Tuesday, August 28, 2007


I purchased the Emily Post book (along with a couple more Chris Cornell CDs) rather than getting it from the library because the only thing greater than my love for the environment (as would have been manifested by sharing the book instead of buying my own new one) is my dread of cooties.

Thus I use a brand-new paper towel to wipe off the counter in the kitchen at work instead of a sponge, though I use my own dish towel for my cups and silverware.

The Emily Post book came out long ago and the edition at the library could be decades old and crusted with boogers and have other people’s hairs between every couple of pages. I feel faint thinking of it.

Tom and I saw The Bourne Ultimatum two Saturday nights ago. It was absolutely excellent, even better than Live Free or Die Hard. It was extremely fast-paced. At first I wasn’t sure I was going to understand the whole plot and wondered if getting it would require having seen the prior two movies, but everything fell neatly and satisfyingly into place by the end. The fight scenes were tremendous.

The Sunday of that weekend, I took the bus to Novato to see Carol Joy. We had lunch at a Puerto Rican place in San Rafael that has “Sol” in the name and has two locations, one of which you can sit down in and which is painted a very bright green. The proprietor put in a glass-fronted display case outside the front door a letter they received complaining about the color.

The writer let it be known that Marinites prefer everything to be painted in muted earth tones, if I understood it correctly, and warned that he or she would not be returning, though the food was good, until the building was painted some other color.

The place was full, and when we left, there was a line out the door.

We went then to see No End in Sight, the documentary about the Iraq war. It was very well done, but, if you read Newsweek every week, you won’t learn anything new.

We had refreshments at a café across from the theater, and then I took the bus home. I was seated by another movie buff and we had a rousing conversation all the way back to San Francisco.

I received a request from my boss lately to change my settings in Microsoft Outlook so she can see not only that a segment of time is busy but what exactly I’m doing; we all received this request. I was taken aback.

Based on my informal research since then, it appears everyone puts personal reminders into their work calendar, and while if she called me and asked how I was, I might feel perfectly fine about saying, “You know, I have this dreadful rash—it’s itching like crazy; I can barely sit down,” whereas having her peruse my calendar anytime she feels like it and see “Put ointment on butt” just seems different.

(Ah, I love this blog. It makes me laugh all the time.)

I have just started Patrick Ryan’s novel Send Me.

Late last Friday afternoon, Tom and I went to see The Invasion, and then we split a burrito at Pancho Villa. He had asked me to help with a bicycle mechanic task that required three hands, so we did that when we got home. While I was in his kitchen, I asked if I could look in his freezer—you know, one likes to know what’s going on in one’s friends’ freezers—and noticed that he had some individual patties of meat wrapped just the way I wrap them when in the very rare meat-cooking phase (sorry, Mily; don’t hate me).

For a moment I thought perhaps this was the universal way of wrapping a meat patty, but then thought maybe these were items I had passed on to him, as I often give Tom food I know I won’t be eating.

He confirmed that I had given him these, and added, “When Thelonious died.” Sure enough, each one had a “B,” “T,” or “C” on it, depending on whether it contained beef, turkey or chicken, none of which Thelonious would eat right before she died nearly eleven months ago. I certainly never thought I’d see these items of last resort again.

On Saturday I figured out how to print a recipe on a 3 x 5” note card, two-sided. This is what my father does with his recipes, and I’m starting to think doing this and putting the cards in a little box in alphabetical order might be better than having recipes on a million different pieces of paper of various sizes, stuffed in no particular order into various file folders, so that I have to see nearly every recipe I have when looking for the one I need.

I’ve started washing all my clothes in cold water, but I still group items into the three colors: garish, somber and passive-aggressive.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

A Heartfelt Testy-Monial

I’ve thought of a solution for all those people who are always rushing around in such a panic, leaning forward, scowling as they make for whatever it is they’re making for.

Try this: Pretend you’re Paris Hilton keeping the paparazzi waiting for three hours. That’s what I do.

A lovely CD: Chris Cornell’s Euphoria Morning. I played part of one song for Tom and he got a dreamy look on his face right away. Also, Chris Cornell’s CD Carry On, just out.

There is a Chris Cornell-athon underway at my place lately, between his two solo CDs and the Audioslave CD Revelations, Audioslave being a supergroup formed from members of Rage Against the Machine and Soundgarden, the latter represented by Chris Cornell.

A supergroup, as I learned when I was getting my degree in pop music (picture academic lectures on Led Zeppelin, because that’s what there were), is a musical group made up of the members of other established groups. Another is Velvet Revolver, made up of Guns N’ Roses and Stone Temple Pilots.

Tom and I were back to Sacramento the weekend before last for the birthday of one of his brothers, Steve. We took the train and were picked up by the birthday gentleman himself, who conveyed us to Ann and Mac’s.

