Movin’ On Up

I’ve been semi-idly (is there any other way?) looking around for a different place to live. The dogs next door are driving me crazy (and have recently been joined by a dog across the street who squeals and whimpers all day), and the BART station of death is getting to be a little scarier than I can handle, with three deaths in as many months. Not to mention having the GPS stolen out of my car, and, oh yeah, the murders of four cops last week. I think I deserve to live somewhere a little more pretty and a little less hazardous.

I’m thinking of moving to Petaluma. It’s a pretty town – it starred in American Graffiti and Peggy Sue Got Married – and a historic one, with a charmingly preserved downtown. My mother used to live there, so I got to know it and like it.

Reading the housing ads, I’ve been both shocked and dismayed by how many places don’t allow pets. If you’re single, these landlords are basically saying you are not entitled to any companionship. No purring cat or faithful dog to lower your blood pressure or take the edge off the horrors of life. Nope. You must sit alone in your clean, sterile environment, and God forbid your shoes should mark up the kitchen tiles. However, it’s perfectly OK to have kids merrily crayon on the walls and wreak other puerile havoc. That’s just fine.

So finding a place that’s nice and affordable and will let me live with my beloved girls is a challenge. I’ve seen three houses so far that were unsuitable for various reasons:

  1. Red house: Cute, but even less counter space and tinier kitchen than I have now. Trailer right next door, only feet away, on one side, and on the other, a garage that is being converted to housing for an as-yet undetermined tenant. Add in the steep dirt road that would be mud in the winter and that’s a no.
  2. White house: What’s that humming coming from the barn across the driveway from the house? Oh, it’s a sausage factory? And that house right behind is the landlord’s? Wow, look at that fake wood panelling and particle board doors and acoustic tile ceilings!
  3. The Doll House: Charming, but teeny. Doubtful that I could fit bed and bed side tables into bedroom, or couch and chair in living room. House flush with sidewalk, and no back yard at all. This is California – you need some outdoor living space.

I have another one to look at this week that looks promising. I’ll keep you posted.

Covet, A Series: BART-astic

My BART covets:

The girl wearing a fabulous fuchsia taffeta trenchcoat, short, and carrying the incredible Louis Vuitton Alma bag in rose pop:

Honey, why are you on BART and not being glamorously chauffeured into town?

And then there’s the lovely wearing the sold out J Crew Astrid jacket in ivory:

who, with her knee high sassyboots, should have been stepping into her limo. Haughtily.

I would have felt underdressed if I weren’t wearing these:

And carrying this:

But a girl can still Covet. In the most unlikely places.

The Year of Living Dangerously

You’d think a sunny, breezy Monday, the traditional washing day, would be a good day to do a load of wash.

You’d be wrong.

I was virtuously doing the dishes when I noticed a muddy puddle slowly creeping toward me from the laundry room. I went to investigate, and was horrified to see that the washer was leaking. Not only was it leaking, it had flooded the litter box.

The mop was wholly inadequate to deal with it, so I sacrificed a couple of towels. As I cleaned, I wondered if I dared to wash the towels afterwards. What if it floods again? Is it worth the risk? Should I call the landlord? She may well wonder what on earth I’ve done now, since I’ve already had the sewer problem, the shower problem, the lock problem, and (unbeknownst to her) the mystery fire in just over a year of living here.

Maybe it really is time to move.

Boxing Day

Why is it that even though I’m (technically) a grown-up, Sunday evenings are just as depressing as they were when I was a kid? I no longer have to worry about my homework being done, but that seems to be very little comfort when facing yet another week of work and worries. Seriously, kids: being a grown-up is not fun! It’s not eating pizzas and staying up late every night. It’s paying bills and wondering how on earth you’re going to pay your taxes and what horrible thing is going to happen next.

Forgive the gloom, but I’m crampy and crabby* and my living room is awash in countless boxes, giving it that just moved in look so few decorators can achieve. Yesterday, I met my brother at the storage, and we loaded up my brother-in-law’s truck with approximately a zillion boxes of my stuff, which are now sprawled all over my living room, making themselves at home.

The kitties, of course, are delighted, and are happily climbing on top of them, sniffing them, clawing them, jumping at them, trying to pry them open, etc., whereas I mostly gaze at them gloomily and then go make a drink.

Today I did go through a couple, and at least half of it can be trashed, but even that is problematic, since my trash can is positively petite, while the green bin is unnecessarily capacious. I could go the traditional route and dump everything under the freeway like everyone else around here, but I think I’ll try and find the real dump instead.

In the meantime, it’s girl vs. boxes. I think I know who’s going to win.

*This seems to get worse and worse as I get older, and an informal survey reveals that this is usually the case. I was pinning all my hopes on achieving menopause soon, but apparently you get all the monthly girl grossness plus added delights, such as hot flashes. For years. I don’t think there’s a man out there who could endure the amount of pain and misery we girls do, not to mention the indignity and grossness, and I’m not even counting the waxing or the mammograms here.

