Friday, April 28, 2006

Tree-Dwelling Fish-Chomping Snakes

Today the San Francisco Chronicle published a letter to the editor from me. I found out when I was standing at the bus stop (yay, it’s acupuncture day) and Dave Snyder cycled by and said, “Good letter.” Having a letter published happens with gratifying frequency, but it always is thrilling.

Lately I’ve been giving away stuff free on craigslist, such as quite a large number of sanitary pads that I decided had too much perfume in them, a small jar of Tiger Balm minus one fingerful (why isn’t that a word?), a Revere skillet, and just the lid to an old-model Revere Ware skillet. Today I’m attempting to give away an unopened bottle of hot sauce, which I used to use to cook chicken, and an unopened jar of Nayonaise, as I have switched to Organic Eggless Vegan Light Mayo from Spectrum, which is really fantastic stuff. I don’t really like the taste of egg, so even if I stop being vegan someday, I might keep using this mayo.

A lot of people wanted the skillet, which Revere sent me as a replacement for my old skillet whose handle cracked, but I’m not into the non-stick thing, besides which I think it’s rather ugly, though it is very sturdy. I got a funny email about it that began, “Please, good people, I must have that skillet!”

I was surprised that anyone at all wanted a vintage lid, but three people did and someone came and got it yesterday afternoon. A whole bunch of children were lining up to go into Chevy’s as I was waiting there to hand off the lid, and one of them gave me a look that very obviously said, “Overlooking for now the rearview mirror on your bicycle helmet, why are you carrying a pan lid?”

I don’t know if I will succeed in giving away the Nayonaise. So far the only email I got about it said something like, “You must be kidding.” On the contrary. Somewhere out there is a person of low income or not who uses Nayonaise, though he or she may not see my ad.

Revere also sent me a two-quart saucepan and a three-quart saucepan, again to replace pots whose handles had cracked, and at first I was very pleased with this shiny new cookware, but then I noticed a couple of things that are different about the new ones, besides the fact that they were made in Indonesia rather than Illinois, I believe it was. They are noticeably lighter, and the line near the bottom that separates the copper from the stainless steel is not a perfectly straight line, because, apparently, the bottom isn’t made from a solid piece of copper but was just dipped in some kind of copper juice.

I also noticed that when I look into these pots, there is something at the bottom in the center. Leftover glue or a scratch? No—it’s actually the information stamped on the outside of the bottom of the pot showing through into the inside of the pot. Alas, “flimsy” is the word that comes to mind. No wonder they did the warranty replacement with such alacrity.

To console myself, I went over to the Academy of Sciences, which is currently located very conveniently at Fifth and Howard, though it will be moving back to Golden Gate Park in 2008, and looked at the fish, snakes, lizards, turtles and so forth. I particularly like the enormous fish that look like alligators and the stingrays. The alligator gars have lived at the Academy aquarium for more than 50 years!

I heard one kid say, “I don’t like his eyes. They’re ugly.” He was looking at an enormous eel that was doing little today beyond slightly opening and closing its mouth, but last time I was there, it, or another one that looked quite like it, and a friend had managed to stuff themselves into the same long plastic tube. It was quite comical to see the two deadpan eel faces bursting out of the end of the tube.

There is also an aquarium full of extremely skinny little green snakes that live in trees but only eat fish. The snake reaches down and immobilizes a passing fish by biting it with his poison jaws. I didn’t see this happen but that’s what the sign said. The snakes blend in very well with the slender tree branches, so it takes a while to realize, “This thing is full of snakes!” The heads of the snakes are smaller than the tip of my little finger.

On the whole, a very pleasant outing.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Should I Worry About THIS?

This week I saw in the newspaper that a man had died who was the father of my best friend in the early 1980s. About the first thing this friend ever said to me was, “You’re great!” About the last thing she said was, “I can’t take your moodiness,” and I never, ever heard from her again. Once in a while she comes back in a dream.

