Archive for May, 2003

May 29 2003

Random Notes

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I haven’t been to Toronto for so long that it seems really weird to me. I don’t know where anything is, and it seems really grey and sprawly and the sky has that LA-like brown edging to it. The weather is still being even more capricious than Me, with showers like passing bad moods and bright sunshine, all within half an hour or so.

It also seems like such a big city to me. San Francisco is more like a collection of villages or small towns, but this is a big city with tall buildings and lots and lots of people and urban sprawl. It’s funny that I feel like such a bumpkin.

But I won’t let that stop me from criticizing a couple of things, at the risk of damaging Canadian-American relations to the point where Canadian bacon gets called Freedom bacon. Number one: they really blew it with the waterfront in Toronto. As far as I can see, there are nothing but highrises all along the lake, effectively blocking it from view from anyone who doesn’t live or work in one of those buildings, which seems a shame when the lake is clearly one of the city’s natural attributes.

Then there’s the cement wasteland of the Yonge-Dundas Square (I hope I got the name right). It’s so bleak and uninviting, even in a sunny moment on an early summer day, that I can’t imagine how dismal it will look in the dead of winter.

Someone told me that it’s supposed to be like Times Square in New York, but even without the hookers and dealers that populate the original, I can’t see the resemblance, other than those video monitors stuck on buildings. What are those all about? They mostly seem to have ads on them, so they’re sort of like commercials to annoy you while you’re walking down the street instead of watching TV. Why is this a good thing? You really shouldn’t be at the mercy of commercials when you’re outside (it’s bad enough having them in your own house, on TV and in magazines and telemarketers calling at dinner time), though having said that, I feel the same way about cell phones, and I know I’m in a teeny minority on that one.

However, the money is pretty, and different colo(u)rs – I got a $5 with a snowflake on it yesterday – though I don’t like the $1 and $2 coin thing. They get heavy fast and clutter up your wallet. Maybe it’s a Commonwealth thing, since England does it, too. They do spell things the same way and have the same Queen on their money, so there could be a connection here.

And finally – you knew this was coming – the whole Beer Store and Wine Store thing. The fact that you can’t just run out to the corner store for a bottle of wine just seems wrong to me.

On the bright side, I can apparently get back the Goods & Services tax on my hotel bill and any other item over $50 Canadian. Yay! If only I wasn’t sick of shopping.

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May 27 2003

Sick of Shopping!

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It seems that my absence from San Francisco causes disasters, natural and unnatural. Yesterday there was a sharp-ish earthquake (4.0 on the Richter scale), and when I was in Boston in March, the apartment building directly across the street from ours and my stepmother’s house in Wimbledon both burned down on the same day. I can’t be to blame being so far away when it all happened, but still, it’s a coincidence. And a damned good alibi.

So I’m in Toronto, where you can experience 3 out of 4 seasons in one day. It will rain hard and then go away, making it look like nothing ever happened. Yesterday it did this while still sunny, though I didn’t see a rainbow afterwards. At least it hasn’t been at all winter-like. This is especially good, since I seem to have lost the one jacket I brought with me.

I have only myself to blame, since I was all by myself on the trip. I’m pretty sure I had it when I checked into the hotel (carrying it, along with my luggage) but I haven’t seen it since. On my way out this morning, I asked at the front desk if they had seen it. Front desk called security, and he came out and introduced himself and then went to look for it. He didn’t find it, and then filled out a report about it. I felt like a total idiot at this point. Really, if I were less neurotic and could fly without the assistance of the two v’s, or were more attentive and could actually keep track of my own stuff, there would be no problem.

I told you I wasn’t a real grown-up.

So I went out to find a replacement jacket, and the process has actually made me sick of shopping. Yes, yes. You read it here first. Though it will undoubtedly wear off like the two v’s, right now I’m all shopped out.

I went all over the place, from the Eaton Center to Holt Renfrew and points of call in between, and nothing. Everything was either too formal (work-esque blazers) or too informal (variations on hooded zip-up sweatshirts). Even the Gap had nothing useful, and the fact that I was willing to resort to them when my brother and sister along with most of Mendocino County consider the owners of the Gap the root of all logging evil should tell you how desperate I was. At this point, as the rain poured down outside the Gap, my lost jacket had acquired perfection of epic proportions in my mind. It went with everything. It was neither too formal nor too in-; not too heavy or too light, and pretty with cool buttons. I missed it.

