Archive for December, 2002

Dec 30 2002

The year in review

Published by under Uncategorized

It’s nearly the last day of the year, the traditional (and obvious) time to look back and reflect on the past twelve months.

I always say that I didn’t make any changes in my life after my father died, but it’s not really true. I didn’t make any outward changes – that much is true. All of my siblings changed their careers after we lost Dad, and they all chose new paths which help people: Beth runs a shelter for homeless people who are working hard to get back on their feet and regain their independence; Jonathan is a member of the local volunteer fire department and teaches science part-time; and Megan has become an Emergency Medical Technician. They are all giving to their communities, and I am very proud of them.

I still have the same job and live in the same apartment with the same guy and the same cats. Yet I’m not the same person I was a year ago. Most of my changes have been internal, but nonetheless real, and hard-won. With the help of my therapist, I have learned to understand my fear of flying, and at least some of my feelings about my parents. I have been able to take care of my mother when she needed me, in spite of our battle-scarred past. I went to England, visited Dad’s friends and cleared out his things as my stepmother requested. I have kept in touch with my stepmother at least three times a week by fax, and I believe I am a source of comfort and support to her, despite being thousands of miles away and not her actual child, but instead, a person who has grown to love and respect her for the remarkable person she is.

The most outward change would have to be that I am definitely thinner. I found that walking to work and back every day, over three miles a day, up and down all those famous hills, the best way to deal with my stress. It really helps, and it really makes a girl thinner. Then there’s the whole gym thing, another slimming stress reliever and I hope a defense against the worst effects of old age. So I am in better shape both mentally and physically than I was at the beginning of this year.

One of my co-workers remarked to me the other day that I was “more at peace than she had seen me in the past 18 months” (read: since Dad died). I was very pleased to hear that, and you know what? It’s true. Since Dad was so suddenly taken away from me, I have had to finally grow the hell up and learn to take care of myself. I have walked through the fire and come out of it as glass does: shining, fragile, yet surprisingly strong.

My new year’s resolutions:

1. Do things for Suzy.

2. Find peace in my relationship with my mother.

That’s plenty.

I wish all of you and those you love a year of health and happiness.

5 responses so far

Dec 28 2002

Fairy tale

Published by under Uncategorized

Once upon a time, in a beautiful city by a beautiful bay, there lived a beautiful princess. Like many princesses, she was indulged more than was really good for her, both by the handsome prince who had married her and the handsome king who was her father.

In those long-ago days, stocks were high and so were property values. The leader of the country was beloved in spite of his faults, which were neither small nor few, but as we all know, that is the best kind of love.

In those long-ago days, it hardly ever rained, and the sun shone on the beautiful city almost every day, making its residents, from the wild green parrots to the slightly spoiled princess, even happier than they already were to live in such a beautiful place. The people were happy and optimistic, which means that they expected to keep on being happy. Optimism is a very dangerous thing, as we will see, and very difficult to maintain for any length of time.

In those long-ago days, a magical being called Peapod brought groceries and other necessities of life, like champagne and spring water and cat litter, to the residents of the beautiful city. Peapod was never late and had cute white vans with peapods painted on the side. They always brought everything the slightly spoiled princess wanted, which made her slightly more spoiled and her expectations of every day life slightly more unrealistic.

Then one day, the beloved leader of the country retired. The people were scared. Who would run the country now? They were right to be scared, because a wicked and stupid man appointed himself leader, and things started to go wrong almost right away. The stock market fell, and property values with it. It started raining. Unnatural and natural disasters occurred. People stopped being optimistic.

But worst of all, Peapod left the princess’s city forever. Now there was no-one to bring her the necessities of life, no matter how much she offered to pay them. Webvan, Safeway, and Albertsons all disappointed her, one after the other. They could not, would not, bring cat litter to the slightly spoiled princess’s apartment for her slightly spoiled cats. Yet the cats did not stop needing the litter; quite the reverse. The princess was outnumbered four to one by the cats, and she did not like those odds. She began to feel pessimistic, which is the opposite of optimistic.

The princess was in despair and asked the prince what to do. If you do not have a prince of your own, you may not know how useful they can be at times. They can empty out litter boxes and bring you presents and walk dogs and even open jars. They make the dark less scary and can often solve problems, too.

The prince had not always been a prince, so he knew secrets about ordinary people that you can only learn by being one. The prince told the princess not to worry, which was good, because she did not like to worry and it gave her wrinkles, which made her worry even more. The prince went to a small shop he knew of and explained the problem to the storekeeper, who agreed to bring cat litter to the prince and princess’s apartment whenever they needed it.

This is not the only reason that the prince and princess lived happily ever after, but it is one of them.

6 responses so far

Dec 27 2002


Published by under Uncategorized

I’m still sick. It’s still raining. I’m not convinced that the two are necessarily connected, but I’m also not convinced that they aren’t, either. I am, however, convinced that daily dog walking in daily rain is not conducive to evicting a cold.

Worst of all, I actually had to vacuum my own house today. For the first time in years. It’s against all the laws of nature, you know. I figured the cleaning lady couldn’t cope with the sudden, if temporary, appearance of a pit bull at my house (and I feel exactly the same way), also my Spanish, though adequate for menus and getting drinks and even suppressing drive-by flirting, is not up to explaining rental dogs, so I told her not to come back until after Mom has.

So it’s been almost three weeks since her last visit, and with my dust allergy and untidiness intolerance, I had to give in and vacuum today. I really, really hated it and am further convinced that everyone should have a cleaning lady, even the cleaning ladies. Housework, like all forms of work, is to be avoided at all costs, and if avoidance is impossible, you gotta be paid for doing it.