The photo of her father that accompanied the newspaper story was taken in 1978, four years before I met Clare. When I met her, he must have looked about like that. I could see her face in his. It made me sad all over again. The article mentioned her current city of residence, so I went to Craig’s List for that town and wrote her a note of condolence and said how sad I still am over losing her. I’m sure she won’t see it (or care if she does).

When I went through a terrible breakup, she invited me to sleep over so I wouldn’t have to be alone. Her roommate had, or had made, a cake of some sort. We went into the kitchen and Clare said, “This is my roommate’s cake. We probably shouldn’t touch it. Here—we’ll take two big hunks.” I still smile over her saying that instead of what I thought she was going to say: “Here—we’ll take two teensy slivers.”

One night she called me up at bedtime and asked, “Is there anything whatsoever I need to worry about? Is it all right if I go to sleep? Are you sure there’s nothing?” I assured her there was nothing she should be worrying about, that it was fine for her to go to sleep. Now the phrase has become a way that I tease myself about my own tendency to worry. It also reminds me of her.

This week I went to a demonstration on fireproof paint. It was outside the Moscone Center, where they were having an earthquake conference. Someone had built four little houses and even taken the trouble to paint them different colors before placing them in a row. I said to the woman standing next to me that they’d better get on with the demonstration before homeless people moved into those nice little houses. The two houses on the left were painted with regular latex paint, and the other two were painted with fancy fireproof paint. The two outer houses were set on fire, and the one with latex paint went up in flames pretty quickly, burned to the ground and also burned its neighbor to the ground.

The house on the other end with the fireproof paint did not go up in flames. The flames didn’t turn it black nor leap to the house next door. In fact, the outside of the house remained cool to the touch. Unfortunately, I was standing downwind of the latex-painted houses and my throat has not been the same since.

I saw my highly esteemed acupuncturist yesterday afternoon and he gave me the directions for making a concoction that should help with detox. Of the two main things I started seeing him for, one is almost completely better and the other is improving. To be on the safe side, I have generated a list of minor complaints that should justify my presence there for years to come.

Today Tom and I saw The Notorious Bettie Page, and both enjoyed it.

Deborah, my mental health professional, and you’ll have to remember her name from now on because I feel weird when I say “therapist” and “long-suffering mental health professional” is far too coy, let slip this week that she has a blog. I agreed not to look for it, because while I could probably find it in 30 seconds, I don’t think she could find mine in 30 seconds, and of course I won’t tell her where it is.

It was quite a pleasant and productive session, which is highly unusual. In fact, up until the minute I walked through the door, I was thinking of quitting entirely, as always, but then Tara Brach saved the day yet again. I think it says in her book, or some book, that tuning in to one’s physical sensations can offer the possibility of more options when communicating with someone else. Sure enough. I have this idea that I’m supposed to go into Deborah’s office and bare my soul and freely emote, which I can’t bring myself to do, and so I feel like I’m doing it wrong and like she’s expecting something from me, and I end up communicating almost as unproductively as you can possibly imagine. It has made a tremendous difference the time or two I’ve been consciously present in my body when talking to her.

I once had a saxophone teacher (Bill Fiege; I loved him) who said at one lesson that one had to try to play in such a way as to make one’s thoughts and feelings come through the horn. I said, “But I don’t want anyone to know what I’m feeling or thinking.” He said briskly, “No one does. So you have to find a way to play that makes it seem as if you’re revealing your thoughts and feelings.”

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Further Misadventures

The thing I was telling my friend about when she went on to mention my mentioning the Buddha in the meeting had to do with a neighbor in my apartment building. This neighbor has been the source of a good deal of late-night music. I knocked on her door a few times and left her a few notes. The final one was emphatic enough that it solved the problem permanently, but from then on, this neighbor hated me, of course. Let’s call her May.

The same neighbor is a smoker and has flouted the building’s no-smoking rule rather persistently. The last many months have featured her smoking in her apartment with all of her windows thrown wide open, no doubt to reduce the evidence of smoking.

