Farewell Monterey

beach1
The dreaming spires of Monterey

I’m coming to you from San Francisco, where the foghorns are singing their sad song and the wild parrots are crying out harshly as their green and red wings clatter overhead. And there will be Lemongrass (delivered) for dinner!

Before I left the balmy shores of Monterey, I stopped by Del Monte Beach. I was charmed by the dunes dotted with wildflowers:

dunes

and the fact that there was actual sand. I’m used to the rocky shores of Mendocino and San Francisco, so it was delightful to walk along the shore with my feet sinking deep into the soft sand:

shore

Murres and oystercatchers rode the waves, and they were joined by a fellow surfer:

surfer

As I drove away from the beach, I noticed several people either changing into or out of their wetsuits, so it must be a popular surfing location.

My route to San Francisco took me through farmland, dotted with what my friend Janice calls “contented California cows”, but also thick groves of spiky artichokes. I stopped at a farmstand, where they were working the fields right behind. I loved the cut outs by the highway:

farmstand

I came away with some early strawberries and of course artichokes.

Traffic was kinder to me leaving Monterey than it was getting there, and tomorrow I will head home after running some important culinary errands: Swan Oyster Depot, Bob’s Doughnuts, and Victor’s Pizza, not necessarily in that order.

Two Strikes

I’m watching the beautiful, light rain fall on San Francisco. The door to my modest motel room is open, since it’s not cold, just rainy, and I’m waiting for my boss/partner/friend to pick me up so we can go to lunch together and talk about our future, if any.

So far, my day has not been very productive. My plan was to go downtown and run a couple of errands, but I had forgotten how long it takes to do this by public transit. As I waited for the bus, I began to remember why I nearly always walked to work and back home when I lived here.

The bus made its way through the neighborhood I lived in when I first moved here so long ago: past the church where I twice voted for Bill Clinton with a song in my heart, through Chinatown, with its exotic fruit and vegetable stalls, and finally to the financial district, where I used to work.

I was hoping to get my eyes tested, but there were no appointments available, and I had another appointment at 1:00, so I couldn’t wait. The eye doctor I have seen back in the Big Town charges twice as much for an exam, and I have to have a new prescription before I can buy inexpensive glasses online like Erica does. My existing glasses have somewhat scratched lenses, which doesn’t help my spectacularly poor eyesight.

The appointment was with the very nice woman who bought my beautiful, two carat, century old diamond ring a few years ago. This time, I brought a pair of diamond earrings and a diamond necklace for her consideration. She was as gracious as ever, but apparently these pieces are too modern for their store, so she referred me to someone else, but I will probably not have time to get there before I head home again.

If there’s anything worse than selling your jewelry, it must be making up your mind to sell it and then having it rejected. I made my way to the bus stop in the rain, and as luck would have it, the bus was just pulling up, and my transfer was still good, so at least one thing went my way today.

A YEAR AGO:

A late season BBQ.

Halloween, Here & There


Showered with Confetti and Love

The Giants celebrated their epic World Series win with a parade down Market Street – San Francisco’s Main Street – to City Hall, where Marilyn Monroe married native son and baseball legend Joe DiMaggio 60 years ago. They were showered with showers, but also a hail of confetti and love. No stranger to triumphal processions through the City streets after two earlier World Series wins, manager Bruce Bochy said that he had never heard anything like the thunderous applause and screams that met the returning heroes, especially Madison Bumgarner, who was deafened with howls of “MVP” everywhere he went, perched on the back of a flatbed truck:

An observer described the pandemonium as “something between pagan idolatry and Beatlemania”.

I hope we get to do it all over again next year.

Meanwhile, back in Hoooterville, I woke up to a welcome inch and a half of rain in the gauge and a slightly less welcome forecast of heavy rain accessorized with possible thunderstorms and hail – definitely not ideal trick or treating weather. However, the forecasters were wrong, as so often happens, and there was really no need for me to haul along my winter coat and two umbrellas as well as wearing my rain boots.

This year, instead of going the Village as usual, we met Erica and Jessica at Jessica’s friend’s house. It was more of an estate to my mind than a house, since it included sweeping vineyards and several outbuildings. There was a cauldron of tea and a buffet of Halloween food:

Here’s a close-up:

Both Erica and Jessica had made their own costumes, though Erica did add the zipper to Jessica’s dress. They were Undead Alice in Wonderland and the Red Queen:

Here’s a close-up of Jessica’s apron. It’s hard to tell from the picture, but she embroidered “We’re all mad here” and made the teeth all texture-y:

Erica made her entire costume other than the boots, including the horns, yarn wig, corset, velvet cape, etc. You can see these girls share genes and attitude!

Erica also brought kitty ears for me to wear:

We had the following text exchange:

Erica: Cat ears are black with pink inside and some sparkle. 🙂

Me: How Suzy is that?!

Erica: That’s what Jessica said!

Me: Sparkly minds think alike.

A YEAR AGO:

Happy Halloween!

Triumph


The San Francisco Giants Win!

The Giants won their third World Series title in five years on Wednesday night. Above, you see Buster Posey, the team’s valiant catcher, my favorite Giant, and owner of the best name in baseball, hugging pitcher Madison Bumgarner, the stoic country boy who is now a hero and a legend.

