Love/hate: Junk Food

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Love/hate for Friday, October 25, 2002
Junk Food

Once again, I’m interrupting your main feature with a newsreelette. Unlike when you’re actually at the movies, though, you can skip to the main feature if you want. Oh, the dizzying freedom!

I’ll be away from home all weekend, back on Monday night. So I won’t be updating until Tuesday at the earliest, and maybe not even then, because all I will have to report will almost certainly be deeply dull. I don’t want to say where I’m going, in case one of you lives there and then I’d have to break my self-imposed rule (the most important kind) of the weekend, which is: see no-one except the Room Service waiter/waitress, and do nothing but try to recuperate from the Baudelaire-orphan-like life I’ve had recently.

And now, the main feature. At least you were spared animated dancing candy and soda and nannyreels telling you to hush up and behave.

Much as I hate to admit it, I think we do eventually return to the way we were raised. No matter how hard you may rebel against it, it seems that breeding tells. In some ways, at least.

When I was a child, we lived in the country in upstate New York. We had five acres to play on, and these five acres included a forest of pine trees and a creek. In the summer, we went to Maine, where we had a cottage on a pond and access to beaches and sailboats. So we played outside all year round and rarely, if ever, watched television. In Maine, we didn’t have a TV or a phone in the cottage, just the radio, and we never felt deprived.

Besides all this healthy playing outside, we also ate pretty healthy. Dad made dinner every night, and he was a great cook. In Maine, lobster, fish, and other seafood was cheaper than beef, so we ate seafood most of the summer. We had whole wheat bread. Edible oil products were unknown in our kitchen. We actually had to eat Brussels sprouts (to which I still refer as “poison balls”) and spinach. We never had soda and rarely had junk food in the house, though there were of course the occasional bags of potato chips and so on, but these were unusual and therefore really treats.

So when I was at my friends’ houses, and they got to eat Kraft dinner and Wonder bread and things like that, I was filled with envy and wished that I, too, could eat such delights. But alas, my parents persisted in their healthy regime, and I secretly vowed to eat nothing but crap when I grew up.

I never really grew up, and I’m still eating healthy. I have taken it a few steps further over the past few years, buying organic wherever possible, and we haven’t eaten cows or pigs in over a decade. Now you couldn’t pay me to eat the junk food I envied as a kid, so I am forced to conclude that my parents triumphed over their willful daughter in the end. In this one area, anyway.

Not that I never eat junk food. John always has a huge stash of it, and I have been known to partake of it (earlier this week, I ate an entire bag of Cracker Jack without his knowledge, and he came home looking forward to it to find that it had vanished. He took it well, but has bought half a dozen bags since then just in case), but I don’t buy it. I wouldn’t even think about it if it weren’t for John’s taste for junk food and how he has to have a wide variety of it on hand at all times, since you never know what you’ll have a craving for.

P.S. Has anyone else noticed that the so-called “prizes” now in Cracker Jack are complete crap and not even worthy of the name? You used to get little compasses that really worked, or yoyos, or secret decoder rings, or toy cars with wheels that moved, and now you just get stupid stickers.

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Oct 24 2002


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I have put up all the pictures I brought home with me from England. Well, there were only two, so perhaps it’s not such a great accomplishment after all. But one of them had the glass broken on the flight home from London, so I had to get that replaced. I fell and scraped the hell out of my knee on the way to the framing store and I’m still recovering. The picture, however, is fine. In fact, it never looked better (unlike my knee).

It now has new glass, UV proofed just in case, and the part of the frame which was slightly separated has been fixed. The old backing, which was ill-fitting wood veneer hammered in with miscellaneous nails, has been replaced by foam core and covered with clean brown paper. The old and knotted string it hung by has been replaced by picture wire. I have to admit that I feel a slight pang at losing the messed up original state of it, since Dad either got it that way or made it that way, but if I’m going to take proper care of it, it had to be done. The framer told me that the painting, a watercolor of a Scottish stream, is actually glued to the mat. Dad bought it when he was 12 or 13 (in 1943 or 1944) and it cost a shilling. I have always loved it, but all the same, I wish I didn’t have it. It should be still hanging in Dad’s study in Wimbledon, where he should be busily working or watching birds in the garden.

