Archive for April, 2008

Apr 30 2008

Do Not Pass Go

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I tried to open the comments again, but not surprisingly (given my complete and total lack of any kind of techperstise whatsoever), it didn’t work. I’ll have to call Movable Type and/or find some tech savvy kindergartener to fix it for me.

I can’t stand the thought of calling MT, because I’ve spent most of the day on the phone with faceless corporations, unmaking and remaking reservations to go to Florida against my will. Against my will, because it’s for a conference, and it’s on the other side of the country. Before you get all excited about the Florida thing, remember that I already have sun and ocean, and I’d have to travel 3,500 miles for more of the same. Plus uncomfortable work clothes and, you know, work.

The whole thing started when I foolishly booked my tickets on Expedia. The confirmation I received from them showed me leaving Oakland at 2 pm on May 4, and arriving in Tampa at 12:30 AM on May 4. Not humanly possible, I think most of us would agree, unless I have secret (even to me) powers over the space-time continuum. The reservation should have been leaving May 3, arriving 4. Given that the conference starts on May 4, there’s no way I would have booked the tickets to arrive the day after it starts. Clearly, the problem here is not my lack of techpertise, but a problem with Expedia’s system, which allows hapless travellers to reserve tickets that have him/her arriving 14 hours before s/he leaves.

Quite a trick.

Another good one is the choices you get.

  1. Change ticket to the originally requested dates. This costs $150, plus a $30 Expedia-induced processing fee, plus the difference in fare, if there is any after all those fees. The value of the ticket is $295.
  2. Get a “credit” for the ticket, which must be used within one year. Oh, and when you use it, there’s a $100 fee, or approximately one third the value of the ticket.

I selected option 2 as the marginally less painful of the two screwings offered. In both scenarios, Expedia/United have been paid for a service they failed to provide, because of their error. They each blame each other, by the way. And I get to pay $100 not to go to Florida.

Or so I thought.

I cancelled everything, and the guy actually giving the conference, a Fromage Grand in this tiny business world, called me personally and begged me to come. He even said he was a close personal friend of my boss, etc., etc. and agreed to pay all expenses. Even he could do nothing about the greedheads at Expedia and United, but presumably he also suffers from being only human. In return, I have to bring him a box of See’s chocolates, specifically, “the good ones”, Nuts & Chews. I have the nuts part covered.

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Apr 29 2008

Green Acres

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Lilacs in my sister’s garden

Country walks always sound good until I actually go on one. I have noticed the same thing about herbal tea – well, pretty much all tea. It sounds delicious but is actually not. Unlike, say, an espresso. Or a glass of wine. So I like the idea of strolling through the primeval redwoods with the people I love most, but the reality is more like slipping and scrabbling through the dirt and fallen needles while complaining bitterly. And sweating. Ick.

Nature is gross. Shopping is so much better.

Actually, there was a little bit of fun shopping, at Tangents in Fort Bragg (which I usually refer to as “the cute store”), but it was mostly errands, like the Safeway. At the Safeway, I was horrified to note premixed cans of beer and Clamato juice. What the…

Not even a country slip’n’slide could make that seem like a good idea.

I stopped for gas in Boonville, and it was $4.14 a gallon. It was a mere $3.83 in Cloverdale, though, so guess where I filled up?

And of course, I had lunch at the Hamburger Ranch and Pasta Farm. Did you even have to ask?

When I got home, I discovered that I could not get into my house. The lock just kept turning around and around, but refused to unlock. I ended up climbing in one of the living room windows. I don’t know whether I should be relieved or disappointed that no-one called the ever-present po-lice on me. Hmmm.

I called the locksmith, who came over right away and changed the locks. He thought they were probably original, 85 years old, so no wonder they died. He suggested getting locks for the living room windows (you think?), which, on closer inspection, turned out to be the only room in the house that was lock-free. Not even a trace of ghosts of locks past on the four windows. Hmmm.

Getting window locks is now a matter of some urgency, since I’m going to Florida on Saturday for a conference. Now I know from personal experience that the windows can be climbed through with impunity, it makes me a little nervous.

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Apr 27 2008

Sunset Tonight

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Apr 24 2008

Country Time

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Highway 128 through the redwoods

This is the pretty part of the (long) drive to my sister’s house. Most of it is 580 and 101, San Quentin and auto malls and other non-scenic things. As soon as you leave the Hamburger Ranch and Pasta Farm onto 128, things get a lot prettier. And a lot quieter.