With all the stress in my life lately, it’s been hard to watch the World Series. I love it, don’t get me wrong, but the anxiety is tough in my weakened condition. The Bumgarnerless night before the Giants’ victory, they were smoked 10-0 by Kansas City in Game 6, and I had to stop watching after about the third inning because I just could’t take it anymore.

Last night, the Giants scored two runs, were tied by Kansas City, and then Joe Panik (the second best name in baseball) made a crucial double play. Pablo Sandoval, the beloved big bear known as The Panda, made what would become the game’s winning run with a mighty swing:

Despite his size, The Panda can run as well as he can hit, and as if that weren’t enough, he also caught the last out which won the Giants the Series. He lay for a second on the grass, where he had dived to make the catch, before being swarmed by his teammates who lifted him up and carried him into the joyous knot of players surrounding Bumgarner, the calm, unruffled, 25 year old hero of the Series.

Bumgarner pitched this epic Game 7 just two days after pitching a shutout game. His father was asked if he thought his son could pitch again so soon, and he replied, “I didn’t know if he had enough left tonight. But I did know that boy would try to steal a steak off the devil’s plate.”

And he did.

Here’s to the Giants dynasty, their fans, and the beautiful city they call home. And next season!

A YEAR AGO:

Seasonally Affected

Home Again


Sleeping Clyde

It was a good trip to the City. The drive home…not so much.

Along about Novato, the traffic slowed to an ooze, sometimes giving up on oozing to just sit there in the baking heat. I had the Blue Jays game on the stereo through my iPhone and the air conditioning blasting. It seems that Novato is the new Santa Rosa, where the traffic used to grind to a halt before they widened the highway there.

Later, I passed a CHP car with lights flashing, and a lot of broken glass by the side of the road, but otherwise no sign of a car accident. There were lighted signs on the highway telling me to conserve water* (though how, exactly, I was supposed to do this while in the car, I don’t know), but nothing warning me of delays of more than hour or incredibly slow traffic.

I finally got home close to 6:30, and Megan came by to pick up her pizza and help me unload the car, not necessarily in that order. She was amused when I told her that the counter guy at Victor’s – who is now used to my extreme take-out ways – told me that people from LA take Victor’s pizza home with them, too. So maybe I’m not that extreme after all.

The kitties were definitely happy to see me, and I was happy to see them. Also making me happy were: eating pizza while watching the final season of The Killing; sleeping in my own bed with the clean, country air pouring in the balcony door; kitties sleeping with me; waking up to the birds singing and a sunny Saturday.

It’s good to be home.

*There were billboards in San Francisco suggesting that we stop washing our cars to conserve water, so I drove my dusty, dirty car with pride on the hilly streets.

Counter and Culture

Once the annoyances of work were out of the way, I checked the clock and thought that the line at Swan Oyster Depot might be of sufficient brevity to work with the brevity of my patience. The line was relatively short, but seemed to take a long time. At last, I was rewarded with a stool near the end of the counter:

I ordered crab cocktail, and while I waited for it to arrive with darkly crusty sourdough bread, I watched the ballet behind the counter. One guy was slicing smoked salmon paper-thin, while another cut up a few loaves of that delicious bread and a third performed the esoteric ritual of preparing fresh sea urchin to serve. It’s always busy at Swan’s, but somehow, once you grab that coveted stool and sit down, all the cares of the world disappear and you just feel happy and peaceful. And then there’s the food.

Next to me was a woman with a gumball sized diamond on her wedding finger (and a surprisingly nondescript husband/jewelry donor beside her). The ring almost defied even my jewelry appraising abilities, but I’m guessing ten carats and at least $100,000. Diamond told me it was her first time there, so I asked if she had cash (Swan’s doesn’t take plastic). This momentarily flustered her until she learned that Donor (unsurprisingly) had some. I made some suggestions, which were seconded by the gents behind he counter, and when the bread came, she exclaimed, “I never eat bread, but this is phenomenal!” Everything was “phenomenal”. I’m glad Diamond and Donor were happy, and when I left, I wished them a happy visit. She beamed and patted my shoulder. There I was, rubbing elbows (and shoulders) with the One Percent!

I kept with my modern theme of this visit by heading to the Contemporary Jewish Museum to enjoy their exhibit Designing Home: Jews and Mid Century Modern:

I loved this “Marshmallow” couch by Anni Albers, made in 1956:

I’m pretty sure I could write the great American novel if I only had this desk and chair, designed by Muriel Coleman in 1960, to write at:

I’m not normally a fan of wallpaper, but this “Aviary” paper designed by New Yorker cartoonist Saul Steinberg is so charming that I’d give it a try:

Another very gifted Saul was Mr. Bass, who designed these record covers for Columbia in the 1940s and ’50s:

When he wasn’t doing that, he was designing the striking opening credits for little flicks like “The Seven Year Itch”, “Vertigo”, and “West Side Story”. And when he wasn’t doing that, he ws designing iconic logos for United Airlines, Kleenex, UPS and countless others. You can see more of his remarkable work here.

Moderne

I woke up before the alarm went off, even though it was dark. I was a little confused when I first woke up (Where am I? Why did I have to get up again? Why are my dreams so weird? Where’s the coffee?), and disappointed to find a cat-free bed. I miss them already. After one day. This may officially make me a crazy cat lady.

