Wednesday, November 19, 2008

In the Interest of Full Disclosure

I need to clarify that one (or more) of my last posts was ridden with exaggerations, speculation and confounding conflations, as follows: The Cube Lady didn’t necessarily tell the other group to move their stuff immediately. I have no idea what she said to them, because I wasn’t there. She sent me an email saying she had asked them to move their stuff, that’s all. It just gave me pleasure to think of her saying, “Move this stuff immediately!” so I reported it accordingly. (Maybe she did say that.)

And I have no idea if she used her foot to draw a line showing them where my territory extends to, but she did do that when she and I were in the cube, so she COULD have done that with the other group. She may actually have, because they moved everything to the other side of that line. But who knows?

And the other group wasn’t necessarily not speaking to me. To be perfectly accurate, if I must, one person who is usually very friendly, but who is also moody, answered a question of mine with one syllable or two right after they had to move their stuff, so I’m pretty sure he was ticked off. And another person in that group who is also moody, as it happens, did a similar thing.

But the person who by rights should have been most annoyed was actually joking around with me today, and I think the two others will probably come around in due time, so it’s not as bad as reported. (My mother is smirking right now. That’s OK. I like for my mother to be able to enjoy a smirk or two at my expense.)

I made a salad dressing Lisa recommended a week or so ago, and left it sitting on the counter until yesterday. It seemed to me it shouldn’t require refrigeration, but maybe it did, since it had a bit of fresh garlic juice in it.

I had some yesterday and it was really wonderful, and I sent Lisa and David an email saying how much I liked it, and then about two minutes later (or 30 or 60 or maybe it was two hours, but I think it was actually pretty soon), I got a hideous pain in my stomach that persisted all night, segueing this morning into intermittent nausea.

I poured the rest of the salad dressing down the drain this morning, and when I opened the lid, there was a distinct uptick in abdominal distress, as if my body was saying, “That’s the stuff! That’s the stuff!” So I think maybe I should have refrigerated it.

I would have stayed in bed, BUT: I HAD to go to the dentist, for about the seventh time in the past two months, and it was really a particularly bad week for missing a day of work. I’m on call, I am extremely busy with other projects, AND I have to move to the other cube this week.

My KQED Perspective was slated to be on this morning, and I realized I would miss it myself, because I would be on the bus, which was kind of disappointing. I told Tom and he kindly lent me his Walkman, which has a radio in it.

What ended up happening was that I took a cab up to my dentist’s office, an extravagance to be sure, but I wanted to stay in bed until the last possible moment. The reception on Tom’s Walkman turned out to be poor, so I asked the cab driver if we could just sit outside the dental office for an extra ten minutes until my thing was on, and if he’d be kind enough to change the radio to 88.5, which he did, so I got to hear it.

(By the way, the cab driver looked like an Italian Mads Mikkelsen, so that was a particularly good cab driver to sit with for ten minutes. He had nice smile lines around his eyes, too.)

When I got to work, there was a nice note from Bert H. about it, and from Tom’s mother, Ann. That was very sweet.

I stayed at work for an hour or so, but then was overwhelmed with nausea again, so I came home and went back to bed and slept for eight hours. I have not had a single bite to eat today and have no appetite at all. This was my last vacation day for the year, so I hope I feel better tomorrow.

I could take an unpaid day off and wouldn’t mind doing that, but the movers are coming tomorrow, so I just have to get there.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Cube Lady Wins. (As We Knew All Along She Would.)

There might be too many capital letters in that title. I can’t figure it out. The King will tell me.

I don’t know if I’ve said that I’m very fond of my Zen Alarm Clock, which provides a peaceful awakening via a series of acoustic chimes (there’s actually a chime inside the thing, and a striker) that never get louder, but get progressively closer together until you turn it off. You can choose a louder or quieter volume to begin with, and you can make it quieter still by closing the lid.

This is almost a miracle: Only ONCE since I got this thing have I stayed in bed until 5 p.m., and that’s because it takes perfect advantage of a quality I have in abundance, which is laziness. There is no snooze button! To turn it off, you actually have to sit up, pick it up, open the lid, and push a button. Then, if you wished to snooze, you’d have to reset the alarm.

Well, who is going to do all that? By the time I got through resetting the alarm, I’d be wide awake, so it has become my habit just to get up when I turn the alarm off.

I’m sorry to say I have exhausted my appeals with the Cube Lady, and I have to move back to the bad cube at work next week. Part of the problem with that cube is that another group had placed their filing system and some other stuff in the back of it—it’s quite a long cube that terminates in a huge window (yes, I’m complaining about a cube with a huge window); evidently the other group felt that the bonus yardage was fair game, and every time they visited their stuff, they were basically standing behind me, which eroded privacy significantly.

Another problem: Again because of that extra length, there is a gap near the window end of the cube that allows passing into the cube beyond. Once or twice when I was sitting there before, someone came strolling through that gap; one person actually picked someone up that was on my desk and said, “Oh, you have one of these?” Good lord!

