Well, that figures

My wonderful friend Kathleen is, as I write, winging her way to me (well, the Oakland airport, where I will claim her in baggage claim ’round midnight) from Detroit. Little does she know that among the many amenities of Chez Suzy (constantly barking dogs; scavengers peering through the trash – and sometimes the windows; unexpected requests for late-night cash) is a shower without the cold tap. Yes, while attempting to take a post-gym shower, the cold tap came off in my hand.

On closer inspection, it appears that some kind of long, thin, stiletto-like screwdriver is needed to go in through the hole in the handle and screw it back on to the tap shaft. All pieces are, of course, as rusty as my brain, though in their case, it’s decades of use, rather than the lack of it. I have a message in to the landlords, but considering they have yet to respond to the note* I enclosed with last month’s rent check, and it’s time for another one, I’m pretty sure I’m going to have to live with the improvised solution of vise grips currently turning the cold tap on and off for an indefinite length of time.

Of course this happens literally hours before my guest arrives. I really am the hostess with the leastes’.

*I asked if they’d let me paint the roof with heat reflecting paint, and to replace the battered lawn with drought-tolerant ground cover. If they’d buy the materials, I’d do the work. The house would look better and be more comfortable. You’d think this would be a win-win, right?

Pup Stop

When I stepped off the bus yesterday afternoon after a hard day of meetings, I was surprised by the long line of cars on my street. Had the media been alerted of my imminent arrival? Was it those damned paparazzi again (at least I was wearing make-up and nice clothes this time)?

No, it was…a puppy.

A beautiful little red pit bull puppy, to be precise. He was sitting happily in the middle of the road, stopping traffic.

His owners turned out to be two guys who were working on their truck in a driveway, and failed to notice their puppy’s absence. When they finally noticed and headed toward the little guy, he stretched out on his back and wiggled joyfully until they scooped him up and took him out of harm’s way.

We don’t sell shoes, either

I ran out of milk today, and instead of getting in the car and going to Safeway (or the extremely depressing and dramatically mis-named Lucky), I decided to walk to the liquor store and cracketeria around the corner. I figured they must have milk and juice, along with the Thunderbird, Night Train, and Colt 45.

I looked through case after case of beer and mixers. No milk. Finally, I asked the guy at the cash if they had milk. He just looked at me, and then started laughing. I retreated, milkless, with the sound of his laughter trailing behind me as I headed to the closest of the three gas stations. It turns out you can buy milk at the gas station and no-one will mock you for your choice of beverage.

Gas station milk does seem a little weird, though.

Jess the facts, ma’am

Maybe it’s some kind of truth or aphorism that those who have kids know those who have kids, and those who don’t, well…don’t.

I hardly know anybody who has kids, other than Mike, Amber, and Candi, and due to distance, we don’t hang out all that much, though I follow the proceedings with an interest bordering on fascination, knowing I could never, ever in a million years do that.

The kid I have spent the most time with lately is the remarkable daughter of a remarkable friend. Daughter is now five years old, going on thirty-five, and possibly then some.  Her name is Jessica, and I’ll just share a few Jessica stories with you to show you what I mean.

When Jessica was three, I was holding her in my sister’s garden.  She put her arms around my neck, cuddled up to me, and said, “Actually, I’m a very affectionate person.”

Same year: I was planning to come up to my sister’s (Jessica’s second mother) place for Thanksgiving, and she asked Jessica if she remembered me.  Jessica put both hands on her hips and said, “Of course I remember Susan.” 

A few months ago, playing Candy Land with my brother: “Jonathan, you’re kicking my ASS.”

We took Jessica to Great Day in Elk in August.  One of the major events is a greased pole with money stuck to it, from a $1 bill lower down to $100 at the top.  She was the smallest person to take a shot, and it never occurred to her that she couldn’t do it.  Of course, she couldn’t, but she gave it a great try and came running out with a big smile, saying, “When I’m thirteen, I’ll do it.”

She just might.

Jessica and her mother met my family and me at the County Fair a couple of weeks ago.  She sat on my lap during the sheepdog trials, and asked, “Suuuuzy….do you have anything for me, other than hugs and kisses?”

I didn’t, and I was a little bit perplexed, since she was never one of those kids who always expects a present.  At all.  I confessed my deficiency, and she leaned against me and prompted me: “No…diamonds?”

I often wear a necklace set with teeny, tiny diamonds, even in the country, and she was thrilled in a Suzy-like manner to learn that they were real diamonds, however small.  A diamond, as Horton would say, is a diamond, no matter how small.  On every visit, she’d borrow it from me.  So I think she was disappointed that I was unadorned for the occasion.