When she does this (i.e., about three times a night, five nights a week), the smoke comes straight in my windows, and Tom’s, and those of my neighbor across the hall, who is extremely nice. Let’s call her Eve. Because I don’t necessarily have all of my windows open wide at all times of day or night, once the smoke comes in, it can linger. And of course it is a potent carcinogen.

Eve and I have been talking for months about what to do. A few months ago, I left May a note about smoking, to no avail. This past week, Eve and I agreed that I would try one more note to May, on behalf of myself and her, and if that failed, Eve would contact the building manager.

I liked this plan, because the building manager and I get along extremely poorly and I try to avoid contact with her. I could say this and that are wrong with her, but it’s probably fairer and more accurate to say that we just don’t like each other, and we push each other’s buttons, and it’s probably because we’re very similar in some ways.

I left the note and then I was terrified that May was going to send her boyfriend down to punch me out. Aggression of any sort does tend to cause fear in the aggressor, this I have noticed. And when one is afraid, one may often get angry, so it’s quite a vicious circle.

The next morning I got an angry response from May which said, tellingly, not, “I don't smoke in the building” but basically, “I’m not the only person who smokes in this building, so why are you picking on me?”

I drafted a response and showed it to Eve. Eve worried that the situation was becoming combative and asked me not to say anything more in her name. I promised her I wouldn’t and decided not to respond at all, but wait and see if my note had helped, and if not, to bite the bullet and go to the building manager.

Next thing I know, I get a horrible email from the building manager saying that May feels like I’m harassing her and Eve feels like I’m dragging her into my battles and using her name without her permission! So then the usual acrimonious exchange between me and the building manager ensued via email, plus I was brooding about Eve going to the building manager and saying I was using her name without permission when the only time I had used it WAS with her permission. (“That’s very wrong,” whispered Mara.)

But my long-suffering you-know-who said that very likely the building manager made it sound worse than it was and to assume the best. So then I left Eve a bar of Venezuelan chocolate and a card asking her forgiveness for making her feel uncomfortable, and I got a nice note back from her saying she wasn’t mad.

Since then, no smoke has emerged from May’s windows, which is great.

I also noticed that once upon a time, I would have thought it was terrible that I got into a fight with the building manager, but now it doesn’t seem that terrible, maybe just because it’s happened about ten times. In one of her emails, she asked why I hadn’t gone straight to her if I thought May was smoking in her apartment. Gee, I wonder why that was.

I do suppose that if I had it to do all over again from the beginning, I might have always communicated with May in person rather than leaving a note. It is easy to get caught up in one’s own rhetoric.

I asked my friend who’s a nurse if I should really be worrying about May’s secondhand smoke. She said secondhand smoke is not good, and that I might want to look into an air purifier, but she also said she thought stress and irritation were the greater health risks.

This had crossed my mind, as well, but do I reduce stress by saying, "Yeah, apartment full of smoke, whatever," or do I reduce stress by saying, "As soon as I battle these bastards into not smoking, then my apartment won't have smoke and I won't have stress!" I reckon something in between.

It brings to mind the serenity prayer they say in 12-step programs: Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can and wisdom to know the difference. Which are the things I should accept and which are the things I should try to change? And how hard should I try?

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Mara Revealed

The reason I mentioned the Buddha at the 12-step meeting for families and friends of alcoholics is that I’ve realized I have a Mara of my own.

The night the Buddha got enlightened (and I’m probably telling it sort of wrong, but this is more or less what I said at the meeting), he was sitting under the bodhi tree and along came Mara, to try to keep him from reaching his goal. First Mara tried to excite desire in the Buddha, by offering him dancing girls, or the equivalent at the time. Then Mara tried to frighten the Buddha. The Buddha didn’t take the bait. The last, and worst, thing Mara did was to try to shake the Buddha’s self-confidence. The Buddha reached down and touched the ground, saying something like, “The very earth bears witness to my right to be here.” I love that story.

