Archive for March, 2003

Mar 31 2003

Clock update

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So the clock was in fact delivered on Saturday. The front door is pushed in, though still on its hinges, and much of the veneer edging it has come off, though we seem to have most of the pieces. I think I deserve credit for keeping it together in the face of the damage inflicted on it. I didn’t cry or yell. Instead, I was filled with quiet despair at having spent $4,000 on it and still not having it in good order; feeling that I have not lived up to my father’s expectation that I would take proper care of it; and finally, having it all is just so depressing, because it should still be in Dad’s (unburned) house.

I have to admit that in this process, the UK end went fine and the US end was an unmitigated disaster. Come to think of it, that’s not unlike my heritage, with the UK side (Dad) being great and the US side (Mom) a nightmare. Hmmm. I keep feeling like the Universe is trying to teach me a lesson but am not sure what.

Anyway, the UK Clock Repair Guy found a US counterpart conveniently located just across the Golden Gate Bridge, who I hope will prove the exception to the US disaster rule and who can hopefully fix the damage to the clock and get it set up once and for all in its new home.

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Mar 30 2003

Sunday afternoon

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How to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon.

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Mar 29 2003

The Clock

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Cast your minds back. Way, way back. Back to last December. That’s when I was deciding what to do about the 250 year old grandfather clock I had inherited from my father. In the end, I decided not to restore the lost height. Partly because the cost would have been prohibitive (and it already cost me, all told, close to $4,000 to have it restored, appraised, insured, and shipped), but mostly because I was ultimately more interested in preserving it the way my father and grandmother had known it than in historical accuracy. After all, I’m not a stately home or a museum, though my niece, who will inherit it from me along with all the other good stuff like my jewelry, is planning to buy herself a multi-storey house with a floor dedicated to the Suzy Collection. And in a manner after my own heart she intends to have a full-time staff to take care of it. She really is the daughter I never had.

The ancient timekeeper was shipped to me on a brand-new jet, something completely unthinkable when it was first made. In those days, it would have had to be shipped around the dangerous Horn, and besides, there wasn’t much San Francisco in 1750. Even Mission Dolores wasn’t built until 1776 (the first Mass was celebrated there five days before the signing of the Declaration of Independence, and it remains the oldest building in San Francisco – Registered Landmark Number One). The clock arrived in South San Francisco a month ago, but I still don’t have it yet. I bet I would have gotten it faster by horse and cart in 1750 than by truck in the 21st century.

The saga of not getting the clock is positively epic. I’ll try to make it short. Involved in the tale are the Clock Repair Guy; English Shipping Firm; US Shipping Firm (they received the clock on its arrival) and US Delivery Firm.


  1. US Shipping Firm tells me I owe them $952 in Customs, duties, local taxes, etc. I don’t , because the clock is a family piece and essentially my property – they were charging me Customs based on the (astronomical) value of the clock. So they had to go back to Customs and get the charges changed, etc. Imagine the bureaucracy. It was something like the part in “Casablanca” where the voiceover says, “And wait…and wait…and wait”.

    USF also claimed to be completely unaware that the clock was an antique or anything, despite the paperwork included in the shipment by Clock Repair Guy, which explains why USF kept calling me with did questions like whether the clock runs on batteries.

    And PS: the $4,000 already paid included all charges on both sides of the Atlantic. Reconfirmed this with CRG, who faxed me all the relevant documents. If I were a nicer kind of girl, I probably would have just paid yet another thousand dollars. Being a pain in the ass finally paid off after all these years.

  2. US Delivery Firm calls to arrange delivery of the clock. They can barely speak English. They claim they were unaware that there were stairs and no elevator at our house, once again despite the paperwork included by CRG. They also say they can’t carry the clock up the stairs anyway because it weighs 220 pounds. I explain to them that CRG was able to carry it out of my stepmother’s house and put it into his ordinary car by himself, so it must be the crate that is so heavy. Suggest they remove crate. They agree to do it for $35. Whatever. It’s already cost me a small-size fortune and also will save me a trip to the dump to get rid of the crate.