The framer also said that she often finds odd things when she opens up pictures like that. She has found dead bugs (some so old that they fell to powder when they fell out); letters; newspaper clippings; and even photographs. Sometimes there are other pictures on the back of the framed one.

The other picture is one we bought at auction together. It is supposed to be an etching by Manet. I can’t remember what he paid for it, but it was definitely more than a shilling. It says in French, “Painted and engraved by Manet” and has a signature in the corner. I have no idea what, if anything, it’s worth, but I just like it. It’s an old man wearing an elegant tie, or possibly cravat, and I find both the man and the tie charming.

When the 250 year old grandfather clocks arrives here, I’ll get it appraised, and I’ll have them look at the other things which may be valuable, like the Manet etching, the Wedgwood, and the Royal Doulton vase dedicated to Lord Nelson which says, “England expects every man to do his duty.” Part of me hopes that they are worth something so I can get all excited in an Antiques Roadshow kind of way, and part of me hopes they won’t, because then the cost of insurance will go up. But the monetary value of these objects isn’t what really matters. What really matters is that they belonged to my father, who loved them, and who loved me.

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Oct 23 2002

Doin’ the Co-worker Coo

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As I mentioned yesterday, children’s books are the closest I ever want to get to actual children. They are too short, have very limited conversational powers, and look terrible in evening clothes. In addition, there is always something coming out of them from somewhere: screaming, crying, pooping, peeing, vomiting. You name the vile bodily fluid, they’ll share it. So imagine my surprise and horror when confronted with full frontal Beastly Baby yesterday.

One of my co-workers was unwise enough to have a baby this summer when she was aged 45 (she still is), and felt we’d like to see the fruit of her labors. I freely admit that I was one of the world’s ugliest babies (even my loving father felt a pang of pity for me at being so ugly. After all, to quote Marilyn, “Don’t you know that a man being rich is like a girl being pretty? You might not fall in love with a girl just because she’s pretty, but goodness, doesn’t it help?”), but this one looked like an old man without the wrinkles, in the manner popularized by Jesus in Renaissance paintings (this one by the great Piero della Francesca, she added educationally). He also has an oversized head of cartoon-like proportions, which flopped about alarmingly on his stalk-like neck like a bobblehead in a hurricane.

When faced with a co-worker’s progeny, you are supposed to say something nice, especially if you are a girl, because you are supposed to love babies and have all them maternal instincts. I’m a really good liar and pretty good at small talk, but this kid floored me. I was reduced to “He has your eyes” and “He seems a lot bigger than his brother was at that age”, which seemed to go over OK. The Chinese have a saying: “There is only one beautiful baby, and every mother has it.” Or thinks she does.

It’s only fair to note that babies seem to be on to me. They are probably much closer to their instincts than we adults, faux or otherwise, and can probably sense in an animal-esque manner when they are unappreciated, since most of them scream when I hold them unless they’re asleep. I have the requisite boobage and then some, but they are purely form and not function and don’t deceive babies for a minute. So it was with this guy. Within seconds of holding him, he started howling and had to be removed, to the relief of all concerned. If you don’t got it, you don’t got it.

5 responses so far

Oct 22 2002

Lemony Snicket

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It seems to be acceptable to say you are a collector of children’s literature. The phrase sounds quaintly eccentric and rather esoteric, and I love that. Over the years, I have amassed quite the collection, which I’m planning on leaving to the Nation, since reading children’s books is as close as I want to get to actual children. The truth is, I have never outgrown my love of children’s books. It may be because I never really grew up, or because I have such a short attention span, or because with age comes a certain amount of nostalgia. Or maybe it’s because they’re fun to read.