I had coffee in bed while I woke up slowly. Somehow, even when I bring the little French press and my own coffee, I still make crappy in room coffee. It would be worth having a maid just to have some else make (good) coffee for me.

Once I was faux grown up-ized and ready to face the world, I called my friends at City Wide Dispatch and clacked out to the street in my heels. I hardly had time to notice the fog before the taxi arrived, sweeping me to my first meeting of the day. It went well, and I caught up on some industry gossip too, before heading to the second meeting, across the palmy expanse of Union Square:

That’s the lovely and historic St. Francis hotel peeking through the fronds, where the Fatty Arbuckle scandal started and they still have an employee who washes all the change in the hotel so as not to soil the gloves (or the sensibilities) of guests.

After work was done for the day, I made my way to the de Young Museum, which is, at least for blogging purposes, beginning to take over from the Legion of Honor as my favorite San Francisco museums. I seem to be warming up to its copper clad, monolithic charms, perhaps because of all the copper improvements in my own modest salle de bains. Here’s a shot of one of the many interior gardens:

I find that they refresh the spirit as well as the eye, and play to the organic quality of the building.

I was there to enjoy the Modernism exhibit on loan from the National Gallery:

My father used to say that if he had to choose one art museum to visit for the rest of his life, it would be the National Gallery in Washington, DC, and this exhibit confirmed his view, though he probably would not have enjoyed the artwork. He was delighted when all “the rubbish” was moved from the original Tate, home of the immortal JMW Turner and wonderful Restaurant, to the Tate Modern, while yet appreciating the architecture of the Modern.

I was stunned by the beauty of this Frank Stella, “Flin Flon IV”, from 1969:

In the same room was this strong, dancing “First Theme”, from 1964:

I was delighted to see two boxes by the quirky and inimitable Joseph Cornell, “Sand Fountain”:

and “Les Constellations Voisines du Pole”

I was moved by a series called “The Stations of the Cross” by an artist called Barnett Newman. He was inspired to create a series of paintings while recovering from a heart attack in 1958. The series grew into the stations of the cross, and Newman commented that it may seem strange for a Jew to make art based on this story, but he said that his inspiration was really Christ’s cri de coeur “Why have you forsaken me?”, which Newman looked at as an eternal, unanswerable question more than a religious theme. Here’s a picture I sneaked of the first few paintings in their minimal majesty:

The paintings were sited in quiet, peaceful room of their own, going around the room and ending with a fifteenth painting which was titled simply, “Be”.

Museum Musings


View from the museum: palm tree and Sutro Tower

After the conference yesterday, Wednesday and I headed out to the De Young Museum. It was her first visit, and I figured it was high time that young lady got some culture under her formerly shiny hood*.

The big draw this time, like Hockney last time, was the Georgia O’Keeffe exhibit, focusing on her paintings made at Lake George in New York, the state of my long-ago birth. I liked some of them, but they were not really my thing. I was interested to note that the crowd consisted almost entirely of women of a certain age and upwards – I believe the artist is considered something of a feminist icon. I appreciate that she was taking something dainty and feminine (gardens, flowers, leaves) and making it epic and arresting.

I preferred the exhibits of abstract art and the creation of the Bay Bridge, the Golden Gate’s older and less glamorous sibling. Peter Stackpole, a 21 year old San Francisco native, started documenting the bridge building in 1935. His photos of the dramatic shapes, dangerous building process, and the men who made this amazing structure are fascinating and moving. I love the abstraction and strength of this one:

This photo shows men being sent home early after a fatality at the building site:

You can see the grief behind the stoic faces of these hard-working men who have just lost one of their own. 8,300 men worked on the bridge, and 28 of them died on the job. The bridge opened on November 12, 1936, and more than 150,000 cars crossed the bridge in its first 36 hours.

Peter Stackpole’s work earned him a one man show at San Francisco’s Museum of Modern Art in 1936, its inaugural year, and also a place on Life magazine’s founding staff of photographers.

Across the hall from the bridge exhibit was one of abstract art. I was a bad citizen and sneaked some photos on my phone while the guards were distracted by gossip and last night’s basketball scores.

This suite of square abstractions is by Frederick Hammersley, from the late 1940s:

I love the precision and beauty of the lines.

Morris Louis painted this one, called Number 11:

The colors are so dynamic and give it such movement. The artist was a pioneer in this type of painting, starting in the 1950s.

The most moving piece was this one, called Anti-Mass, made in 2005 by Cornelia Parker, who I was suprised to learn is an English artist:

The piece is made from pieces of an African-American church in Kentucky, which had been destroyed by arsonists. It seems to float, yet has a powerful physical and emotional impact on the viewer.

On my way out of the museum, this glass vase by Dan Chihuly caught my eye:

It’s beautiful in and of itself, but its placement beside one of the many windows showcasing the interior gardens and copper clad walls of the museum was particularly striking. Here’s another of those windows:

As for today: it’s time to pack up and head back to Hooterville, where Megan is no doubt rejoicing at being relieved of kitty duty.

*She has the dusty country look now. When I checked in at the motel, the clerk thought she was grey instead of black. Wish I had time to visit the car salon. Maybe next time.

