Don’t Leave Home Without It

Note to Self: even if you think you know where you’re going, even if you’re sure it’s perfectly simple and there’s no chance at all of your getting lost, bring the GPS. Just bring it. You’ll thank yourself later.

I went to see Steely Dan* at the Greek Theatre at UC Berkeley (the closest I’ll ever get to that august temple of higher learning) on a balmy evening. I was thrilled about seeing the century-old outdoor theater, built by William Randolph Hearst**, which has hosted both the divine Sarah Bernhardt and the divine Bob Dylan, among many others. How many venues can make that claim?

I was also looking forward to seeing Steely Dan, who first charmed me with their wit and irony floating on incandescent melodies when I was in high school. I thought it would be easy to just pop over to Berkeley: no bridges, no traffic, perfectly straightforward directions. I figured I didn’t need the GPS just this once.

I was, of course, wrong.

I took a wrong turn somewhere and ended up hopelessly lost. Everyone I asked for directions told me something different, and none of them were right. I finally found Telegraph and just drove to the end of it, where I found hordes of concert-goers who could actually tell me where the theater was.

Parking was even harder to find than the theater. I eventually found a place, and it turned out be about 15 minutes’ walk away, up and down hills (though with a stunning view of the Bay and the famous Campanile). Needless to say, I got lost again (I don’t even need a car to do that!) and I must have looked so bewildered that a drunk, slightly crazed homeless guy took pity on me and told me which way to go. You know it’s bad when the drunk, slightly crazed homeless guy has way more of a clue than you do.

I was nearly an hour late (or Suzy standard time) by the time I got there, but so was Steely Dan, who took the stage right when I took my seat. I’m guessing that Mr. Hearst didn’t have the audience experience at the theater, because you’re jammed together closer than on a discount airline, and the seats are non-comfy cement. The girl sitting behind me thought it was a good idea to cross her legs, firmly wedging one of her wedges into my ass, while the stoned old pony-tailed guy beside me played air drums for the whole show.

I had no idea that Steely Dan was so big with aging hippie and/or dope smoking population, but I can tell you from personal experience that it was pretty hard to get a breath of air in the outdoor (and theoretically non-smoking) arena that wasn’t liberally laced with weed.

The show was great, and worth all the trouble of getting there. And I learned a valuable lesson: always bring your GPS with you. You never know if you’ll find a drunk, slightly crazed homeless guy when you need one.

*When I learned the origin of their name, I immediately wished I didn’t know. ~shudder~ It was like finding out that James Spader and William Shatner don’t get along that well in real life, despite portraying one of the most touching and complex male friendships in the history of TV on the wonderful Boston Legal. Ignorance is pretty much always bliss as far as I’m concerned.

**Is it just me, or did Mr. Hearst have a fancy for the ancient Greek and Roman? I mean, look at Hearst Castle. Also, I wonder what he’d make of his great-granddaughter’s modeling career.

Buttons and Bows

I’m in the middle of reading Plan B by Jonathan Tropper* (I promise to write another book report soon; I have been reading, though not writing), and came across this:

“Alison’s neighbors were Mia Farrow, Diane Keaton, Tony Randall, Carly Simon, Madonna, and a host of other celebrities who could often be spotted between their canopied lobbies and their taxis, hailed for them by uniformed doormen with silver whistles. There was even a button in Alison’s elevator with a little car etched onto it that signaled the doorman that you wanted a cab, so that by the time you stepped out of the elevator depending on how high up you lived, he was already out there hailing you one. If you lived in the penthouse, there might already be a taxi waiting for you by the time you got down, which was only fair.”

How cool is that? It would definitely do if you didn’t have your own driver, which you probably would if you lived in the penthouse. I could settle for that.

*I’ve been reading his books backwards without realizing it, starting with the newest (The Book of Joe) and ending with the oldest.

Covet – A Series: Home Sweet Home


Behind Door Number One, this $3.6 million Victorian, in my former neighborhood, Pacific Heights. Sometimes I can’t believe I used to own an apartment there. It seems so long ago, a lifetime ago.

Details of this dream house are here while it’s still on the market.


For a mere $100,000 more than Door Number One, Door Number Two can be yours. See the possibilities here while it lasts.