Barking Mad

Like most tenants, there are a few things that annoy me about my rented accommodation. The garage being stuffed with my landlord’s stuff, so I can’t stuff it with mine and have to pay for storage (extra rent!). The fact that only the front and back doors actually close, so I can’t shut the cats out of the bedroom or have the tidy look of actually closed cupboard doors in the nearly counter-free kitchen. The bathtub taps not working, though the shower ones do. The sad, lumpy brown lawn, no matter how much it rains. The overwhelming, oven-like heat in the house in the summer, and the drafty, refrigerator-like chill in the winter.

But the worst of all is the dogs next door.

They are two smallish, yellowish dogs who live in a fenced cement yard. No grass, no nothing. Just poop and concrete. They apparently are never allowed in the house, because I have both seen and heard them outside in the rain, though there seems to be a little door under the house which is sometimes open. Obviously, the dogs are bored and miserable – I have never seen them taken for walks or petted – and are protesting their deplorable living conditions. But understanding this does not make it easier to endure the ceaseless barking. I have to admit that my sadness at their plight is seriously tempered with bad temper from the nerve-wracking racket.

The thing I find the most incomprehensible is the owner. She is there most of the day, and is even closer to the barking epicenter than I am. Yet I have never seen or heard her admonishing them, or bring them in the house, or do anything to stop it. Once, I saw her standing in the yard, hanging out laundry as the dogs barked their heads off at her feet. No reaction whatsoever. It’s as if she’s deaf and blind. Having spoken with her, I know she’s neither. But she’s certainly blind to the well-being of her dogs. Why does she even have them, when she doesn’t interact with them? And what, if anything, should I do to avoid losing what little is left of my mind?

March 17, 1984

Villa Scacciapensieri, Siena

Mom and Dad bought a fluorescent orange second-hand Fiat* with red seats, which took us to a tiny mountain village, Monterrigioni. Siena is about 800 meters above sea level, and the countryside is very hilly, so the roads are like corkscrews and it takes a long time to go a short distance.

Dad had always wanted to visit Monterrigioni, and since it was his 53rd birthday, it seemed like a good time to go, camera in hand. We bought some lovely wine there for less than $2 a bottle. I’m beginning to understand lire – you knock off the last three zeroes for a pessimistic estimate (i.e., 10,000 lire is approximately $10, but more like $7).

We then visited another little mountain village, Montalcino, where the last battle against Florence was fought. There are still some remains of the fortress, and Megan convinced us to climb the towers, which had spectacular views. [She always wanted to go to the top of everything then: St Paul’s in London, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, etc. I’m glad she made me climb the Leaning Tower, since you aren’t allowed to anymore.]

We had a special cake for Dad’s birthday, orange with pine nuts. Then we gave Dad our gifts. They were still a little gluey – we didn’t have any tape, so I glued the wrapping paper together [not one of my better ideas]. The gifts were small, since I had brought them with me to Italy: special tea from Crabtree & Evelyn, licorice allsorts [which are so gross, but he loved them], and a lovely book on Newfoundland [where Dad worked at the lab in the summer]. He was very pleased, and it was a good day.

Tomorrow we are to register with the police, so they know we aren’t terrorists.

*I seem to remember that it cost about $500 and we sold it for almost the same price when we left Italy a few months later. Much better than renting a car!

Dangerous Driving Conditions

The last movies in my mini noir fest were two cautionary tales on the hazards of hitch-hiking. Turns out, being picked up can be as hazardous to your health as picking up. You have been warned.

First up was “The Hitch-Hiker” (1953), directed by the multi-talented Ida Lupino*, who steamed up the screen in Road House just a few years earlier. William Talman, best known as the beleaguered District Attorney Hamilton Burger on “Perry Mason”**, plays the title role. If I didn’t know this was filmed a few years before Perry’s TV début, I’d be convinced that losing to him every single week finally drove Ham Burger over the edge, because in this little flick, he merrily murders the Good Samaritans (showing no good deed really does go unpunished) who give him rides. He takes two hostages, and keeps them on a knife’s edge of terror for several days as they travel toward Mexico and possibly death, with the captor sleeping with one eye literally open to prevent their escape. Lesson: don’t pick up a crazed killer.

In “The Devil Thumbs a Ride” (1947), legendary tough guy Lawrence Tierney plays to type as an armed robber turned killer who hitches a ride to Los Angeles with a kind-hearted salesman. Tierney is anxious to avoid the cops who are hot in his trail, though this doesn’t stop him from picking up some attractive baggage in the shapely shapes of Nan Leslie (who shares my birthday!) and Betty Lawford (yes, related to the infamous Peter Lawford). The salesman makes the mistake of mentioning that a friend has a cottage on Newport Beach which is empty and available for friends to use, and Tierney thinks that would make an excellent hideout (I couldn’t help wondering how many millions it was now worth!). As the night wears on, his companions begin to realize the truth, with some dire results. Lesson: don’t let a crazed killer give you a ride.