It dawned on me recently that the voice that whispers in my ear, “You’re not going to let her get away with that, are you?” or “This just isn’t right” or “I don’t think that person should … ” is Mara’s voice. She has spoken to me all my life and I have almost always believed what she says. “What if your parents die while you’re still living in San Francisco and you feel bitterly regretful for the entire rest of your life?” is Mara. Or just plain, “What will you do when your parents die?” which has been worrying me my whole life.

Anything that starts with “What if” and is of an alarming nature is Mara. “What if you move back to Ann Arbor to be closer to your parents and it’s horrible to live there again and you feel bitterly regretful about having made the move and given up a cheap apartment and a great job in San Francisco?”

Mara loves to look into the future until something frightful is encountered. Whatever thing I might contemplate doing, she can help me see why it’s impossible.

I picture Mara (who I think was actually male) as looking like Jacqueline Susann, in an elegant long sequined gown and with a mane of dark teased and lacquered hair. She sits next to me on the couch and leans over conspiratorially, saying, “I think you’ve put up with this long enough.”

Next thing I know, I’m marching over to my coworker’s cube to discuss his sinuses.

It has been quite liberating to realize this and now to begin to say (about a million times a day), “Thank you for that, Mara,” or, once in a while, not wanting her to feel I’m no longer really listening, “Thank you for that alarming analysis. You could be right.”

One thing that hangs me up over and over again is if someone is breaking the rule. This is something Mara is quick to point out.

I got to thinking about the different kinds of rules:
Rules we almost all agree are good, like don’t run red lights in your car and don’t murder people.
Rules that are probably good but that would have to be explained to most people because they’re arcane or apply best in a particular time and place.
Rules that were once good but no longer make sense.
Rules that are bad. Unfair rules.

On this continuum, departing the realm of rules, we get to:
My personal preferences that are for a very good reason that anyone could understand, like don’t murder me and also don’t sneeze on me.
My personal preferences that are arbitrary.
My personal preferences that are the product of my unique neurosis and are really pretty unfair.
And, last, personal preferences that are made up on the spot because I just didn’t care for the cut of your jib.

Maybe the rules idea is less helpful—it certainly gets me into enough trouble—than the concept of no harm, no foul: One is not acting in good faith if one cries foul when one really wasn’t harmed.

I was discussing the disputations of the week with Lisa M. and was charitably saying that perhaps I am to my coworker as my 12-step friend is to me: If I find it unreasonable that my friend should object to what I said in the meeting, I should consider my own unreason in objecting to the actions of my neighbor at work. But Lisa said that there is a difference between objecting to something on principle and objecting to it because it really harms you, and she was loyal enough to say that my coworker’s sniffling obviously harms me. I must admit that while I do find the sound disgusting, it also is a matter of principle: he just shouldn’t be doing that in an office (says Mara).

And, who knows, maybe a person could be truly pained by seeing a principle callously disregarded.

Maybe intentions are a good way to sort it out. Was there an intention to cause harm? But what if there was no intention to cause harm, but harm was caused nonetheless?

Another mental habit that gets me in trouble is assuming that what’s happening today is going to happen always. It’s not just today’s annoying sound, it’s assuming I’ll be hearing it every work day for the next ten years. It, again, is Mara who whispers, “What if this goes on forever? I can’t take a lifetime of this.”

Of course, everything changes sooner or later. This concept figured in advice my father once gave me when I had a boss I loathed. He said, “Hang in there. You won’t be working for him forever. Try not to do anything that will worsen the relationship, like go over his head.”

(My mother, in contrast, said, “You don’t like that job, anyway, so I suggest you tell your boss exactly what you think of him. Tell him you think he needs mental help.”)

This was many bosses ago, of course, and when I ran into that fellow not long ago, I was perfectly happy to see him and we had a very nice chat.

Monday, April 17, 2006

I’m Going to Buy YOU!

I celebrated Easter by seeing both Basic Instinct and Basic Instinct 2 (plus Batman Begins, which I enjoyed). Basic Instinct 2 is way better than its predecessor. Sharon Stone looks really fantastic in it.