And finally, for a mere $3.5 million, you can buy this beauty just doors away from my old place. I always admired this building as I walked past.

The Covets are all things I could never have in real life. But if I could live anywhere, it would be San Francisco, and it would be Pacific Heights. Sure, a pied ? terre in Paris or a brownstone in New York or a Malibu beach house sound glamorous, but they could never be home.

A girl can dream. And Covet.


The remains of the planter. Wonder if I’ll still get my security deposit back?

I was making dinner when I heard a popping noise. At first I thought it was the cats, but it kept going, so I went to look. Following it out to the porch, I saw that the (empty) wooden planter next to the porch was on fire! I ran to get the hose, dragged it over, and started spraying water on the blaze. As the water gushed over the smoldering planter, I wondered how on earth the fire could have started. The planter doesn?t have a plant in it, I haven?t been using the barbecue, there was no lightning or stolen car to dispose of. Do I have a secret enemy or an neighbor whose hobby is arson? It?s a mystery.

All evening, I kept checking the planter remains for sparks and smoke, even though I had thoroughly soaked it. I looked at the dry lawn and the weeds in the driveway in a new light, imagining the fire spreading, the house going up in flames. I was glad that I had been making dinner and had the back door open. What if I hadn?t heard the noise, hadn?t gone to investigate? Later, I watched A Letter to Three Wives, one of whose stars, the beautiful Linda Darnell, perished in a house fire at the age of 41.

I did not sleep well.

Not Ready for His Close-Up, Mr. DeMille


A slightly better picture of Henry. He doesn’t look very pleased at having his nap disturbed just so I can share his handsomeness with the world. Even if he knew, I doubt if he’d feel any differently about it. He’s that kind of guy.

This morning, he was waiting for me beside the porch steps, a first for him. He usually waits beside his bachelor pad under the porch, where his matching bowls and cozy bed are. Today he hissed at me and talked all the way to the other side of porch, explaining how little he cared that I wanted to sleep in and how much he wanted his food.

I petted him as he passed me on the way to the dish, and he swiped at me. You know how boys are.

And no remarks on the state of the lawn. I know, I know. I really should mow it, but it’s littered with plum minefields, all squashy and stainy, the terror of shoes. And we’re in a drought, so I’m not allowed to water it, even if I wanted to.

Ant and Be


There’s nothing like discovering a home invasion first thing in the morning. You hardly need coffee after a surprise like that.

It was foggy inside (my head) and outside (the house) this particular morning, par for the course of a Northern California summer (insert Mark Twain remark here). But as I reached for my remaining favorite coffee cup*, I noticed that the teeny kitchen counter was teeming with ants.

I had been invaded while I slept!

I removed them with wet paper towels, shuddering and trying not to scream. How can anything so small be so gross? As I tossed the carcasses into the garbage and hastily removed the evidence to the bin outside, it occurred to me that the Oakland hills may in fact be ant hills.

Think about it.


After a gentle reader gently nudged me to update, I added the latest Covet and then noticed how long it had been since I posted anything. Combining Sloth and Envy! Also that I seem to have been taking the “A picture is worth a thousand words” adage literally, since it’s practically become a picture book around here.

Time to catch up on my non-fabulous life.


The Ant Invasion Day also included:

  • A broken glass on the kitchen floor, which I noticed by stepping on the wet remains while recoiling from the ants. I now have two glasses besides the Elvis movie ones which I’m afraid to use with the Commando Cats on the prowl. I have been reduced to acrylic glasses which almost immediately got scratched and now have the look of perma-fog. A minor hardship for the aesthetically inclined.
  • Going to the hardware store to buy ant traps, I passed a guy with a cute pit bull. I asked if I could pet her, and he agreed, so I petted her and told her boy how beautiful and good-natured she was. “Yeah,” he observed, “if I could, I’d marry her. Least I know she’d be faithful, know what I’m saying?” He smiled, displaying all gold front teeth. He’d be quite the catch, too.
  • On my way home, there was someone being arrested at the gas station on the corner. Again. And when I got home, I noticed smoldering remains across the street. Neighbor B, returned from Florida, miracle-free, informed me that someone had left a stolen car there, then come back later to torch it. Just another day in Oakland.
  • The Safeway has been remodeled and improved, which means that nothing is where it was and all the customers are wandering around in there like something out of Night of the Living Dead. I finally located the fizzy Calistoga water among the soda (the non-fizzy water is stored several aisles over), and was putting it my cart when Ray the Safeway Guy held up a bottle of blood orange soda and urged me to try it. “It’s a real screamer! Try it once and you’re hooked, just like Pall Malls.”

