Archive for July, 2003

Jul 30 2003

Coming together

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Do you think everything happens for a reason? Or that it’s all random? I don’t know – it’s one of those questions like the existence of God that I don’t know the answer to but wish I did – but sometimes things just seem to come together.

Earlier this week, after more than seven years at my job, I was laid off, along with a dozen or so other people. Clearly, it was a decision made by Corporate and not by my own team, who are hugely inconvenienced by my sudden departure. It’s all about getting rid of the most expensive people following the end of the fiscal year and the beginning of the budget process.

My boss was much more upset than I was as she told me. Her hands were shaking and she was almost in tears. I really wasn’t upset. The first thing I thought of was that now I had time to go and take care of my mother.

I haven’t told you, faithful readers, that my mother is dying.

Earlier this month, my sister Megan brought Mom to her place to nurse her through a lung infection. Meg figured it was better to take care of Mom in her own home instead of at Mom’s. She brought Mom in to the hospital where she works, and Mom was diagnosed with pneumonia. In the course of diagnosing the pneumonia, the doctors discovered that Mom’s breast cancer, which had spread throughout her bones last year, is now in her lungs.

There is nothing more they can do. It’s just a matter of time, and not much of that. So on Saturday, John and I are heading up there. He’ll come back on Monday, but I’ll stay until it’s over. It will be good to be with my brother and sisters – Beth is here from England indefinitely – and Mom, to do what I can and to say good-bye.

I’m so glad I now have the time to do that. It’s an incredible gift. And I’m so glad to have the family I have.

12 responses so far

Jul 27 2003

Shut UP! Just SHUT UP!

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The following are things I wish I never had to hear again. I realize that if the wish were actually fulfilled, it would be in a horrible Monkey’s Paw/Twilight Zone manner, so that the protagonists involved would be dead or I would never have met them or something. However, it doesn’t stop me from daydreaming of the absence of the following, in the same way a girl daydreams of winning the lottery (knowing it will never happen, but what if it did?!):

  1. Snoring: Really, is there anything more annoying than being yanked out of the depths of hard-won sleep by snoring? Especially if you’re having a really good dream for a change; say, one featuring Johnny Depp or living in Italy or unaccountable and defiantly un-worked for wealth. To add insult to injury, the cause of your sudden sleeplessness is sleeping! And probably having a completely excEt dream. The final garnish on this cocktail of inconvenience is the utter inability to persuade the snorer to turn over, either by physical or verbal means. Note to self: Must work harder on upper body strength.
  2. The Troll Downstairs: Has earned this unloving soubriquet by means of unrelenting obnoxiousness and habit of leaping out of his front door whenever he hears (see Superpowers below) someone coming or going; hoping, undoubtedly, to somehow glean the remnants of an actual life from theirs.

    The Troll noises that I never, ever, want to hear again:

    Snoring: (And it’s not just Me. The guy who looked after our cats while we were in Canada remarked on it with the amazement usually reserved for phenomena of nature, such as waterfalls or the Grand Canyon).

    His Radio and TV: He plays the classical music radio station every weekend, commercials and all, at a sound level usually experienced at heavy metal concerts instead of one’s Pacific Heights living room. He has done this for years, which begs the question: why doesn’t he just buy some CD’s and be done with it? CD’s rarely, if ever, have commercials for cars, laxatives, or anything else, for that matter, though what with the lack of a life and all, he may be unaware of this fact. The radio is replaced by TV after dinner, and I could tell you everything he watches, unfortunately.

    The garnish on this cocktail of horror: The Troll has a form of deafness previously unknown to medical science. While he can apparently only hear his radio and TV if they are played at a sound level approximating a jet taking off, he has preternaturally sensitive powers of hearing us. He complains bitterly at every condo meeting about us walking around (shoeless, too), the cats walking around (equally shoeless, and with sound-muffling paw fuzz, too), and once actually complained about the fan in our bedroom by saying, “I thought my refrigerator had turned on.” Bonus: He claims not to hear loud parties in the neighborhood that are shaking the windows and causing small objects to fall off shelves in manner of earthquake until the police are called. Sometimes he flees his cave until the cops have done their duty.