  3. At this point, they tell me there has been some damage to the clock and want me to come down there and look at it. I have no way of getting there and they seem to be unable to explain exactly what the damage is. Go back to English-speaking USF and ask them about it. Turns out that the crate was equipped with a sort of dye pack which is activated when the crate is damaged. The dye pack had been activated and when USF received the crate off the plane, they got the airline to sign a letter saying they were responsible for the damage. Yet no-one thought it noteworthy enough to mention to me.

  4. I tell the delivery firm to just deliver it to me the way it is. I take an afternoon off while Margaret is visiting to wait for the clock to arrive between 12 and 2. They don’t show up. They don’t call. At 4:00, I call them and they say they have left me messages at my office saying they can’t deliver it without a letter from me releasing them from any liabilityfor damaging the clock. I explain that I have been at home waiting for them to deliver the clock, and not at my office, obviously, and further there is no way for me to get them a letter that day. They say it’s too late to deliver it, etc. I get so furious that I hang up on them and burst into tears. My stepmother says, “Rrrrright, you must take a tablet” [meaning valium], but I call John and hand it over to him instead.

  5. I fax them the @#@%^$@$^ release letter. John takes an afternoon off work to wait for them to deliver the clock. Amazingly, they call an hour or so after delivery time to say their truck broke down and they can’t deliver it. Can we be there the next day to receive it? John calls USF and tells them they have to make these clowns deliver the clock on Saturday – today – at no extra charge. End of story.

So we’ll see if/when we get it. And yeah, I realize I totally failed to make it short.

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Mar 28 2003

Love/hate: Keeping in Touch

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Love/hate for Friday, March 28, 2003:
Keeping in Touch

I have noticed that I have stopped apologizing when we don’t do a love/hate, for example, last Friday. Am I getting as rude as the rest of the world? Perish the thought. Usually it just means that life has gotten even weirder than it normally is around here, not that I am willfully holding back on you. I trust that I am forgiven, both in the past and in the future (how’s that for a great deal? Blanket forgiveness)!

Even for me, it’s unusual to start with a digression.

OK, back to our more or less regularly scheduled program.

One of the many things I inherited from my father, along with a talent for cooking, a love of art and beauty, and a really short fuse, is the ability to stay in touch with family and friends. I will never match up to his standard: he remained life-long friends with two men, John and Brian, with whom he literally grew up. Their parents lived in the same street and the three boys all knew each other since they were, as my father put it, “in their prams”. Both attended his thanksgiving service, where John presented me with this photo of himself (on the left) and my father at the age of 10 in 1941, holding guns they had salvaged from downed planes, and which John assured me weren’t loaded!

While I don’t have any friends whom I have known since I was a baby, I do have four friends from high school with whom I am still close. Given my age and antiquity, this means that we have been friends for more than 20 years, or more than half my life: Alice, the former model turned math PhD who lives in Amsterdam; Mary-Lou, author and journalist and my bridesmaid, who lives in Toronto; Peter, my long, long ago ex-boyfriend who also lives in Toronto; and Richard, who lives in San Francisco and approaches my Dad’s standard by having been friends with Peter since they were 5 years old (their birthdays being one day apart).

I guess you could say that I was brought up to feel that friends were important. My father used to say that it’s easy for people to slip out of your life, so you have to make the effort. Call, email (he had email before I did), send birthday and Christmas cards, whatever it takes to keep in touch. Make time to see them. Notifying his literally hundreds of friends all over the world of his death was a huge task, and letters, cards, emails, etc. kept coming in for more than 6 months after his death.

I have “inherited” several of Dad’s friends and added them to my Christmas card list so they know what’s happening with Dad’s children, and it makes me feel like I’m keeping up the tradition. When I’m in Ottawa in June, one of Dad’s friends is giving a reception in Dad’s honor so his many friends who live there – including some who got on the next plane in order to attend his service – can all get together with me at once.

Not surprisingly, I’m the one who buys all the cards and presents for John’s family as well as my own, and remembers the birthdays and anniversaries, too. One of my few actually useful talents. Now, if I was only better at wrapping those presents!

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Mar 26 2003

Travel etc.

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I tend to think of myself as a fairly experienced traveller, even though I have never been to Asia and there are still some states I have yet to visit. But I can go to Europe for three weeks with carry-on only, even in these restrictive days, and I can get packed pretty fast, especially for a girl of my high maintenance. And I don’t think a year has gone by in the past 15 years or more that I haven’t flown somewhere, in spite of my horror of flying. So much for facing your fears making you get over them, at least in my case.