I ended up getting a dark blue jean jacket at Levi’s and getting a cab back to the hotel. But on the bright side, I stocked up on some Lush, so the shopping expedition wasn’t a complete loss. Think I’ll put that bottle of Oyster Bay sauvignon blanc on ice and go take a bath with one of my bath bombs. Then I will be ready to shop another day. But not today.

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May 23 2003

Departure Lounge

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The day of departure draws nigh. I’m beginning to think that travelling on the Sunday of the Memorial Day weekend is a good idea. Everyone who is going somewhere will be there by then, either leaving Friday or Saturday. And the Canadians celebrated Queen Victoria’s birthday on May 19, despite the fact that the actual day was May 24, so they won’t be cluttering up the airport, either. Though now I’ve said that, the airport will be jam-packed and/or my flight will be delayed so I’ll miss my connecting flight in Chicago (only 45 minutes to change planes! And O’Hare ain’t that small!) and/or there will be horrifying turbulence and/or it will all end in boredom and/or death.

Really, considering I have flown almost 27,000 miles since last June, you’d think I’d be positively blas&eacute about it, instead of applying drugs and alcohol until sufficiently anesthetized to board and face the ordeal. Clearly, facing my fears just doesn’t work for me.

The good news is that I have my watch and it seems to be working in its usual approximate manner (hopefully the pilots have more accurate timepieces at their disposal). I am packed, and it’s my usual one carry on bag, though I broke my cardinal rule and am bringing no fewer than three pairs of shoes. All I can say is, I caved under the pressure of looking good under every possible climactic condition.

So I have today to tie up all loose ends at work, and Saturday to get waxed and polished and run a few last-minute errands, like getting an extra memory chip for the digital camera so I can take lots of vacation pictures and inflict them later on an unsuspecting public. I’m bringing my iBook so I can report from the road, so stay tuned.

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May 22 2003

Margaret Quotes

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Why I love my stepmother, reason 493 in a continuing series. Her latest missive included her views on Muslim extremists:

“Mohammed has managed to keep his adherents much more successfully than Jesus Christ.”

And, further:

“Why aren’t these testosterone-filled youngsters chasing girls and listening to rap music and taking “grass”? I am sure that is far less harmful to society than suicide bombing.”

No wonder my father loved her so much. I bet he’s laughing, wherever he is. I know I am.

So I’m back from the doctor’s, and I’m perfect, of course. Nothing wrong with me except I’m getting old. But first for the good stuff. She’s a new doctor to me, and I really like her. She has her waiting room furnished with antiques and real books. She brings her dog Daisy to work with her (Daisy is a mutt rescued from the pound, too, so bonus points for that), and Daisy kindly washed my face and played with me while I waited.

She talked to me with my clothes on before getting down to business, rather than making me sit around shivering and undignified in a paper gown (she agreed with me that really, gown is superfluous since she has now seen my bod from angles even I haven’t, but apparently some people feel it gives them some shred of dignity). When she weighed me, she asked if I knew what I weighed and I said no. She asked if I wanted to, and I said no. So she said, “Don’t look and I won’t tell you” and I still don’t know. Ignorance = bliss, remember?

The paperwork and instruments of destruction were located on an Art Deco cocktail cabinet among the potted orchids, and a breeze came in through the open window. It was as pleasant a doctor experience as I could ever have.

Apparently the girl weirdness I have been suffering lately is “peri (or para?)-menopause”, or the opening act for the big show of actual menopause. Like most opening acts, it goes on too long, in this case around 10 years. But at least nothing’s really wrong. Or as the doctor put it: “You’re in great shape, there’s nothing wrong with you, you look ten years younger than you are. You’re a lucky girl. Now get out of here.”

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May 22 2003

Art Musings

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What with my pie being so fully occupied and all lately, I haven’t had a chance to tell you that John and I did make it to see the Leonardo Da Vinci and the Splendor of Poland exhibit at the Legion of Honor.

I love that museum: it’s so pretty, and its setting, overlooking the ocean and a snippet of the Golden Gate Bridge, is breath-taking. Also going there always reminds me of Kim Novak in Vertigo, going there to sit in front of the [non-existent] portrait of the mad Carlotta.

I wonder why I seem to be better at going to art exhibits in other places? I went to Boston earlier this year mostly to see the Impressionist Landscape exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts. I went to Russia mostly to see the Hermitage’s collection. I am considering going to LA to see French Masterworks from the Pushkin Museum (so much closer than Russia) at LACMA, but have yet to see the Treasures of Modern Art at SF MOMA, which is just a short walk from work. I mean, I can’t keep pleading the pie forever, you know?