So now you know where I’ll be later on today. Our family friend Paul is visiting from Florida – he let me stay with him for a couple of months a few winters ago, and get this: he still likes me – and we’re driving up together to spend a few days with my sister and my brother. There will be a few stops along the way, essential things like Trader Joe’s and Gowan’s farm stand, and probably the Hamburger Ranch, but sometime this afternoon we’ll be ensconced in my sister’s garden, smelling the lilacs and laughing. Rumor has it that she’s making some kind of fancy chicken dinner, too.

As you probably all know by now, the internet connection there is approximately the speed of a very lazy or comatose snail, so you’ll have to wait until my return to hear all about it. In the meantime, have fun, and if you get into trouble, blog all about it!

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Apr 21 2008

Weekend Dramas

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Well, here I am at the Oakland office, awaiting the furniture delivery men. I am beginning to suspect that someone tipped them off to the narrow, though lovely, marble staircase and they’re saving me for last. Or going to every day laborer depot in the city, looking for someone else to do the lugging.

In the meantime, I could be sorting the mail and prospecting for carpet, but I’d rather tell you about the play and the police. Before I do, I will just mention what I can see from the office window.

It’s only the second floor, so even though the windows actually open, there’s no point in jumping out of them. Now, that’s a safety feature! From my perch above Dicker and Dicker of Beverly Hills, I can see boarded up buildings, including the Fox Theater, which is undergoing renovations, and hear the endless peeping of the traffic signals. I may lose what little is left of my mind after another hour or two of that. There is a shopping cart guy across the street, making a fashion statement by wearing nothing but shorts, flip-flops (or possibly no shoes, it’s hard to tell) and three wool hats. He is having an animated conversation with either the cart contents or his imaginary friend. Directly under the window, a couple is having a heated verbal battle, which is threatening to become threatening.

Maybe the furniture guys took one look and fled.

On Saturday, I fled Oakland for the more salubrious shores of San Francisco to take in the west coast d?but of Dennis Lehane’s first play, Coronado. Based on his short story, the best description might be noir – live action film noir, as it were. If you’ve read or seen Mystic River or Gone, Baby, Gone, you’ll know what to expect, as Lehane explores the dark side of the human heart. It was performed in a small theater, and that made it more intense – I felt as if I were part of these people’s damaged, yet fascinating lives.

The drama didn’t end with the play. After I had finally battled my way onto the bridge (you know it’s going to be bad when the onramp is bumper to bumper) and off the freeway, I turned onto the street next to mine. There were two cop cars, one on each side of the road. I stopped for a cop to cross the road, and was relieved to be waved on. I was less relieved to note four cop cars on my street, including a canine unit. That’s a lot of cops for two blocks. I still don’t know what happened, but they were there for more than an hour.

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Apr 20 2008

7th Year Suzy

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As of today, I’ve been blogging for seven, count ’em, seven years. That makes my blog ancient in internet terms. Probably 80 or so. And it may well explain why I seem to have run out of things to write about lately. I often think about stopping – surely close to a decade of frivolous nonsense is enough for anyone – but then something happens and I think, “I have to blog about that”, or I get an email or phone call from someone who’s read it and wants me to know s/he has enjoyed it. You realize that just encourages me, right? So for better or worse, for sillier or shallower, I’ll keep blogging. At least for now.

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Fortunately, the heat wavelette last weekend seemed to be a fluke, and/or was sent packing by the powers that be to places that are used to that kind of thing (Africa, for instance, though it’s possible Tarzan couldn’t have taken that kind of heat – at least inside, close to midnight), and we’re back to the standard weather of sunny skies and 60 to 70 degrees during the day. The weather we all pay top dollar to live here for.

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I took a day off from the three hour tour last week to go and buy furniture for our Oakland office. The differences between our San Francisco office and our Oakland office pretty much embody the basic differences between those two cities. SF: pretty, impressive, easy to get to, in the middle of everything. Oakland: not. It’s probably only fair to warn you that there’s a post on the horizon in which I break my rule against comparing and contrasting and do just that to the two cities. Guess who wins?

So instead of clopping through BART and the streets of San Francisco, I drove the highways and byways of the East Bay, desperately seeking Staples and Office Depot. I bought a desk, a chair, and a filing cabinet to join the desk, chair and heaps of mail currently in place at the office. I’m hoping to actually – and I realize this is a radical, radical notion – get the mail sorted and put away one of these days. It might be nice to see what color the carpet is.

I arranged to have the furniture delivered tomorrow. Much like the cable company, they believe in picture windows of time. Sometime between 10 and 5. I split the time with my partner/boss, and somehow I got stuck with the early shift. I can use the time to open and sort the mail. I know, I know, you all wish you were me now. The usual.