That disappointment was nothing compared to her disappointment with the school bus system on her first day of kindergarten.

On the way home from school, she was nearly at her town, where her mother was supposed to reclaim her, when the bus unaccountably turned back.  It went to the high school, picked up some kids, and distributed them, as school buses do.  It turned out later that this was a one time thing, but Jessica didn’t know that at the time.  Eventually, she was reunited with her mother.

The next day, she asked her teacher to take her to the principal’s office.  Now, I don’t know about you, but despite all the “I’m the ‘pal’ in principal”, I never bought it and figured the principal, like most authority figures, should be avoided. On principle.

Jessica, however, figured why waste her time on the teacher, let’s go to the top.  Which she did.

On entering the principal’s office, she said, “Hi, I’m Jessica E—, and I have a problem with your bus.”

As the principal gazed at her, she added, “I’m not comfortable with the bus, and you need to call my mother [insert name and number here] and work it out.”

Then she left.

I asked what the principal said, and after she recovered from the shock, she called Jessica’s mother and there hasn’t been another problem.

I was telling a friend at the gym this story, and two huge, scary-looking weightlifters who overheard me had to actually set down their weights, they were laughing so hard.

The teen years are going to be sooo easy.

Fun Fair

I always wanted to go to the Mendocino County Fair, but somehow never got around to it. Every year, I’d see the signs as I drove through beautiful downtown Boonville, and think, “Maybe this time”. Finally, this year was the year!

With my freshly fixed car, I followed my sister and brother-in-law (at a distance; they’re used to driving the corkscrew of Highway 128, whereas I still find it horrifying after all these years) to Boonville. Parking was at a premium, but I finally found some. Bonus: under a tree, since it was a good 80 degrees.

We rushed to get seats at the Sheep Dog Trials, already in progress (we missed two of the eight dogs due to the Great Parking Space Search). It’s edge of your seat entertainment, all right, with shouts of “Down in front” if anyone dares to stand up too long and block the view. The chute was definitely the hardest part. I think only two of the dogs got their sheep through the chute, undoubtedly because nothing good ever happened to sheep when they’re in one of those things.

One of the farmers showing his dog had lost 75% of his livestock in the summer wildfires. His spirit in not giving up on his farm and still participating in the show was enthusiastically applauded.

After the trials, we went to get something to eat. You could have funnel cakes (shudder), and slushies (I had blue raspberry, of course), and barbecue, and all the usual fair suspects, along with gourmet sausages and other delicacies, since this is, after all, northern California. I loved seeing tie-dyed hippies eating corn dogs (though they may have been organic tofu corndogs for all I know). And I loved seeing how there was no staff and no takers at the Republican register to vote booth:

There were award-winning cakes, pies, apples, and pumpkins. A parade with the high school band and home-made floats, with uproarious applause and kisses thrown at the firemen who fought the wildfires in June and July (a local fireman lost his life). 4-H kids showed their livestock. It was a wonderful, old fashioned day. With body piercing.

The Jelly Bean Mechanic

My sister’s house

Well, this time last Friday, I was waiting for the traffic to (hopefully) subside before setting out to visit my brother and sister. I left the house at 7 pm, and while the traffic was fine – no noticeable Santa Rosa slowdown, possibly for the first time ever – it was, you know, dark.

Really dark. Country dark.

Now, people will tell you that it’s better or even easier driving in the dark, because you can see the lights of the other cars. What they neglect to point out is that you will suddenly be faced with those halogen headlights in the pitch darkness, temporarily blinded while going around one of the many, many blind curves of Highway 128 – downhill.

That was fun.

And then there was the tule fog on the road leading to my brother’s and sister’s tumultuous dirt driveway, which looked like giant billowy ghosts throwing themselves at the windshield. It would be suicidal if they weren’t already dead.

Also fun.

By the time I finally arrived (sometime after 11 pm), I needed a bottle of wine administered almost immediately. For medicinal purposes, you understand.

When I finally woke up and got caffeinated the next day, my brother had been at work on my car for a couple of hours. I’m not sure if I mentioned this earlier, but the car had been peeing on the driveway from time to time, even though the dealer had assured me it was potty trained. So my brother had asked me to buy some parts and bring them up, which I did. However, it turned out that he needed more parts. He took the old ones out and put them in a bag for visual aids.

My sister and I went to the car parts store with the bag’o’stuff. The car parts guy immediately started asking us questions about the car in general and the parts in particular. My sister and I both had big question marks over our heads, so we called our brother and handed the phone to the guy, so they could talk boy to boy. The right parts were identified and paid for, and we went off to buy things for dinner at the delightful Harvest Market.