So I don’t know why, but for the past three trips I have taken, I have managed to forget something somewhat essential. In October (look out, guys, girlstuff ahead), it was tampons, and I ended up having to buy a brand and type I don’t like at exorbitant hotel shop prices (very similar to airport shop prices). In January, it was my cell phone recharger. Cell phone took one look at the Chicago winter and promptly went to sleep, and I can’t say as I blame it. While I rarely, if ever, have my cell phone on – making it the phone of my dreams: i.e., I can call out, but no-one can call me – this was one time I actually wanted it. Figures. In Boston, I arrived with no camera, digital or otherwise, hence the complete lack of pictures of anything. You’ll just have to take my word for it.

Another mystery facing the traveller is hotel bathrooms. There is never, ever enough room to unpack all of one’s toiletries, make-up, hair accessories, etc., no matter how great the room is*. Though I must say the Drake had the best bathroom of the past three trips, and by importing a luggage stand I could actually unpack most of my girlish accoutrements. The Boston hotel room was huge, but the bathroom was tiny and shelf space non-existent. Yet another architectural mystery.

Final mystery: coffee. In room or not. The Drake had no coffeemaker in the room, so I resorted to my dog-walking attire (coat over pajamas; feet shoved into shoes) to sneak down to the lobby, grab a cup from the buffet and sneak back upstairs before frightening the general public. I am completely paralyzed sans caffeine, and this was not a good way for me to start the day. Also find it odd that a place as swellegant as the Drake didn’t have in-room coffee, other than room service. Now, I’m a big, big fan of room service, but in this case, it entails waiting and still confronting the general public in the form of the unsuspecting waiter.

Boston had an in-room coffeemaker. But on the second day, I woke up to discover that they had given me a clean mug and cleaned out the coffee grounds, but failed to replace the coffee. So there was everything to make the coffee with but the coffee. I stared at the useless machine for a while and considered my options. Finally I decided to actually get dressed and go to Starbuck’s, where I had a triple espresso and went on my caffeinated way. I haven’t done that since the Coffee Emergency of 1999, when Dad and I were in in Italy in a rented palazzo which also had a coffee maker but no coffee, whereupon I got dressed and repaired to the nearest caff&egrave begging for espresso. The Italians understand these things.

*I might as well admit that the amount of stuff I require to render me fit for human consumption is somewhat considerable (which is why I get 75% of the space in the closet and bathroom at home). It was the topic of conversation between my niece and her friend Claudia when we went to Amsterdam together until I pointed out that they were exactly half my age and when they get to this point in their lives, they, too, will require enhancements to their natural appearance. I hope.

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Mar 25 2003

Burning Down the House

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The family curse is doing just fine, thank you.

While I was flying home from Boston on the 18th, and my stepmother, Margaret, was visiting her cousin in sunny Palm Springs, Margaret’s house burned down.

Fortunately, no-one was hurt, and the house was properly insured, but all her clothes are gone, along with my father’s study and the personal things of his which Margaret chose to keep. How grateful I am now that she insisted on my taking with me or shipping all of his remaining things last Fall! If I had left them there, they would be dust and ashes, as he is. Little did I imagine that when I left that familiar house just five months ago that I would never see it again.

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Mar 23 2003

Spring, Suzy-style

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I have been celebrating Spring, Suzy-style. And color-coordinated, too. Would you expect anything less?

Though it may not appear to be very vernal where you live – and in fact, winter seems to be giving what I hope is its final farewell performance in my fair city with fog and rain and general dreariness – Spring is, at least technically, here.

In honor of the Equinox and with nostalgia for my long-ago childhood, I bought an armful of lilacs, both white and purple. My mother’s parents lived near Rochester, NY, an area famed for its lilacs, and they always remind me of my grandparents. They are my favorite flowers and make the whole apartment smell wonderful. The florist gave me a gardenia, too, which you can see floating in a little dish to the left of the lilacs.