My latest addiction is courtesy of John, who picked up the first three volumes of Lemony Snicket’s oeuvre at a great little store on Polk Street and surprised me with them.

Number one, they are unbelievably charming to look at. Aesthetics are important to me. Call me shallow, but whatever it is, I like it pretty. The books are a pleasure to look at, each volume a small, beautifully illustrated hardcover book with delicious endpapers (when’s the last time you even saw endpapers?). And who could resist a series of books called “A Series of Unfortunate Events”, starting with (what else?) The Bad Beginning? Now, there’s a title I can relate to.

Number two, no-one knows anything about Lemony Snicket. Also, Lemony Snicket is such a great name, and incredibly fun to say. Try it.

Number three, they are wonderfully written and incredibly entertaining. They have caused me to stay in the bath for over an hour reading them, putting in more and more hot water until I am in danger of becoming prune-like and only the previously mentioned aesthetic sense makes me leap out just in time to resume the dreary tasks of the day.

Parents should love their kids reading these books, because it will improve their vocabulary no end. Sprinkled throughout each book are explanations of long words, such as “…had been a catastrophe, a word which here means “an utter disaster involving tragedy, deception, and Count Olaf.” [Count Olaf is the bad guy in all the books.]

And finally…I love it that each and every volume warns you of the horrors within. The books concern three children who are orphaned in the first book, and spend the rest of the series trying to escape the evil Count Olaf, who wants their enormous fortune. And what I like best about the Baudelaire orphans is that their lives are worse than mine. It’s the same thing that makes people watch Jerry Springer and soap operas: at least my life isn’t as screwed up as theirs. Even if they’re fictional. Maybe they’d have to be.

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Oct 19 2002

Trip to Europe

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Here, at last, photos from my trip to Europe last month. I know you have been waiting anxiously to see them, and at last, the suspense is over.

One warning: since I’ve been to England and Amsterdam so many times, I take fewer and fewer pictures, so now I only take pictures of what I haven’t seen before.

So, without further ado, here you go! Enjoy!

1. The view from my friend Colin’s patio. No, not that Colin, a different one, who lives in a pretty little village called Colyton, in Devon. Aren’t I lucky to have two Colins in my life? Some people don’t even have one.

2. An old mill near Exeter, in Devon. It is now used as a crafts center, selling handmade items by local artists.

3. Old oak tree, Widecombe-in-the-Moor (pronounced “Widdicom”). Probably ancient. The Other Colin thinks it’s hundreds of years old. I think it looks cool.

4. St. Pancras Church in Widecombe, known as “The Cathedral of the Moor”. Built in the 1400’s. The first vicar on record is John Andrewe, in 1449. The church is made of local granite and has withstood centuries of wild weather very well. I think it has a certain austere grandeur.

5. One of Dartmoor’s famous tors, outcroppings of rough grey granite.

6. Dartmoor, the setting for “Hound of the Baskervilles”. Hard to feel the horror on such a gorgeous day!

7. Close-up of two different kinds of heather and the brilliant yellow gorse that cover Dartmoor.

8. View from the window of my room at the Nobody Inn, looking over the ancient churchyard of St. Michael’s Church. What a peaceful and beautiful place to rest! Unlike many very old graveyards, this one is still in use, the new tombs mingling with the old.

9. The Manor House, where my room was. The original house dates from 1241, though this part is from 1604. Formerly the home of Sir Ralph de Doddiscomb, who gave his name to the village, Doddiscombsleigh.

10. Exeter Cathedral. One of the most beautiful and imposing churches in England, it retains its Norman (1114) towers, but was mostly re-built in 1270. The site itself has been used for Christian worship since the 5th century.

11. The burial mound of King R?dwald, one of the earliest English Kings (599-625), at Sutton Hoo in East Anglia. R?dwald was buried in a ship, along with marvellous artifacts. The mound was discovered in the 1930’s by an amateur local archeologist, Basil Brown.

