Suzy Says

Textbook Ephemeral

   May 31

Sleepless in San Francisco

Yet another bad night last night. Same as Monday night: got to sleep, woke up three or four hours later, couldn’t get back to sleep. Might have something to do with the fact that it was about a zillion unexpected degrees yesterday and there wasn’t a breath of air. I don’t know how people live where it’s that hot all the time or part of the year. But then I guess you have air conditioning so you can actually sleep. I just hate lying under a sheet and sweating. Ugh. Still hot, today, too, “record-breaking” again, and I am just a zombie.

They surprised me at work yesterday with a little get-together in honor of my birthday. It was as unexpected as the heat, especially because my birthday isn’t until next week. They gave me a card and a little present and we had a tray of cheese and crackers, fresh fruit, and champagne. The champagne was coincidentally from Roederer Estates in Anderson Valley, where my friend Mark works. It was really nice that they remembered my birthday, noticed that I don’t like cake and do like champagne, but also really embarrassing! I was blushing!

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   May 30

New dishes

I know I’m shallow, but shopping always cheers me up. I was tired of our old every day plates (clear glass from Cost Plus bought nearly 10 years ago) so I bought new dishes !

I got 4 sets of the happy yellow ones and 4 sets of the sapphire blue ones. Very Provence. Now to replace the every day silverware. I am going to recycle all the old stuff by giving it to my brother and sister, who can definitely use it.

I hadn’t realized what a Francophile I was until I started this blog. I don’t think a week goes by that I don’t mention France in some way. It’s a voyage of self-discovery without the horrror of airplane food and Customs lines!

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   May 29

More fun

Just got an e-mail from my Dad about what sort of funeral he would like to have. The fun never stops.

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   May 29

Bad night

So I got to sleep OK last night, but woke up four hours later (thanks, Jack) and couldn’t get back to sleep. At all. Although just as I was beginning to drift off, the alarm went off. Why is it that I can ALWAYS sleep when the alarm goes off? So today I feel completely out of it (but in a bad way) and barely able to do the mathy job things.

Walking to work this morning seemed to take forever and was nightmarish and bizarre. Saw a 7 cop drug bust, one cop with his gun actually drawn. Way to start the week!

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   May 28

Memorial Day

It’s Memorial Day, and I am thinking about my grandfathers. Both were named Ernest, though one was American and the other English. Both fought in World War One, or as I think of it, the Great War, and both survived. My American grandfather, a farm boy from New York State, was the only survivor of his entire unit. My English grandfather, a streetwise Londoner, was gassed.

This painting, by John Singer Sargent, the great portrait painter, is of soldiers who have been gassed like my grandfather and who are helping each other blindly to the first aid station somewhere in rural France. Sargent painted this on the spot as it actually happened, hence the power of the painting, which is only enhanced by the children playing soccer in the backgroud.

Both of my grandfathers were plagued for the rest of their long lives by nightmares of what they had seen and done while in France, but they never once doubted that what they had done was right and good and worth the sacrifice.

An old friend of my father’s, Allie Cave, whom he had known since he was three years old, once told me that her fiance had been killed in the Great War. Allie had never married, and I, at 15, thought this was because she had loved her fiance so deeply that she couldn’t think of marrying anyone else after he had perished so nobly. Allie laughed at this notion and said, “My dear, you don’t understand. There were no men left. Only old men and little boys.”

That day, she showed me vividly the heavy cost of war, no matter how right the cause. Allie took me to St. Clement Danes, a beautiful church in the center of London built by the great Sir Christopher Wren in 1680.

The church is now dedicated to the Allied soldiers of World War II, and contains several glass cases, each with a book listing the name of a man or woman who was killed. It’s a very moving experience to see all those books, all those names, and to think of the lives they might have had and the loss of those who loved them.

So on this day, I am thankful to my grandfathers and their fellow soldiers who were not so fortunate. Thank you for our freedom. You are not forgotten.