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Dec 25 2002

Merry Christmas

Published by under Uncategorized


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Dec 24 2002

12th Anniversary

Published by under Movies,Special Occasions

It’s our 12th anniversary today, which is supposed to be either silk (traditional) or pearls (modern). John would look pretty stupid in either, so I think we’ll just stick to our anniversary tradition: watching Die Hard, my all-time favorite movie, and drinking champagne, my all-time favorite drink, with my all-time favorite guy. Does it get any more romantic than that?

Speaking of movies: in the spirit of the Top Twenty movie lists at ymdb, here is my top 20. I consider each to be perfect in its own way. List is alphabetical, since this is still supposedly a democracy, but Die Hard is still my total favorite. We all know that a democracy does not mean no favoritism.

All of these are filmed beautifully, and have incredible casts. I see that I seem to have a more romantic turn of mind than I suspected. Who knew?

1. American Beauty: It’s no surprise that this gem was written by Alan Ball, who also gave us the groundbreaking HBO series, Six Feet Under. It has the same clear-eyed yet macabre point of view, and rarely has something so dark been filmed with such light. Owes a nod to Sunset Boulevard (see below), with its posthumous Everyguy narrator. Best moment: when Kevin Spacey’s character quits his job. Haven’t we all wanted to give that speech at one time or another? And isn’t it cathartic to watch Spacey do it?

2. Beautiful Girls: Great ensemble cast. Timothy Hutton plays the one who escaped the small town they all grew up in and comes back for a reunion, to find things are exactly the same, but different. Natalie Portman, in one of her first roles, is absolutely luminous, and you wish that somehow she and Hutton could overcome the obstacles between them (chiefly the fact that she is 13, which should be repugnant on every possible level, but isn’t). Best moment: Rosie O’Donnell’s brilliant rant on why skin mags have ruined men’s expectations of real women.

3. Boogie Nights: Given the subject matter, it should be a whole lot more vulgar. An amazing d&eacutebut for Paul Thomas Anderson. He has the 1970’s down perfectly, hair, make-up and clothes – check out the scene where Mark Wahlberg’s character goes shopping – and the sensibilities, too. The film follows its cast through a decade or so, and while, yes, they are all in the porn industry, it’s really about friendships, dreams, and even love, just like The People vs. Larry Flynt*. Best moment: There are plenty, including the beyond Freudian reversal of words in the scene where William H. Macy’s character says, “That’s my wife with an ass in her cock”. Did Anderson leave it in on purpose?

4. Braveheart: It took a lot of convincing to get me to watch this one (it’s really long! All those battle scenes! What’s with the blue face paint?), but I was immediately swept away by the inspiring, true story of the great Scottish patriot, William Wallace, and his fight for freedom. Granted, the bits with the French princess are silly, and it’s not entirely historically accurate, but who cares? It’s glorious. Interestingly enough, the English are still all messed up by him 700 years later. Just ask at the Tower of London where Wallace was executed and watch them squirm. It’s not marked anywhere, but they still can’t erase him. Factoid: Wallace was tried in Westminster Hall, as was Charles I with similar results. More recently, the Queen Mother lay in state there.

5. Casablanca: What can I say that hasn’t been said a million times and better? Brilliant dialogue (those Epstein twins were something), flawless cast (is anyone cooler than Bogie?), a great villain (the inimitable Claude Rains). Black and white film has never looked more beautiful or conveyed more emotion. Best moment: You already know. Fun factoid: Bogie never says, “Play it again, Sam”.

6. The Commitments: Written by Roddy Doyle and starring a cast of Irish unknowns, tells the story of a band composed of working class Dubliners with not much else to live for. The film shows you the bleakness of their lives and environment without comment, and it forms an effective background for the band’s struggles, their kaleidoscopic relationships with each other, the beauty of their voices and the joy of their performances. Both funny and heart-breaking. Best moment: pretty much all of them, but I’d have to say the outraged Colm Meaney screaming, “Elvis wasn’t a Cajun!” Fun factoid: Andrew Strong, the lead singer of the band, was 16 when the movie was filmed. Jaizus.

7. Die Hard: Still the one to beat, it changed the action movie genre forever. Many have tried, but none have been able to match, let alone surpass it. Alan Rickman is a fabulous villain, a worthy successor to Claude Rains and James Mason with his suave, European elegance and menace. There’s no dead space in this screenplay. The action zips along non-stop, peppered with witty, clever dialogue. May have the most great one-liners of any movie ever. Best moment: The classic is “Yippeekayay” (or however you spell that), but I’d have to go with Bonnie Bedelia’s line, “Only John can make someone that crazy.”

8. Fallen: People bitch about the ending, but in my opinion, it follows its own logic perfectly, from beginning to end, and it’s full of surprises. It does a great job of weaving together horror, mythology, and real life. Maybe demons really do walk among us unrecognized. Look for pre-Sopranos James Gandolfini and Aida Turturro. Best moment: watching Denzel’s character watch the evil nemesis being transferred from person to person on a busy street.

9. Fight Club: One of the best DVD’s, and the first one we ever bought. Love the packaging, love the movie. It’s brilliantly conceived and executed, and Brad Pitt and Edward Norton make a compelling pair. Still fun, even after you know the secret. Best moment: again, that’s a toughie. Given my fear of flying, I’ll say the replacement airline safety cards, showing little cartoon people freaking out in terror. Which is how it really would be. Close second is the kid bursting into tears after witnessing the split-second amendment of the kiddie movie she’s watching.

10. Gone with the Wind: Technicolor all the way, from the look of the film to its melodramatic story. The greatest of the sweeping epics from the Hollywood of the past, when stars were stars. Vivien Leigh never looked as beautiful as she did as Scarlett O’Hara. The furor caused by the English Leigh playing the quintessential American heroine was not unlike that caused by American Ren&eacutee Zellweger playing the quintessential English heroine Bridget Jones. Best moment: once again, you already know. Fun factoid: Selznick started filming before the role of Scarlett was cast. And although Gable & Leigh light up the screen together, they didn’t like each other at all in real life. Leigh was reported to be completely repelled by Gable’s denture breath, and he in turn thought her an uptight priss.