12. The burial mounds of a young warrior and his faithful horse at Sutton Hoo, dating from King R?dwald’s time. The warrior’s presence in the royal graveyard suggests that he was either royal himself, or a favorite of the King.

13. New housing development in the Docklands of Amsterdam. Believe it or not, this is partly council housing or projects. In Amsterdam, low-income housing is mixed in with other housing, to avoid ghettos.

14. Rainbow over a canal in Amsterdam.

15. The wealthiest area of the new docklands development. No council housing here. I love the boats being drawn up to the houses – it reminds me of Venice.

16. Wild bridge in Amsterdam. Crossing it, with its sinuous shape and mesh floor, made me feel like I was on an acid trip. Very weird. Yet it looks so normal from a distance. Kind of like me.

17. And finally: is this the perfect poster for my niece’s first University dorm room, or what?

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Oct 18 2002

Love/hate: Being on time

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Love/hate for Friday, October 18, 2002
Being on time

Much important than today’s love/hate is that today is Jed the wonder dog’s birthday! Not that she is allowed to get any older, since we want her around forever. I have never met another dog like her: not just cute as a button, but smart, lovable, and impeccably behaved at all times, much better than the average human being. No wonder she is my brother’s best friend!

Now back to your regularly scheduled program.

I have already admitted to the horrible truth of being a morning person, so it probably won’t appall you much further to learn that I love to be on time, too. I am always on time unless circumstances over which I have no control (earthquakes; road works; anything to do with my mother) detain me (and you can imagine that I don’t respond well to delay, being both a control freak and terminally impatient at the best of times).

Either that, or early, which is how I end up killing two hours in the Red Carpet Lounge whenever I fly anywhere. But that does give me time to consume the essential pre-flight drugs and alcohol. And I’d rather have that than be running to the gate because I’m late and the flight is boarding. There are far better reasons for sweating and heart-pounding than getting to the airport late and reaping the unpleasant consequences. So despite my fear and loathing of boredom, I’d rather be on time or early.

I think it’s rude to be late when meeting a friend or keeping an appointment. It suggests that your time is more valuable than the other person’s, and they can just wait for you to show up when you’re good and ready. Even at work, I like to get in a few minutes before I’m due to start, so I can get spring water and a cup of green tea and get settled before the phone starts ringing. I know they say “Better late than never”, but I think, “Better to never be late.”

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Oct 17 2002


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Not that I’m superstitious or anything, but…

Today marks the unlucky 13th anniversary of the unlucky 1989 earthquake, or the Loma Prieta Quake, as we call it around here (Loma Prieta being the fault line which kindly brought us this natural disaster). It measured 6.7 on the Richter Scale (for comparison purposes, the 1906 quake, which is still the one to beat, clocked in at 8.25).

And when did the 1989 quake strike? Yes, during the World Series. And yes, this was the last time two California teams were in the world series. Coincidence?

Before you start thinking this was written by an imposter and I’m really being held hostage somewhere, it’s pretty much impossible even for those of us who live a sports-free life not to know that the Giants are in the World Series, especially when you are the only girl working with three boys and all they can talk about is how the Giants are in the World Series.

I just realized that the ’06 quake was around 5 in the morning, and the ’89 around 5 in the afternoon. Hmmm. Not that it means anything, of course. But I’m glad we have all that water and canned food and an earthquake plan, anyway. If you don’t have one, and might need one (we San Franciscans all pretty much accept that it’s a case of when, not if), here’s some useful info.

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Oct 16 2002


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Did I mention that all those errands the other day were literally run? Meaning that I walked everywhere, except when gravity got the better of me. So the environment wasn’t hurt, just me. My left knee isn’t bad, but the right one looks and feels like hell. I have been treating it with tea tree oil and Burt’s Bees Res-Q Ointment but it’s still in glorious and painful Technicolor.

But this minor physical ailment is nothing compared to the pain of my coworker C, who lost her father last week. The funeral was yesterday, and I couldn’t help but remember how I felt on the day of my father’s memorial service, namely, that I wanted to run down the street screaming. So I thought of C and wished her the strength and courage she needed yesterday and for the rest of her life.