Basically, that cube is like wearing a too-small hospital gown and knowing people can see your bare butt (assuming that while you’re wearing this too-small gown, someone nearby is masticating energetically).

You might think I’d feel resentful of the Cube Lady, but my feelings about her are more complex—I’ve come to admire her no-nonsense style. When we were touring the new cube together, I asked if the gap could be plugged and she firmly said no, the company would not be paying for that, but she went on to suggest that I just get a second filing cabinet and put it front of the gap. Brilliant!

Not only that, she located one on the same floor and said to email the properties people and request that this filing cabinet be moved into my new cube.

Not only THAT, but she went and visited the other group and told them to get their stuff out of my cube immediately, and with her foot, drew a line to indicate that my territory goes all the way to the window, no ifs, ands or buts.

The other group, needless to say, moved their stuff and now none of them are speaking to me, but they’ll come around sooner or later, I imagine.

(Or perhaps not. I told Tom that I had to move back to the bad cube, but that I imagined I’d eventually get used to the sound of the guy eating. Tom said gently but with certainty that, no, he would not tend to think I would ever get used to it.)

On top of everything else, the new cube is currently being used as a computer graveyard. I was in such a good mood after the Cube Lady’s disciplining of the other group that I volunteered to place a request to have the stuff disposed of. To make a long story short, this ended with my losing my temper with someone I felt should come and get the stuff; he didn’t concur.

“OK, I’m going to put it in the hallway and forget about it,” I said, already mad.

It seemed a bit unfair that I have to move to a cube I don’t want to move to and on top of that, have to be personally responsible for boxing up a bunch of stuff I physically can’t lift and that I have nothing to do with.

The person I was talking to said, “You’re going to create big legal problems for the company! You could get in serious trouble! You’re doing something very wrong.” I mean, really.

“What is it that I’m doing? I’m sitting in my cube talking on the phone.”

“You’re doing—”

“I’m not doing anything. I’m sitting in my cube talking on the phone.”

“You’re going to—”

“Thanks very much. I’m afraid I have to be going now,” and then I hung up before I raised my voice (any further). That is: ugh.

That is: this whole cube thing absolutely has three sixes on it, but there’s nothing I can do.

As it turned out, the Cube Lady even came through in regard to the computer graveyard—she said that when the movers were there stealing the—I mean, moving the second filing cabinet from its present location (her idea, not mine), I should also have them dump the equipment in some other empty cube.

I like the idea of using the chewing sound as an opportunity for practice—what is this moment like, this moment with this chewing sound?—but I’m prepared to resort to noise-canceling headphones.

Work to Bike, Bike to Live, Live to Eat, and Eat at Work

A few things that happened before I went to Seattle:

I went back and edited my online review of Andrew Woodside Carter, the furniture guy. A couple of the things I’d written were nagging at me, so I took them out, so I wouldn’t have to worry about AWC coming to punch me out when he sees it. I’ve found a place where I may take the chair to be refinished, but the damage is bothering me much less now that it’s been that way for many weeks.

In other news, I received an email entitled, "Work to Eat, Eat to Live, Live to Bike, Bike to Work," which is a good slogan, almost as good as mine.

Before, after or about the same time, the guitar and I parted company. I was enjoying it, but I don’t miss it. I decided to stop when I got, for the second time, a savage pain in my left hand and wrist. It lasted for a week or ten days and was so bad one day I couldn’t ride my bike and had to take BART to work.

I’m sure that I could have found some way to play without pain, which probably would have required playing for five minutes and then taking a ten-minute break; i.e., it would have been a big pain in and of itself, and no doubt I would have ended up overdoing it at times and ended up in agony again, so I think I’ll just continue to be a listener rather than a player when it comes to the guitar.

Sharing the blessings of guitar music, I sent my mother an email entitled “MUYA,” apprising her that I was going to tell Amazon to send her the new Metallica CD, Death Magnetic, which I like very, very much.

She wrote back, “Wow, that's fabulous. Did you share the news with [your father]? No, he's not cc'd. Thank you in advance.”

I think this was a hint that my father might be not entirely pleased, or might even be dismayed, to find he’d become, through no fault of his own, co-owner of a Metallica CD. I sent my mother the Rolling Stone review of the CD so she could get in the mood before hearing it.

After she read the review, she asked, “What means ‘progged out?’”

Once again, I was glad I’d gotten a degree in pop music, rather than a lightweight subject such as science, math or engineering, so that I was able to explain that was no doubt a reference to progressive rock, or prog rock—think Pink Floyd, Yes, or King Crimson. My mother had a King Crimson album when I was a child. The cover art was very colorful.

In mid-October I went to see Carol Joy in Novato. I missed the bus because just as I got to the Golden Gate Transit stop, they closed the whole street because of an event at City Hall, so Carol Joy told me just to get to the north side of the Golden Gate Bridge and she’d pick me up there. She estimated it would take 15 minutes to cross the bridge.