Conferring

I’m coming to you from the modest motel that is my home away from home in San Francisco, just three blocks away from my former, immodest home*. I still feel comfortable in my old ‘hood. I have the door open, to admit sunshine and breezes, and the Detroit-Boston playoffs game on. The heart I left in San Francisco is currently being broken by the 2-0 lead held by Boston.

Today was Day One of the conference. I suited up in faux adult togs, added some accessories and heels, and called my friends at City Wide Dispatch. I have known and loved them since I was a San Franciscan. They are a network of independent cabs – their dispatch radios out your location, and the nearest cab comes to your rescue. Often they call you to tell you that your knight in metered armor is drawing nigh.

At the conference hotel, the doorman opened the taxi door and helped me alight, as well as opening the door for me. I love, love, love doormen. Also taxis.

Inside, it soon became apparent that the conference was prom queen popular. After being equipped with my label and welcome packet, I repaired to the meeting room only to be greeted by a sea of faces and no obviously empty chairs. I felt like I was late for class. One of the conference usherettes (it seems to be staffed entirely by young lovelies with enviable manicures) found a seat for me, and while I was getting settled, someone whispered “Hey, Susan!”

I turned to my left, and there was none other than my host at the fabulous birthday ballgame. How’s that for a small world? At the break, we caught up on each other’s news while enjoying fresh fruit and the view from the deck of the hotel:

That’s the Museum of Modern Art on the left – closed for renovations – and the Yerba Buena Center for the arts right in front. Yerba Buena was the original name of San Francisco, which was founded in 1776 – the year America became a country – at what is now the Presidio. While no longer a military base, it remains the place I learned how to drive.

When the conference was over, the doorman ensconced me in a cab, which dropped me off a few blocks from the modest motel, giving me the opportunity to stop in at the cheap and cheerful nail salon, enjoying the orchids, fountains, and soaking my nails in warm water with fresh mint leaves. The owner recently acquired a young Siberian Husky named Kodiak, who accompanies her to work every day and supervises:

You have to love a salon with a resident dog. And coral nails to go with your Hello Kitty pen:

That should make tomorrow’s session a little more fun!

*Current estimated value: $1.2 million. Or more than a million more than I paid for it.

New Year


Clyde helps me to unpack

I’m back in Hooterville. I came home on New Year’s Eve, and for the first time I can remember in my many years of driving across the Golden Gate Bridge, traffic was completely backed up on the northbound (leaving San Francisco) side. Later, I saw three CHP cars, but no accident or stopped car or other reason for the slowness.

As I edged past the now empty toll booths, I thought about the time I didn’t have the two dollars for the toll, and had to pull into the office’s parking lot in my Mustang convertible and write a check. Good thing I had my checkbook with me – I never carry it now. And I remembered when there were actual people in the booths collecting our tolls (now $6), and the time I was totally delighted by the woman blasting music in her booth, dancing and singing along.

Once over the Bridge, traffic speeded up and Wednesday and I had no more delays. I stopped in Philo and picked up fresh crab – it’s Dungeness crab season – bread, and salad for dinner. The sun was just dipping into the Pacific as I reached Hooterville. I think I passed Megan on the Ridge, on her way to the drunk tank and maggot emporium that is the ER on New Year’s Eve.

I unpacked the car, though not the suitcase, and settled down with champagne and crab to watch “Downton Abbey” and say farewell to the old year. The new year began with coffee and the Winter Classic, which I love. It’s so fun to see hockey played outside, and the goalies even wore pads that looked like the old school ones (undoubtedly they were grateful that the similarity stopped there, since they used to be made out of leather, soaked up all the water from the ice, and were unspeakably heavy). Also it’s much easier to enjoy the romance of the falling snow from the comfort of your sunny California living room, rather than being one of the 105,000 fans in the single digit cold (not including wind chill) or one of the players on the often shoveled ice.

Still, it was a wonderful event and I am pleased to report that the Toronto Maple Leafs won over the Detroit Red Wings in a shoot out, giving them two much needed points. A good way to start the year.

2013

I’m ending the year the same way I started it – in my beloved San Francisco. This was a banner year for trips to the City: 9, an all-time high since moving to Hooterville four years ago. There was a lot more travel this year, some less fun (Atlanta) than others (LA).

This was a year full of endings and beginnings. I finally got divorced after almost a decade of being separated. While it was good to get the formalities out of the way after a long separation, it was still sad to put “The End” on our story. I am grateful that John and I are still friends and have many happy memories of our many years together. I did not manage to stay out of court, though on an unrelated matter. Summertime subpoenas have to stop! New year’s resolution: a subpoena- and court-free year.

The loss of our beloved Schatzi cast a shadow over the latter part of the year, a loss that resonates through every day, though I am thankful she was in our lives as long as she was. She was an unforgettable gift.

A new dog found her way into our lives (temporarily) at the Christmas season, when we were least looking for one, in the form of Stella the foster dog. There is no better way to honor our Schatzi than by rescuing another dog.

I said goodbye to my battered old car Miss Scarlett and said hello to a newer, fancier one, which took some getting used to.

I started my moments. This was inspired by a friend who writes down something funny or beautiful or delightful that happens to her each day on a slip of paper and then puts it in a jar. At the end of the year she reads all the slips of paper and remembers all the great things that happened.