But back to the Da Vinci exhibit. It ended last Sunday, and we just made it in under the wire before the closing date, so it was a zoo of other procrastinators. Despite being a dedicated city-dweller, I tend to be intolerant of my fellow human beings en masse, but this was worth it. The most outstanding included an Alma-Tadema of a red-haired Polish composer; a street scene in Warsaw that was very Pisarro; a portrait of an elderly woman which used to be attributed to Rembrandt and has now been properly attributed to Bol; a portrait of an unknown little girl in a grey dress holding a bouquet of white chrysanthemums that was eerie, as if she were a ghost child; a striking painting of a single tree at night, illuminated by the moon and stars and set against a background of dark mountains and violet snow; and one of a hunting party setting off on an early winter morning. You could see the horses tossing their heads and the steam coming off them.

But the star of the show was unquestionably Leonardo’s Lady with the Ermine, painted in the early 1480’s and one of the few Da Vinci paintings still extant. She beats the hell out of the Mona Lisa, you ask me. I never did care for Mona Lisa and her sallow, vapid face. Even when I first saw her at the age of 17. Or as John put it, “Wow! That girl with the lamb is really cool!” I’m sure Leonardo would have been proud.

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May 21 2003

Time & place

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In keeping with the “time is money” theme de la semaine (apologies to those who have Quebec French forced upon them – see how I’m already thinking all Canadian and everything? – but I can rarely, if ever, restrain my inner Francophile), I can finally say:


Not only do I finally have the 250 year old grandfather clock*, almost 6 months after the whole d&eacuteb&acirccle started (sorry, still not restraining it), but it is all in one piece and it’s working. It only took $4,000, 6 months, and 3 house calls from the US clock experts to get it that way. More evidence that time = money.

But it looks better than I have ever seen it, and I hope that my father thinks I did OK with the responsibility of caring for it. I have to admit that much of how upset I have gotten over the whole fiasco has been because I feel that I let Dad down by not taking better care of it. However, if he was right and you just go out like a candle when you die, he has no idea. If ignorance = bliss, does that mean no after life?

Though I do have the clock and it’s ticking away majestically, what I don’t have is my watch. Faithful readers will recall how it is subject to work stoppages of a sudden and seemingly random nature, like French workers going on strike or French bus drivers who just stop, announce “Terminus!” and repair to the nearest caf&eacute, which, since it’s France, isn’t far. Fortunately “taxi” is the same in French and English, since it is, after all, one of the most important words to know in any language.

For those less familiar with my watch, that gives you some idea. In watch’s defense, it must be said that it is at least 75 years old, which makes it one of those pesky kids to the clock, but an old and venerable lady to most watches. I have resisted the temptation to replace the inner workings with something more modern and reliable because I love it that it’s still the original.

Same reason why I left the previous owner’s name engraved in script on the back: Eve Esquith. Not only an elegant name, but a reminder of the watch’s past and food for thought on who Eve was and the watch’s other owners. I always picture Eve as a flapper in a beaded gown who went to speakeasies and had handsome men light her cigarette, which would be in a long, ebony holder.

However, this means that it has to be repaired and coaxed to go on living a couple of times a year. It’s been at the shop for two weeks now. I miss the sparkle, but it’s been kind of liberating not knowing what time it is. But I’m hoping it will be ready to come with me on my trip.

Maybe Nature doesn’t permit two such timepieces to exist in the same place at the same time, and that’s been the whole problem all along.

*Clock has been in our family since it was made, near London, around 1745-1750. I inherited it from my father. You can read more about the saga of getting it from London to San Francisco here, here, and here. See why it’s such a big deal to me?

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May 20 2003

Pack Mule

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Given the eensy-weensy piece-ette of the pie devoted to “other”, you won’t be surprised to hear that although I’m leaving for Toronto on Sunday, I have yet to pack.

Normally, I’m a planner. When my father was alive, we’d plan trips together a year ahead. Not only did it give me months of anticipation fun, but I truly believe that if you plan ahead, you’ll have more fun. You’ll already know where the great restaurants, art galleries, and vineyards are, so you don’t have to waste time on the search, which may or may not be successful, once you get there. Given that I live in the U.S. of A., where vacation time is as precious and limited as black truffles or saffron, I don’t want to waste any work-free time I may have.