*If I can find my way there without my GPS, the Film on Film Foundation is showing a Lupino-directed double bill tonight: “The Bigamist” (1953) and “Outrage” (1950).

**I still have a little crush on Perry and Paul Drake.

Luxe Lust

René Lalique, circa 1906-1908, Nesting swallows comb. Gold, carved horn, diamonds.

Well, you have Audrey to thank for me being up so early. One of her many bad (and strange) habits is to reach under the covers or pillow and claw at whatever body part she can find. This is not a pleasant way to wake up. After she clawed me awake, she started knocking things over on my desk, so I gave in to the inevitable and went to make coffee, quietly swearing at Audrey and the fact that I had to be up when the sun wasn’t. You all know how I feel about the twice-yearly time changes.

I haven’t been having much more fun than being clawed awake lately. When I went to the DMV again earlier this week, I emerged with paperwork intact only to discover that the GPS had been removed from the car, along with its stand and charger, and, infuriatingly, a pen. I mean, really, guys? You couldn’t leave me the pen?

Apparently, they couldn’t.

I’m lost without my GPS. I’m also lost with it, from time to time, but my chances of getting un-lost decrease dramatically in its absence. For instance, I decided to go to the Legion of Honor in San Francisco yesterday instead of working or contemplating the ruin my life has become. I Google mapped the directions, and it said to exit at Fell/Octavia. When I saw I was at the Silver Avenue exit, I knew I had, as usual, gone too far, so I got off the freeway and consulted a map.

Once I got onto South Van Ness, I knew where I was. As I drove across the city, I realized that my sister too had been fooled by the Google map thing with the non-existent Fell St exit when she and her husband were going to see the neurosurgeon. Hopefully I will remember this the next time I’m flying solo.

The exhibit was one to gladden the Suziest of hearts: Artistic Luxury: Fabergé, Tiffany, Lalique. The fabulous trio exhibited together at the Paris World’s Fair in 1900, and some of the gorgeousness on display was reunited for the very first time since then. It was almost overwhelmingly exquisite: some of the legendary eggs that belonged to the doomed Russian Royal family* (this pansy one was my favorite):

cigarette cases so beautiful that I would have smoked just to use them:

a solid silver dressing table and stool with a red velvet cushion that would have delighted that other doomed Queen, Marie Antoinette:

and some of the most breath-taking jewelry I have ever laid eyes on. As I said to a friend, never in my life have I been so tempted to smash open cases, grab the contents, and run! But I behaved myself, and left the brilliance of the museum for the brilliant sunshine, daydreaming.

*It’s official: no-one made it out of that cellar alive.

Crap Recap

I know you’ve been wondering why you shouldn’t hitch-hike (I hope you haven’t already started thumbing your way across the country, especially if you’re a fetching blonde wearing a cute hat) and where on earth I’ve been lately.

For now, you’ll just have to take my word about the perils of catching a ride with a total stranger, particularly the totally strange kind of stranger, but I promise to elaborate more fully soon. It’s been such an icky week that I haven’t had the energy or frivolity to blog. I’ll give you a brief recap and spare you the details, because that’s how much I love you.

The DMV: Really, need I say more? Even though I had an appointment, just being there was depressing. The lines for those who didn’t have appointments was so long that it doubled back on itself twice. A disinterested security guard tried to keep the line in some kind of order. As I waited for my number to be called, I thought that these were really the huddled masses yearning to be free. Or at least to be free of the DMV. When my number was up, it turned out that I was missing a piece of essential paperwork, so I’ll have to go again on Tuesday. I know, I know, you wish were Me.

The Farmacia Whatsit: For those without health insurance or a sugar daddy, there is the misleadingly named QuickHealth. Quick it is not, and the frustration can’t be good for one’s blood pressure. I made two attempts to see a doctor this week (don’t worry, I’m fine). The first time, I was told it would be three hours, so I abandoned hope and left. The second time, I was told it was a mere two hours. I asked if I could make an appointment, and they said I couldn’t. I pointed out that every time I came, it was hours of waiting time, and they said to come back at 3:00 and they’d put my name on the list. So it was sort of a non-appointment appointment. I did have time to peruse the shelves and wonder what things like belladonna cream were for (isn’t that one of the poisons medieval women used to make their pupils huge when that was the style? Like arsenic to make complexions white in Elizabethan times and botox now?) before I finally saw the doctor.

Storage: Yet another depressing foray to the storage. Every time I roll open the door, there’s death and divorce staring me in the face. Not to mention three generations worth of crap. I’m beginning to think I’m going to have to take a load of boxes, a roll of garbage bags, and some vodka and spend a few days sorting and trashing. Want to help?