Remember the Manolo Blahnik shoes I resisted buying a couple of weeks ago? Lilacs in hand, I went to see if the shoes were still in need of a loving home, and they were. I had to give in to their entreaties to take them home, especially since I have rarely, if ever, seen cuter orphans, and have never been able to resist sincere pleading in an Italian accent. Just look and see. And as so often happens, one thing led to another and I ended up getting a long, lavender matte satin Nicole Miller skirt with a sort of train thing happening in the back which perfectly matches the shoes. I will wear it to the reception in my father’s honor in June, so that justifies that. I can justify anything I really want, it seems.

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Mar 21 2003

Boston uncommon

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Much like the Duchess of Windsor, she for whom Edward VIII famously gave up his throne and who is quoted as saying “A woman can never be too rich or too thin”, I am choosing to focus on the trivial as usual instead of the chaos around me. Wallis gives me a run for my money in the shallowness department. The Duchess’ personal correspondence during the abdication crisis and WWII mostly centered around fashion and social events, and mine is going to be a wrap-up of my trip to Boston. I’ll leave the current events discussions to those of greater intellectual depth. Though I will say it’s somewhat surreal to be walking up California Street and suddenly find oneself in the midst of police in full riot gear running the other way, making me feel like a salmon swimming upstream and in peril of imminent arrest.

Saturday: Woke up luxuriously late in palatial hotel room to bright sunlight. Took the clean and efficient subway system (known to Bostonians as the “T”) to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. The house is a glorious fantasy and looks like a Venetian palazzo. It reminded me of the old Getty Museum, which was a replica of a Herculaneum villa, in the sense that they both are gorgeous houses containing small but excEt art collections. The buildings themselves are an additional pleasure, beautiful jewel boxes holding priceless treasures. And you have to love Mrs. Gardner’s motto, which is over the front door: “C’est mon plaisir” (It is my pleasure). Words to live by. The house, gardens, and art collection are all her personal creations and her enduring legacy.

Saturday night I had Museum Feet, that malady caused only by walking around museums and galleries. I can walk for miles with no adverse effects, but for some reason, walking around museums, which is done slowly, almost always causes Museum Feet. So I decided to eat in the hotel’s restaurant that night. Both Dickens and Emerson were frequent diners there, and it was lovely to be off my museum feet and fussed over by an attentive waiter in such elegant, historic surroundings. I learned that Parker House rolls were invented in that very restaurant, and also Boston Cream Pie, so of course I had to try them. They were, as Mr. Burns would say, eeexcEt.

Sunday: Reading the local paper informed me that jazz legend Dave Brubeck was playing that afternoon. Called and reserved one of the remaining 50 tickets and took the ever-useful “T” to Hahvahd’s Sanders Theatre, which is housed within the wonderful Gothic excess of the Memorial Hall. Digression: I’m sorry, but I love that Boston accent. It kills me when they say “Pah’k the ca’h”. It charms me almost as much as the Edinburgh one.

Brubeck is 82 and the other three members of the quartet can’t be much younger, but they kick ass. It was a joy and a privilege to hear them, and also to see how they interact almost subconsciously after so many years of playing together; how they totally enjoy each other’s performances; how it all comes together. They are truly gentlemen. Brubeck introduced each piece, and one of the most delightful anecdotes he told was of his wife begging him to go on vacation and just relax, not work. They went to Hawaii, and in the middle of the night, he woke up with a new tune in his head and wrote it down. But he dedicated it to his wife as an apology. They have been married for 62 years.

He has a new CD coming out next week and is starting a European tour. That’s the way to grow old.

Monday: Dad’s birthday. A perfect, sunny day and close to 70&deg. I was happy to check my coat at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston before seeing the Impressionist Landscape exhibit. The exhibit was blissfully uncrowded, and arranged chronologically, so viewers could see how the earlier artists had inspired and led to the Impressionists. Included in the exhibit were landscape photographs from the 1850’s and 1860’s, which had a wonderful, dream-like texture. It was the perfect way to honor the day my father was born: he who gave my love of art and beauty. Maybe, in some way, he was there with me.

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Mar 19 2003

Bahston, pa’t one

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You can blame the glacial slowness of dial-up in Boston, combined with its Diana Ross level of temperamental diva-ness, which manifested itself by suddenly disconnecting after a minute or so for what Forrest Gump would call no particular reason. And since you get charged a dollar for each call, that pretty much equalled forget about missives from the road. Or the hotel, anyway.