So I should already be packed, including jewelry and hair accessories (always important), especially considering that I will be up against one of the most challenging situations to dress for: a terminally vain girl meeting up with old girlfriends who not only knew her in her glorious youth, but know all the make-up tricks. The desired effect is casual, but stunning. Like I just happen to look fabulous but am not dressed up or appear to have made any effort. This is the hardest look to achieve.

Not only that, but the weather is presenting a wardrobe challenge. Yes, I can go to Europe for three weeks with one carry-on bag, but the climate in, say, Florence in October is much less temperamental than Toronto in late May. And they say Italians are temperamental. Canada has a lock on the diva when it comes to weather.

I have been anxiously surveying the Toronto forecasts for the past week, while wondering if they are as (in)accurate as the San Francisco ones. It’s scheduled to be raining on the night I arrive, with the daytime high of 60&deg and a night time low of 48&deg. Now this right here is what we call winter in these parts, which would require sweaters and possibly cashmere socks. But I know the perfidiousness of the Toronto climate and it’s completely capable of suddenly being 85&deg or worse and horribly humid. I seem to recall there being about two weeks of really good weather there per year: the one week of spring, before it gets hot and muggy and buggy for the next three months, and the one week of fall, before it gets ass-freezing cold for the next six to eight months.

I’m hoping to get that spring week – it really should make its d&eacutebut on my birthday, as a gesture to international relations and my birthday week. But I’ll bring layers, just in case. And I’ll go out on a limb and leave the cashmere socks at home.

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May 19 2003

Time & money

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Colin recently showed me a pie chart of his typical day and how it changed on the weekend. Of course, this immediately made me think of what my own pie chart would look like. Over the past month, it has pretty much looked like this. To quote A.A. Milne again, “When he put it that way, Christopher Robin saw how it was.” No wonder I have had no time to do anything at all amusing, or even much of the “everything else” category for the past month. Look how teeny that slice of pie is! Hardly enough to keep an anorexic alive.

It also got me thinking about the concepts of time and money. We seem to think of them and express them in much the same way. You spend both time and money. You even budget both (though without marked success, in my case). Some people get time off instead of money to make up for overtime worked (again, not me). Some people even say: “Time is money.”

I don’t know about that, but I do think that they have to pay you to be at work not only because of irritating necessities like having to pay rent and buy food, but because they are essentially asking you to give up much of your awake time to be there. This seems to be more evidence that time does equal money.

It’s an interesting idea that you can spend time as if it were money. Every day you wake up and are given 24 hours. Granted, there are things you must do or should do in that time period, but as a concept, it’s yours to spend.

I’m hoping that my pie chart during my fast-approaching Birthday Week (only two shopping weeks left!) will look like this instead.

If it’s true that I can choose how to spend the time I have, that’s it.

*Includes: errands, such as shopping and going to the cleaner’s; making dinner; dealing with Mom Crises; talking to friends; bathing & grooming; mail, e- and otherwise; and all other necessary daily et ceteras.

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May 14 2003

It’s the end of the world as we know it

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“At first Piglet thought the world had come to an end. Then he thought perhaps just the Hundred Acre Wood had come to an end. Then he thought perhaps just he had come to an end.”

— A.A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh

You have been warned. The world may be coming to an end. I have proof. Or possibly, it already has and the theorists who hold that hell is here on earth are right. Lending credence to this theory is one’s existence being limited to work, errands, and the gym, and sleeping far fewer hours than one works.

Here are Suzy’s Three Proofs of Armageddon:

1. I am posting again.

2. I have a doctor’s appointment next week for the first time in six, count ’em, six years. Basically, I haven’t gone since I went off the Pill and therefore lost my entire reason for going to the doctor at all. It was almost a blackmail situation in those bad old days: go to the doctor and suffer the indignities or you won’t get the magic pills that save you from reproducing. Once that reason was removed, I joyfully renounced the indignities and squooshiness of the annual poke’n’prod. I will spare you the reason for my sudden change of heart, but let’s just say I want to make sure everything is operating as it should in the machinery of one’s aging bod. An expurgated report will be available next week. Oh, and I might finally find out what my blood type is, just for the hell of it.

3. My mother was nice to me when we visited her last weekend. Not one snide remark or blatant put down or yelling or insults or anything. She was also in better spirits than I have seen her in about a year. She had enough energy to go out to breakfast with John and me, and even walked us to the bus stop when we left. She sent us home with lettuce and roses from her garden. It was really nice, but really surreal.