This was fun to do for a year and a good exercise in much needed-discipline. It really made me appreciate the small moments every day: cuddling with the cats; the sun setting over the Pacific; a spider web jeweled with dew.

Favorite books of the year: Ann Leary’s The Good House, a great portrait of small town life; and the utterly poetic Ordinary Grace. I also read two outstanding books about Detroit, a place near and dear to my heart – Detroit: An American Autopsy and Detroit City Is the Place to Be. The charasmatic Charlie LeDuff, the author of “Autopsy”, also showed the equally charasmatic Anthony Bourdain around Detroit on an episode of “Parts Unknown”, which is well worth watching.

I only read 83 books this year, a significant drop from last year’s 103, a continuing decline which I attribute to the more work, less fun aspect of the new (though not improved) economy.

Rainfall for the season: 5.14 inches. Last year at this time: 24.20. The drought is getting alarming. January and February of 2013 were the driest in recorded history in California. People in the Village are having water delivered!

No power outages so far this season. None! There were 6 at this time last year.

Here’s what happened to our heroine this year:

January:

Started the year off right by heading to San Francisco. Got a new look for my old car and a new iPhone (which has yet to ruin and/or take over my life, possibly due to the lack of cell service here). Wednesday was also Weirdsday. However, Friday was Funday. Yet another trip to San Francisco, this time for (mostly) professional reasons. Royal Treasures of the Louvre at the Legion of Honor. An epic day to get my photo taken for my work website. Spoiler alert: I hated the finished product, although my hair looked awesome.

February:

The cats react to a visiting chicken. An update on Archi, The World’s Cutest Puppy. Beautiful woodworking. Scout’s vet adventure. My intrepid brother takes a Polar Plunge.

March:

Schatzi gets a check-up. Little did we know it would be her last one and that we only had five months left with our beloved girl. Divorce and taxes. Why not? Dad’s birthday. First day of spring. Working on the endless divorce paperwork. A lovely trip to the South Coast.

April:

A late season storm. Haiku. Jessica turns ten! In San Francisco. Breakfast at Swan Oyster Depot. There isn’t a better start to the day. My welcome home included a screen door on the sleeping loft balcony, which has made life about 1,000% better. Thank you, Rob! Jessica’s birthday BBQ. More divorce paperwork, with moral support from my sister. An evening at the theatah.

My blog also turned twelve on April 20, though I failed to note the fact. Sorry, little blog!

May:

Amazing woodworking show. A walk with Star and drinks with Monica in Little River. Birth of an orchard. An early birthday celebration for Megan. A delightful dinner with delightful friends. The end (almost) of the decayed old hot tub. Needless to say, the motor is still there. Megan’s actual birthday, complete with a hand-made picnic table and a daring cliff rescue, both courtesy of our intrepid brother.

June:

Birthday baseball in beautiful San Francisco. Impressionists on the Water at the Legion of Honor. Back home for my birthday BBQ. Monica’s birthday party.

July:

A cavalcade of health problems: Megan’s flu; Jessica’s broken leg; Clyde’s mystery illness. Everyone on the mend. Thinking about summers past. The truth about Schatzi. Wedding plans and peaches.

August:

A lovely stroll with Star and my sister. A frantic Friday. Clyde meets the mysterious Slobber Monster. Megan takes care of the patient. The devastating loss of our much loved Schatzi. A day at the beach with Star. The twelfth anniversary of our adored father’s sudden death. I will never stop missing him until I catch up with him. How to make a really expensive peach pie. A beautiful, joyous wedding. A surprise in the mail – and at the door.

September:

Celebrating our incredible brother’s birthday. A long drive to Reno. Enjoying the spa. Back home in the fresh air! Megan’s last gift to her beloved girl. The County fair. The wonder of a south coast safari. A look around a delightfully eccentric local town.

October:

Last minute car repair before heading to San Francisco. My divorce becomes final as I drive across the Golden Gate Bridge. A soirée in the Village. Audrey does not enjoy her visit to the vet. A local landmark reopens. An epic journey to Los Angeles. The delights of Santa Monica. The glamor of Hollywood. A fascinating tour of downtown LA. A virtual walk with Megan and Star at Big River.

November:

A happy Halloween. A quick trip to Atlanta. The delights of Hockney and Bulgari at the De Young – not to mention the view from the top. A late season barbecue with family and friends. The beginning of the end of Miss Scarlett. Thanksgiving preparations.

December:

Thanksgiving recap. A conference starring my boss. So proud! A long and busy day. The end of the road for Miss Scarlett. ~sob~ Of frozen pipes and Christmas trees. Puppies! And meeting Stella. A surprise dinner and a play for our nephew, Jarrett. A brand new (well, to me) car! Working hard – or hardly working? A merry Christmas.

Thanks for coming along with me on another year of adventures, great and small. I wish you all a joyful and healthy new year!

Busyness

It’s 6:15 am, and it’s 44 degrees F/6 degrees C inside my house. Winter’s here!

Here’s yesterday’s schedule:

5:30 am
Get up and make coffee. Glad that I brought coffee and small French press with me to avoid the equally horrifying possibilities of in room coffee or having to go and get coffee in the dark before having coffee.

6:00 am
Conference call dealing with minor work emergency. Hope it’s minor, anyway, since the SEC is involved and also the word “violation”, which is even more horrifying than in room coffee.