While we were perusing the aisles, I noticed they had Jelly Bellies, which my brother loves. We got him a bag of his favorites, and presented it to him along with the car parts. He was more delighted with them than I thought he would be. I mean, a bag of jelly beans for a day’s work on a car that isn’t even yours seems like a pretty sad deal for the mechanic. But he was happy to fix my car so it was safe (among other things, my thermostat was exploderated, so I had been driving around with little bits floating around in there. Ignorance really can be bliss) and took it for a test drive with my wonderful brother-in-law, who was his co-mechanic.

So far, so good. As it happens, my brother will be in town tomorrow and will do an inspection. And have dinner with a very grateful sister.

Also the opinion of many

Of the kaleidoscope of strange dreams swirling through my pretty little head last night, this is the only one I remember:

A janitor is standing in front of me, leaning on his mop (also my preferred posture for mopping the floor), and says, “God really doesn’t like you.” He pauses for me to absorb this hot celestial flash, and then adds, “I’m not too crazy about you, either.”

Well, that didn’t take long

I just got a jury summons for next month. At least Alameda County only makes you do one day, or one trial, depending on how desirable you are jury-wise. San Francisco makes you go for five days or one trial. Finally, Oakland is better than San Francisco!

Coming up: my weekend in the country, the county fair, and how to get your car fixed for a bag of jelly bellies.

In the meantime, here’s a picture of my sister’s orchid cactus in sci fi bloom on her front porch.


Am I the only one who hates coming up with titles for posts? Preferably clever ones?

Speaking of clever: I ended up at the gym today wearing sandals. Slightly platform (yet surprisingly comfortable) ones. I felt like that scene in Romy & Michele’s High School Reunion, where they’re on the treadmill wearing platform shoes. I soon discovered that you aren’t allowed in the weight room with unsuitable shoes on. However, the treadmill, lunges and squats aren’t out of the question. Unfortunately.

It could have been worse. I could have been wearing high heeled, marabou trimmed mules, as pictured above. I probably would have gotten sent home for those.

I almost missed the bus home, absorbed in Diablo Cody’s (author of the delightful movie Juno) memoir, Candy Girl, about a year she spent being a stripper in Minnesota, a place you would have thought far too cold for stripping. The bus stopped suddenly at the sight of an unexpected police car blocking the road, and I toppled into the lap of a high school kid, who said, “I just got me a lap dance, baby!” and high fived me.

I’m blaming the shoes.

Some Enchanted Evening

Brian Wilson at the Paramount Theater

Brian Wilson at the Paramount Theater

First things first: the heat wave has receded, replaced by still sunny skies with refreshing breezes, and not a moment too soon.

While still in its mighty grip, I went to see the great Brian Wilson on Friday night. It was an all-around fabulous experience because:

  1. The show was in Oakland, at the historic and gorgeous Paramount Theater. Just a ten minute drive from my house! I didn’t even get lost, it was so close! Actually, it’s just a couple of blocks from my rarely visited office.
  2. Parked right behind the theater! Considering the valuable minutes and hours I have spent looking for parking since I moved to the wrong side of the Bay, this is no small achievement.
  3. I was only seven rows back from the stage (not that you can tell by the graininess of the illegally obtained photo above), the closest I have ever been to the genius behind the Beach Boys.
  4. He started right on time (with the classic “California Girls”), unlike some people I could mention.
  5. Brian Wilson!

At 66, Brian just released his latest album, That Lucky Old Sun, last week to rave reviews. I’ve seen him play several times over the past few years, notably performing his masterpiece, SMiLE, and I’ve never seen him so relaxed and happy. The only flaw was a slight problem with the video part of one song, but this was the beginning* of the US tour, so such minor issues can be overlooked.

All in all, it was a magical evening.

*Naturally, he decided to start the tour here since I now live here!

Guess I’ll have to break the news…

…that I got no mind to lose, to quote the immortal Ramones. Yet another “unusual” heat wave of five, count ’em, five days of 90+ heat have melted my mind more effectively than any space alien. There have been so many of these allegedly rare heat waves lately that it’s pretty much like living in a heat ocean: one wave dies away, another one takes its place.

Does anyone know if Dante ever visited Oakland?