You have probably noticed by now that death is never far from my thoughts. Once the shadow has fallen over your life, it’s pretty much impossible to ignore the fact of its existence. So I was thinking about my Dad’s service and how the stated purpose was to be a celebration of his life. But how can you feel like celebrating when the person you love enough to attend their funeral is gone forever?

It’s like Jeff Goldblum’s character said in The Big Chill, “They throw a great party for you on the one day they know you can’t come.” So my question is, why don’t we celebrate each others’ lives while we still have them? Why are we more likely to gather together when someone is gone than when they are there to hear how much we care about them?

2 responses so far

Oct 15 2002

Show & Tell

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Here’s what I did yesterday:
By Suzy

  • Worked all day.
  • Sent flowers to our vet and her staff to thank them for finding an excEt home for two of my mother’s cats which she couldn’t keep in her new apartment.
  • Dropped off film of damage done to my Mom’s stuff during her move from San Diego to Petaluma to be developed and sent to the offending movers.
  • Wrote complaint letter to movers (bonus: writing letter helped to dispel complete outrage at movers’ incompetence) and sent it registered mail.
  • Went to the drug store.
  • Bought groceries and lugged them home.
  • Downloaded more photos of move-induced damage from digital camera to Ofoto and ordered prints to be sent with the other photos once developed.
  • Brought one of my father’s paintings to framing store to have glass broken on the flight from London replaced.
  • While en route to framing store, twisted ankle on uneven pavement and fell to my knees, which now have a serious case of road rash and are quite swollen and even less fit for public viewing than usual (bonus: glass was already broken on painting, so only damage was to me and my pride). Oww, though. And still.
  • Picked up sympathy card for co-worker whose father passed away a few days ago, wrote heart-felt message and mailed it.
  • Went to the vet’s to pay for boarding my mother’s cats before they were adopted. Bill for boarding, etc. $600. SIX HUNDRED DOLLARS.
  • Paid bill and managed not to faint.
  • Went home and did all the usual daily tasks, including feeding cats and making dinner.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

9 responses so far

Oct 13 2002

Good day, bad day

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For a person who aspires to idleness, I seem to be very busy. Maybe that’s the whole reason I have these lazy aspirations. Or maybe my career goal of idle rich is always in the back of my mind.

Kathleen met me at work on Friday afternoon and we walked to the bar together. (I wonder if all that uphill walking even came close to obliterating all those wine calories?) We stopped off at Shelley’s Jewelry on the way, where Kathleen bought a gorgeous ring and pendant, both silver set with stunning fire opals. They aren’t her birth stone, but they are her favorites (like me with diamonds), and they look damn good on her. She looks damn good anyway. No wonder she would never even consider botox, since it’s completely unnecessary in her case, and that she can contemplate her 20th high school reunion qualm-free, knowing she’ll knock everyone on their collective ass when she walks in wearing that vintage black velvet dress.

We met more friends at the bar, and it was so good to catch up with them that I stayed later than I had intended. And although I had three glasses of wine (gasp!), I didn’t have a hangover when I woke up at 6 am on Saturday, which was a pleasant surprise. I left for my Mom’s place around 8 am, crossing the Golden Gate Bridge in fog so thick that the towers of the bridge were completely invisible.

The fog vanished quickly once I got to Marin, and it was 80 degrees in Petaluma yesterday. Mom is settling into her new home, but not without the usual melodrama. I made dinner for us, including my famous cheese biscuits, and all four of us kids were together with Mom for the first time since Dad’s death last year, which sounds all heart-warming and Norman Rockwell but wasn’t. It was a nightmare day. There were several important and unpleasant issues to be dealt with, and Mom’s reaction to each of them was to throw a fit like a three year old, screaming and crying, etc., to avoid facing the [usually terrible] consequences of her [unfailingly stupid and destructive] actions. My brother and I both went home last night, but my sisters are still in the little casita of hell up there. I guess I better call them before I add “bad sister” to my “bad daughter” credential.