I’ve never walked across the bridge before, though I’ve cycled over it many times. It takes an hour, for the record, but it was great. I saw the San Francisco Fire Department’s fire boat, the Phoenix, spraying big jets of water.

Carol Joy and I had Thai Food for lunch, then saw a couple of movies, including Blindness, which I thought was really good. It reminded me of It’s a Wonderful Life, in that it vividly brings home how precious the simplest things are: to have friends. To feel the rain on your face.

Late that evening, Carol Joy taught me a card game she used to play with her friends when she was a kid, which they called Sneaky Pete. We played until the early part of the wee hours, then slept, then played again, then had breakfast in Novato, then played again, and then I came home on the bus. Another perfect weekend with Carol Joy.

Some evening along in there, I was parking my bike at El Toro when along came a homeless person with a horrible wound on his foot oozing gooey fresh blood. This reminded me of a similar sight nearly 10 years ago downtown. I stopped and talked to that guy, whose name was Jeffrey and whose foot was covered with fresh blood.

He told me how he’d come to the city to be a chef and had met with bad luck. He said he was going to be moving back to his parents’ place soon, and he gave me their phone number. He told me how his parents missed him and were waiting for him to come back.

When we parted, after I gave him a bit of money, I also spontaneously gave him a rather long hug, probably the first and last time I will hug a homeless person, particularly one that filthy.

When I called the number he’d given me, an angry-sounding man said he’d never heard of a Jeffrey. Very sad.

So here was another fellow with a horrible bleeding foot. I offered to buy him a burrito and he gave me a very particular order: chicken, cheese, no rice or beans. He declined a soda, saying he was diabetic and had to be careful about his health.

When I came out with our burritos, he told me his name: Jeffrey. He was happy to have the burrito and reached to give me a hug, oddly enough, but I backed away and said I’d prefer he didn’t hug me. I felt kind of bad about it, but felt I was within my rights (especially since sometimes I don’t even like perfectly clean non-homeless people to hug me). He didn't seem offended.

Several days later, when I was locking up my bike at El Toro again, there was the same fellow, with the exact same wound, and I now am thinking there must be some way to approximate a ghastly wound like that even with limited means. Jeffrey didn’t say anything to me this time, but while I was standing there, a young couple rushed over, exclaiming over his foot.

So is Jeffrey of 2008 with a bloody foot the same person as Jeffrey of 2000 with a bloody foot?

Normally I do not use links here because I find them a bit dreary, but I will make an exception for this.

I LOVE this woman! She didn’t just say, “I think I’ll dress up like a cow,” nor did she say, “Reckon I’ll go chase children for a bit and then knock off,” nor was her vision for the day limited to peeing on her neighbor’s porch. Her expression is a bit inscrutable here, but it hints to me that her plans were even bigger than we know, and that she would have carried them out if she hadn’t been interrupted. I really like the cut of her jib.

A Very Fine Day on the Links

About a month ago, I attended a three-day League of American Bicyclists seminar in order to be certified as a League Cycling Instructor (LCI). Nearly half the class was the staff of the Presidio YMCA’s bike program, and what a cheery enthusiastic bunch of folks, mostly young, they are! I loved meeting them.

The class was held at the Letterman Gym in the Presidio, right across the street from George Lucas’s massive complex where they make the cool visual effects. We spent the weekend riding around and taking turns explaining to each other how to navigate upcoming hazards or traffic features, as maybe we will do for students one day, and practicing giving classroom presentations on assigned topics and providing instruction on emergency maneuvers like the instant turn and quick stop.

We basically spent the whole three days either teaching or watching our peers teach, and each time we got done presenting, we were evaluated by everyone in sight. It was a very good way to get an idea of what is effective or not, and I learned some things that will come in handy when I am serving as an instructor, though I don't know if I'm going to go so far as to get on my hands and knees and pretend to be a leg-chomping dog, though the person who did that definitely brought down the house and is also likely to be President of the Universe someday; what an amazingly radiant and vigorous person. (Rose is her name; watch out for her.)

The prerequisite class, Road I, was such a life-changing experience, I’d thought the three-day class would pile even more goodies on top of the ones I’d gotten already, but I must say it didn’t, though I certainly did learn some things. Fortunately, there was more great stuff coming; it just waited until today to show up.

At the end of the seminar, I was informed that I was now officially a League Cycling Instructor level three, and that if I want to advance to level four, when I'll be permitted to teach a class on my own, I have to do some teaching in conjunction with another LCI, and I also needed to “remediate” my instant turn, an emergency maneuver that, if properly executed, will allow you to stay next to, rather than crash into, a car that suddenly turns in front of you.

I knew that if I didn’t start that process right away, it would fall off the mental map completely, so I emailed one of the assistant teachers from my seminar, but we never ended up connecting, so when I ran into Diane S. last week at Rainbow, someone I have known and liked for about 25 years and an LCI herself, I blurted out that I needed help with the instant turn, and we arranged to meet this morning at Illinois and 16th St., where there is a whole block that is nicely paved and, at the moment, closed to traffic. It's also deserted, so no audience. Perfect spot for this enterprise.