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   May 27

Fish Disaster

Woke up this morning to discover that our fishtank had changed during the night from a safe haven into a sort of bouillabaisse.

Apparently the heating unit — which is only a couple of months old — overheated and cooked our poor fish overnight. I can hardly stand to think about it. We only fed them the day before yesterday and everything was fine when we went to bed last night. Rufus has taken them out and cleaned the tank, so now it is standing, empty and reproachful, on the kitchen table. I don’t know if we should just put it away or start again in a few weeks’ time. Clearly we are unfit fish parents.

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   May 26

Fog City

This looks to be the second foggy day in a row. Sometimes you can tell that it will be sunny by noon, but not yesterday and not today. Good thing I like the fog. If you don’t like it, get out of the city.

Foggy nights make me feel like I’m in a Bogart movie or a novel by Hammett or Chandler. The streets are slick from the moisture and the fog swirls around the streetlights like ghosts, making them look mysterious. Very film noir.

The fog seems to muffle all the city noises, even the cars speeding down the hill in front of our place and the birds in the tree outside our window. It makes everything seem like a dream — the pastel buildings on the hills misted over, the bay full of what looks like white clouds just sitting on the water and allowing peeks of the famous orange bridge. And of course, the low, deep sound of the fog horns under it all, the bass line of the song.

The hush is all over my apartment, too, except for me typing and Jack the Siamese kitten. She is explaining to me in loud piercing Siamese that she is either bored or lonely or about to throw up, so I better go and see what’s going on.

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   May 25

Megan’s Birthday

Today my sister Megan turns 30, and I am looking back over these three decades and feeling so lucky that she came along.

Megan was supposed to be born on my birthday, and since I was 8 years old at the time, I wasn’t very pleased. My birthday should be all about me, after all. But on my 9th birthday, Megan was brought home from the hospital, a tiny (5 pounds) brown-haired baby (a thrill for my parents after 3 blondes) and life has never been the same.

My mother was 40 when she had Megan, and this was her second Caesarean section. Both of these things were unusual at the time, and Mom’s parents came to help take care of us since Mom was not well and stayed in bed for what seemed like a long time after Megan’s birth.

Because I changed her diapers, fed her, played with her, gave her baths and so on, she has always been something like my own child to me. This feeling was reinforced when she lived with me for 3 years following our parents’ divorce, in her last three years of high school. So in a way, I know what it’s like to wait up for my daughter to come home, to worry about her, and to be filled with a love and pride that is unlike any other.

Megan and I think we are some kind of twins because we were born 9 years and 9 days apart. We often say the same things at the same time, and rarely go more than two days without talking on the phone. When I look at her, I see all the Megans she has been and is: the little baby laughing in her playpen at the lilacs waving in the wind outside the window (her first laugh); learning to swim in Maine, so skinny that her bathing suit straps were tied together with ribbon; a tall teenager with her beloved rescued stray dog Jesse; just married at 20, her face radiant with love and hope; graduating from Montessori teaching school; teaching, her classroom filled with happy children; on the dark, muddy road the night we found our father fallen from a stroke, and the two of them, the same height, but Megan tall, young and strong with her bright hair and Dad, his hair thinning and grey, being helped to the plane by his tall, lovely child, that little baby he brought home to us 30 years ago, now a strong, beautful woman.

I see all those things and I am so proud of her and the person she is. My little sister, my friend. Today is truly a day to celebrate, the day that brought you to us.

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   May 24


Oh, yeah, making something people really want/need illegal just works soooo well, doesn’t it? Remember Prohibition, anyone? Let’s just waste tax dollars and police time in prosecuting hookers instead of chasing real criminals. An argument could be made, in fact, that being a prostitute is one of the few honest ways to make a living. Their customers get what they pay for, and the cost and services are both agreed upon and paid for on the spot. How many professions can say that?

Making it illegal isn’t going to make it go away.