Seems like I really am one of the world’s slower learners, because once again my equation of theory and practice did not turn out to be correct. Too much theory and not enough practice led to my hanging out in the admittedly elegant lobby of the Parker House hotel for a length of time that was probably only endurable to a girl of my impatience due to a far more successful equation: 1 night’s lost sleep+1 five-hour flight+4 vodkas+2 valiums = zombie-like and uncharacteristically amenable state. When I made the reservation, I told the hotel receptionist that I’d be there by 8 a.m., having taken the oh so accurately named red-eye on the theory that it would give me a day to check out Boston.

But no, the room’s previous occupant, who can apparently give me a challenging run for my money in the slothfulness department, had failed to check out, so there I was. It was ass-freezing cold, so it didn’t really encourage me to venture outside. Instead, I finally answered lots of emails which had been sitting hopefully in my inbox, waiting for my love and attention. So that was good. Feeling virtuous, I decided to brave the cold, go outside, and soak up a little history.

When I had reached minimum core body temperature, I returned to the hotel to find that they had taken pity on me and decided to give me a more splendid room than the one occupied by the Sloth King of America, and at no extra charge. Really, it was almost too good for me, huge and along with the usual amenities, an office alcove (which would have been fab if only dial-up hadn’t been so Ross-ish), practically a living room with a sofa and chairs, and, get this, a treadmill. It may be the oldest continuously operating hotel in America, but it has definitely kept up with the times.

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Mar 14 2003

Love/hate: Tidiness

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Love/hate for Friday, March 14, 2003
Tidiness

I really am a control freak. Overly organized and overly tidy for most people’s taste. I buy birthday and Christmas presents throughout the year, whenever I see something that someone on my list would like, and rarely, if ever, am forced to endure the last-minute shopping that is apparently the norm. I already have all the birthday and anniversary cards for April, for example. Our trip to Canada in June has been planned since February.

So it will come as no surprise to you that our apartment is pretty damn tidy. My brother says it looks like no-one lives in it, but this is coming from someone whose living room is full of Tesla coils and a refrigerator containing nothing but home-brewed beer and cider with spigots in the fridge door. For me, part of the pleasure of coming home at the end of a long day of duties is coming home to a clean, tidy, and pretty apartment.

The cleaning lady takes care of the clean part mostly, but I am forever tidying, it seems. It makes John laugh to see me straightening pictures and stacks of magazines, pushing in drawers, alphabetizing the spice rack. When I have been gone for a few days, as I am now, the tidiness standard definitely devolves. John has a good time “batching it”* while I’m away: eating crap, staying up late watching horror movies, not doing any domestic chores whatever, including tidying up. He doesn’t go as far as smoking in the house while I’m away, but other than that, all girl-induced behavior pretty much goes out the window. It’s a little vacation for both of us.

But once I’m back, the reign of tidiness terror begins all over again.

*To quote one of the genial Quilici brothers. They used to have a butcher shop within a little market near us which sadly lost its lease after 75 years and has been replaced by an antique shop. We still miss the market, which was family run for the whole 75 years and was like stepping back into the past. When I was away, John would stop in and get a BBQ chicken or gloriously messy sandwich, and the Quilicis would always ask him if he was “batching it”.

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Mar 12 2003

Theory & practice

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You know how some ideas seem great as theory, but in actual practice, not so much? This week has been like that for me.

Because I live in the US of A, where vacation time is harder to come by than an intelligent and moral politician and is more precious than platinum or saffron, I thought I could use my vacation time best by working a few hours a day while my stepmother was visiting. So theory is:

Work four or so hours, then go to the gym, get cleaned up, spend the afternoon and evening with Margaret.

Practice is: do all that, stay up late eating and drinking to excess, sleep for 5 hours, do it again. I forgot to factor sleep into the equation. I only have to get through today, though. Then tomorrow I’m going to work all day, go home, get packed, and go to the airport. After this week, I should be able to sleep the sleep of the worn-out on the plane tomorrow night, especially with the indispensable help of drugs and alcohol. Hey, maybe I’ll finally get to be that person on every flight who passes out before take-off and doesn’t wake up until arrival!

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Mar 11 2003

Quilts

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After brunch at Greens, we visited the Museum of Craft and Folk Art, conveniently located next door. The two boys stayed outside and chatted while the women checked out an exhibit of quilts. It occurred to me that quilting is pretty much a feminine artform and always has been, probably arising from necessity, but still a form of self-expression.