Paul and Eva had other plans for the evening, but came by for a while, which was great. Roster of attendees, for our New York reader, who may or may not still be with us: Paul, Eva, Ann, Mac, Steve, Julie, me, Tom, and Dan.

We had hors d’oeuvres, dinner and the opening of presents. Steve is an avid photographer and was given a photo printer by Paul, Eva, Chris and Sarah. He was bowled over—what a generous and thoughtful gift!

Tom and I gave him the KT Tunstall CD, another gem (not another gem like a photo printer, another gem like a Chris Cornell CD).

The other night, Hammett leapt into a tub of fine washables, and then went sloshing into the kitchen. I had to pick him up and try to mop him off before he licked half a cup of lavender-scented laundry soap off himself.

At first I was surprised he had made such a miscalculation, but then I realized it wasn’t an error at all—given his love of anything wet, he had probably been resisting the temptation to do this for months, and finally decided he could put it off no longer, even if it earned him a reputation as heavy on his feet.

I read an interesting thing in a recent New Yorker, about a man who has Asperger syndrome and learned how to get along with other people by reading Emily Post’s book Etiquette. Maybe it could work for me! I have ordered a copy, of the original, not the version updated by a relative of hers, per a review saying the later editions cover stuff the original wouldn’t have known about—email and cell phones—but that the original is better written and that if you apply the spirit of its instructions to any situation, you’ll be OK.

I told a male colleague of mine in Arizona about this, and he’s going to order it, too.

While I was feeling gloomy about my career options, I happened to see Jack, who does the wonderful bodywork, and he advised me to have a chat with his partner, Rod, which is a pleasant thing to do in any event.

Rod and I went to Soup Freaks on Mission St. between Third St. and New Montgomery—it’s a great place; good food and not expensive—and I told him my problems. He told me about a wonderful class he took at City College on career exploration, whose instructor said to let yourself be led by what you are curious about.

In the course of this conversation, I realized (again) that if I were ready to find another job, I’d be looking for it, and if I were ready to move to Ann Arbor, or anywhere else, I’d be in a U-Haul. Since I’m not, I must not be ready, so I might as well stop fretting about it. What a relief!

I read a really horrible novel lately, which received a huge number of glowing reviews from prestigious publications, which left me scratching my head. I thought the characters were flat, the plot turns improbable, and the motivation for many actions obscure. It also relied very heavily on sex scenes; we were asked to believe that when someone really loves you, he shows it by trying to get you to partially undress in public.

I won’t name it because I don’t want the young author to feel discouraged when she makes her way here, as is inevitable, but there actually was something helpful in it. One of the two-dimensional characters says to another two-dimensional character, paraphrasing here, “Since the people you love live in all different places, no matter where you live, you’ll have to miss someone.” I gave my forehead a resounding slap. All my problems solved (again) in one week.

Monday, August 13, 2007

That #%#@*!!! Does It

The weekend after Ann and Mac moved to Sacramento, I was on call for work and had arranged to listen for pages on Saturday, with my colleague to the east handling Sunday. Saturday turned out to be an absolutely gorgeous day; Sunday, of course, was overcast and wintry.

I felt kind of gloomy on Saturday. Right before I woke up, I had a very realistic dream about Lisa and David, which made me sad about their impending departure.

I called the mother ship. Dad said Mom was in the kitchen cooking up a tasty dish and then they were going to watch a Netflick. I felt so lonely after we hung up, and I wished I were there, for the millionth time.

We had been alerted at work that it was likely that some major issue might arise over the weekend, so I prudently stayed near my laptop, as I could all too readily imagine the conversation that would occur on Monday if I was derelict in my duties.

While milling about, I got on my own PC to print out a form from a website. “Here comes your form,” said the status bar, or words to that effect. “Here it comes! Here it comes!” Sure enough, a mere two a half hours later, there it was.

That #%#@*!!! does it,” I said, and resolved to buy a new PC (or Mac), which will also put an end to my mother guffawing at the limitations of my current system. I told her my PC has 64 Mb of RAM.

“Haw,” she replied.

I also set up my piano keyboard, though it meant my big chair had to be in the center of the room. For a couple of days, I enjoyed playing it, but then began to detect a very annoying high-pitched overtone that occurred when a few notes in the octave above middle C were played. It drove me so crazy, I ended up putting the keyboard back in the closet.

A few days later, Lisa and I had our last monthly lunch, at Medicine. Because it was a special occasion, I had a special lunch: two orders of maitake tempura, and some yuzu lemonade. They’d forgotten to put the sweetener in (evidently); I fixed it with five packages of sugar.

The very next night, Lisa, Tom, David and I had our ceremonial last dinner at Chef Jia’s, where we have been together so many times.