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   May 23

Linguistic annoyances

I do realize that language is an ever-changing, ever-evolving thing (otherwise we’d all still be speaking Shakespearan English — egads!), and I do realize that being a linguistics major makes me both petty and pedantic about the abuse of the English language, but dang. I am sick and tired of language mistakes becoming accepted because so many people make the same mistake.

Prime example: orientated or disorientated. Should be: oriented or disoriented. However, people have been using the “tater” version so long, it is now included in Webster’s dictionary.

Another one that drives me crazy: irregardless. What you have there is a double negative, saying NOT regardless. This is another one that appears in Webster, though with the caveat that it’s really only acceptable in speech. But it’s not far from being acceptable in speech to being included as a real entry in the dictionary.

Other examples:

One of my husband’s co-workers actually told him he “disincluded” something instead of saying “forgot” or “omitted”. Fortunately, even Webster’s, despite their feet (or pages) of clay, don’t recognize this as a real word. Yet.

“I could care less”. Think about this. I COULD care less….but I don’t. Should be: “I couldn’t care less.” In other words, there is no way on Earth I could care any less about this than I do. Get it now? Saying “I could care less” means you do care a certain amount.

“That’s between him and I.” Should be: “That’s between him and ME”. I don’t know why this one trips people up so much. Maybe they think “me” doesn’t sound correct or proper, but newsflash: it is. Anywhere you have words like between, for, with…use me, not I.

“Very unique”. If something is unique, there is only one of them. Period. The thing in question is incomparable, and therefore it cannot be very, sort of, or any other modifier. It’s unique, and that’s it.

“I feel so badly about that.” You feel badly with your hands. That’s what we linguistics freaks call an adverb, and should only apply to a verb. Bad is an adjective and should be used with nouns or pronouns. Often used with linking words like feel, look, sound, or to be. Correct use: “She sang badly at the concert.” “He felt bad about missing their date.” OK?

I could go on, but I have filled my pettiness quota for the day.

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   May 22

We knew it all along

Of course, he’s still looking up the hard words. Thanks to my friend Kathleen in Motown for locating this gem !

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   May 22

Don’t hold your breath

Good luck, pal! Bush has never met a death sentence he didn’t like — what makes you think he’s going to change his mind now? Especially for someone who isn’t a rich white Republican (not that anyone of that description would have landed on the Row anyway) AND someone whose case was set aside for review by Bill Clinton. I’m not taking those odds.

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   May 21

Saturday matinee

On Saturday, we went to see “The Mummy Returns” at the Metro Theater on Union Street. It was a nice walk there and perfect Suzy weather (sunny and warm, but with a breeze). Perfect Suzy weather means: not over 75 degrees and no sweating, but there has to be sun. The Metro is a beautiful neighborhood theater and one of the few left to us. We used to have the utterly charming Alhambra, which looked like a little mosque complete with mosaics and towers, with the Moorish theme carrying on inside, and the Royal, less picturesque but still a reminder of the long ago movie palace days. Both are closed now, although the poor Alhambra is, I’m sorry to say, being converted to a gym. Sacrilege.

The Metro has been entertaining San Francisco residents since 1924, and was recently restored to its Deco glory. So it was the ideal place to see a movie set in the 1930’s. We both loved “The Mummy”, and in spite of the bad reviews of the sequel, enjoyed it tremendously. I am beginning to think I must have bad taste in movies, since I nearly always seem to like the ones the critics trash. This was just a fun adventure with witty dialogue which looked spectacular, from the London sets to the desert. There were perhaps a few more fight scenes than I needed personally, but I do tend to find them boring and just want them to be over so the story can go on. I feel the same way about chase scenes.

On the way out, we had a chat with the manager, who has worked there for 10 years without a vacation (so he’s going to Hollywood for his birthday this year, just like Rufus and I did). He told us that the ticket prices just covered renting the movies, and it’s really the concession stands that help them pay their rent. That’s why the little, independent theaters are being eaten up by the huge multi-plexes. The Metro still has two years left on its lease, but then, who knows? It would be very sad if a theater that has served the public for 75 years has to close. So support your local theaters and boycott the multi-plexes!