One good thing that came out of it was meeting Mom’s next door neighbor, Dave. He used to be a jazz musician who played with Harry James! And his son Kevin is a really cool guy who happens to live three blocks away from me. So the day wasn’t all bad. Just mostly.

3 responses so far

Oct 11 2002

Love/hate: Wine

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Love/hate for Friday, October 11, 2002

It’s especially fitting that today’s “Love/hate” is about wine, because I’m going out for a glass or dozen of wine tonight with my friend Kathleen, who is gracing San Francisco with her presence this week, to the detriment and despair of Detroit, her hometown. How’s that for alliteration?

I guess it’s not surprising that I love champagne, since I’m the fizzy side of this blog. I am also a hopeless luxury addict. I tried to like beer when I was poor, in college, and a luxe-addict wannabe, but it never took. I remain, and always will be, a champagne kind of girl.

Not that I limit myself to champagne in matters of wine. I can always be found buying Beaujolais Nouveau on the third Thursday in November, for example. And I have happy memories of visiting the major wine-producing areas of France and Italy, where you can taste and buy wine not shipped outside the country. If I’m at a restaurant, I enjoy reading the wine list, whether or not I’m actually planning to drink any. It’s something like reading recipes, in the sense that I “taste” them in my mind as I read.

The study of wine is surely one of the more pleasant forms of homework, whether you travel abroad or just through your local wine merchant’s. Drinking wine makes any occasional more special, and certainly more convivial, with its “ability to banish care”, as Thomas Jefferson observed. It complements food like no other beverage, and is now considered to be good for one’s health, though you shouldn’t let that deter you. It’s a pleasure to be savored in good company.

3 responses so far

Oct 09 2002

Personal Space

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You know your mailman reads your postcards, don’t you? Yet I was surprised to actually catch one in the act yesterday on my way home. This federal employee was not in my own neighborhood, but a neighboring neighborhood, and was leaning casually against the postcard owner’s door, reading it while having a relaxing cigarette. Somehow, it seemed just a little beyond the casual glance while putting the postcard in the destination mailbox, which would be acceptable even to Miss Manners, I think.

It’s like how people seem to feel it’s perfectly acceptable to look at whatever is on your computer screen when they come over to talk to you, either in your office or in your home. Now, if I’m doing anything even remotely personal, such as email, or writing this blog – things I would never do on my employer’s time, just like a mailman would never take a smoke break and read other people’s mail on his employer’s time – I minimize that window and try to look productive (it helps to always have actual work going at the same time so the switch is fast & easy, the way I like nearly everything). Though my observation is that most people don’t, and that they don’t seem to mind other people checking out what’s on their computer screen.

So the question is: where and what are the personal boundaries?

3 responses so far

Oct 08 2002


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An informal survey of Southern friends reveals that grape is the preferred flavor of jelly for egg or sausage McMuffins. None of them even questioned the jelly’s presence. So it must be a regional delicacy. But jelly with cheese just seems so wrong. Like fish on pizza.

Beth flew in on Delta, and had both a bumpy flight and landing. This seems to be so common when flying on Delta that I just have to wonder. Did they miss the smooth flight and landing class most pilots seem to have taken, like how I must have missed the girl class in how to keep my bra straps up (they are forever slipping)? Or are they doing it on purpose, for some unknown reason? Enquiring minds want to know, and I for one am not planning to take Delta anywhere ever. Flying is scary enough as it is, thank you.

One mystery I think I have solved is all those October birthdays. I know 12 people with birthdays in October, more than any other month of the year. I have come to the conclusion that it’s all those New Year’s parties: drunk, happy people throwing inhibition and birth control to the winds, resulting in a harvest of October babies!

4 responses so far

Oct 07 2002

Death Row Birthday

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Here’s a novel way to spend your birthday: visiting a wrongly convicted prisoner on Death Row in Georgia.