I tend to talk to myself out loud at home (as they say, it depends on whether you’re saying, “Hmm, where did I put my keys?” or “Kill! Kill! Kill!) but I decided to try not to do it anymore after I heard a woman at Rainbow saying to an apple, “I’m going to buy you!”

My mother has begged to differ with my account of her executing her mother’s will without legal assistance. She says that in fact there were three attorneys for various purposes, but she didn’t let them do any more than was absolutely necessary. I told her I hope she’s not planning to clutter up my blog with a lot of tiresome facts.

There are so many facts these days, and we have the Internet wherein to store them, so I try to reserve my own biological storage capacity exclusively for opinions. (This is why when I call tech support at work to get one of my multitudinous passwords reset and they ask me what group I work for, I have to say, “Dunno.”)

A while back I was grumbling about a coworker who made horrible eating sounds all day long. He’s gone on to bigger and better things, I hope, and I have a new coworker who is super-amiable and whose manners are way better, though it turns out he has the habit of snorting snot back into his head instead of using a Kleenex, and also sniffling, which are two different things. I finally asked him to be so good as to use a Kleenex, since he does it 100 times a day. He said, "Oh, thank you for telling me; I'll be sure to do that; I always want to improve." And then he kept doing it 100 times a day, albeit a bit more quietly.

(I don’t know why I keep saying Kleenex, besides the fact that I think someone sues you if you say kleenex. In fact, if you’re not going to use a cotton handkerchief that you then launder, the thing to use is Puffs with Lotion.)

Here’s what my mother had to say about my coworker (hmm, didn’t take me long to go from daring to mention my mother to out-and-out publishing her personal emails, did it?):

“I gave this snerfing snot problem some more thought, while sitting in my cracked green leather chair. I think the real problem is the noise it makes. If I can discreetly and quietly move snot down my esophagus, I need not fear that Officer Linda, the Snerf Patrolwoman, will humiliate me in public.

“If you think about it, you probably can not get postnasal drip back through the sinuses to the nostrils and into a Kleenex. The Kleenex is only useful if it can be formed into a long pipe cleaner to be corkscrewed into the tortuous passages. What do you think?

“You're going to telephone his mother? I love it! Mothers are to blame for everything!”

Someone else had also told me that he might not be able to blow it out the front of his nose and into a Kleenex. But I think if it's far enough into your nose to produce the snerfing noise, then it might be far enough forward to try blowing your nose. Or at least the blowing activity would keep the snot poised somewhere in the middle (neither in the Kleenex nor down in your lungs or wherever) and without the snerfing noise.

Can't we all just get along? How is it done? Is it my job to put up with the snerfing or his job not to snerf?

Where is the line between complete passiveness and militant action? In some form, this question has plagued me all my life.

Then there’s the classic relationship conundrum: There’s how you feel, how I feel about how you feel or how you expressed how you feel, how you feel about how I feel about how you feel (or how you expressed how you feel) …

I bumped into that this week, too. Someone didn’t like something I did and told me about it while I was smack in the middle of explaining how I didn’t like something someone else did (which I’ll get to in a subsequent entry). I hadn’t known she had a gripe until I was well into my gripe, so I was a bit startled. I like this person very much, but I confess there was a moment when I thought, “That bothered you? Lay off, man,” much as, perhaps, my coworker did the third time I mentioned his nasal exertions.

Thanks to Tara Brach, I was instantly and completely viscerally aware of how lousy it felt to be criticized, and I said that I had to get off the phone but that we should talk later. I went off and thought about the matter and realized that I felt OK about doing the thing that bothered my friend, and that I also cared that she felt as she did. (All right, if you must know, I mentioned the Buddha in a 12-step meeting for relatives and friends of alcoholics, otherwise, the next part of what I said wouldn’t have made sense. You’re not supposed to mention religion or your profession or other 12-step programs, but people do fairly often.)