Just before I left the house, I heard something on the radio about Woody Guthrie. Before I could rush over to the radio to turn it off—my finger was in the air, ready to stab the off button—quite a lovely piece of music began. It turned out to be Jonatha Brooke, who has released a CD of Guthrie’s surplus lyrics (he was very prolific) set to her original music. In moments, I was in tears, and I’m going to buy that CD, too, which is to say that not 24 hours after enjoying a form of Peruvian folk music, I enjoyed something that had to do with Woody Guthrie: What is happening to me?

(God only knows what I'll be enjoying next. Maybe even some of that "sunshine.")

As for the instant turn, I had figured I’d do a session with Diane, she’d tell me what to practice, I wouldn’t practice it, I’d meet with her again months later, she’d tell me to practice the same stuff, I wouldn’t practice it, and so forth; I figured that a year from now, I still wouldn’t have a decent instant turn, and would feel ashamed to boot for being such a slacker.

Well! In 45 minutes, Diane completely fixed my instant turn! She is a wonderful instructor. It was amazing and liberating. Honestly, I felt like, gosh, who knows what else I might be able to do, now that I can do this?! I’m positive it was the same feeling a person has when thinking “Maybe I’ll run for president” or “Maybe I’ll quit my job and be a full-time musician.” Why not? (Maybe I can! Especially if I TRY.)

To recap: To do an instant turn to the right, you flick your handlebars to the left, which starts a lean to the right. Then, almost immediately after doing the flick to the left, you turn your handlebars to the right, lean right, and, if all goes well, make an abrupt turn to the right.

Diane watched me do a couple and said my flick was good, but something was amiss with the follow-through. She had me do some figure 8s as tightly as possible, and after I did a few, she said they looked fine and noted that an instant turn doesn’t require turning any more sharply than that. Oh! That was encouraging news.

Then she asked how I felt when doing the follow-through, which is the crucial part when it comes to avoiding contact with the car. Did I enjoy it or did I feel scared? Well, of course, I felt scared, namely of falling down, particularly on my already injured elbow, though my fear while practicing the instant turn predates that guy hitting me.

She had me get off my bike for a moment and back away from it while holding the seat and handlebar, so that it leaned farther and farther over. She pointed out that the tires were not slipping in the least and that they still had traction, even though the bike was very far over—much farther than it ever will be when I’m on it, if all goes according to plan.

She also told me to keep my outer foot down. It seems to me that if you really have to execute this procedure, you’d have enough to think about without worrying about which foot is down, but I guessed it couldn’t hurt at least to practice it the right way, and, sure enough, having that foot down makes a vast difference in terms of confidence. It kind of makes you feel like you have something solid and stable to press against while you’re leaning the other way.

I also soon discovered that it felt very natural to have my left foot down (while turning right) but completely strange to have my right foot down (while turning left). In fact, putting that foot firmly down caused a stretch in the hip area that felt downright exotic.

Diane advised me to go ride up and down for a while in gentle S-curves while she worked with the one other student, and just feel the pleasure and flow of doing so. And it really was fun just to ride along swaying from side to side. Then I did more figure 8s, and then I showed Diane my instant turn again, and voila!

She said she would email my LCI seminar instructor, who is permanently my coach of record, though he lives in Portland, and tell him my instant turn is now shipshape.

So, a big pile of goodies indeed: a proper instant turn, a huge boost in confidence, much less fear of leaning over and tight turns, more ease, and a new sense of play and pleasure while riding. I practiced for another hour on my own, until my elbow started to ache, and then I rode home feeling like a bird aloft, swooping and arcing through the breeze.

Hope You Get Off in Time to Enjoy Some of this “Sunshine”

Here’s a post on everything that has happened since I went to Seattle; later I’ll say more about what happened prior to that.

First, I’m going to try to get up to Seattle about twice a year, now that I know how very excellent it is. (It also takes, like, no time to get there, all told: four hours. It takes me two hours to get to Carol Joy’s in Novato, 28.7 miles away.)

Some activities that have been proposed: visiting Victoria and Vancouver, going cross-country skiing, and taking to the water in a rowboat. David was saying maybe he’ll take a class, and then we three can go out in a rowboat on some future visit, “and you can row.”

I can row? I thought you were going to take a class,” I said.

Lisa explained, “The class teaches you how to get other people to row.”

“Right,” agreed David. “It’s basically a rowing management class.”

That reminded me of a time my mother made fudge that refused to fudge. My father cheered her up by saying that what she had studied back in her home economics days had actually been fudge theory.

Lisa, apropos of a conversation we had while I was there, sent me a link this past week to the Uptight Seattleite column, which runs in the Seattle Weekly. I came upon a column in the archives where a woman said she felt weird having someone else (you know, the Bag Boy) carry her groceries to her car for her.

The U.S. advised her to make friendly conversation with the fellow so it wouldn’t seem as if she thought he was of the lower classes. He writes: “A good line for this is, ‘Hope you get off in time to enjoy some of this sunshine!’ But—and this is very important—make sure this doesn't sound like some kind of inappropriate invitation. You might want to practice beforehand until you've achieved just the right tone of casualness.”