11. Howard’s End: Best of the Merchant-Ivory/E.M. Forster ventures, and so beautifully filmed. Exquisite locations, especially the house of the title, and costumes. The story is essentially that of two well-meaning upper class sisters who get involved in a lower class clerk’s life with disastrous results, but it’s so much more than that. The entire cast is wonderful, including Vanessa Redgrave, who is lit from within despite (or because of) her illness; Anthony Hopkins, who is stuffy but not unlovable; and Helena Bonham Carter, about as different from her Fight Club role as humanly possible. Best moment: Anthony Hopkins saying calmly, “The poor are poor. One is sorry for them, but there it is.” Fun factoid: the house used in the film as Howard’s End is supposed to be the actual one that inspired Forster to write his novel.

12. Last Action Hero: Also directed by John McTiernan, who gave us Die Hard, this clever send-up of movies in general and action movies in particular has been mercilessly trashed by critics, who don’t seem to get the joke(s). Possibly the meshing of the real world and the film world confused them. Rarely has a star made fun of himself as well and as charmingly as Schwarzenegger in this film. Best moment: Charles Dance (yet another charming Euro-villain; I seem to have a real weakness for these guys) saying, “Police! I have just killed a man!” Bonus: the kid in the movie doesn’t have the ubiquitous bowl cut haircut favored in movies and television, for reasons that defy logic and taste.

13. Little Women: The perfect film incarnation of Louisa May Alcott’s beloved classic, the film is a visual poem, a painting that moves. Never has snow looked more beautiful. Pre-shoplifting Winona Ryder gives an Oscar worthy performance as the strong-willed and independent Jo, and Christian Bale is a wonderfully romantic and passionate Laurie. I still cry when Beth (played heartbreakingly by My So-Called Life’s Claire Danes) dies, no matter how many times I see the movie. Haunting soundtrack by Thomas Newman, who also gave us the American Beauty soundtrack and the theme for Six Feet Under.

14. Nobody’s Fool: Paul Newman should have won an Oscar for his brilliant, low-key performance as Sully, a small town ne’er-do-well who boards with his former school teacher, played by Jessica Tandy (in her last role, and a swan song that befits such an actress). Sully’s estranged son and his family come to town for Thanksgiving, giving the two men the chance to reconcile. Bruce Willis shows he is capable of more than action movies, as Sully’s employer, enemy, and friend. Best moment is hard to decide on in such a subtle film, but it might be Sully’s grandson “driving” his truck and saying, “It’s a nice truck,” in a reflective voice that suggests a lifetime of owning his own beat-up old pick-ups to come; or his bar crony airily wishing a friend farewell with, “Vaya con huevos.”

15. North by Northwest: It’s hard to choose just one of Hitchcock’s many masterpieces, but this one is so stylish and fast-paced and has such a great cast. Cary Grant is mistaken for an enemy agent by elegant bad guy James Mason, and the chase is on. Best moment: the scene where Grant is chased by a crop duster, of course. Fun factoids: the film’s original working title was “The Man on Lincoln’s Nose”. And Jessie Royce Landis, who plays Grant’s mother in the film, was actually almost a year younger than Grant!

16. Repo Man: Appropriately made in 1984, this dark comedic satire would have won Orwell’s approval. From the opening credits with Iggy Pop’s Repo Man theme to the eerie ending, nothing but fun. Kickass soundtrack. Best moment: Harry Dean Stanton saying quietly, yet vehemently, “Ordinary fuckin’ people. I hate ’em,” followed closely by his description of his enemies, rival repo men the Rodriguez brothers. Fun factoid: the film was shot in LA in six weeks, for $1.5 million, but still went over budget. Cast and crew worked for free for the last three days of filming.

17. Stand By Me: The most satisfying film ever made of a Stephen King story (why is it so hard to make good movies out of good stories? Why?). It perfectly captures the nuances of the story and its characters, and most of all, what I consider to be King’s greatest qualities: he is an excEt storyteller, and remembers what it’s like to be a child more vividly than any author I can think of. These are real kids, in a real place in time. You really feel the summer in Castle Rock. Still breaks my heart to see the radiantly beautiful and moving River Phoenix in this one, the tragedy of his character reflecting that of the boy who played him. Look for Kiefer Sutherland, long before 24, being a small town badass, and Wil Wheaton, before he got screwed over by those Star Trek idiots. Best moment: There are so many! But I’d have to say it’s Wheaton’s “biggest in four counties” moment with Phoenix. And, yeah, what the hell is Goofy anyway?

18. Sunset Boulevard: Gloria Swanson showed tremendous courage in taking on the role of Norma Desmond, the forgotten silent screen star who lives in her decaying mansion on Sunset Boulevard. It must have been painful for her to play what she more or less was in real life, and she uses that pain to create a work of art. She is tragic and magnificent. William Holden plays the hack writer who gets entangled in her web. Best moment: Swanson declaiming, “I am big! It’s the pictures that got small!” Fun factoid: the film originally started with Holden in the morgue instead of the swimming pool, and included other morgue residents explaining how they got there. But audiences of the day (more than half a century ago) were appalled by this, particularly the dead child, so the opening was re-shot. You can see the original opening on the DVD. Wonder if it inspired Alan Ball as much as Holden’s posthumous narration?