We spoke several hours later and it was very effortless and full of good feeling and friendly expressions on both parts, so that came out fine, but it did leave me thinking about criticism and when to take offense and when not and if that kind of thing can even be decided. Probably not, so I guess it’s a matter of what to communicate and how and why.

Friday, April 14, 2006

A Tuna Fish Singing Like a Monster

I happen to be a very fast reader and recently realized that’s because I skip any words that look boring. But for those really on the go, I recommend this: Hold the book up near your head and riffle through the pages. This will spray any important facts directly into your head. I do this with my Perl book.

I let my mother in on this and she emailed back, “I'm going to try this riffling thing. One thing I'm certain of is that standing the books on a dusty shelf does not work.”

She is starting to feel tempted to start her own blog, which would be good, as she is extremely funny. She wrote me, “I have much to say about hair growth in old age, and I feel I should get it down before you STEAL it all and put it in your blog.” She’ll have to move fast.

I also think my father should have a blog, as he is an amazing source of household hints, health tips, and fabulous vegetarian recipes. Between the two of them, my parents know absolutely everything. They’re both engineers.

When I was very young, my mother cooked dinner, but about 30 or so years ago, my father took over for the most part and now has an extensive repertoire of recipes. He likes to experiment and make up new things. My mother is very lucky because she gets to sit in her comfortable chair reading and/or listening to NPR and then the dinner bell rings and she goes to the dining room to find that a fabulous vegetarian feast has appeared. Of course, the exact same thing happens in my house except that I have to do both parts. (After I get my fabulous vegetarian feast cooked, I run and sit in my comfortable chair for a few minutes, and then I walk to the table and try to act surprised.)

My mother likes to bake. She makes yummy desserts and bread, and lately she has been cranking out bagels by the gross.

One of the written communiqués I received from my father in my childhood was a note saying I had hurt his feelings by refusing to try the asparagus he had labored to make palatable (which was harder in the 1960s when it came frozen in a box). He used to send us children memos as if we were his work colleagues (or, perhaps, his employees, now that I think about it). Our work-style names would be listed at the top:

L. W. Atkins
J. M. Atkins
C. D. Atkins

The recipient’s name would have a checkmark by it, and then would be the subject line, maybe “Allowances.” My allowance was the square of my age, rounded to the nearest nickel. When I was five, I got a quarter per week. At six, I got 35 cents.

I warned my parents some years ago that I was planning to write a memoir about my wretched childhood. My father said, “That’s absolutely fine. You have our support. I’m sorry that you had some hard times. I wish I had it to do over again.” My mother said, “There wasn’t anything wrong with your childhood.”

So I feel confident telling anecdotes about my father; I have his permission. But after I post this, I guess I’ll go stand by the mailbox and wait for certified mail from my mother’s attorney.

Fortunately, she doesn’t actually have an attorney. When her own mother died, she executed the will without legal assistance, but pooh-poohed any expressions of admiration. She said, “It’s not like I’m trying to merge AOL and Time Warner.”

When I was last home, my parents asked me to go through my childhood artwork and take whatever I wanted so they could get rid of the rest, which seemed very reasonable, as they’d been storing piles and piles of our masterworks for 40+ years. At the bottom of many pictures, my mother had lovingly written down whatever the child said the picture was: “A rabbit eating a mean, nasty, selfish pig,” or “A tuna fish singing like a monster,” or, identifying a picture of a solid-colored four-legged animal, “A zebra long ago in England; they have them with stripes now.”

It was fun to go through the piles. It appears that I spent most of my first 10 years trying to get someone to put the Herb Alpert record Whipped Cream and Other Delights on for me. I wrote notes asking sternly, “Will you play the [sic] Herp Albert record for me? Check one box. If the answer is yes, I will be down at 8 p.m. to listen to it.” Will you or will you not put on that record?! If I'd had an attorney, they would have heard from him or her.

We came upon one note written when I was six or eight that said something like, “If I’m not back by dinnertime, you can divide up my stuff, because I have run away from home and I’m never coming back. I would like my mother to have this shoelace.” My mother and I almost fell on the floor laughing, while my father looked genuinely distressed. He’s extremely nice.