That’s what my sister Beth – yes, the one who lives in England – did on Saturday. She is a Quaker, and in addition to being pacifist, they are also, not surprisingly, against the death penalty. One of the things they do is to send Christmas cards and letters to condemned prisoners around the world, and in this way, Beth got to know E. She requested permission to visit him, which entailed months of more bureaucratic hoops than the IRS and INS combined, and finally got permission to visit E. on what happened to be her birthday.

E. has been on Death Row in Georgia for 13 years. Last year, his lawyers amassed sufficient evidence ? including a sworn affidavit from the person who actually committed the crime E. was wrongly convicted of ? to demand a new trial. This was a year ago, and the court has been “too busy” to set a date for a new trial.

Beth said it was so hot and humid that the paper she was holding which permitted her to visit E. actually began to curl up at the edges! All she could bring into the prison with her were her car keys and one piece of ID. She brought two and had to return the second piece to the car. Apparently two is not better than one on Death Row in Georgia. Surprisingly, they didn’t search her, though she did have to pass through two metal detectors, have her hand stamped with ultra-violet ink which was checked on the way in and on the way out, and eventually surrendered keys and ID, which were later returned to her. Also went through countless heavy clanging metal doors which were immediately locked behind her.

After that, airport security should be a breeze! Beth is on her way here now, and I’m picking her up at the airport at noon.

Weird Southernism: Beth got an Egg McMuffin at the McDonald’s near the prison and they asked her what kind of jelly she wanted on it. Like actually in it. Beth’s horror was so evident that the cashier asked her where she was from. When Beth said “England”, the cashier said, “Y’all do things different over there, don’t you, honey?”

Beth did like the grilled catfish and fries she had for dinner – not at McDonald’s – and refrained from asking for malt vinegar or brown sauce, since they do things different over here, too.

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Oct 06 2002

Moving On Up

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The Amsterdam cold has turned out to be particularly vile. Not sure if it’s some kind of mutant Euro-cold or Flu Lite or just a regular cold exacerbated by crossing too many time zones and doing too much emotional stuff in too short a time. Whatever it is, it knocked me on my ass and rendered me unable to assist in the final phase of my mother’s move yesterday, which has, from start to finish, been like something orchestrated by Ionesco or Becket on an especially black-humored day.

Movers arrived late to pack up Mom’s stuff. Despite having been told that I, the arranger of the move, would be out of the country, they insisted on having a signature and person to go with the credit card. Fortunately, my brother-in-law was able to give them his, though later the moving company wouldn’t use his credit card, either, and I had to go and get a cashier’s check.

The move turned out to cost twice as much as we had anticipated, because my Mom has twice as much stuff as anyone else. Remember how she and my sister Megan went to meet the movers on Thursday? Well, they didn’t, because the truck broke down, leaving Meg and Mom to camp in an empty apartment. However, Mom’s new neighbors came to the rescue, with air mattresses, blankets, and banana bread. On Friday morning, they even brought coffee to the unhappy campers.

But the movers had not yet brought the furniture on Friday afternoon. Rather than renting a truck in Oakland, where the breakdown occurred, they had one brought up from LA. I’m not kidding. John made a few irate calls and got them to show up after giving them step by step directions – the movers apparently hadn’t thought to bring a map with them. So they didn’t even start to unload Mom’s tons-o-stuff until after 5 that evening, thus destroying the original plan of having them take the things that had to be stored to the storage place, since it closed at 5:30. So they just piled everything in the apartment and left.

My brother Jonathan drove down after his firefighters’ meeting that night, and first thing Saturday morning, John took the bus up to help. I stayed home with the mutant cold and tried not to feel too guilty about not helping. John, Megan, and Jonathan kicked ass, sorting items into “stay”, “storage” and “Salvation Army” categories, taking the storage items to storage in a U-Haul and setting up the furniture in the new apartment. The Salvation Army items are on the patio until collection day. So we’re finally done.