    Bodily functions: The worst is the unnatural sigh of pleasure while peeing. Hearing both the sigh and the peeing is so beyond disgusting that I won’t even attempt to describe it, fearing the inevitable loss of both my sanity and recent meal. I’m sure just the fact is more than enough for you and me both. I will just say that it’s undoubtedly the most enjoyment he ever gets.

    This is followed closely by the loud and phlegmy coughing that is a feature of every day life in the Troll household, and just another of the hideous side effects of his inveterate smoking of deeply stinky cigars.

    But it’s not just the unloved and unlovable who are the targets of my ire. Ain’t no-one exempt:

  3. The Cats: I really, really hate the way they demand to be fed. At the top of their voices. Non-stop. Milling around in a manner calculated to get in my way and possibly cause bodily injury if I fall over one or more of them. And even when I am clearly in the feeding process – opening the containers, scooping out the food – they are still milling around and shouting at the top of their voices. Garnish: Cleo keeps giving me shit while I am actually putting the food in her bowl. And she won’t get her head out of the way so I can get the food into the bowl per her incessant demands, so some goes on the floor. Every day. Every single goddamn day.

    Bonus: We have Mom’s neurotic and unrewarding cat staying with us indefinitely. She has been vacationing at our little resort by the Bay for more than 6 weeks now, yet the hissing and fighting have yet to subside. This morning, the kitchen was flooded by an impromptu chase through the kitchen, knocking over the water bowl and accompanied by hissing and yelling. Topper: Cats tried to claim they hadn’t been fed, when I knew for a fact that they had been fed a couple of hours earlier. Not that they shut up or anything.

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Jul 21 2003

Mauled Monday

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Usually, it’s nice having the cats sleep with us. Assuming, that is, that they aren’t right on our feet, pinning down the covers, or taking up the entire pillow with their tiny, furry bodies. You would think that something that small couldn’t take up a whole pillow, but you’d be wrong. Mostly, we feel like our own little tribe, settled in for the night together.

And it’s so cute seeing them snuggled up together. Jack, the Siamese in the picture, is our worst cat (conversely, Sophie, the orange cat in the picture, is the nicest). Jack is loud and obnoxious, yet always has someone to cuddle and play with. No wonder we gave her a boy’s name, since this seems to be true of most men as well.

Yet Jack is not the cause of the striking facial accessories I have been sporting for the past couple of days. Cleo is to blame. She got spooked in the night (and she calls herself a black cat?!) and used my face for a launching pad to escape from whatever monster was after her. I have claw marks across my cheek, beside my nose, and slicing my lower lip both inside and out. I have tried to conceal the damage with make-up, but it’s as futile as if I had gone five rounds with someone and lost. I’m just hoping it will clear up in time for an important meeting I have on Wednesday.

Maybe litter boxes aren’t the worst thing about having cats after all.

6 responses so far

Jul 15 2003

Mammogram Monday

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Completed the final phase of the annual check-up marathon yesterday. The whole thing is such a production, it’s no wonder I hadn’t been for such a long time. Before I could even make an appointment, I had to fax them the front and back of my insurance card and wait for them to get it approved. Then, and only then, would they dare to set up the appointment.

After the check-up, the doctor gave me orders for tests to be done, which I didn’t have time to do until I came back from Canada. I duly did the walk-in blood testing, etc. a month ago and called to make an appointment for a mammogram. The first available appointment was yesterday (happy Bastille Day!), and off I went after work, to swim through an ocean of paperwork before getting topless and down to business.

It was the first mammogram I had had since Mom was first diagnosed with breast cancer. Now that I’m old and high risk, it is something I can look forward to on an annual basis. The technician doing the screening was really nice, but squashing one’s poitrine into a pancake is not fun, and one of the times a girl feels that symmetry is highly overrated.