And there was a picture explaining what I wanted for Christmas: GUM. But that was a typo. I crossed it out and tried again: GUN. And, sure enough, the accompanying illustration is of a little girl with a long rifle. I did get a gun, too, from my feminist mother, an air gun.

Ha. Maybe it wasn’t such a bad childhood after all.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Farberware, and Stephanie for President

I’ve got quite a few Farberware pots, and they, the company, not the pots, wonderfully, have a lifetime warranty and will give you a new pot if anything happens to yours in the normal course of events. Of late, I had accumulated three pots with cracked or about-to-crack handles, and one lid whose handle had come off entirely. I went to Farberware’s website and found a handy FAQ which told me where to send the items and advised that I obtain a tracking number. I loaded the pots and lid into one of my panniers and trucked them down to work, where they sat on my desk for a week. I walked down to First and Mission one lunchtime to buy a box. I brought my clear packing tape to work and then realized I would need some packing material around the pots, so I thought I’d walk the box back to First and Mission, get them to put some peanuts in it, and then walk it over to the Post Office because I’m a cheapskate and have finally figured out that the mailing place that isn’t the Post Office charges more for shipping.

It rained and rained and rained and finally I decided to break down and take a cab to First and Mission and furthermore just to let them mail the thing. The cab cost me $6, plus I gave the driver a cookie someone had given me that I didn’t want. The shipping cost about $11. I guess the foam peanuts were free. That was less than a week ago. Today a box arrived, full of my broken pots and lid, carefully packed (except the handle that had fallen off is missing), and accompanied by a letter from a company called Meyer that starts, “We are not the manufacturer of the brand of cookware … you sent to us.”

Back I went to the website to get the customer service phone number. I explained the situation to the nice lady. Why did Meyer send me a letter about my Farberware? Why did Meyer send me (almost) all my broken Farberware back? She said that, indeed, Meyer did acquire Farberware in 1997 and was I sure it was Farberware? She implored me to look at the bottom of one of the pans. Was I sure it was Farberware?! Would I look at the bottom?! Good lord, I think I know what my own pots and pans are, except it does turn out they’re RevereWare. Farberware is what my parents had and have. I have owned RevereWare for more than 20 years. I have no Farberware. I don’t know if there’s actually such a thing as RevereWare, written thusly. If there is, that’s probably how it’s spelled now, all together and with a capital letter smack in the middle of it, which used to really disturb me but now I’m used to it.

I’m glad I didn’t scream at the nice lady. Besides doing such a precise and thorough packing job that I’m now unable to get the pots back in the box, Meyer graciously sent me a coupon code for 35 percent off new cookware. That place is full of nice people. They probably think I’m too confused to figure out how to use the coupon. Probably they usually send a coupon for 10 percent, but assumed they were safe sending me one for 35 percent. They didn’t make it for 100 percent, even though they would have seemed even nicer, in case I have a friend who will help me.

On top of that, not five hours ago, I said “nephinate stomanie” when I meant “nominate Stephanie.” “What’s wrong with you?” asked my coworker, squinting at me. I felt pretty good about that, as my brain figured out how to swap interior syllables of two words, not just the beginning or last sound.

It dawned on me that I was getting tired of hearing P. say he spent the day lying in bed staring at the wall and he hopes he dies soon and he wishes he’d have a heart attack, etc. I realized I was thinking, “Poor me, having to do [insert disagreeable task here] when I don’t want to!” It’s one thing if the disagreeable task is externally imposed, but quite a few of them are self-imposed. I do not have to call, virtually every day, someone who makes me feel depressed and irritable. If he were my mother or my father or my sister or my other sister, I’d do it. I’m not going to do it, and so I told him yesterday, probably none too tactfully. The trick now is not to cave in to my own guilt. I must remember what I heard from an Al-Anon member: Failing to please someone is not the same thing as hurting him or her. P.’s essential needs are well met. He could be happy. He is not. I can’t fix it.