This past Friday night, I skipped watching a DVD so I could get up at a reasonable hour yesterday morning, which was one of those dazzling ultra-paradise days. Many days here are utterly gorgeous, and then there are some that are completely over the top, where everyone is in a happy daze; yesterday was one of those.

I made it to Rainbow soon after it opened, and came home to rinse fruit, chop veggies, and make black bean and tomato soup, and a barley-mushroom pilaf which is very nice reheated in olive oil and served with avocado slices.

While I was cooking, “Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me” was on the radio, and they were on quite the roll. The host said, “Sarah Palin has reset the bar—and now we’re all playing limbo trying to get under it.”

The host referred to the Obama administration as the O-ministration, and started the show by saying something like, “We’re here in the Oval Office with two men, one of whom many people still feel is not quite ready to sit behind this desk. But he’ll be leaving in a couple of months.”

He also cited Obama’s post-election meeting with Bush as evidence of Obama’s stated willingness to meet with unstable leaders without preconditions.

So: many opportunities for comedy during the transition period, another wonderful thing about Obama being elected I hadn't even thought of.

When cooking was over, I met Eric G. for a stroll around Dolores Park. While we were walking, a woman who had briefly interviewed me at Rainbow for a radio piece she was doing about healthy eating recognized my voice—I would never have recognized her, so that was serendipitous—and told me that the segment will be on the radio next Wednesday, also the day my latest KQED Perspective will be on, as it happens; the other thing will be on KALW. I don’t think my radio goes there. I think it only goes to KQED.

Then I took the bus to the church at Van Ness and Sacramento to meet Sally N. for the second of three Messiaen-inspired recitals. Some of the pieces required a renewed resolution to pay attention every few seconds, as there was nothing one might call melody or harmony to hang one’s hat on. They were pure timbre, pitch and duration, but after sufficient effort to attend, the pieces became engaging, which is not the same thing as pleasant to the ear, but has its satisfactions.

None of these was by Messiaen himself. In the second half, there was a soprano. Normally I don’t like people to sing in classical or contemporary classical music; it’s like, “Can you stop singing? I’m trying to listen to music.” But this woman, Lara Bruckmann, truly sang like an angel, and had a lush, generous, expressive presence. I was swooning. It was as if she opened her mouth and molten gold effortlessly poured forth. I would definitely go across town to hear her sing again.

She sang some Gabriela Lena Frank (b. 1972), from Cuatro Canciones Andinas (Four Andean Songs), which was beautiful and melancholy, and then finally some actual Messiaen: excerpts from Harawi, which also draws on Peruvian folk music.

Normally when I hear mention of Peruvian folk music, or any kind of folk music (or bluegrass, for that matter, and also reggae or ska), I say,
I think I hear the dinner bell! and rush off, but both of these pieces were so great, I believe my fear of Andean folk music is utterly gone. The excerpts from Harawi were absolutely mesmerizing. I’m going to buy the whole thing.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

What’s the Meaning of These Incessant Phone Calls?

The person who most often does the morning traffic reports on KQED, a person with a very nice radio voice and manner, sometimes says, with a frisson of contempt, that traffic is slow due to “rubberneckers.”

I always want to say to him, “Excuse me, what do you do think you’re doing, albeit electronically and maybe thirdhand? Just because you’re in front of a computer looking at something sent from the helicopter THAT WOKE ME OUT OF A SOUND SLEEP at 6 a.m., that doesn’t make you better than anyone else.”

In fact, if I’m not mistaken, this person is on the air because he gets paid for it (though I should hasten to insert that I personally would be happy to be on the air for free), not for the beautiful, natural and very human love of knowing what the aitch eeeh double toothpicks is going on, like the in-person rubberneckers.

I’m fully on the side of those who do their rubbernecking firsthand, on an amateur basis. For one thing, I can't tell from my bed that they're doing it.

And what is the reason for this dreadful early morning cacophony? It’s to prevent some yuppie (or so I picture this person) from trying to make it to work without advance knowledge that traffic is slow on a given stretch of road. I say, let it be a surprise. Why does everyone have to know everything in advance?

I’ve been on bike rides with people who insist on announcing topographical features before you get to them. I even once dated someone who periodically confirmed that we had reached such-or-such a romantic milestone on schedule. (After six weeks, we broke up, on schedule.)

If you have to know what’s happening when it comes to something as routine and ever-present as traffic, go look at it with your own eyeballs.

Now, as to before the election, in fact, just last weekend, I flew to Seattle on Saturday to see the beloved faces of the King and El Capitan, Lisa being the King, of course, and had a very excellent time, slightly delayed by happening to arrive at the Sea-Tac airport during a security breach. I had to wait more than an hour (and Lisa and David therefore had to wait outside in their Zipcar) for the train that normally runs every two minutes, taking people from the two satellite terminals, which are islands in the sea of concrete, to the main terminal.