7:00 am
Put hair and face together. Prepare to impersonate responsible adult.

7:30 am
Get taxi and go to hotel for Day Two of conference, where I have been charged with tracking down a couple of strangers and charming them.

While looking for a cab, my brother calls and we have a discussion about the Car Situation. Still have to finish dealing with that.

10:00 am
Leave conference for another meeting, right near my old office. As I walk along the familiar streets, I pass Lotta’s Fountain, where survivors (as of this date, there are only two left) of the ’06 quake assemble at 5:12 a.m. every April 18:

I still feel like San Francisco broke up with me, but the pain has faded to a bittersweet ache with time. A little less stab in the heart, a little more punch in the gut. I guess I’m really lucky that I lived there so long that its streets are still so familiar to me.

12:00 pm
Get a cab back to the modest motel, finish packing, load up car. Whirlwind trip to Victor’s for pizza; careful topping up of The Monster’s gas tank; Trader Joe for necessities like coffee.

1:11 pm

On the way to the Golden Gate Bridge.

3:00 pm

Stop in Cloverdale to finally eat something and get out of The Monster.

3:45 pm

Stop at Yorkville Cellars to bring them promised jobette materials. Resist this delightful suggestion:

and admire the sweeping vista over the sleeping vineyard:

Notice a last bunch of grapes which missed the harvest:

4:00 pm

One last stop at Gowan’s, for fresh walnuts and apple cider.

5:00 pm

Arrive home. Unpack with Leafs game on and kitties getting underfoot. Will they ever understand that this makes the feeding process slower instead of faster? The magic 8 ball says NO.

It’s way past drink o’clock.

As for today, I just have to get up in the dark, wait until it’s light enough to let the cats out, get ready to work, drive The Monster back to the car rental desk, walk to work, and then, you know, work all day. Is it really only Wednesday?

Beautiful

Apparently, I am more exciting than a beautiful Fall day. The sky is a cloudless blue, the doors are open, and the cats…are all sitting with me instead of playing outside. Such is my considerable personal magnetism. Or maybe I have just been away too much recently.

Before I left San Francisco on my way home from my whirlwind trip, I made time for some fun. I stopped by Swan Oyster Depot and was pleasantly surprised to be the third person through the door. It was the first time in the ~mumble~ years I have been going there that I didn’t have to line up.

I perched on a stool and watched the ballet behind the counter: fresh oysters being plated on a bed of crushed ice; a smoked salmon being filleted; a delivery of the specially baked sourdough bread from Boudin’s. I ordered a half cracked crab, but the guy who served me (in the photo above) pointed out that I could order crab cocktail and not have to do the work. Good point! So I did. It was delicious and my hands remained (relatively) clean. I enjoyed the sunshine, Sinatra on the radio, and memories of my father, who loved Swan’s, along with the crab.

After the usual errands, I headed to Golden Gate Park to enjoy the dual delights of Hockney:

and Bulgari*:

at the De Young Museum.

My favorite part of the Hockney exhibit – which was on two floors – was his exploration/documentation of the seasons changing in his native Yorkshire. In this painting, you can practically feel high summer:

There are few places as beautiful as England on a summer day.

Another part of the exhibit had film of the actual locations in the paintings in all four seasons projected onto multiple screens so you could compare the paintings to them.

I also loved watching the iPad paintings take place as I watched, and the glass case of sketch books. I feel closer to the artist seeing the drawings sometimes than the finished work. It’s like you can see his vision and inspiration taking place and feel part of it.

The high point of the Bulgari exhibit was definitely Elizabeth Taylor’s stunning emerald and diamond set, along with two “tremblant” brooches, one of which she is wearing in the photo above. These are sprays of flowers designed to move with the wearer. And no-one could wear jewelry like the legendary Elizabeth Taylor.

I took the time to go to the top of the museum’s tower for the first time. There is a stunning view of the city from there:

It was fun to walk around and enjoy the panoramas and the beautiful day.

It was time to head home. It was a good trip.

*The poster quotes Richard Burton: “The only word Elizabeth knows in Italian is Bulgari.”

Welcome Home


Halloween San Francisco Style

I’m back home with the kitties and it’s a beautiful day. It’s warm enough to have the fans on – summer’s last hurrah. I can tell the cats missed me. They came in on their own yesterday evening and took turns sitting on my lap. As I write, they are all nearby.

Yesterday, I packed up the car, had breakfast at Polker’s, and checked out of my home away from home. I headed to Victor’s to pick up the traditional pizza, and discovered that I didn’t have my debit/credit card.

Uh oh.

I retraced my steps to Polker’s, and as I walked through the door, the waitress came up with my card. “I know why you’re here!” she said cheerfully.

I was much more cheerful as I went to Trader Joe, got gas for the car, and headed toward the iconic Bridge in the brilliant sunshine. Even though I really just worked on this brief trip, it was a good one. I listened to the baseball playoffs on my iPhone until cell service gave out, picked up some fresh cider at Gowan’s, and arrived home to be greeted by Clyde.

While I was enjoying my extreme takeout pizza, there was a knock at the door. It was Mark’s wife with a bag full of kale grown by a friend of hers. Welcome home!