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   May 20

What IS it?

Can anyone explain to me what an erotic wrestler is? It seems like such an oxymoron, like “erotic sanitation worker”.

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   May 20

Cozy Morning

All three redheads are fast asleep, cuddled up together. That’s Rufus, Hannah and Sophie…our two orange cats! They look adorable. Almost makes me want to go back to bed, but think I’ll dye my hair instead. I think I saw an actual grey hair in my dark roots. Not a reassuring sight with another birthday looming on the horizon. Still feel 18, though! And with the wonder of hair dye, the grey hair can be our little secret.

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   May 19

Give it up already!

Will the Republicans *ever* give up on “getting” Bill Clinton? It’s over, you redneck losers. You got your boy in the White House and we are all trying not to think about how someone who is dumber than dirt and more corrupt than the New Orleans police department can be the most powerful man in the WORLD. That way lies madness.

But the Republicans — notice how they are always anonymous? — are still trying to get Clinton in trouble like a mean big brother who can’t stand his smartass little brother’s popularity and ability to skip school without being caught. So either itemize your damages and submit them to the Clintons like a man (I know you’ve heard of them even if you aren’t one yourself, Georgie) or shut up, you hear? I don’t want millions more of my tax dollars going to prove that Bill had more fun than Dubya ever will.

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   May 18

Bad daughter

It might be a reflection on my parents’ parenting skills that of their four children, only one has children, and they are very nearly grown up. Doesn’t look like the rest of us are going to reproduce either. I know for a fact that I won’t, and unless my brother hurries up and finds a girlfriend soon, he’ll be 40 before he has any. Though he would be an outstanding father. He’s probably the only one that has reproduction potential. My little sister has been married for nearly 10 years now, and if she decides to have children, they’ll be adopted, like our mother was. Our grandparents always told our mother, “Other parents have to take what they get, but we chose you out of all the children in all the world.” Needless to say, my mother was never traumatized by being adopted.

She has, however, been traumatized by recent events. For those of you joining our program in progress, the short version is that her second husband left her and his employers, the US Marine Corps, simultaneously and without warning (see the archives for more about this). I don’t think either party even got a note. But what else can you expect of a guy who dumps his wife when she is facing an extremely radical mastectomy by asking her to pop the trunk of the car and then taking out his bags and announcing, “I’m leaving you”? The only thing more incredible than his exit was his return, which my mother allowed because she didn’t want to be alone. Even though he flat out said he only came back because he couldn’t afford to live on his own in non-military housing. Hmmm, this isn’t really the short version, is it?

Anyway…she is penniless but for an annuity she received in the divorce settlement from my father and the money she gets from the state to care for two worthless kids, one of which is a total psycho. She wants to move north to where my brother and sister live, but she expects us to drop everything NOW, regardless of our jobs and other obligations, and go and get her and fix everything. She further refuses to get a job, sell the unnecessary crap she has bought, get rid of the kids, etc. So even though she has overspent her way into the mess she’s in now, she doesn’t want to help herself get out of it. She’s just looking for someone to give her money and solve her problems.

I feel like a bad daughter because my pity for her situation is mixed with anger at her poor choices and refusal to deal with them. I think that if she expects us to save her ass, she has to give us power of attorney to control what little money she has and give up the foster kids and most of her pets, get a job that makes little enough not to jeopardize her welfare payments, and face up to reality. Guess my inner and outer child are BOTH bitches.

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   May 17

Nearly new Monet

A Monet painting which hasn’t been seen by the public in more than 100 years is being auctioned off at Sotheby’s in London on June 27. If you have 5 million pounds (around $7 million), you could be its next owner. The painting was first bought by Paul Gallimard from Monet himself, right after it was painted in 1890. Although M. Gallimard was generous enough to lend it to exhibitions over the next 5 years, his descendants were not, and hence it hasn’t been seen by anyone other than their family and friends since 1895.