You have to endure four squashings before they release you. By the time they got to Squash Three, I very nearly passed out, I don’t know why. I asked them to complete Squash Four anyway, because I just wanted it over with, and afterwards, the technician helped me to a cot to lie down. I didn’t actually lose consciousness, but I felt pretty bad. She went to fetch a nurse, who took my blood pressure (110/80) and said, “Even for a white girl, you’re really white.” I confessed that I hadn’t eaten lunch that day (though I didn’t admit that: 1. I hardly ever do; and b. I routinely go and work out when I haven’t eaten for 12 hours, fearing that their heads would fly off).

They brought me graham crackers and orange juice, making me feel like I was back in kindergarten. It was like nap time, only naked. They checked my blood pressure again and then sent me on my way with an extra packet of crackers. I felt really old and really young all at once.

5 responses so far

Jul 11 2003

The Big V

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I’m finally catching up on the New Yorkers that piled up in my absence while I was off being Vacation Suzy. Always instructive yet entertaining, I learned in the combined June 16/23 issue that valium, my drug of choice when faced with the rigors of flying, just turned 40, much like me. It can’t be a coincidence that it was invented when I was a year old; I imagine my advent sent Dr. Leo Sternbach scuttling to his laboratory.

Whether it was my appearance on the scene butt first, or other factors, my mother routinely took valium when I was a child. Many people did. It was the 1960’s and that sort of thing was quite usual, as was my parents’ habit of loading us kids into the car in our PJ’s and taking us to cocktail parties. In their defense, it should be noted that this only happpened when we were in Maine for the summer, and there was very little, if any traffic, in those days. Certainly nothing untoward ever occurred.

Several of our baby pictures feature our parents with a cocktail in one hand and baby bottle in the other; and in my mother’s case, a cigarette is never far away. Now they would probably be charged with child endangerment. These were the 1960’s, the halcyon days of the Rat Pack, and such behavior was the norm, though now it seems almost as remote and antiquated as customs in the 1860’s. I wonder if the enlightened children of today look back at the children who grew up in the Valium Years and feel pity and horror for us.

Dr. Sternbach himself recently turned 95. He confided to the New Yorker that his wife doesn’t let him indulge in his own invention, but that he prefers Scotch anyway.

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Jul 09 2003

The Game

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Buddy’s 21st Birthday

First of all, thanks to all of those who suggested the cushion and the hat. I was the only one of our party with a cushion, and I was definitely the most comfortable. I was also the only one of the women to have brought a hat. We shared it for a while, but they finally caved and went and bought Giants caps, so we all looked like authentic fans but Me. And finally: thanks to the inventors and makers of sunscreen. Despite three hours in the sun, I’m only a couple of shades pinker than I was.

I hope you’re sitting down, because not only did the Giants win, just to honor my very first ball game, but I had a great time. Michel (see comments on Monday’s entry below) was completely right. We had great seats and could see what was going on. I couldn’t be bored, because it took both of my brain cells to figure out what was going on, and what I couldn’t figure out, the boys explained, being my guides to sports and all. Until they got bored and went girl-hunting. Apparently ball games are a good place to meet girls. Who knew? Though given that it was sold out – almost 43,000 people had nothing better to do on a Tuesday – the odds were with them.

Fun things happened, like the ball sailing into the Bay and a few times, into the crowd (miraculously, no-one seemed to be hurt, though the ball was going 95 mph). There are worse ways to spend a sunny summer afternoon than sitting in the sun and eating garlic fries from Gordon Biersch while eavesdropping and people-watching between innings. Being trapped inside an overly air-conditioned office building crunching numbers springs to mind. Could this be the birth of Sporty Suzy?! It’s against all the laws of nature.

7 responses so far

Jul 07 2003

Pre-game show

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I find it remarkable that the two things that came up the most regarding the baseball game were basically:

1. It’s boring
2. It’s uncomfortable

If it’s so boring, how did it get to be our national pastime? Is it the Emperor’s New Clothes of sports, and no-one wants to admit how boring it is? I find this unnerving, since boredom is, as you know, my biggest fear next to death.

And since the makers of ball parks and other arenas know for a fact that you’re going to be sitting on your ass for hours at a time, shouldn’t they make the seats comfortable? Even the airlines don’t do you like that. Maybe the ballpark Powers That Be think that if the seats are really uncomfortable, it will cancel out the boredom and enable the audience to stay awake.