I just finished Naomi Wolf’s The Treehouse: Eccentric Wisdom from My Father on How to Live, Love, and See, which made me completely miserable, which I knew immediately it would do. If I were smart, I would have returned it to the library after reading half the first chapter.

Her father says to follow your passion and that you’ll be happy if you’re doing your art—doing what you were put here to do, whatever that may be; maybe your art is to help people arrange auto loans. This makes me very unhappy because it makes me feel like I should quit my job this minute, which I would absolutely do if I had any sort of plan for what I’d do after that, but I don’t, and I can’t settle on one, because I change my mind all the time.

The options all seem unappealing: Work at a non-profit for WAY less money? Work part-time for WAY less money? Stop working for a year or two to pursue my interests and then hope I can get a job again as I near 50? That seems worrisome. So I end up feeling trapped.

Of course, my view of this job ebbs and flows. In one mood, which I’m in fairly frequently, I would say, well, this job pays decently and allows me to save for retirement, and I work (mostly) with nice and smart people, and I have the freedom to direct my own projects, and I’m always learning something new.

In another, I would say that I took a major wrong turn nearly ten years ago, that I could not be in a situation that is less of a match with my talents and interests, that I don’t have any particular passion for the goals of this organization. That, in fact, my soul is dying here. And I think that’s quite true; right now, I think that.

Then again, who is this I who is so unhappy? Is there an I who can find permanent happiness by arranging conditions to be just so? If “I” get everything arranged just so, how long will it stay that way? Is the thought that my soul is dying anything more than just a thought, fleeting and insubstantial? Is even my feeling of distress anything more than just a feeling that will pass when the next one arrives?

Then yet again, if I had a fairy godmother, I think she might say, “If you want to quit your job, quit your job! If you want to live near your mom, live near your MOM!” One can always choose again if one makes a mistake; so they claim.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Three Traffic Vignettes


I’m cycling south on New Montgomery, which has several lanes of traffic going in the same direction (south!) and always many jaywalkers, as there is a hotel on one side of the street (a favorite venue for visiting politicians) and the Academy O’Fart University on the other.

A fellow, 55ish with dark curly hair, is jaywalking across the street pulling a little luggage-type cart behind him. He will soon walk into a truck in the far lane, but expects he won’t actually, because he expects the truck will move along, but it doesn’t, and when the man gets over to the truck, he goes like this: “Aaaaurrghahgh!!!!” He howls with rage at the top of his lungs.

“Tsk,” think I, observing this self-inflicted misery. As if it’s the truck driver’s fault the man can’t cross New Montgomery, which it wasn’t, unless the truck driver called the man and said, “Eh, don’t bother walking all the way to the crosswalk. Just step out there and watch the traffic part!”


I’m cycling home after work, westbound on Market St. A small boy on a bicycle sails off the curb and out into the street. I’m startled and dismayed. I ride behind him, watching as he weaves in and out of the bicycle lane. He turns to me and says something gleeful about going faster. He is a very cute young feller. I finally realize he is attached to a woman cycling along some feet ahead of him, who hasn’t looked over her shoulder once.

At the next light, I confirm: “Is this your child?” She just smiles and nods, as she is no doubt sick of getting in arguments with lecturing cyclists: “Where’s his helmet? Do you know he’s not always riding in the bike lane? Why don’t you put an orange flag on the back of his bike so drivers can see him?”

If he doesn’t get flattened by a car, I imagine that boy will grow up to write a critically acclaimed book about the wonderful adventures he had with his free-spirited and/or insane mother. You know, like The Glass Castle or The Liars’ Club.


I’m cycling to work, eastbound on Market St. As is not at all unusual, I’m in a group of 10 or 15 cyclists. Most are in the bike lane. A few are not; they are riding next to their friends who are in the bike lane. The driver of a silver Prius honks and swerves around the cyclists. A cyclist says something to the driver through the driver’s side window.

The driver retaliates by swerving into the bike lane, all the way to the curb. No one is hit. It’s the worst thing I’ve ever seen a driver do. The driver speeds through the next light, probably thinking he will leave us all behind staring at a red light.

Of course, we all make it through the light, too—you can’t lose a bicycle in city traffic—and the driver pulls over. I assume there will be a physical confrontation, or that the driver is even going for his gun.

But the cyclists all simply pass him, which makes me feel kind of proud.

As I pass the silver Prius, I take a long look at the license plate, shorthand for, “We could find you if we wanted to.” I don’t try to remember it, or stop to write it down, maybe due to the good example of the other cyclists.

In front of the Prius is some sort of truck, whose driver asks me, “Why is everyone looking at that car? I just saw six cyclists go by in a row and they all looked at that car.”

I tell the truck driver what happened. I keep an eye on the Prius over the truck driver’s shoulder. The Prius driver gets out of his car, starts to approach us, and then doesn’t.