Who could resist? And it turned out he was right. After I put the bottle in my cart, the Temptations came on, and Ray started doing the Temptations walk down the aisle. He convinced me to join him on his way back, so there we were, dancing down the soda aisle. Ray may have missed his calling.

Just another day in Oakland.

*It’s a reproduction of the classic New York take-out cup with the legend “We are happy to serve you”, only in ceramic. It’s Number One because of the untimely demise of my irreplaceable daisy mug in the kitchen sink. There may be a conspiracy here.


My boss (and friend) is a huge Stevie Wonder fan. Every time the subject of Stevie comes up, and you’d be surprised how often it does, he tells me earnestly “Stevie can play every instrument, you know.” I always act like I’ve never heard this before, and Boss goes on to outline a certain album where Stevie really did play every instrument, etc.

So you can imagine how excited he was to learn that Stevie Wonder himself would be playing the unfortunately named Sleep Train Pavilion* this week. However, Fate – actually, work – had other plans, so he ended up in Chicago and I ended up in traffic.

As I crawled slowly down Highway 24, I had the A’s game on the radio and thought sarcastically, “At this rate, I’ll get to hear the end of the game.” Little did I know how right I’d be, since the game finished in under two hours (the A’s won** 2-0) and the traffic didn’t. I was beginning to wish Stevie had just called to say he loved me.

As I sat in an endless stream of cars on the seemingly endless Ygnacio Valley Road, amid Porsches and Mercedesesezzz, it occurred to me that traffic is pretty much the only thing that being rich can’t get you out of. The people in their richmobiles were just as stuck as I was, and they couldn’t escape or go any faster, either.

I found this a remarkably comforting thought.

When I finally got to the show, I was, of course, late, late being my natural state. It was a great show, and I was surprised by how many younger fans were there. The two girls in front of me were probably 18 and sang along to every song, swaying and dancing blissfully despite the 96 degree heat. Stevie was charming and gave it everything he had, which is saying something for a legend who’s been in show business for more than 50 years.

A couple of days later, I had my hair re-blonded and shaped so it’s bouncy and pretty again. My stylist mentioned that she went to the show, too, so I said how heinous the traffic was. She then told me that she could have told me a much faster and all-around better way to go, being a native of Concord, if only she’d known.

If only I’d known, too.

*Why can’t corporations keep their names OFF arenas and stadiums? Wouldn’t it be much classier to buy a place and keep calling it, say, Concord Pavilion than slapping your company name on it? Or to start off that way, instead of being Pac Bell Park, AT & T Park, etc., just be DiMaggio Field or McCovey Park? And while I’m at it, I’ll just say how despicable I find it that the Yankees are abandoning their historic, 85 year old stadium for a new, bigger one, all in the name of, you guessed it, more money.

**The A’s seem to be pleased that I moved to their town. They’re currently second in the American League West, and won both games I’ve been to this year.


I took my first cab today since moving to Oakland.

It’s still approximately the same temperature here as it is on the sun, and I dragged the remains of the fabulosity formerly known as Suzy from the BART station, only to see the bus I needed – wanted at that point, so lowly have my desires become – pull away from the curb and go merrily on its way. The thought of waiting for 15 to 20 minutes in the wrinkle- and sweat- inducing blazing heat could not have been a less appealing prospect, even when thoughtfully provided with a bottle of water and a library book.

Looking up from the deeply disappointing schedule, I noticed a line of happy yellow cabs, sitting across the street, calling my name.

Who was I to resist?