Could one just walk there? Could one even step outside at all, or was one basically trapped inside this building, resulting in a faint claustrophobia? No, no and yes.

As to the nature of the breach, someone, in this day and age, thought it would be a fine plan to try to run through the security checkpoint without being screened. This caused everything at the airport to grind to a halt, including the once-a-day flight to Tokyo, which couldn’t take off, domino effect, thousands of dollars per minute down the drain, people standing around having to listen to a woman regale a friend with her lines for a community theatrical production by bellowing them into her cell phone.

Finally I was outside in the rather dim afternoon light and there were David and Lisa! Just as I remembered them! Here’s everything we did: drove by Boeing, which takes a while, and saw actual strikers, had lunch at a Chinese vegetarian place, walked around the sculpture garden that is part of the Seattle Art Museum (there are witty things and there’s a huge Calder), saw various calm waters (there’s a lot of that in those parts), drove through downtown, saw where Lisa reports to work and where David reports to work (at my request, so I can picture them reporting to work), had dinner at their place—Lisa made us a yummy tomato-and-bean stew, served with bread and green salad; cupcakes for dessert—and watched Irina Palm, about a 50-year-old woman who goes to work in a sex emporium to get money for an operation her grandson needs.

I spent the night in a hotel not far away and on Sunday morning we had huevos rancheros, which were really, really good, at the 14 Carrot Café. Lisa happens to be an expert on credit card processing, at least relative to myself, and explained to us exactly how it works. I took notes. It was riveting, and I mean that very sincerely. Did you, for instance, know that it is not legal for a merchant to establish a limit beneath which he or she won’t accept a credit card for a transaction? I didn’t know that. I can see why they’d prefer to have that limit, but it’s actually disallowed.

After breakfast, we went to the Center for Wooden Boats, and strolled along the docks looking at the watercraft, and we went up to the top of the Space Needle—because the weather was more autumnal, we didn’t have to wait in line at all, and it wasn’t crowded at the top, though also not lonely.

Toward the end of our visit to the Space Needle, we discussed whether to take the Zipcar downtown or the monorail. Lisa stepped away briefly, and when she returned, she asked, “So, are we taking the monorail or driving downtown?”

David answered, after a shocked pause, “We’re going to the gift shop. Keep your priorities straight.”

In the gift shop, I invested in a diminutive blue Space Needle, and then we rode the monorail downtown and went to the Pike Place Market, where we visited Piroshky Piroshky and purchased fresh-baked items of impressive quality. Back near the Space Needle, we stopped by the International Fountain, half a metal globe which sends arcs of water through the air, and then I took the bus back to the airport, which takes 30 minutes and costs just $1.50.

At some point toward the end of this whirlwind trip, we were calculating how much time we had left to do things and realized that, what with one thing and another, it was just 15 minutes.

I said, “Next time I’ll stay longer.”

David replied, “Duh!”

“Did you just say ‘Duh’?”

“No! I said ‘Great!’”

The topic of Metallica came up, as it will, and David asked if I could hum a Metallica song that he would recognize. In fact, I think that might be a little bit difficult. I considered trying to hum “Enter Sandman” or “For Whom the Bell Tolls” or “Ain’t My Bitch,” and quickly decided not to risk such dignity as I still might have.

But I offered to make a CD containing some of my favorite Metallica tracks, and throw on some Megadeth and some Drowning Pool and what have you, and I think I will also put some of Todd Rundgren’s heartbreakingly beautiful ballads on there—why ever not?

I said it would be the most annoying CD they owned. “We won’t own it long,” Lisa reassured me.

(The title of this entry is what David and I vie to be the first to say when speaking to each other on the phone.)


In case you didn't get a good look at this. Obviously, this is very flattering, as Tom's brother Steve mentioned, but I also like how it makes my hair look like smoke and gives my living room/bedroom/dining room/office an otherworldly glow.

Me outside Piroshky Piroshky. In Seattle!

Lisa, David and me at the top of the Space Needle.

As Long as My Dinner Companion’s Nose Is on the Fritz, We’re Good

Now I’ll say what happened after Election Day: I worked for three days without the company of my co-worker who sits near me and has been following the election very closely, too, giving us plenty to talk about; I periodically apologized to the two guys who sit near us, who both claimed not to mind.

I had to work without her for three days because she took the rest of the week off for a self-designated Election Holiday; she figured she would need at least the first day to recuperate from staying up too late the night before. Now, that's self-care. (Or three days of PTO gone for good, depending on how you look at it.)

I was elated Tuesday evening and half of Wednesday. I have ordered 10 “Yes We DID!” buttons, yet to arrive. (So far I haven't received a call from Obama saying which cabinet position my campaign contribution is going to get me, though I did get a nice thank-you email signed "Barack." George never sent me an email. On the other hand, I never sent him $600, either. I was delighted to send Obama that amount.)