All will be revealed to you on Wednesday, since the game is on Tuesday. I don’t dare to bring my iBook for fear of being perceived to be anti-social, which is the same reason I’m leaving the books and magazines and manicure equipment at home (a helpful friend suggested I use the time to do my nails). I figure I can hide behind my shades and meditate. Zen and the art of baseball.

But I’m bringing the cushion.

6 responses so far

Jul 06 2003

Five Questions

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I got these questions from the always adorable Amber of Lively Lexis. To keep the game going, it’s my turn to ask one of you questions. Volunteers, email me at suzy @ The questions I ask you won’t be the same as the ones Amber asked me – you’re supposed to think up your own. This may be tough for me, considering my lack of creativity. So while I’m trying to think up questions, you can read my answers:

1. Tell us about a defining moment in your life where the decision you made brought you joy and happiness. A defining moment where you wouldn’t change a single thing.

Considering that my life has been mostly of a Salinger (the Party of Five kind, not the JD kind) or Baudelaire orphan nature, the moments of joy and happiness are few and far between, and the defining moments tend to be horrible, like my father’s death. I think my life needs a serious re-write, actually.

But if I had to pick one thing along these lines, I would have to say taking care of my sister Megan for her last two years of high school following my parents’ scandalous divorce and my father’s retirement to his native England. I am glad that I was able to give her a happy and solid home base for those years, when she needed it the most. I even dare to think that she is the remarkable person she is today in part because of that. And the love I have for her is like no other.

2. I know that you’re well traveled. In your opinion, out of all the places you’ve had the pleasure of visiting, what locale had the most effect on you
and why?

Believe it or not, San Francisco. My brother moved here following our parents’ divorce (you can see it pretty much shook us all up), and the first time I came to visit him, I arrived here at night and he took me up to Mt. Davidson. The city was spread out before us in all its glittery glory and I fell in love with it that minute. I have never recovered. I don’t think I ever will.


1. The first time I went to Paris. I was 17, it was summer, it was the first time I had travelled alone that didn’t involve any form of family members, it was the late 1970’s, I was staying with friends in their apartment in the Quartier Latin. Did I mention Paris?!

2. The first time I went to Venice. Late spring. As my vaporetto cruised up the Grand Canal, the pink lights along the canal all lit up at once, echoing the pink of the setting sun. Magic.

3. Since we’re quickly approaching Independence Day let’s talk about your
country! What aspect about your country makes you so damn proud to be an American? And if you had the power to change one aspect to make your home an even better place for you to live, what would that be?

Get Bush out of the White House! He shouldn’t have been there in the first place.

Either that, or some kind of socialized medicine. It’s appalling that only the wealthy or relatively wealthy can afford medical care. It’s the true class system in this country: those with medical insurance and those without.

I think you can love a country as you love a person: despite all their flaws and shortcomings, and sometimes even because of them. I know we have problems as a country, but we also have great qualities. The fact that we won our freedom from England and created an entirely new form of government is an incredible achievement. Our success as a nation, when we started with nothing, is another. We’ve come an amazingly long way in 220 years. And I think it’s remarkable that our founding principles include the pursuit of happiness. Isn’t that what life is all about?

I love it that within one country there are palm trees, deserts, oceans, mountains, prairies. That it contains natural beauties like the snows of Alaska, the sun of Hawaii, the Grand Canyon, Death Valley, the Rocky Mountains, the Great Salt Lake. That it contains unnatural beauties like the glorious excess of Las Vegas, the brash glamor of New York, the energy and architecture of Chicago, the beauty and tolerance of San Francisco. These places could exist nowhere else on earth.

4. When you were a little girl, what did you think you’d be doing today? Are you generally happy with the outcome or are you still working to achieve the dreams of that little girl?

Whenever I say this, people think I’m fishing for compliments or something, but the truth is that I have no particular talents at all. I never wanted to be, say, an actress or a fireman or anything in particular. I am not particularly ambitious, either. So I didn’t have dreams in that manner at all, and still don’t.