19. Titanic: Like Gone with the Wind, it’s a romance set against a historical background, and also shows how disaster and the end of an era affect ordinary people. The work director James Cameron did in reproducing the doomed luxury liner down to its smallest detail paid off. You feel as if you are really there, and it is sumptuously filmed. For example, the scene where the lifeboats are adrift under the starry skies (look for handsome Ioan Gruffudd, now the hero of the Hornblower series and the Forsyte Saga searching for survivors) is spectacular and deeply moving. Not to mention the “King of the World” scene with the leaping dolphins. Best moment: when Kate Winslet’s Rose tilts her stunning hat and we first see her beautiful face, a reminder of when Ingrid Bergman does the same thing in Casablanca, with the same breath-taking effect.

20. When Harry Met Sally: The romantic comedy to end all romantic comedies. Sparkling dialogue, wonderful cast (especially Bruno Kirby) – a fresh new take on the screwball comedies of the past. Best moment: well, yeah, I guess you have to go with the classic on this one and give it to the faked orgasm in the deli. I still think it would have been more effective if Ryan’s character had ended it with, “Sound familiar?”

Happy holidays, everyone!!

*Too similar to Boogie Nights for inclusion in this list, but it’s great. I really do think of it as a love story first and foremost. Courtney Love and Woody Harrelson are magnificent in their awfulness, as is the real Larry Flynt.

2 responses so far

Dec 21 2002

La grippe

Published by under Uncategorized

Well, I’m horribly disappointed in my immune system. I didn’t have a cold for two years, and then I had that cold in October after the hell trip to Europe and now I have the flu or something: fever, yet freezing and shivering; aching everywhere, including places that I didn’t know could ache, like where my jaw connects to the rest of my skull; headache in actual skull; stuffy yet dripping nose; sore throat. How unlovely is that? I feel, in case you couldn’t tell, extremely sorry for myself, and you should, too.

I’m going to go back to bed with tea and C Monster and a death wish and watch Gilmore Girls with my cats. It’s like I’m already a crazy old lady. Oh yeah, and it’s still dark, rainy and freezing, so I feel like I’m living on the set of Dark Shadows. Mmmpf.

4 responses so far

Dec 20 2002

Love/hate: Bare feet

Published by under Uncategorized

Love/hate for Friday, December 20, 2002
Bare feet

Not only is this a very unseasonable love/hate (unless you live in, say, Tahiti or Australia), it’s the last one for the year. We’re going to take the last two festive weeks of the year off, to be festive. Or slothful. But rest assured: we’ll be back in the new year, maybe better than ever, or maybe exactly the same.

But I digress (as usual).

Despite the undeniable fact, given that I have 30 pairs of shoes, that I love shoes, I also love having bare feet. One of the first things I do when I get home is to take off my shoes, which is generally followed by removing all the finery and other appearance-enhancing efforts I had so painstakingly applied that morning, which just goes to show that I really do it for the good of mankind and not for myself. Granted, having bare feet in our apartment does have the delightful contrast of walking on smooth wood floors and soft area rugs, but it also carries with it the hazard of walking into a hair ball, a thoughtful gift of one of our cats, or tiny little rocks of cat litter, deposited by Jack courtesy of her famous litterpaws?. But this doesn’t deter me from shedding the footwear.

There are few feelings nicer than walking barefoot on the beach, and I’ll take every opportunity I get. When I was in Devon in September, my friend Colin took me to the lovely beach near the little town of Beer. I wasted no time in taking off my shoes and wading in the water. It was warm enough to swim, if only I had imagined that England in mid-September would allow for such things and had brought a bathing suit, or anything that could be made to resemble one. But instead, I had brought sweaters and had to content myself with walking on the pebbly sands in the cold Atlantic water, reminding me of childhood summers in Maine (where I did have a bathing suit and wasn’t afraid to use it).

When I am at my brother’s and sister’s in the country, I love to walk on the grass of my brother’s croquet lawn or the soft soil of my sister’s garden, cushioned with fallen redwood needles. For those unfamiliar with pygmy forests, the soil is unforgiving and gardeners either have to import huge quantities of expensive topsoil or container plant, as my sister does.

When visiting my stepmother in London – including this past September, when the weather was more summer-like than it had been in the actual summer – I often walked around her garden in bare feet, despite her disapproval (when she was a girl, bare feet signified poverty). It’s such a pleasure to feel the blades of grass, dewy or dry, and be closer to the earth and more connected to it than I am in my every day urban life.

At home, I often have my morning coffee on the roof of my apartment building on the weekends. I love to sit there with my bare feet on the sun-warmed wood of the roof deck, watching the sails dotting the Bay and the traffic going sedately across the Golden Gate Bridge. Often, the wild parrots will fly overhead, calling with their distinctive voices and clatter of wings, and hummingbirds will zoom past quicker than any man-made time can measure. It’s a wonderful way to start the day.

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Dec 19 2002

Walkin’ the dog

Published by under Dogs,Schatzi

A peek into the whole new world of temporary dog ownership:

I was a little worried about Schatzi’s barking – John said she barked a couple of times when he left for work on Monday, but no angry notes or messages when I got home, so I guess it’s OK. The Same Names, who live across the hall, said she only barked two or three times when John first left and that was it.

She goes completely mad with joy when I get home, bouncing around and squealing and licking my face and unable to contain her utter rapture at my presence. I am beginning to realize why people have dogs, even when they live in an apartment. It’s the ego gratification. All you have to do is go home, which you do anyway, and you are greeted with the enthusiasm of a celebrity stalker spying his/her victim in the famous flesh. But with all the joy and everything, I could hardly get the dog’s leash on. However, no barking.

It’s a whole new world, walking a dog, especially a pit bull in post-dog mauling case San Francisco. Some people get nervous as we approach them, and I try to keep Schatzi close to me and as far away as possible from the stranger, just in case. Some people do want to pet her, so I let them.