The office is in a historic building downtown, about a block away from the splendid Paramount Theater. The ground floor has an outlet/outpost of Dicker & Dicker of Beverly Hills, though few places could be further from Beverly Hills than downtown Oakland. I’m almost positive that game shows when I was a kid used to have prizes of furs from Dicker & Dicker of Beverly Hills. However, I expect that the lack of an elevator will be more interesting to the delivery men, and I doubt that they will be impressed by the white marble stairs with their elaborate wrought-iron railings.

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Apr 13 2008

Legendary

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I picked the roses from a bush in my back yard yesterday. I soon discovered that Guns N’ Roses are 100% accurate and every rose does indeed have a thorn, and its whole point in life is to point it into you. I minimized the damage to Self by holding them carefully by the leaves. Here you see them looking perfectly innocent, in a vase made by my former neighbor, the swooningly handsome Aaron.

This morning, the cats were cutely sniffing the blooms, but by the time I grabbed the camera to document the adorability, June was trying to eat them. So I had to shoo them away, but I still found a lightly mangled bloom on the kitchen floor later.

They miss no opportunity to be naughty. I didn’t even realize a vase of flowers was an opportunity.

Besides arranging flowers, I did two loads of laundry* yesterday, and not much else, because it was hot (still 83 degrees in the house at 11:30 pm) and I was more slothful than usual after my busy week. Two full days of conferences is like a flashback to high school. I was sitting there in my uncomfortable clothes, listening to various Suit Guys drone on while my mind wandered. If I had to be at the Four Seasons, why wasn’t I in the spa? Or ensconced in a suite? When can I sneak out of here? Has my watch stopped completely? During lunch and recess, you had to chat animatedly with the popular kids. Fortunately my complete ignorance of golf excused me from having to go to a second location. We all know how dangerous that is.

On Friday, I had meetings at the office in the city (I think I went to the city 4 out of 5 days last week, and I’m beginning to think of it as the three hour tour. My rescue appears to be equally unlikely) and a date with Mr. Wayne Shorter at 8:00. With a little time to kill between appointments, I did some shopping until it was time for dinner.

I stopped into a fancy bookshop. I found a lovely birthday card for my sister, a couple of other cards, and was unable to resist the latest Us and People with headlines about BeyoncĂ©’s secret wedding. When I took my haul up to the cash, the fashionable cashier looked at me with disdain, which I enjoyed like a secret wedding. I even asked her to put them in a bag, which she did with visible horror. I enjoyed that, too. It?s fun to be perverse sometimes.

Wayne Shorter is celebrating his 75th birthday this year, but you’d never know it. He is as amazing as you’d expect from a guy who played with Miles Davis and Art Blakey and co-founded Weather Report. This evening was the US d?but of a piece he wrote for the Imani Strings, and it was breathtaking. It’s been a real honor to have been in the presence of three legends in the short space of a week. I’m pretty sure this coming week will be a lot less eventful.

*I found three separate dollar bills, all curled up coke style, in the dryer. Somehow they seemed like extra money, or in nature of a tip.

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Apr 07 2008

Reversal of Fortune

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The last few days have been too busy being fabulous for me to write. The polar opposite of my most recent post, in fact, so maybe these things balance out. In this case, in this week(end), dare I say it…I may have actually come out ahead.

I’ll present the evidence and you can decide.

Friday

Went to Sacramento to see Bruce Springsteen.

Apparently, music is my only reason to hit the state capital, since the last time I was there was with my fabulous sister to see the fabulous Blackalicious. That evening is one I will never forget, and so was this past Friday. At nearly three score years, Springsteen still has charm and charisma to burn, and burn it he does, giving 110% when he’s on stage. I can almost forgive him for being an hour late and not apologizing.

The crowd crowded into the Arco Arena was all ages. Right below me were two mothers with their teenage kids. One of the kids tapped my knee partway through and told me to tell him if his dancing got in the way. I’d be amazed if he were as old as 16. Two seats down was another teen talking on her cell, saying “When Mom and I went to see Eminem…” Given the fact that this day would have been my mother’s 76th birthday and that she gave me my love of music and was always, I now realize, listening to the cutting edge at the time, it was entirely appropriate.

Also a blast.

I’ve loved Springsteen since I was in high school, so finally seeing him live was really special for me.

Sunday

Saturday was a recovery from the long, late show and the long, traffic-challenged drive home. Friends from out of town had arrived on Thursday evening and were staying at an extremely posh hotel in the city, but after the horror of getting home, there was no way I was getting back in the car and facing yet more bumpers, even for them.