We had a Career Day at school when I was about 12 and I got in a lot of trouble for writing down “idle rich” as a career goal. They thought I was mocking them when in fact I was just being truthful. That’s still about the only thing I’d be any damn good at, but I don’t think I’ll ever get the chance to try.

5. Assuming money isn’t an issue, what would be your dream retirement plan?

I can’t believe it won’t be. Many experts think that Social Security will either be non-existent or dramatically underfunded by the time I’m due to retire. My firm has stopped matching our 401(k) contributions until the economy improves, and what’s in there has been bleeding out so quickly I can’t bear to read my statements. But on the bright side, our apartment should finally be paid off by then!

I wonder if I will actually be able to afford to retire when I’m 65!

NOTE: To see my questions, keep watching Amy’s site!

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Jul 04 2003

Independence Day

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Happy birthday, America!

Did you know that this is the date the Declaration of Independence was adopted by the Continental Congress, but the actual signing of the document didn’t start until August and wasn’t complete until the following January?

The first informal celebrations took place almost immediately following the public reading of the Declaration, and interestingly, they are still pretty much the same more than 200 years later: parades, fireworks, feasting. However, the first official (mandated by legislature) celebration wasn’t held until 1781, in Massachusetts.

In the “some things never change” category, a Mrs. Hammond of Chicago declared that she would fly the Confederate flag in front of her house on the 4th of July in 1894. According to the New York Times, this caused an angry crowd to assemble in front of the Hammond house, until Mrs. Hammond admitted that she had ordered the flag, but it hadn’t arrived yet. The crowd disbanded, and Mrs. H. promptly displayed a British flag, which was torn down and destroyed by a young boy who was passing by.

And finally: the Fourth is one of only, well, four holidays that are still celebrated in this country on a certain date, regardless of convenience: New Year’s Day, Christmas Day, Independence Day, and Halloween.

One response so far

Jul 03 2003

Sporty Suzy

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OK, all you fashion mavens out there, I need your advice. What does a girl wear to a baseball game? Having never attended one in my life – or any other kind of sporting event – I have no idea.

My first thought was to bring a hat, even though I seem to have a cartoonishly large head, since they rarely, if ever, fit me. Rather, they perch on top of my head quite uselessly, where they can be borne away by the lightest breeze or slightest breath of scandal, which you will agree is a problem. I have been assured that our seats are in the shade, but have a perfectly reasonable fear of sitting in the sun for four hours or more. Yes, it’s San Francisco, but the game starts around 12:30 p.m., when the fog is gone, and it won’t be back by the end of the game.

So I’m pretty much out of ideas, other than sunglasses.

Now, you’re probably asking yourself when I metamorphosized into Sports Suzy, or if I am in fact the real Suzy and not some Pod Suzy or John playing a practical joke. I assure that I am the one and only Suzy, and the only reason I am breaking my life-long record of not going to any form of sporting event is simple: it’s a work thing, and I have to go. If I don’t look out, I’ll end up setting foot in Florida next, or going to Disney World/Land/Universe and all my records will start dropping like dominoes. This better not be the thin edge of the wedge.

8 responses so far

Jul 02 2003

21st Birthday

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It’s my gorgeous niece Cat’s birthday today!

She’s 21, and I am now going to embarrass her by saying it seems like yesterday that she was a baby, and by posting these pictures of her, as a babyand more recently in a family portrait

(left to right: Harry, Cat’s Dad; Beth, Cat’s Mom; Cat herself, and Ben, Cat’s brother). The thing is, she can’t get mad at me because I gave her jewelry for her birthday, and this year I even refrained from posting about it, complete with picture, so it would be a surprise. One of us might actually be a grown-up.

In honor of Cat’s birthday, I will share with you a couple of my fave quotes from her:

1. I’m mad at yesterday.

2. I often say to myself in the morning “Why did yesterday Cat tell today Cat to do that? Yesterday Cat should have done it. Tomorrow Cat, she can deal
with it.”

Words to live by.

Love you, baby! (Or grown-up!)

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