Then there’s the etiquette of approaching other dogs. Even those of us with rental dogs soon learn that if a dog sees another dog, canine politeness requires at a minimum a perfunctory butt sniff. Still, I feel that I should ask the dog’s attendant if it’s OK first, particularly if they are walking one of those teeny dogs that could all too easily be stepped on unnoticed. They always say yes, probably because their dog is the exact same way, even if almost invisible.

The challenge of the entire endeavor is not lessened by the storms we have had ever since she arrived (and which are scheduled to go on through next week, giving me a very unpleasant El Nino flashback), making poop removal even less enjoyable than it inherently is. I’m sure others have noted this before me, but really, it’s impossible to do this without thinking that if aliens were to observe you, they would think the dog was the superior being. If nothing else, the dog is in charge. You have to walk it, or risk the stinky destruction of your lovely home, and you have to clear up the results of persisting in feeding it, or risk alienating your [rich and snotty] neighbors.

They say every man has his price, and I am surprised that mine turned out to be so low: $300, which is what it would have cost to board her and have someone else clean up the poop. Seems out of character for me to do it myself instead of paying someone else to do it, which is my usual solution to the unpleasantries of life, like housework.

But it’s not utterly unrewarding. There is the ego boost of the joyful welcome when I get home from work, and Schatzi has now established a routine of curling up on the bathmat while I have my bath and read “The Box of Delights” (me, I mean, not her. She is dumb as a post – or a Bush). She is already good about not going in the bedroom – we have forbidden it to her so our cats have their own “territory”. So far she hasn’t chewed anything up or peed in the house or anything, but “so far” is only a couple of days. So far.

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Dec 18 2002

Airport Insecurity

Published by under Uncategorized

The comments on airport security on last Thursday’s post, together with taking Mom to the airport on Saturday, made me think about the security (or lack of it) that I have encountered both pre- and post-9/11.

When I went to my mother’s place at the last minute in June this year, I set off the metal detectors both coming and going, and had to remove my shoes for examination both times, too. And that has been the most airport security I have encountered in this post-9/11 world, and it was for a flight within California. It does seem less likely to me that something would happen on a flight that’s barely more than an hour long within the same state than one going across the country or overseas, but then, I don’t think terrorists are known for logic.

I arrived at Heathrow on the first anniversary of 9/11, and although they asked me more questions at Customs than they do customarily, no-one searched my bags or anything. Some of the questions seemed really out of left field to me, like how long had I worked at my job and did I have family back in California, but then, I was 1. Completely hung over; 2. Completely lacking a night’s sleep; 3. Completely worn out from a scary 11 hour flight; 4. Completely emotional at the prospect of clearing out Dad’s things and being in his house, so pretty much everything seemed weird to me at that point.

Heathrow is the only place I have ever had my bags searched, and both occasions were long before 9/11. Once I was coming back from Russia, and they took every single thing out of my bag and looked at it. If you haven’t ever had your bag searched, be warned: they take things out, but they never put them back in. Instead, they leave your stuff all over the place, so you somehow have to fit it back in, which for some reason is harder than re-folding a map correctly and takes twice as long as packing it in the first place.

The other time, I was coming back from a long weekend in Amsterdam. They not only looked through everything – including opening a box of face powder and sifting through it and dismembering a tampon – but asked lots of questions, like “Where were you staying, who were you staying with, how did you meet them”, etc. I omitted to mention that I had been staying in the Red Light District, which was true, because that’s where my friend Alice and her husband live, but I answered everything else truthfully and without comment. These guys did not seem to have a sense of humor and I felt that I was teetering on the brink of being strip-searched, so I tried to play nice. I swear it took about an hour for them to do all this, and in the meantime, people were walking by looking at me like, “I wonder what she did?” And the thing is, I actually began to feel guilty. Eventually they let me go. I guess I just look like a drug dealer.

They take away a baby’s Winnie the Pooh fork and plastic hairclips and nail files, and now even in business class you have plastic forks, though I bet you could kill someone with plastic tableware if you really wanted to. Just ask any prisoner. I think George Carlin is right, and airport security is all an illusion. You just have to decide if you want to take the chance. I’ll leave the last word on the subject to George:

“Airport security is a stupid idea. It’s a waste of money and it’s there for only one reason: to make white people feel safe. That’s all it’s for. To provide a feeling, an illusion, of safety in order to placate the middle class. The authorities know they can’t make airplanes safe; too many people have access. You’ll notice that drug smugglers don’t seem to have a lot of trouble getting their little packages on board, do they? No. And God bless them, too.

As far as I’m concerned, all of this airport security — the cameras, the questions, the screening, the searches — is just one more way of reducing your liberty and reminding you that they can fuck with you any time they want, as long as you’re willing to put up with it. Which means, of course, any time they want. Because that’s the way Americans are now. They’re always willing to trade away a little of their freedom for the feeling, the illusion–of security.”

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Dec 17 2002

Baby Talk

Published by under Uncategorized

In addition to all that running around on Friday and Saturday, I spent most of what should have been my day of rest on Sunday (though can you claim that if you are not a member of any organized religion?) battling the elements to get to Oakland and back.

The object of the Oakland expedition was to see my friend Carrie and her daughter Miranda, and to deliver Miranda’s Christmas and birthday presents. Miranda will be a year old on January 3, which I find amazing. It doesn’t seem that long ago that she was a guest at Thanksgiving dinner, though an in utero one. Carrie went to the doctor once to confirm her pregnancy, and that was it. Her view was that she was pregnant, not sick. She had a glass of wine with Thanksgiving dinner. She was not your traditional expectant mother.

I don’t know if that has anything to do with the results, but Miranda is one of the very few satisfactory babies I know. She is good tempered, observant, and amusing, as well as very cute. You know how I am about aesthetics. Unfortunately, I don’t have any recent photos of the divine Ms. M., so you’ll have to take my word for it. I do, however, have one of the other satisfactory baby I know, name of Matthew (oh, and his Dad, too), so you can see his cuteness for yourself. This picture makes me smile every time I see it.