By Wednesday afternoon, the post-election crash was upon me, and by late afternoon, I was feeling so awful I was starting to wonder if I had food poisoning, but I think it was just indigestion from my S&M, I mean, S&S lunch: sushi (from Whole Foods) and a small container of Odwalla Superfood, a fruity green drink packed with algae or some such. One of these days I will learn that my stomach always gets upset when I introduce Superfood into it, and pairing it with sushi isn't exactly an improvement.

So instead of going to the Bike Coalition (it is henceforth going to be more of a struggle to get there, anyway, because my favorite person has stopped attending), I came home and went to bed early.

Thursday night was allocated to laundry, and last night I meant to do this:

5:00—Pick up book at library.
5:30—Get cat litter at Amore at 18th and Valencia.
6:00—Wash leftover dishes.
6:30—Have dinner.
8:30—Take a shower.
9:30—Watch a DVD.

Leaving a little leeway, I figured I’d be in bed by midnight, and therefore up by 9 a.m. today.

Here’s what actually happened:

5:00—Pick up book at library.
5:30—Get cat litter at Amore at 18th and Valencia.

So far, so good! Nice work! QBQ!

6:00—Work myself into a lather over annoying loud noise of helicopters immediately overhead; helicopter occupants are observing/reporting on pro-same-sex marriage demonstration making its way from Civic Center to the Castro. I’m one hundred percent for same-sex marriage, of course, but I get sick of having helicopters hover just outside, which happens extremely often for one reason or another; more on that later. I figure there will be three solid hours of being unable to hear myself think, but it turns out not to be quite that bad.

6:30—Phone rings. How annoying! I lift the receiver and gently replace it.
6:35—Phone rings. I lift the receiver and replace it firmly, and then consider: Should I turn off the ringer? But what if it's my mother, saying she’s fallen and can’t get up? Wouldn’t I want to know that? (Because once I turned the ringer off, it could literally be months before I got around to turning it on again; basically, once it was off, it would be off.)
6:40—Phone rings. I lift the receiver and slam it down; resist urge to yell “Can you stop?” into it first.
6:45—Receive email from my mother saying she’s having trouble reaching me on the phone; what’s going on?

6:50—Email exchange with my mother ensues. While sitting at my computer, I make the first really major mistake of the evening: I go to Audacity’s website to download the free recording software the very excellent Apple engineer recommended. Then I screw around with the installation; it doesn’t really take that long, but in the course of doing that—specifically, in the course of adding an icon for the new application to my desktop—I discover—oh, boy—that there is a chess game on my iMac!

I fire up a game, make a move, try to remember what those bland but powerful round pieces at the end, not pawns, are called. Before I can make a move on behalf of the opposing color, such a piece moves by itself! Hey! Does this computer seriously think it’s going to take me on in chess? Not only does it think that, it beats me handily, in moments. Why, I oughtta …

So: chess. I decide I can skip stretching and showering.

Another excellent discovery follows closely on the heels of the chess discovery: Photo Booth! This lets you take funny pictures of yourself using a variety of effects, including X-ray.

8:00—Try to figure out where Photo Booth is saving all the fab pictures I’m taking, and email the best one to a select group of associates: my mother, my father, Chris H., Tom, Steve, Ann, and David and Lisa. (I have added this particular photo to my Blogger profile. Finally, the right picture for that purpose.)

8:30—More chess. Ruing the day already ...

9:00—Wash dishes while eating hastily prepared but extremely delicious dinner standing up.

9:30—Jesus! I’ve got to start the DVD! Watch Grace Is Gone, about a man unable to tell his daughters their soldier mother has died in Iraq, instead taking them on a road trip to an amusement park. It was OK. The actors seemed uncomfortable—because they were good actors playing characters in discomfort. Very nice job—QBQ!—but kind of imparted tension and misery to the viewer, as well.

11:00—I guess more chess? It's kind of a blur. After awhile, I gave in and changed the settings so the computer would make lots more dumb moves. I Googled chess to help me remember the names of those pieces: rooks! And “knights,” not “horses.” I did once upon a time actually know how to play chess, no doubt thanks to my mother, who would have considered this essential, along with being familiar with Lewis Carroll's "Jabberwocky." 'Twas brillig!

Finally, at the computer’s dumbest setting, I can achieve a draw, as long as I move first. What does that mean, “draw”? It seems to me that I have won this game. Back to Google. Oh, I get it. Then I can actually win, if I move first. Then I can win even if the computer moves first. This is going to burn an unbelievable number of hours. Soon enough, it’s:

4 a.m.—Lights out. Definitely behind schedule at this point.

And there you have it. Crap, now it’s 2:30 p.m. already, which means I’m not going to do most of what I’d planned for today, so I’m in schedule triage mode again: I must get something posted, blogwise—done!—and I have to decide which restaurant to patronize for dinner so I can call Lisa M. back; I think she’s going to treat me to dinner, a belated birthday celebration (yes, I reached the august age of 46 five months ago).