Now, traditional quilts are beautiful. My mother has one that her grandmother made that’s lovely as well as sentimental. But these quilts were art. The theme of the exhibit was immigration. All the women who made the quilts had emigrated to Australia, and the quilts told the story of their journey to their new home, their lives and families.

One that I found particularly moving showed the quilt’s creator sailing from her homeland, looking back and weeping. But to the other side, where her new home was, there were countless brilliant, beautiful butterflies. And when she was ready to turn her head and see them, she would. That’s the way it is. Eventually you are ready to turn toward the new and feel its joy and beauty.

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Mar 09 2003

A Movable Feast

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If you’ve been wondering what I’ve been up to the past couple of days – and I know you have – the answer is simple: eating. Eating one fabulous meal after another:

Friday: Lunch with my long-time friend Richard, to celebrate his birthday (even though birthday was actually a week or so ago, but we’re both in such demand). For the next couple of months, he’s older than Me*. Yay! Discussion ensued on how many years one should take off one’s age. He thinks 3. I think more. But it’s fraught with problems, like reminding my brother that he is now older than I am. Anyway, we had a great time. It was nice enough to eat outside, so we did, at B44. We had a delicious and authentic paella, preceded by a salad of wild baby greens and accompanied with a wicked glass of wine. Especially wicked since we both had to go back to work afterwards. Richard was shocked that I ate the salad with my fingers, but I think if you do something with enough confidence, you can get away with it.

Saturday: Dinner at Le Petit Robert with my stepmother, Margaret, who is visiting from England. Discovered that they had changed the menu more than usual (no more grandes assiettes other than the special of the day), and sadly, they had also run out of the excEt Olivier Morin white burgundy. But they still make the best kir royale in town, and the Sonoma Cutrer chardonnay was up to standard. Standouts included the grilled asparagus with toasted hazelnuts and tangerine, the duck breast salad, and the Meyer lemon parfait with fresh strawberries.

Sunday: Brunch at the legendary Greens, a vegetarian restaurant with such good food that even the most dedicated carnivore would be happy. Not to mention the stunning view over the sunny Bay to delight Margaret. We were joined by our always-late friend Adrian and his wife Jacci, whose presence was so charming and sparkling that their lateness was, as usual, forgiven instantly. Margaret loved them so much that she invited them to stay in her house, which is a rare thing.

Margaret is a tireless shopper, so my sister Megan and I took her to Union Square. I am amazed to report that I didn’t buy a thing. We restored ourselves in the most civilized way possible, with afternoon tea at the elegant Rotunda restaurant at Neiman Marcus, under the century-old stained glass ceiling. Not, of course, like a real English tea, but wonderful nonetheless: little finger sandwiches, melt-in-your-mouth scones, countless delightful cakes and pastries. And of course, tea.

Now this presented a bit of a culinary challenge, since we finished tea around 4:30. We will not be able to eat dinner tonight, at least not at a reasonable and non-European time on a school night. The solution? The French bakery, of course, where I got some caramelized onion tarts with roasted peppers and a walnut baguette to go with the selection of cheese and olives I already had. So that with a few glasses of wine should do it to end the weekend of indulgence.

*Less than three shopping months left!

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Mar 07 2003

Love/hate: Decorating

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Love/hate for Friday, March 7, 2003:
Decorating

We all know that I’m a girl of few talents. I am uncreative, and I accept that. After all, the world needs an audience to appreciate and enjoy the work of artists. You famous people would be nothing without the fans, remember. So don’t hasten to reassure me that I have hidden creative depths. I don’t. I don’t have any depths, creative or otherwise. It doesn’t get more shallow than me.

So the rare creative things I do are important to me. Cooking is one, and I guess this blog could be counted as another (thanks, Mitch, for the reminder). But today, class, we are going to discuss decorating.

I believe that I have a talent for decorating and for creating a comfortable and pretty home. [Digression: what Victorian talents for an independent-minded 21st girl to have!] I look forward to coming home to our clean, lovely apartment at the end of the day. It’s one of the small pleasures in life. I like being surrounded by nice things, and things of sentimental value: family photos, paintings and objets d’art acquired on my travels, the rocking chair my great-grandfather made, my father’s books. Some people might find it cluttered, but I think it’s cozy and charming.