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Dec 16 2002

Weekend Report Card

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Dentist: No cavities for me, but John got my helping as well as his own and has at least four and possibly more. Looks like there’s some pain in his future.

Other than that, mild flossing lecture and complete removal of what little make-up remained after a day’s work and walking to the dentist’s through torrential rain.

Dinner: Mom and Alice seemed to cancel each other out, proving that there really is some truth to algebra after all and two negatives really do make a positive. And I thought I’d never use algebra in my every day life. Who knew? Though it did take 30+ years to come in useful.

Food was as cafeteria-like as ever, and the pouring rain and darkness didn’t enhance the usually stunning view from the dining room, which looks over Aquatic Park, the historic ships at Hyde Street Pier, and Alcatraz, which was too bad, since it was Mom’s first time there. It will also be her last, since the Officers’ Club is closing at the end of the month.

Mom: Treated us to a visit to a whole new room in the funhouse of her mind. She informed Alice and John over dinner that when I was a kid in Upstate New York, we used to cut down trees (we did have 5 acres of land, including a pine forest, and we really did cut our own tree each year) for every class in our elementary school, treat them with flame retardant, and then bring them to the school, where we also supplied the happy little students with hot chocolate complete with marshmallows. I changed the subject immediately. John and Alice looked bemused, but were too polite to comment.

She was driving me so crazy that when I went to the gym on Saturday, my trainer asked me if I was stressed, because I had the tell-tale flush over my throat and chest that I get when I’m upset. It was gone by the time I left the gym, but reappeared fairly rapidly after getting back home.

Took Mom to the airport in the worst of the storm on Saturday afternoon. Carried her stuff, got her checked in, where she was supplied with a wheelchair and an airline person to push her in it. I had to leave her at security, and as I hugged her good-bye, we both started crying. I am such a perverse little freak. She annoyed the crap out of me during the scant 24 hours she was with me, showing that I am:

1. A really horrible person, since I get annoyed at my terminally ill mother; and 2. A really horrible daughter, same reason.

Weather: Hell. We have been relentlessly pounded by storms and high winds since Friday, and it looks like we are in for at least another week of it. Jonathan was wise not to come down here. They got almost 17 inches of rain up there between Friday morning and Saturday night. Their power’s been out since Saturday, though Jonathan bought a generator a few years ago, so Megan can come and visit the electricity at his house when she’s tired of the silent, lamp-lit dark of her house. It’s funny how close they live to the 19th century there.

Jonathan got 12 calls on Saturday alone, and at one point, he and Jed were trapped in the fire truck on Albion Ridge Road (the road that leads to their “town” and the sea), by downed power lines on one side and fallen trees on the other. He just turned his pager off until help arrived. A tree fell and missed his house by less than a foot.

Guest Pets: I’m already sick of walking the dog in the pouring rain and scraping poop off the soaking wet sidewalks, and we’ve only had her for three days. She is a very sweet dog, but not very smart. For example, she pees on a hill with her butt facing the top of the hill. We also can’t let her in the bedroom, because our cats need their own place to be sans the guest beasts, who get the whole rest of the apartment. So you can imagine how fun it is feeding 5 cats and a dog in separate rooms.

At least Mom’s cat and dog curl up together on the couch, which we have covered with a sheet.

It’s going to be a loooong month.

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Dec 13 2002

Love/hate: Blankets

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Love/hate for Friday, December 13, 2002

I love them. And lots of them. The ideal sleeping conditions for me are a cool room, window open to let in the breeze (though this also lets in the noises caused by those other people who insist on living in close proximity to me, and other auditory undesirables, such as sirens and the roar of traffic, not to mention olfactory undesirables, such as cigars and barbecues), two feather pillows, and lots of blankets.

Even though we live where the temperature range is only about 40 degrees at the most, and we don’t get the extreme cold that curses much of this great country in the depths of winter, I love having lots of blankets on the bed. It makes me feel all snuggly and warm. Freudians will tell you that it’s wanting to be back in the womb, but given my ambivalent feelings toward my manic-depressive, passive-aggressive mother, that seems unlikely to me (as do most of Freud’s theories, to tell you the truth). But I do find it comforting to have a certain weight of blankets on me in the dark night. And of course, a cat or two is essential.

There is generally one or two of our four cats sleeping with us, though since they are cats, it’s unpredictable as to who it will be and when. Cats are as capricious as I am, and it’s impossible to distinguish and kind of pattern in their sleeping arrangements. They just honor us with their presence when they feel like it. Nothing helps you get back to sleep faster than a purring cat cuddled up to you. And you can count on them to hunt down those demons and monsters that lurk in the fearful dark as efficiently as they dispatch any stray bugs that venture into their home territory.

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Dec 11 2002

The Gym Virgin

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So I finally lost my virginity.

My gym virginity, that is. Astonishing though the gym employees seemed to find it, I have never been to one before in my life. They tried to account for this with illness or injury and seemed rather taken aback when I assured them it was just sloth and a lifelong distaste for sweat and communal showers. But the mushiness of my upper arms, which are an offense to my aesthetic sense and must therefore be vanquished, inspired me to go. That and the fear of becoming a fragile old lady. It’s time to start giving back to the shell that has served me so well for 40 years, and especially considering some of the things I have done (and not done) to it. Kind of amazing I’m alive, really. Anyway, if I want to keep it for another 40 years, I better start taking care of it, n’est-ce pas?

I have also been inspired by the fit and unflappable Candi, and my cousin Les, who became a gym aficionado between my seeing him in August, 2001 and September, 2002, and let me tell you, wow. So with these shining examples before me, I decided to get off my ass and put myself in the hands of a personal trainer.