On Sunday, I had tickets to see yet another legend: Joe Sample. He was playing at the beautiful and intimate Herbst Theater. It was intimate in a good way: small-ish, beautiful room, but my knees didn’t touch the seats in front of me and I wasn’t in peril of having someone’s head in my lap the way I was at Arco Arena. It was just Mr. Sample and his piano and it was heavenly. He introduced each song with its history, putting it in context, and told amazing anecdotes of his long career (he must be nearly 70 and has been playng professionally since he was in his teens).

He took questions and answers from the crowd, many of which were children, since it was a matinee. It was wonderful to see these kids lining up to ask very, very good questions, and getting heart-felt and considered answers from a legend. I’m sure they’ll remember it and talk about it when they’re grown-up.

You’d think that would be enough for one day, but I collected my friends from Fancytown, explaining that the luxury part of their visit was now over, as we crossed the bridge to the Siberia side of the Bay.

They were delighted with my tiny house and my not so tiny kittens. They were tired of restaurant food, so we got dinner fixings at Farmer Joe’s and had a barbecue. It was a splendid evening of catching up and swapping stories and relaxing. They’re the kind of company that helps you make dinner and clean it up and are pretty much just like family.

What a day!

Monday

Woke up belatedly to find that friends had folded up the couch and all the bedding and were happily sipping tea and reading and playing with the cats. Left me alone while I made actually good coffee, woke up, talked to my boss, and generally accepted the horrible fact of being awake and waiting to fully caffeinate.

Once I was (relatively) awake and (relatively) dressed, we headed out to what was effectively brunch at Bette’s Oceanview Diner. I hadn’t been there for years, but it was as great as I remembered. Note to those who may visit sometime, anytime: there is no ocean view and never has been. Though the neighborhood has gotten on the fancy side. Fun shopping, too.

After that the fun was over, as I drove my friends to SFO to pick up their rental Prius and make their long way up the coast to Seattle. I was sad to say goodbye, but so happy and energized by their loving and positive presence.

It looks like a busy week: all day in the office tomorrow, a conference at the Four Seasons on Wednesday and Thursday, more meetings on Friday, followed by Wayne Shorter that evening.

It’s good to be busy, but it’s even better to be loved.

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Apr 03 2008

Yesterday…

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…all my troubles wouldn’t go away…

I had a really excellent day.

Got up for an early conference call which my boss had scheduled without a) checking with me first; 2) telling me what it was about. About ten minutes after I got up and was in the process of making bad coffee (why am I so bad at it after so many years of practice? Why?) he called me to say he couldn’t join the call, but here’s what it’s about. Fifteen minutes later, he called again to say we’d have to reschedule it. Oh, and could I cover for him at a conference in SF today? He couldn’t remember when he was supposed to be there (but it’s after 11 so if I got there at 10:30 it should be OK) or who he’s supposed to see there, so I get to go to the St Francis and ask for whoever is running whatever conference is on, and then tell them I’m replacing the person who is supposed to be meeting with someone whose name I don’t actually know.

All this after rush hour on BART. Yippee.

When I got to the hotel, I discovered it was the wrong hotel. Called my boss, got the right place. Went there. By this time, both my heels were blistered from the new shoes I had bought for work but foolishly hadn’t broken in before trailing all over town in them. Tried not to visibly limp to the registration desk, where they asked me if I was taking Boss’ place on the panel that afternoon and whether I brought a PowerPoint with me. Excused myself to call Boss. The naughty words were hanging invisibly over my head as I dialed. He told me he couldn’t do it and didn’t have anything he could email me so I could replace him. I explained this to the people running the show, and they were nice about it, but dang. Can’t imagine why he didn’t mention this minor fact when he asked me to replace him at the meeting.

Turns out it wasn’t one guy, it was four. And it was at noon so I had an hour and a half to kill. Went to Walgreen’s, got moleskin for my heels (hope it’s not made of real moles), went back to the hotel and managed to apply moleskin to both heels in a teeny-tiny cubicle in the ladies’ room (how does Superman change his clothes in a phone booth? How?), struggled back into evil, unforgiving nylons (who invented those horrible things anyway?), put on the shoes that caused the whole thing in the first place, and went to have breakfast.

Oddly, the meetings took place in one of the hotel rooms, which the person before me had locked, so I had to go back downstairs in my Little Mermaid shoes (the original version, in which it feels like she’s walking on knives with every step) and get the concierge to open it again. Spent the next hour doing weird speed dating meetings (15 mins each!) and explaining why Boss wasn’t there.

Good times.

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