I’m currently eating a popsicle for breakfast. I already swooned through several errands this morning, when it was an icy 80 degrees:

  • Safeway, to visit Ray and buy the all-important popsicles. Also revel in air conditioning. Maybe I could be a great Safeway employee. Then I’d have air conditioning all day. On the other hand, I’d have to deal with other people, and I hate them.
  • The library, whose air conditioning is almost as good as Safeway, though instead of Ray they have librarians who appear to be brain-damaged at all times, not just temporarily in the heat, like Me. I bet I’d be a great librarian. I definitely have the glasses for it.
  • Trader Joe’s, for delicacies unobtainable at Safeway. Bliss of air conditioning notably tempered by their keeping the front doors wide open (!) and by an unnerving numbering of shrieking children, not to mention the Communist Russia style line lengths. All true fashionistas know that lines are supposed to be short this season. Mini, in fact.
  • Kragen, where I exercised my considerable dumb blonde skills. There appears to be something wrong with my car, since it pees antifreeze* or similar onto the driveway. Apparently they don’t make Depends for cars (or driveways, for that matter), so I asked my brother what to do. He gave me a list of things and stuff to buy and advised filling the coolant container with water until he can check it out and find out what havoc his dumb blonde sister has wrought on the car. I’m planning to go up next weekend to finally attend the Mendocino County Fair, so I can combine the cake judging and sheep dog trials with free car repair.
  • One of the thousands of 76 stations around here (there are almost as many 76 stations as there are liquor stores and storefront churches) to check tire pressure and put in air if necessary. Again the helpless blonde routine worked to get the guy to do it for me. I know, but my years (months?) of getting away with this are running out, so let me enjoy it while I can.
  • The vet, for flea spray to spray on everything. Besides being plagued with ants, the East Bay is also infested with fleas. So even though I dosed the kittens twice with advantage, I have seen the occasional flea and am covered with itchy and unattractive bites (which is worse?). So I’m going to have to spray all the floors, carpets, bed, etc. I can hardly wait.
  • However, all this will have to wait until it’s less than 80 degrees.

    It may be a long wait.

    *Don’t worry, I’ve been washing the spots out so Henry (or any other passing cat or dog) doesn’t think they’re a nice, light snack.


Usually, people are happy to meet with me in our quite nice San Francisco office. It’s in the heart of the financial district (if finance can be considered to have a heart), and less than a block to the nearest BART station. Add in the flat screen TV in the lobby and our handsome receptionist with the candy jar on his desk, and what’s not to love?

However, some people have much fancier offices than ours and want me to observe the fanciness while they observe how impressed I am. Others are allegedly local (up to 30 miles away) and want me to haul Self to whatever far flung burg their office is in to “kick the tires”. This tire-kicking motif* inevitably comes up when I have tried in vain to convince them to make the commute instead of Me.

So off I went to kick some tires at some distant locale. I ended up kicking myself instead.

When I arrived at the BART station, there was a suspiciously large number of people on the platform, looking even more disgruntled than usual. The train showed up, and we packed on in the manner popularized by Japanese bullet trains. The train just sat there stubbornly in the late morning heat. Finally, a disembodied voice ordered us off the train. We all trooped back onto the platform, and the train lumbered away.

A new, though apparently not improved, train arrived a few minutes later. It sat there coyly, refusing to open its doors. Eventually it, too, vanished. The disembodied voice informed us that there was a problem (you don’t say!) and there would be unspecified delays.

I called the guy I was supposed to meet with to tell him that I would be at least an hour late. I tried to reschedule, but he wouldn’t hear of it (being safely ensconced in his distant office), so I resigned myself to the mercy of BART.

Eventually a train came. It wasn’t going where I was supposed to go, but I figured I could transfer at the downtown Oakland stop. The train pulled out of my station, well over an hour after I first arrived there, with all the passengers doing an extremely accurate impersonation of a can of sardines and making it impossible for me to read the Vanity Fair with the Best Dressed List. After a couple of minutes, it stopped between my stop and the next stop, and had a little siesta.

Feeling refreshed from its 20 minute power nap, it did get to me to the transfer station, where I stepped out into a little piece of midtown Manhattan, being buffeted on all sides, attacked by errant briefcases, up close and way too personal with total strangers. I was relieved to arrive on the crowded platform to wait for Train Number Two.

Although Train Number Two was supposed to go to the end of the line, where I was supposed to go, it unaccountably felt the need for a Train One type nap when it was two stops away, and went out of service, yawning its way out of the station. It was approximately 20 degrees cooler at this station, which was wreathed in fog. Train Three appeared after only fifteen minutes, and I finally arrived at my destination a mere three hours after arriving at my BART station.

Once in the conference room, I could see that I was a few miles south of SFO , and almost directly across the Bay from Oakland.

*They can never resist sports metaphors, either, particularly baseball. “We really hit it out of the park this year”; “We always try to get on base”. etc. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a meeting where this didn’t come up, and I always smile to myself when it makes its appearance.