I also have, besides this blog, a journal, where the top-secret most important and closest-to-my-heart stuff goes, but I never have time to add anything to it, other than notes. Later I go back and look at the notes and delete the ones I don't care about anymore. Sooner or later, every note falls into that category, if I wait long enough.

Which means everything I post on my blog would also fall into that category, and certainly sooner than the stuff for my never-updated journal, which is why I keep becoming ambivalent about the blog and stop posting anything. But then I think of something I'd sorta like to post, and the floodgate opens.

Which means that the most important stuff never gets written down anymore, only the stuff that's potentially for a general audience. That seems backwards, but whatever.

So, herewith a post or two, possibly more to come, and taking the long-anticipated shower would be nice, too. Wonder how good Lisa M.’s sniffer is. I’ll ask if she perchance has a clogged-up nose when I call her to discuss dinner.

President Obama. I said, PRESIDENT OBAMA!!!

So I guess we’ll just start semi-randomly working our way backwards here, starting with a call I made to Apple to find out how to get music from my tape deck into the iMac. The person I spoke to asked, “May I have your first name?”


“ ‘Linda’! Very excellent! How are you today?”

After I got done chuckling, I asked how he was.

“Good, good. I’m always very excellent,” he confided.

Every now and then, we get into a thing at work of offering extravagant compliments to each other for the smallest accomplishments. Emily sent a note this week saying she had taken ownership of a certain problem ticket, or something like that, which means nothing whatsoever has happened yet; it’s just an administrative move.

I wrote back, “I swear, nice work!”

Bill chimed in: “Nice work, ladies!!!!!!!!!!!! QBQ!”

That was so funny that I didn’t even bother to remind him that Emily and I don’t like to be addressed as “ladies.” “QBQ” is a reference to QBQ! The Question Behind the Question, a pop psychology work on customer service skills our manager had us read, followed by Our Iceberg Is Melting. Next week, we’re going to have small-group discussions on the latter, and take a test to make sure we’ve fully comprehended the principles.

Next, how about that PRESIDENT BARACK HUSSEIN OBAMA?! Even though it was seemingly obvious and had been for some time that he would win, I got a little freaked out every time someone spoke of Obama being “a few points” ahead of McCain, and would hasten to to rest my eyes on their electoral vote projections, which were very heartening and turned out to be quite accurate.

I couldn’t quite see the people who helped Bush steal at least one election doing the same for McCain, but I was still hugely thrilled and relieved when, at the stroke of 8 p.m. Pacific Time this past Tuesday, when the polls in California closed, the TV station I was watching—the one with George Stephanopoulos; he’s so cute—called the election in favor of Obama.

Soon I could hear people rampaging on Valencia St., and went out to join them. People were honking their car horns, grinning and waving to those on the sidewalk and hanging out of their car windows, mostly passengers, but in one case, the driver himself. Hundreds of people appeared on the sidewalks and finally, unable to contain themselves, surged into the intersection at 19th and Valencia, blocking the street completely as they literally jumped for joy and waved their hands in the air and chanted in unison, “Yes, we can,” and “Obama,” and even “USA!” I’ve never heard a group of San Franciscans chant “USA” before, because that usually means, to many of us, the government that is doing something we strongly disagree with.

But on Election Day, it meant the country that voted in the smarter, steadier, more sober candidate—even if his middle name is HUSSEIN; honestly, I could see that having been a deal-breaker all on its own—thus making history.

The celebration, similar to those occurring in hundreds of places nationwide, I'm sure, continued for hours, ratcheting up a few notches when the marching band arrived, at midnight. I often hear this group outside, generally at 2 a.m. But if ever an occasion called for a brass band and booming big drums, this was it.

I submitted to KQED several weeks ago a Perspective on cycling, my third. The first said that it’s good to cycle. The second said it’s good to take the lane when you cycle, because it’s safest. This one says it’s good to STOP AT THE FREAKING RED LIGHTS when you cycle, and I had a nice anecdote to begin it with, and a little scar on my elbow to look at when my natural vehemence ebbed.

I received some suggestions for improving it, and then, after procrastinating for many, many weeks, I finally sent in a revised version. (I got a note back from Mark T., the Perspectives editor, saying, “I was wondering if you’d gone on a circumpolar bike ride.”)

I arranged to record it the morning after Election Day and was met at KQED by two African-American women at the front desk. I don’t like to assume anything about other people’s political preferences (though, as it happened, I did put my foot in my mouth not two hours later that same day, by making just such as assumption).

At the Bike Coalition’s volunteer nights, for instance, I never thought it was impossible that there could be a McCain supporter in the room, and I heard there was an incident at Eugene’s Sunday night meditation group when someone started to gripe about Sarah Palin, offending two McCain fans, who stomped out, understandably enough.

But these two seemed suspiciously cheery, so I ventured an “It’s a great day, huh?” and it turned out we all thought it was, for the same reason. One was wearing a t-shirt with a big picture of Obama on it. She said she figured that since she had been compelled to wear her union’s red t-shirt every Friday for some period of time, it ought to be OK for her to wear an Obama t-shirt on this one day. I would certainly think so.