Since it’s me, I picked the place that is not only the most convenient, but the prettiest. It used to be the glorious, Moorish-inspired Alhambra theater, built by the architect Timothy Pflueger, who also created Oakland’s Paramount and the Castro Theater in San Francisco (both of these are alive and well and still theaters). But due to the encroaching multi-plexes, the Alhambra closed down and was empty for a couple of years before being made into a gym. I was amazed to see how much (though, alas, not the lobby fountain) of the original interior had been preserved and restored, including the spectacular ceiling and the movie screen, which you can watch while being tortured into a more beautiful you.

As Chandler Bing would say, could I be any more Californian? Vegetarian wannabe; blonde and shallow; inveterate buyer of organic food; has a therapist; drinker of bottled spring water and not much else; pro cosmetic surgery; owner of a vintage convertible; and now has a personal trainer. Thus are stereotypes created. Though I do draw the line at tofu.

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Dec 10 2002

Shepard’s birthday

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My good friend Kathleen, that Renaissance woman who is equally at home with matters spiritual, artistic, and sports-related, mentioned that today is Ernest Howard Shepard’s birthday. He was born on this day in 1879 and was the original illustrator of the immortal Winnie-the-Pooh stories, including the drawing above. Shepard also did what I consider to be the definitive illustrations for Kenneth Grahame’s timeless Wind in the Willows. In both cases, his sensitive and beautiful line drawings added to the magic and beauty of the stories.

Coincidentally, A.A. Milne, the author of the Pooh stories and also a playwright, adapted the Wind in the Willows as a play, Toad of Toad Hall. Both Milne and Grahame wrote their stories for their own sons, and I think that makes them better stories and is part of their continuing success. Many of the best-loved children’s tales, from Alice in Wonderland to Peter Rabbit to the Harry Potter series, were written for actual children known and loved by the author.

Contrary to popular belief, Shepard based his drawings of Pooh not on a bear belonging to Milne’s son, Christopher Robin (who grew up to be a grumpy old man who repudiated anything to do with Pooh), but on a bear belonging to his own son, Graham, named Growler.

Shepard lived to be 96 and died on the 50th anniversary of the publication of Winnie the Pooh.

Milne wrote these words in the copy of Winne the Pooh he presented to Ernest Shepard:

“When I am gone
Let Shepard decorate my tomb
and put (if there is room)
Two pictures on the stone:
Piglet from page a hundred and eleven,
And Pooh and Piglet walking (page a hundred and fifty-seven) . . .
And Peter, thinking they are my own,
Will welcome me to heaven.”

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Dec 07 2002

Wait & see

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I’m waiting for John to get ready to accompany me to the post office this morning to mail all those packages to his family in distant, snow-bound Canada. After nearly 12 years of marriage (on Christmas Eve!), I can truthfully say that I end up waiting for him far more often than he waits for me. Despire the afore-mentioned decade+ experience in this area, I am at a loss to explain it.

I’m the one who has contact lenses to put in, make-up to apply, nylons and lingerie and jewelry to grapple with, yet I consistently get ready faster. In the days when we left for work together, I could put in my contacts, wash my face and apply various unguents and make-up, and walk in the bedroom to discover John struggling to get his pants on. It’s an enduring mystery, though not always an endearing one.

While I’m waiting, I’ll tell you about yesterday. I went and got my hair cut after work. Don’t worry, I just had an inch trimmed off, and I had it trimmed when I was in London in September, too, so it’s in pretty good shape. Long hair is, after all, old hair. Anyway, my hairstylist is still married after 6 months, unlike Lisa Marie Presley and Nicolas Cage, and is happy, which is great.

I walked home past Union Square, so I could admire the giant Christmas tree and the other Christmas decorations. It was cloudy and cold enough for me to be wearing a coat, so it made it seem more like Christmas. I have to say, I really don’t like the newly remodelled Union Square. I guess it does its job of repelling homeless people, but it repels me, too, with its vast acres of concrete and stone, not to mention the incongruous palm trees. I will never understand why the powers that be insist on planting them here. They are not native. They are expensive. They are high maintenance.

I just realized I just described myself.

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Dec 06 2002

Love/hate: The Dark

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Love/hate for Friday, December 6, 2002
The Dark

Despite my advanced age, I’m scared of the dark. My parents always told me I’d grow out of it, but I’m still waiting. I don’t know why I ever believed my father, anyway. He spent his formative years in London during WWII, and was so used to blackout conditions that he could only sleep in total darkness. He required the very thing that I feared. He was also the lightest sleeper I ever met. When I had nightmares (rendered that much more horrifying by waking up in the dreaded dark), I’d go to my parents’ room and as soon as I put my hand on the doorknob, Dad would bolt awake, calling out, “Who’s there?”

He was no help at all with the dark fear, either. He’d just tell me to go back to sleep and think of nice things. As if. Like you can lie there in the dark and not imagine monsters under the bed, or in the closet. Is that the rustling of leaves outside your window, or something more sinister? What’s that strange shadow reflected in the moonlight? And is that the beating of your own heart, or someone else’s? What on earth was I thinking, reading that Stephen King novel so close to bedtime? And why did I go and see The Ring? Now the imaginations of others are added to my own, making my tiny mind a horrorfest.

When you are a kid, everything is so weird, including the inexplicable behavior of most adults, that anything seems possible. Which means that there can be really scary things in the dark as easily as nothing being there. Also you are more likely to believe in the scary or the strange because things pretty much are. Add in not being able to see more than three inches in front of you sans glasses and you have all the makings for being scared of the dark.