I guess things go wrong with every move. But we all pulled together, Mom has met her new (really nice) neighbors, and we’re ready to face what the future holds, together. Family, I’m telling you. It’s what it’s all about.

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Oct 04 2002

Love/hate: Family

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Love/hate for Friday, October 4, 2002

Yes, they can be (and are) exasperating. No, you can’t choose your own (imagine if you could!). But if you’re lucky, they are some of the best friends you’ll ever have: your family.

No-one knows you or loves you like your parents or siblings. They have known you your entire life, from babyhood to childhood to gawky adolescence to hopefully less gawky adulthood. When they look at you, they see all those earlier incarnations as well as the current one. You shared your daily lives in the same house until you left home, and I believe that sharing both the big events and the daily trivia – especially the daily trivia – create a bond that cannot be forged in any other way. And by the time you grow up, the people with whom you have this special bond are part of the foundation of your life.

You can always count on each other, whether it’s for an emergency loan, a shoulder to cry on, advice, or a hug. If any of my siblings asked me to hide him/her from the police, I’d do it without a second thought, and I might not even ask what the crime was.

I couldn’t have faced all the things I have had to face over the past year and a half without my brother and sisters. I will never forget my brother comforting me before our father’s thanksgiving service, giving me the strength not only to attend it, but to give my speech without breaking down. I will never forget my older sister’s courage as she opened the service with a clear gaze at the congregation and an unwavering voice. I know what that cost her, and I am still amazed. I will never forget how my younger sister could not, would not, let me follow Dad’s coffin alone on its final journey, and I know what that cost her, too.

Though I have known and loved them my entire life, they are still able to surprise me with new aspects of their strength, courage, generosity, and love. Together, we have faced the worst time in our lives, and have united against every disaster, supporting each other no matter what. I don’t know how only children do it.

I’m not saying we haven’t had our differences. Being stubborn and opinionated and unafraid to express ourselves, there have certainly been differences. There probably always will be. But when all is said and done, we’re family. That’s what counts. And I’m so thankful for mine, just the way they are.

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Oct 03 2002

Good news, bad news

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I definitely have a cold. I might as well have skipped putting on make-up on or near my nose this morning, ’cause it sure ain’t there now. Am very annoyed at breaking my almost two-year cold-free streak. On the bright side: I’m not in Amsterdam as I was last time. The Dutch concept of Kleenex (and toilet paper, for that matter) is in line with their no conspicuous consumption thing. It’s much closer to newspaper than Charmin. It would apparently be self-indulgent and unnecessary to have soft, cushiony Kleenex, etc. Even with soft, cushiony etc., I still look like the hell I feel.

I forgot to wear earrings today for the first time I can remember in my adult life. So I will be under accessorized when I have lunch with Richard today. And the earrings were right on my dressing table all ready, and really cute, too. Bright side: I’ll just wear them tomorrow instead.

My sister Megan is taking Mom to Petaluma this morning to meet the movers at Mom’s new apartment. If nothing goes terribly wrong (and that’s a big IF when you’re The Cursed Family), it’s all bright side, especially since it means John & I will finally have our apartment to ourselves again, after three weeks apart and three days of visitors.

Three reasons to rejoice, even if you have a cold:

1. Candi’s finally back!

2. My friend Kathleen is visiting here from Motown next week!

3. Last, but not least: Happy birthday to Colin! Hope you have a fabulous day and get all good presents. Nothing dull or sensible allowed.

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Oct 02 2002

Dutch Cold

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Oh, no! I think I have a cold. The last time I had a cold was also the last time I was in Amsterdam, almost two years ago. Maybe it’s the same cold, and it’s been waiting for me all this time. And I thought all those Amsterdam mosquitoes were bad (canals+unseasonably warm weather = mosquitoes, and they love me even more than you do)! For once, I actually hope I’m wrong.

Just noticed that MT thinks I’m still in Europe.

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