Unexpected


Just Being

I woke up to a beautiful morning in San Francisco. Not a cloud or wisp of fog in the clear blue sky, and the wild parrots wished me good morning in their inimitable, raucous voices as they soared into the sunlight.

A taxi ride took me through my old neighborhood, where I noted what had changed and what hadn’t, and ended up at a building right next door to the one I used to work in for so many years. My boss/partner and I were there to meet with a money manager we are considering hiring. The meeting went really well, and after business was concluded, our host showed us some of the art collection his company owns.

To my delight and surprise, the paintings currently on display in their gallery were by the great Gil Elvgren. I have never seen originals of his works, and they are stunning. Also much bigger than I thought. I asked, “Are these…original Elvgrens?” He said yes, and I think he was entertained by how impressed I was.

When our meetings were over, Boss and I had lunch and caught up with each other. It was really great spending some time with him, and we got a lot done.

On my way back to the modest motel, the struggling little urban garden above caught my eye. It was a day of unexpected beauty in unexpected places.

Freedom


Traffic on the Bridge

Happy divorce day to me! My long-awaited divorce becomes final today, after a decade of being separated and dealing with paperwork. I am celebrating with a brief visit to San Francisco. It’s purely coincidental that I’m here on D(ivorce) Day; I had a day of meetings planned on Thursday and hopefully lunch with my partner/boss.

I’m celebrating with a glass of wine while I wait for my friends at Lemongrass to bring me a fashionably late dinner.

Heading home on Friday, but if I can get it together – always a big IF – I’d like to go to the De Young Museum for the Bulgari exhibit. Yes, Bulgari is vulgari, but it should be fabulous nonetheless. A visitor to the jobette today told me that there is a wonderful exhibit of butterflies in the nearby Conservatory of Flowers, so maybe I can fit that in, too.

We’ll see…

In the meantime, cheers! Here’s to freedom, closure, and delivery Thai food (where is it, anyway?)!

Presently Past

As I mentioned earlier, I decided to stay at a different hotel this time, mostly due to the internet access issues at the usual place. As so often happens, I was wrong about everything.

My knowledge of San Francisco’s neighborhoods has clearly deteriorated since becoming a bumpkin. I thought Hotel B was in North Beach, which it might technically be, but it was much closer to the Wharf than what I think of as North Beach, where City Lights books, Vesuvio’s, and Molinari’s deli are, not to mention the Condor Club, the city’s oldest strip club. When I first moved to San Francisco, the Condor featured a neon sign of its famous topless dancer and early implants enthusiast Carol Doda, with her nipples flashing through the fog. I still miss that sign.

On my last day in the city, I headed out in search of bath salts so I could enjoy the bathtub in the hotel room. This proved more difficult than you’d think. I first went to Walgreen’s, which is in the old Tower Records building, but no luck. Then I headed toward Pier 39, where my brother and sister lived for so long. I discovered that Cost Plus World Market is still there, and the cash registers seem to be manned by the same ancient Asian guys who were there 20 years ago.

I scored heart-shaped, verbena-scented bath fizzes and a pomegranate face mask. I headed for Safeway on autopilot, passing what used to be a book store but is now a discount clothing place. Before I realized it, I was there, and picked up a few things including a bottle of wine to go with the bath fizzes and face mask. Back at the hotel, I cracked open the wine and had a relaxing bath with fizzes and mask.

The internet, however, was anything but relaxing. I called tech support every day, and every day there were problems. Even though they provided wired ethernet access, the internet still stopped working several times a day and most of the night. The fact that the tech support number is included on the same slip of paper with the user name and password should have given me a clue. It was pretty frustrating, and Hotel B actually cost more than Hotel A, so I think I’ll go back to the old place the next time I’m in town.

Après Anniversaire

Despite going to bed after midnight, I woke up the day after my birthday at a dispiriting 5:45 am. Sleeping in is not among my few talents.

I discovered to my horror that there was no coffee in the hotel room, necessitating the almost unspeakable ordeal of having to get dressed and face the outside world in a pre-caffeinated state.

I shuffled off to the nearest Starbucks, passing the Mason Street cable car turnaround. The brakeman waved and said hello. Tip to tourists*: there is no line at 6 am and you will probably have the cable car to yourself and an unobstructed view of the dawn breaking over the Bay as you ascend the hill.

At Starbucks, I was immediately peppered with questions by the friendly staff. I explained that I was unable to process these questions because I hadn’t had coffee.

Barista One: I stopped at a 24 hour Starbucks to get coffee. On my way to work…at Starbucks.

Barista Two: I go to the 7-11. I love their coffee!

You’d think the 7-11 confession would be heresy in that complicated chapel of caffeine, but everyone laughed. They helped me choose a medium light roast, and the guy behind me ordered quickly and fluently. I said, “You’ve done this before,” and he said, “Every day. Every day.”

Armed with much-needed caffeine, I dragged my remains out to my beloved Legion of Honor to see an exhibit called Impressionists on the Water.

As usual, photography was forbidden. Arriving at the exhibit, I literally gasped at the sight of a huge Monet painting of the sea screened on the wall behind a graceful wooden boat which had featured in one of Caillebotte’s paintings. I asked the guards if they would let me just take a picture of that, but they regretfully said no, so you will just have to imagine it.