The painting, “Meules, Derniers Rayons de Soleil” (that’s “Haystacks, Last Rays of the Sun” en anglais) is a striking one, with the haystack in question a deep red from the setting sun and casting dark shadows in strong contrast. Monet’s popularity has made him almost commonplace to us now, so that we don’t really see how extraordinary these works are. We now have the opportunity to see this “new” one with new eyes and really appreciate the brilliance of his technique and how daring his paintings were, especially more than a century ago. No-one before Monet had gone into the open air and studied the changing effects of light with such passion and dedication. (Even on his honeymoon, he was painting outside, and the National Gallery in London has a lovely painting he made of his new wife on the beach, in which you can actually see the sand that got blown onto it as it was painted.) This rediscovered painting is the opportunity of a lifetime to see the work of a master in a whole new light.

When I visited Monet’s house and garden at Giverny several years ago, I had a very old taxi driver who had been a young boy when Monet died in 1926 at the age of 86. He said that Monet wanted to be treated like one of the villagers, and had his coffin carried to the graveyard on the same old wooden cart as everyone else. He said, “Monsieur Monet was one of us.” It was a charming tribute to a humble genius. I hope Monsieur Monet knows that his paintings are still being seen and loved, and that he still has the power to surprise us.

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   May 16

En route

It was a pretty interesting walk to work today. It often is, because we leave the house at a very early hour, when night meets day. So the hookers are still out and people are also going to their jobs and you see a whole spectrum of people’s lives.

Our route takes us through the Tenderloin (hookers and massage parlors and divey bars) to the Financial District (tall buildings and guys wearing clacky shoes and suburban people hemmorhaging out of BART stops). Today I noticed that the fetishwear’n’sex toys store had finally changed their display from the Easter one. The Easter one had a girl in a pink and white gingham bra and thong carrying an Easter basket filled with candy colored sex toys. At her feet were pastel rabbits in flagrante. It was adorable. Now the mannequin is dressed as a cowgirl, with frilly denim undies, cowboy hat, a toy gun, very high heeled red cowboy boots, and with a bunch of little cowboys in the palm of her hand. Some of the cacti at her feet are styrofoam, and some are green vibrators (without the spines, though). Their window dresser must have a great time.

After we passed the sex shop, we saw a very short, very old man negotiating with a hooker who was at least 50% taller and 50% younger than he was and looking very bored. He was blabbing away about something and holding his wallet, and all I heard her say was, “uh-huh, uh-huh.” She was probably thinking, you’re wasting my time. If I were her, I’d tell him he was on the clock already, like a cab at a stoplight. So pay up or get lost already. I’m working here!

Outside the little coffee shop a few blocks later was the old guy who seems to spend his entire day sitting in a chair and drinking coffee. I often see him still sitting there on the way home 10 hours later. Imagine drinking all that coffee, all day long! Today as we walked by, I heard him say to the guy who works in the coffe shop, “It was so pretty it made me want to breakdance.” I’ve never seen anything THAT pretty.

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   May 15

Up in smoke

This really pisses me off. It’s not my vice of choice (that particular distinction belongs to champagne), but I truly think smoking pot is really no worse for you than drinking. You’re just damaging your lungs instead of your liver, and possibly gaining weight from the munchies, but that’s about it. In fact, a case could be made that smoking pot is better since you never hear of guys firing one up and then beating their wives, which seems to be a fairly common effect of drinking.

I think it’s a shame that the courts are too puritanical to see the benefits of marijuana to those enduring chronic pain or nausea caused by chemotherapy. When I was in my teens, my family had a dear friend who had bone cancer which had spread throughout his body. He suffered the tortures of the damned and could hardly keep any food down. The only thing that kept him going was smoking pot and then eating Breyer’s vanilla bean ice cream. This was actually given to him by his doctor, and we’re talking 20 years ago. How have we managed to regress to the point where this natural substance is unacceptable when prescribed by a doctor?

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