The desire to enhance my surroundings is almost a life-long one. Before my younger sister was born, so before the age of nine, I wanted to paint my room a lavender shade called (and I still remember this, though other, far more important things have vanished forever from my memory) Fantasy Orchid. Mom and Dad did not agree with me on this decorating notionette and said no. Being a fairly biddable child, I forgot all about it until coming home from a visit to my mother’s parents to find that my father had painted my room the desired shade in our absence to surprise me, in which he succeeded. And for the record, I never did get tired of the color before we moved from that house.

I have painted and otherwise worked on every apartment I have ever had. I learned the hard way not to ever refinish hardwood floors by myself ever again. With the optimism (read: stupidity) of youth, I thought it a good idea to rent a sander and refinish my floors in the height of an East Coast summer, with all the heat and humidity that entails. If you have never undertaken this sort of project yourself, let me just say that the sander weighed as much as I did and the floors must be sanded three times and then varnished. You will not be surprised to hear that when we renovated our apartment a few years back, we hired people to refinish the floors. I may still love to decorate, but I have learned what my limitations are!

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Mar 06 2003

On my own

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The next week+ is going to be a busy one for lazy Me. My stepmother is visiting from London from Saturday through Wednesday, and Thursday I’m going to Boston for a long weekend.

Even more than usual, my father isn’t far from my thoughts these days. My stepmother hasn’t been to San Francisco since 1999, the last Christmas we had together, and she has never been here without Dad, so I’m not sure how she’ll do. She might find, as I did in London last Fall, that it’s no worse than being at home. Wherever you are, *you* are still there, and he isn’t. But people are different. I have a couple of fun things planned, like going out to dinner on Saturday night and having brunch on Sunday with my good friend Adrian, who was also a friend of my Dad’s. I hope it’s OK for her.

I am going to Boston next week to see the Impressionist Landscape exhibit at the Museum of Arts. I’m actually going to the exhibit on Dad’s birthday, St. Patrick’s Day – the most ironic birthday possible for my Irish-hatin’ pop. It’s my way of celebrating his birthday and the gift he gave me and shared with me of loving art. If he were alive, I bet he would have met me there. So I’ll go alone and hope that the happy memories outweigh the sorrow of losing him.

People seem to find it astounding that I’m going on my own, which I in turn find astounding. After all, I went to London without John three months after we were married. You might as well start off as you mean to go on. Most of the trips I have taken have been either with my father or on my own, and being alone in a strange city holds no terrors for me. What does terrify me is the sort of relationship the women must have who say things to me like, “Your husband lets you go alone?”

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Mar 05 2003

Too little, too late

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The 2003 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductees include The Clash and Elvis Costello. The 2002 inductees included the Ramones and Talking Heads. Those of you who were either not born yet in the mid-seventies or were barely prescient toddlers at the time will be unable to really understand what a breath of fresh air these bands, and other ground-breakers like the Sex Pistols, were at the time.

This was the era of disco, with its accompanying bad fashion and bad hair cuts (which in turn led into the, if possible, even more hideous early 1980’s. If you don’t believe me, just watch The Wedding Singer. Yes, it really was that bad, even at the time.). This was the era of hour-long guitar solos and overblown, bombastic rock ballads.

Into this stultifying atmosphere blew the Ramones, the Sex Pistols, and the Clash, with their loud, fast music, dark lyrics, and shocking personas both on and off the stage. Love them or hate them, you had to notice them, and they paved the way for countless musicians that followed them.

Elvis Costello and Talking Heads were a little more intellectual, but sounded like no-one else. They have continued to evolve and change over the years, and one of life’s enduring mysteries to me is why Costello, with his sexy, expressive, unique voice, catchy tunes, and cleverest lyrics ever written, never really became the commercial success he deserves.

The other mystery is why the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame waited to induct the Ramones until half of them, including lead singer Joey, the heart and soul of the Ramones, were dead. Same goes for the late, lamented Joe Strummer of the Clash, who died at Christmas.