The exhibit was arranged chronologically, and it was fascinating to see how the Impressionists took their inspiration from classic marine paintings and made it their own, as well as how Monet’s style became bolder and more innovative as time went on. Several of the paintings were from private collections, so it was special to see those.

I was intrigued to learn that Caillebotte, perhaps best known for Paris Street, Rainy Day was a dedicated boatsman and eventually became a boat designer. A couple of the wooden boats he designed and used were at the exhibit. Called “skiffs”, they were small, wooden boats with flat bottoms which were moved with oars. Apparently, they were quite dangerous and glamorous at the time, and they featured in many of the paintings.

Leaving the museum, I was asked to take a picture of two visiting teenage girls, who then asked how to get the Golden Gate Bridge. Seems I’m always a tour guide, no matter where I am!

*A more useful tourist tip is to get on the cable car at Van Ness and California, which is the end of that line. You can almost always get a seat, and you’ll pass by the Fairmont Hotel, which survived the 1906 quake, Chinatown, and have a stunning view of the Bay Bridge and the Ferry Building. Stop in for delightful restaurants and shops. /tour guide>

Birthday Eve

It’s my birthday eve and I am off to San Francisco to celebrate.

The city seems to be my celebration theme this year, since I also kicked off the new year by going there. This time, I’m attending a seminar on my actual birthday, and then the seminar hosts are grandly taking us all to see the Giants play the Toronto Blue Jays – from a luxury box. How’s that for a birthday party?

I’m hoping that the cats have used up their naughtiness quotas for the week, though this seems unlikely.

Yesterday Clyde went over to Megan’s house to cat burgle – or attempt to cat burgle – Harriet’s and Ramona’s food. The weather has been beautiful lately, so Megan’s doors, like mine, were open. Clyde took this as an invitation to check out what the neighbor cats were eating. Megan’s dogs, however, had a different opinion.

Small, stripy Schatzi, who is the most polite dog ever to all cats, has been chased away from my house by the small, stripy Audrey, who has done the same thing with the much bigger Luna. But let one of my cats turn up on Schatzi’s home turf, and it’s a different story. Megan was drinking coffee on the couch and said it was all over before she realized it was happening.

There was a scuffle in the kitchen, a water bowl went flying, and Star joined Schatzi in the feline eviction with such enthusiasm that they almost knocked Rob over in the driveway. Megan said it was like “Scuffle! Sploosh! %@#@$%^#%$^!” and then all that was left was the dust in the air (and the water on the kitchen floor).

Not to be outdone, Roscoe decided that my last night at home for most of the week and the one right before a four hour drive the next day was the perfect time for him to stay out all night. I saw him slink under the house, so I was pretty sure he was nearby, and tried to vanquish thoughts of how the beautiful June disappeared on my birthday three years ago.

Needless to say, sleep was sporadic, and I kept getting up and calling him. All the outside lights were on to try and keep the marauding monsters at bay, but you know that I am a Worrier. At last, around 4:00 am, Roscoe came calmly out of the darkness and into the house, where he had a snack and then curled up next to me in bed, so I couldn’t be mad at him.

Let’s hope they behave better for Megan!

Home Again

I’m back home in sunny Hooterville.

The kitties came running out to see me. Even Audrey the Grumposuarus wanted to be petted, and later crashed out on the top of the armoire as if relieved to no longer be in charge. I cuddled the boys – Audrey does not tolerate the indignity of such things – and they purred happily before running off to chase butterflies and climb around on the roof.

Boys will be boys.

I managed all of my ambitious itinerary except the museum. Yes, it’s lame to miss out on seeing a Vermeer, but Vermeer never imagined Bay Area rush hour traffic, so I chose getting out of town before the madness descended over immersing myself in art and beauty. Does this mean I’m finally a grown-up?

I waited in line at Swan Oyster Depot as per usual. It’s always worth it. I pulled up one of the few stools and ordered a half cracked crab (there must be some joke in there about how I’m half cracked and/or crabby, but I’m too tired to think of one) with sourdough bread. The bread is from Boudin’s (pronounced BO-deenz), but they bake it extra-long for Swan’s and the crust is dark and magnificent.

I love the ballet behind the counter. All of the servers are family, and it shows. Here you can see them in action:

The gentleman in the foreground is explaining the various types of oysters. All the food there is sparkling fresh. The crab was heavenly. They even gave me a finger bowl afterwards, perhaps an unexpected refinement in a place with shared bowls of oyster crackers and lemon wedges.

When you’re done, you tell one of the brothers what you had, and depending on which one it is – not necessarily the one who served you – he either adds it up in his head or on a napkin, and then rings it up. You have to bring cash. It’s old school there.

After getting gas and picking up pizza and doughnuts, I went to Trader Joe at Hyde and California. It was delightful. Huge and uncrowded and like night and day compared to the madness of the Santa Rosa branch. Who would have thought? The clerk told me that they had been open for about four months, and I said it was a big improvement. She laughed and said. “Everyone says that!”

I made my way across the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, feeling a pang as always at leaving the place I lived in and love(d) for so long. Mount Tam loomed over the freeway as Marin county gave way to the rolling farmland of Sonoma county, and Sonoma to Mendocino. The happiness I feel when I cross the county line isn’t exactly the same as I used to feel when my plane swept over San Francisco preparing to land, but it’s good in a different way. And it’s good to be home.