So I hopped in, and on the way home pondered the following:

  • Do I still get credit for taking the bus to BART, even though I took a cab home? It’s a “Spare the Air” day, due to heat and smog and smoke, so we are supposed to take public transit (which used to be free on Spare the Air days, but now isn’t, like many airline amenities). So is a cab bad, or, since it’s used by other people, sort of serial car pooling, sort of OK?
  • Why is it always so much better to be driven than to drive oneself? Even the skankiness of popular murder location International Boulevard seems merely colorful from the back seat of a hired vehicle.
  • Why is it that cabs and hotels, where you know other people have sat and slept (among other things), seem luxurious and delightful, whereas the reason I have never gone bowling is the shoes? I can’t stand the thought of wearing shoes previously worn by a parade of total strangers of unknown hygiene. Who are bowlers.

By then I was home. Oh, and I finally used up my BART ticket! Well, one of them, anyway. Due to carelessness and general personality disorders, I tend to not have exact change and just add $5 onto a ticket I already have. Or go crazy and get a $10 one (the actual fare, which I know you are dying to know, is $6.60. Is it any wonder that I never have that exact amount?). I usually have no fewer than five BART tickets with 10 or 20 cents on them floating around in my purse at any given time.

But today I have one less, because I not only had the exact change, but I dared to use it. It was surprisingly satisfying to have the ticket vanish into the turnstile, never to be seen (at least by Me) again.

Now if I can just use up the rest of them…

The Torrid Zone

The Summer Solstice took itself a little too seriously this year, and just a couple of weeks later, it’s at it again. I have a little air conditioner in the living room window, wheezing out pitiful gusts of coolish air, but this David can’t beat the heat Goliath.

The problem may be the whole BTU thing. Maybe British Thermal Units are just too polite. “I say, heat, could you please turn it down a wee bit? It’s a trifle uncomfortable at the moment.” Whereas American Thermal Units might say something like, “Heat, I’m only gonna tell you once. Outta here or your ass is nuked.”

I’ve been wondering if these conditions are the norm for the East Bay, yet another of the many inconveniences I had no idea about in my glory days of living in San Francisco. An informal survey says otherwise, but I’m beginning to doubt the anecdotal evidence after three of these babies. If something keeps happening, how unusual can it be? Just sayin’.


Dolly the Church Lady came by as I was in mid-melt, mid-morning to tell me that I’d be watering plants for Jesus a little while longer. That’s what I call watering my neighbor B’s flowers while she’s at a revival meeting in Florida. She is expecting that her husband, who has Parkinson’s and has been wheelchair-bound for many years, will miraculously rise from that chair and walk again. So while we await the miracle on opposite sides of the country, I’m taking care of the tomatoes and zinnias and those little blue things that grow in the patio cracks.

Apparently the miracle is taking longer than expected, since B called Dolly to tell her to tell me they’re staying another week. I hope I don’t kill the plants with my heathen lack of gardening skills.


The heat isn’t helping the wildfires, which continue to burn. More than 20,000 people are fighting the 330 active fires statewide as of yesterday. Here’s hoping that the firefighters get a miracle of their own, and soon.



This postcard is by the delightfully named Ellen Clapsaddle, one of the world’s most prolific (and forgotten) postcard artists. She was primarily active during WWI, but her message here is still relevant today.

So while we celebrate our freedom, let’s remember the cost of that gift, both in the past and in the present, and thank the givers and defenders of our precious liberty.





Today marks the birthday of three of my favorite Cats: my niece, who is [mumble]* years old, and the Terror Twins, Audrey and June, who turn one year old today!

Those of you who know my glamorous film-making niece will not be surprised to learn that she was late to her own party, being fully occupied with putting on those crucial finishing touches before making her world-wide d?but. Her mother may not have appreciated the delay, but the results were fabulous. Still are.

The kittens made their trouble ever since. Fortunately for them, they are attractively packaged.

They are pretty much grown up now. It’s hard to believe they ever fit in the palm of a hand.

Happy birthday, all you gorgeous Cats!

*Note to Niece and Nephew: You are just going to have to start lying about your ages. Being the nice (and extremely young) aunt that I am, you’re allowed to be legal drinking age, but that’s about it. Amazingly, your birthdays are even closer together than you thought, since under the Suzy System, you are just over a year apart. That makes one of you 18 and the other one 19. Don’t forget, now. Your ages will remain this way for about five years, so that makes it easier! I am so thoughtful.