I have to admit it just seems wrong to me that the deeply mediocre Elton John, Fleetwood Mac and Rod Stewart were honored years before these pioneers, and while they were alive to enjoy it. Not to mention the biggest freak in the universe, Michael Jackson, and the creator of endless, endlessly overblown rock ballads, Queen. Is it all about popularity? Records sold, your number on the charts? Shouldn’t it really be about originality as an artist, creativity, being an influence on and inspiration to the musicians that followed you? Maybe we never really get out of high school, and life is just one big popularity contest, with the lowest common denominator getting the most votes.

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Mar 03 2003

Loose ends

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You will be relieved to know that all four cats, ranging in age from 10 years old to less than 3, are in good health, and as far as I know there are no additional silver hairs among my resolutely gold ones. Hannah had to have her ears cleaned out (she has chronic ear infections, either due to in-breeding* or being taken from her mother before her immune system was developed) and also has to have her teeth cleaned. As Amber so correctly pointed out, it’s not a cheap undertaking. But we have medical insurance for Hannah, so it will cost about half of the whole price. If your vet offers it, it’s definitely a worthwhile investment. And amazingly, the total bill, though horrifying, was no more than last year. And when I was paying it, a guy came in with a two month old yellow Lab puppy named North who was so cute that it completely took my mind off the dizzying total. Now, that’s cute.

In addition to getting the cats checked out and replenishing their food supply, we took the opportunity of having the first obligation-free Saturday in weeks to run errands and get some things done around the house. John put up the new blinds in the bedroom and living room, in the process revealing that our cleaning lady is perhaps not quite as assiduous in dust removal as previously thought. The Okie-style dust storm which accompanied this revelation caused a full-blown allergy attack for me, and I still sound like I have a cold. However, apartment looks great and just in time for my stepmother’s arrival this week. Hopefully by the time she arrives, my nose will be back to normal.

The other revelation of the weekend was that it’s been so long since I had any free time that when I finally got it, I didn’t know what to do with it. Rather shocking. Good thing I’m all booked up for the next few days.

*Isn’t it odd that this affects both the highest (royalty) and the lowest (backwoods hillbillies)? Our vet knows something about Hannah’s litter and at least one of her littermates was too in-bred to survive. Hannah herself was only a month old when we got her and not expected to make it, either. But she showed us!

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Mar 01 2003

Spring

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Is it spring cleaning when it isn’t spring yet? Or when it isn’t really cleaning, exactly? Or when you don’t really have seasons as such? I guess we do, but they are more subtle than in other climates. Givens: flowers all year round, also hummingbirds and the wild parrots, along with less exotic birds. Trees don’t lose their leaves. You can always smell freshly mown grass.

Winter: Rain. Maybe 10 degrees colder than other times of year. Much whining on both fronts. Drivers completely amazed by appearance of rain, even though it’s an annual event.
Spring: Hills still green from winter rains. Even more flowers than usual.
Summer: Foggy mornings which give way to sun. Fogs up again at night. Hills now “golden” (i.e., brown).
Fall: Warmest time of year (maybe 10 degrees hotter). The real summer. Grape harvest.

There you have it.

Maybe it’s the approach of spring, but I renovated Self this week by getting my hair trimmed. Following Lisa’s recommendation, I stopped by Lush on the way home. Apparently the San Francisco store is the only one in the US of A at this point, so they must have put it here just for Me. After all, it’s conveniently located near my hairdresser.

It’s a rather overwhelming place. Petite and overflowing with delightful smells and helpful staff. It kind of gave me sensory overload, and it is almost impossible to choose between all the fabulous products. So I gave up and got a box of assorted bath bombs. They are so huge that I can’t believe you need all of one for one bath. But we’ll see and report back, since I know enquiring minds want to know.

But I didn’t stop there. The apartment is also getting some spring spiffing up. I finally got new blinds to replace the ones eaten/turned into performance art by Mom’s dog during dog’s sojourn with us in December, so John & I (OK, John) will be replacing them this weekend. Just in the nick of time, since my stepmother will be visiting us from March 8-12.

And finally: it’s time to take all the cats to the vet for their annual check-ups. Notice that I am religious about getting them checked out, whereas I haven’t been to the doctor in *coughmumble* years. Every year I think I’m prepared for the cost, but it’s always more, and I’m always surprised. I’ll probably have grey hair as a result. Good thing I won’t be able to tell.

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