Last but not least, I’ve pretty much decided to leave therapy and spend the money on massages instead.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Piffy Elephant Shirt

Last I checked, two of my ex-trumpet teachers were in the Toledo Symphony, though I didn’t study with either of them in Toledo: Lauraine Carpenter, who is the principal trumpet, and Mel Harsh. At one lesson, I was playing something too fast and Lauraine asked, “What’s the rush? Got a date?”

I was telling her once about an event that another trumpet player and I attended. I said we were dressed casually; Dean was wearing a t-shirt with an elephant on it. “That’s casual,” she agreed.

Another teacher was a very butch lead trumpet player. One time I arrived for my lesson with a copy of People magazine. “I brought the 50 most beautiful people in case we get bored of playing the trumpet.” “Good thinking,” she said without missing a beat.

I had another teacher who played in the San Francisco Symphony and one who played for Hollywood movies and one who played with Frank Sinatra. Last but not least, I had one who canceled our first lesson because he had a sty in his eye. (Is there any other place you can have a sty?) But then he called to say that all was well and he could come, as stuff had squirted out of his eye. He came over and, marveling, told me again the story of his eye draining. I was slightly taken aback, but he turned out to be a really delightful person who wrote a lot of great etudes that I still have a stack of. I used to go hear him play with other musicians. Once he asked if I’d be staying for the second half of a show. I said I would be and he said, “Then I’ll continue to play with verve.”

At our first lesson, he picked up a cup in my kitchen for water. It turned out to be a Pyrex measuring cup, which he hadn’t realized. He joked, “I have to know how much I’m taking in.”

In due time, he and his wife had a little girl. He reported that one day his toddler saw a pea on the floor and said, “What’s that, a bug?”

I played with the Chinatown funeral marching band a handful of times. One of my trumpet teachers was also involved and used to joke, “My, that was a gloomy tune. Let’s go for something a little more upbeat.” Or he’d say, “They said we can play at will. Which one’s Will?”

When I played in a big band at City College of San Francisco, the trombone players were seated in front of the trumpets. It’s doubtful that any of them can hear today. One of them used to turn around and say, “Save some for your fans.”

I sent Sir Dave a link the other day and he wrote back, “Very piffy.”
“Is that good?” I asked.

Over the weekend Tom and I saw the movie Proof, and I made pinto beans and brown rice and butter cookies with lemon frosting. This was my first try making cookies with only vegan ingredients—fake butter and egg replacer—and they are excellent.

I had made a classic OO error in deciding to give up Venezuelan chocolate because it’s probably full of pesticides. I found myself eating about five bars a day and finally realized what was happening. I vowed that I will always have Venezuelan chocolate on hand and the panicked consumption stopped.

This morning, which is again rainy, I saw a somewhat hair-raising incident involving a Coca-Cola truck and a cyclist on Market St. The cyclist was traveling east near Third St. The righthand lane is not particularly wide there, so she was, rightly, riding in the center of the lane. The truck driver drove up right behind her and honked his horn. If it had been me in front of that truck, I would have been scared. I followed the truck until it stopped so I could write down the license number and see what the driver looked like. When the driver got out, he saw me writing and asked if there was a problem. I told him that the cyclist had a right to that lane of traffic and that it had appeared to be an act of intimidation when he honked at her. He said the cyclist was riding unsafely, yawing (he didn’t use that word) from one side of the lane to the other, so he was warning her that danger lurked behind. I didn’t see the cyclist doing anything out of the ordinary.

I’m not sure why the driver assumed the cyclist was going to interpret the horn honking right behind her to mean, “I don’t like the way you’re cycling.” After all, it could also mean, “I don’t like the color of your rain pants.” It could mean, “I’m trying to get the lid off my latte and my elbow hit the horn.” But I think it’s usually interpreted to mean, “Get the hell out of my way or I’ll kill you,” and I suspect that is often exactly what it means.