I am now pretty much resigned to never getting over it, but there are ways to handle it. I have a small lamp on my bedside table which I leave on at night to chase away the shadows. I keep my glasses in the same place so I can find them readily and see if it’s monsters or just Jack, the demon cat, up to no good. Jack I can handle. OK, maybe not. But she’s still better than the dark and its unknown horrors.

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Dec 05 2002


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Why are most women’s clothes so utterly free of pockets?

Almost every day this week, I have wished for pockets, so I could just put my keys and money in them and wander the streets freely, like men get to do every day of their lives while merrily making more money than we do. Is it some kind of conspiracy on the part of fashion designers to keep us pocketless? After all, most of the great designers are men (though not all). Like chefs. I wonder why that is, when cooking and fashion are generally both perceived to be feminine?

Being pocketless, however, does give a girl an excuse to buy handbags. And I have almost as many as I have pairs of shoes. I even bought a new one to carry to my father’s memorial service, so not even death and despair can stop my accessorizing. Call me an accessories slut. And one who yearns for the freedom of pockets.

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Dec 04 2002

Christmas cards

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Be proud of me. Be very, very proud.

I have just written and mailed more than 60 Christmas cards. This staggering total does not include the ones going in packages of presents to be mailed, some of which I still have to wrap and then package up, much as I hate it. You can always tell when I don’t like doing things, because I put them off as much as possible. I am terrible at wrapping gifts and hate doing it. Maybe it’s your basic cause and effect.

Anyway, I feel that Christmas cards should not be pre-printed or include generic newsletters sent to all and sundry. I have the radical opinion that they should be written by hand TO the person in question, and include thoughts, sentiments and/or family news of interest to that particular person. Which makes it a very time consuming process, so I have to do it in batches over several days.

I write so little by hand now (despite the fact that I do not know how to type properly, but only in a style uniquely my own) that my handwriting has degenerated considerably from lack of use. It’s odd enough to begin with, but now it looks like an unravelled thread or the tracks of a mad spider who somehow got her legs dipped in ink. Also I get writer’s cramp almost immediately now, as my atrophied writing muscles join in a concerted complaint on being woken up from their sleep, so that makes the batches smaller, too. It seems positively old fashioned, doesn’t it? But that’s what’s good about it.

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Dec 03 2002

Clock Question

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When I was in England in September, my stepmother surprised me by asking me to sort through and take with me as much of Dad’s remaining things as I could. So I did. The one thing I could not pack up and carry away or mail to myself was the grandfather clock, which has been in the family since it was made, 250 years ago. After I got home, I started looking for shipping firms. These inquiries made me realize that I needed someone to appraise the clock so I could insure it so it could be shipped. So the whole thing kind of snowballed.

I located a gentleman who was willing to pick up the clock, repair it (it stopped running when my father died), appraise it, build a case for it (to which he refers as a “coffin”, and said that such cases had actually been used as such in the past), and ship it, using a specialist firm he had used before with good results. After the fiasco of my mother’s move, for which we are still trying to exact vengeance, this seemed particularly important. So the clock was picked up on Friday while I was in Mendocino, and by the time I got home and checked my email, the clock fixer had already sent me a detailed report on my clock, including an estimate for repairing it.

The clock was made around 1750, but at some point during its long life, most likely in the Victorian era, it suffered various indignities, including being cut down by about a foot and having its melodious bell replaced with a horrible gong. I am definitely having everything fixed and replaced as suggested, but the big question is: should we restore the lost foot of height and have it returned to its original splendor? If we do, it will look something like this.

Restoring the height will cost around $1,000, but it’s already costing me a fortune to have it fixed and shipped (the report you saw didn’t include any of the shipping, insurance, coffin building, etc.). Part of me feels that I’m already spending so damn much I might as well go all the way and do it right. If I restore it completely, the value will triple, which is both a good thing and a bad thing, since I will have to spend more for insurance and worry more about its well-being. But it will be historically accurate. The other part of me says, well, my grandparents never saw it in its original condition, and I suspect my great-grandfather, who lived over his butcher shop, may have cut down the clock to fit it upstairs. So it’s not like I’d be putting it back the way they knew it.

I’ll ask my brother and sisters, but in the meantime, I’m taking a poll. Should I go all the way or not?

When you ask a question like that, you just expect trouble.

6 responses so far

Dec 02 2002


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We had a great Thanksgiving. The weather could not have been more glorious, and in honor of Mom being with us for Thanksgiving for the first time in years, everything looked its best. Dinner was fabulous, and it was a happy evening with family and friends, the way it should be.

On the day after Thanksgiving, we went in to Mendocino for the annual craft fair, where I saw this sculpture and finished up my Christmas shopping – late for me! Tried not to think about all the horrible wrapping and mailing which awaits me. Wouldn’t you think I’d be good at Christmas shopping? But alas, my impatience cancels out any pretensions to artistic ability and it generally puts me in a Grinch-like mood, which is why I get things wrapped at the store if possible. You can tell an authentic Suzy wrapped present by the amount of tape and unevenness of the paper.

After the craft fair, we stopped by the Fetzer tasting room in Mendocino, and tasted different wines before buying some, always the best way. We ended a lovely day at Ledford House, in their beautiful, comfortable bar overlooking the ocean. You couldn’t ask for a more beautiful view of the sunset. Our friend Mark was working at the bar, which meant that a glass of Roederer chamapgne was waiting for me by the time I sat down, and we were also treated to their fabulous baked garlic and ch&egravevre on toast. The perfect end to the perfect day.

I’ll leave you with a picture of Jonathan’s dog Jed, who has recovered from her run-in with the bench a couple of weeks ago. Her fur is growing back on her chest, but the stitches have been removed and it’s hard to believe there was two inch deep gash there. She is even back on ball duty.

Jonathan’s cat Iggy is either chillin’ or killin’. Here he’s doing the former. I envy him.

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