The truck driver is very friendly and says he’s always very careful when he’s making his rounds. He peers around the corner of his truck before stepping past it into traffic.

Our pleasant chat concludes and I see the Prius driver approaching, so I wait for him to walk over, and I say, “I don’t want to get in a fight,” because I don’t. (Why? I don’t know; just didn’t feel like it.) He is a 50ish guy with intense blue eyes and a silver crew-cut.

Our conversation goes more or less like this:

“You need to be more careful.”

“I know that some of us were overflowing the bike lane: you got frustrated.”

“That’s right.”

“But it was very frightening for us when you swerved into the bike lane, because we don’t know if you’re going to kill us or what.”

“Yeah, I know you’re vulnerable out there.”

“I know not every cyclist always behaves perfectly.”

We had a perfectly amiable conversation and parted in a similar manner; he even smiled during it. It was good that his memories of the event won’t all be bad, as maybe he will refrain from doing something so dangerous next time.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Lucky Is Gone

Lucky the Rat

A Thursday or two ago (I’m a little behind here) was euthanization day, at All Pets Hospital on South Van Ness.

We took a cab over there and were shown into an exam room where we told an assistant the highlights of Lucky’s story. Lucky had refused to walk through a cardboard tube into her other, smaller cage, so we had her in her usual cage, which was due for a cleaning and didn’t smell very good.

The vet came in and proved to be a lovely, kind young woman. She said she was sorry to meet us under such sad circumstances, and then she reached right in and took Lucky out, using a towel to protect against bites. We were terribly impressed. Lucky did her best to wriggle free and let out a little squeak, but soon found herself cradled in the vet’s hand.

The vet looked her over and listened to her heart, and said the tumors probably weren’t causing Lucky any pain, but that they would no doubt continue to grow, and said her back could probably be treated, but that it would be difficult for Tom and me to put any kind of ointment on it (to say the least), so she agreed euthanasia was the right decision.

She took Lucky away and brought her back a short while later on top of a fancy cart with all kinds of tubes and dials. She had already received anesthesia in gas form, and I thought she’d appear to be peacefully asleep, with her eyes closed, but her eyes were open, and she was breathing normally, which in her case looks like gasping, because her rat metabolism is so fast. So that was kind of alarming, though the vet assured us she couldn’t feel anything.

The vet put Lucky’s little gas mask back on and we were able to pet her, for the first and last time, and then the heart-stopping shot was administered, and over the next minute or so, her heart slowed and stopped, and she was taken away, and we walked home with her empty cage.

I got several nice notes of sympathy from my online buddies, plus an e-card from Marilyn in Las Vegas that had little drawings of animals with the caption, “All animals go to heaven.”

The next night, a Friday, some neighbors had a noisy party until at least three a.m., which meant I got only three and a half hours of sleep, but I didn’t want to miss Moving Day, which started with another bus ride to Mill Valley, where we picked up Ann and Mac’s car for the last time, and then drove to San Rafael to pick them up.

They were all ready to go, so we hopped in the car and headed east. While Tom has been busy helping Ann and Mac in various ways in Marin the past couple of months, his brothers Steve and Dan have been hard at work on their new condo in Sacramento.

After Ann became unable to get on the computer or drive anywhere (due to a broken wrist), Steve took over and coordinated a million details, including putting felt on the bottoms of all the chair and table legs—on every single thing that touches the beautiful wood floor. He dealt with the cupboards person, the window person, the counter person, the floor person, and so on.

Meanwhile, Dan did one of his beautiful, perfect paint jobs; Steve said Dan touched every single surface in the place. The result is just lovely, and I hope Ann and Mac will be happy there.

Steve treated us to lunch from a local deli and we sat together around the dining-room table: Steve, Dan, Ann, Mac, Julie, Tom, me and Ann’s friend Geri. Dessert was chocolate cake brought by Geri. Tom and I spent the night at Steve and Julie’s, and we gathered again the next morning at Ann and Mac’s for breakfast.

After that, Dan took Tom and me on a drive in the country—some of my happiest moments have been spent in the backseat of Dan’s station wagon on such drives—and then to Sacramento’s immense farmers’ market, where I filled a bag with produce. Dan dropped us off at the train station, and I took the train home while Tom went south by bus to visit a friend.

At work, I have volunteered to lead a project to support the company’s employees—100,000+ of them—in riding their bikes to work if they want to, which I think involves making sure there is ample, secure bike parking at all company locations and that employees have the information they need to do this safely.

This is very close to my heart and I’m really enjoying working on it, though it means I’m busier than ever before, because it’s filling up all the little cracks of time. I know the bike-related parts pretty well, though I’m sure I will learn plenty, but I also have a wonderful mentor who is going to teach me about the process of doing a project like this in this setting.