Once again, one incident made me re-think my previous philosophy. Maybe I’ve been too hard on her! Maybe it’s all because I’m such a horrible daughter! Maybe she’ll be nice to me from now on! Maybe we really can repair our relationship!

Or not.

In the meantime, I’m just going to go with it and enjoy it.

I almost forgot the final proof: it hasn’t rained all week. Yet.

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May 07 2003

Confidential confidence

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Kelly gave me a great tip for dealing with the fear I’m currently experiencing. I’m going to pick it up as soon as I can. It’s time to start working on that confidence!

It’s amazing that a lifetime of experience can be cancelled out – at least temporarily – by something that only takes a few seconds. I guess the same is true when you catch your spouse cheating or someone you love dies, and you’d think if there was one lesson I had learned over the past couple of years, it would be that your life can change so suddenly and when it does, it’s rarely for the better.

I told my trainer about The Incident yesterday (last week being too occupied with work and sickness to go to the gym) and she was horrified. She said, “Of course you’re upset! Someone invaded your personal space in an aggressive and sexual way against your wishes. I mean, he violated you!” I wonder if I would have freaked out as badly if he had grabbed my arm. I don’t know. All I know is, it wasn’t at all like the time I was in France and a passing guy swept off my hat and kissed my cheek, or even being chased all over the roof of the Milan Cathedral in the pouring rain by Italian schoolboys (who, it turned out, only wanted to give me a rose, though carrying one around just in case seems odd. Or possibly just Italian).

Anyway, I’ll get the book and take the next self-defense course offered at the gym – they have had them before – and try to renew my shaken faith in human nature, or as it might be, mankind, since I don’t fear my sister women.

Other than that, I’m treading water at work and the treadmill at the gym, so there ain’t a whole lot to report these days. I have to get everything done by the self-imposed deadline of May 30, when John and I leave for Toronto, SARS be damned.

I have decided that having a single day to celebrate one’s birthday is wholly inadequate and completely unfair. Even someone as math-challenged as I am can see that having only 1/365th of a year dedicated to the celebrating of one’s existence is insufficient. So the week of June 1 is officially my Birthday Week.

I never work on my birthday, that being one of my few principles, and since I will have that week without work at all, it makes sense to celebrate all week. I’ll be surrounded by friends and I won’t have to get up early, so why not?

Also when I turned 40 last year, it was horrible. Not only did I have to face being an old bag, but it was the first birthday without my father, and I spent most of the day crying instead of celebrating. So I’m going to make up for it this year.

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May 04 2003

Too much to ask?

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Thanks to all of you for your support and good wishes. I am still surprised by how unnerved I am over what was really a non-event. I’m still walking to work in the morning, but I’m too nervous to listen to music en route, and I miss the soundtrack to the movie of my life. I am still hyper-aware of passers-by, and the beating of my heart these early mornings ain’t all cardio.

Hopefully I’ll get over myself before I’m a year older, an event which occurs a month from today. So start shopping. And not all self-defense related things, ‘K? I’m still all about the pretty, the frivolous, and the sparkly. As my niece put it: “All I want is no drama (unless it’s the positive sort), a job that doesn’t require me to bring it home at the end of the day and lots of pretty sparkly things. Is that too much to ask????”

Yeah. What she said. And while I’m wishing, birthday and otherwise, I might as well add:

1. Stop raining until after Thanksgiving. I mean it. We were at 250% of normal rainfall for April. The reservoirs are full. My sister’s garden is beginning to rot, and she’s going to have to dig a moat around her house if the rain doesn’t get lost really, really soon. I’m not kidding. I’m going to start wasting water with reckless abandonment, like letting the water run when I brush my teeth. Watch me.

Also, I can’t use my glittery Marilyn Monroe backpack until it stops raining, and it’s killing me. I bought it a month ago, for God’s sake! And look how cute it is!

Stand not upon the order of your going. Go. Actually, you have just been ordered, so you have no excuse. Go and cry all over someone else for a change.

2. I’d love to actually get caught up at work so I don’t have to keep bringing home work on the weekends after working a 50 hour week.

3. I’m more than ready for this flu thing to go and party in someone else’s bod. I know it’s fun to be with me, but a week is usually more than enough for pretty much anyone. You know what I told the rain, Flu Bug? Yeah, well, that. And then some.

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