Friday, February 29, 2008

17 Fabulous Years Young!

Happy birthday, Mom!

Thank you for everything you've done for me, from giving birth to me to, more recently, advising me to get a thumb drive.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

That F*cking B*stard, Ralph Nader

Enough said about that.

This past Friday, I saw my boss, which happens only once per year—she is usually several states and two time zones away—for my annual review. When we met, I told her I wanted her to know that I was extremely dressed up, in that I wasn’t wearing a t-shirt (but rather a navy corduroy shirt). The only thing I can do that’s fancier is not wear tennis shoes, but I’m saving that for in case I’m on TV.

She noted that I had taken to heart a piece of feedback she had given me mid-year—that my coworkers perceive that I always have to have the last word—and had improved noticeably in that regard. She said not everyone receives suggestions without getting tense, let alone seeks to make a change, so she was pleased. Her pointing that out made me feel good, too.

When we discussed the review itself, she focused entirely on the positive. You may recall I had gotten a peer review that had freaked me out, and we had discussed one part of it, but not the rest, so during our meeting, I asked if there was more we should cover.

She fished my peer review out of her stack of paper and commented on a couple of areas where I’d gotten my highest marks: My colleagues feel that I care about them, and they believe that they can come to me with questions and get helpful answers. That is, she demonstrated a weird propensity to dwell mainly on what I’m doing right. Odd.

Determined to receive some criticism of one sort or another, I asked about the two lowest ratings. One we had already discussed, and she had put my mind at ease there; the other was in the area of doing my share.

I assumed I got low marks there because whenever anyone says, “We have an exciting project to complete this weekend,” I say, “I can’t! I have a goiter! I’m hosting Al Gore at my place! My toe hurts! I’ll be out of town! Can’t someone else do it? This sounds like a nice project for our team members in the Central time zone,” etc. So I wasn’t one bit surprised by that rating, and it didn’t bother me to get it—it’s merely correct—but I assumed that she might not be so sanguine and might like to take me to task over it.

But my boss thinks that score was actually because my work style is such that I take on one task, finish it, and then start another, whereas others might take on several all at once. When she actually checked the statistics for the two types of tasks we do, she saw that, in fact, I had done my share. She said she might publish the statistics to the whole group so everyone knows what the numbers were.

She discussed at some length a couple of other areas where I do a good job, and then she and I and our team lead and a couple of other folks had a very congenial lunch at Buca di Beppo.

That evening, I saw The United States of Leland, starring Ryan Gosling.

Yesterday was a day of immense accomplishment, during which I called P. to say I had received his gold-plated AA token commemorating 33 years of sobriety (while I was at it, I got myself one for 28 years) and would bring it over next weekend, and I called Carol Joy to sing “Happy Birthday.” I always feel a little self-conscious singing to a real singer, but since she is my dear friend of more than 20 years, I did it.

I also talked to Lexie, my very oldest friend, down in L.A., who was trying to make a decision. We met when she was four and I was six. She was recalling yesterday that I taught her how to tell time and how to tie her shoes.

I also cut the excess length off my rain pants and hemmed them, did a sewing repair, mended the wool sweater I wear at home, and made a new baggy pants pattern. The new pattern is a little longer and slightly narrower, and the legs don’t taper as much.

I installed my annual water filter replacement, mashing several of my fingertips in the process. It was a minor injury, but it still really hurt, and I felt like I was going to vomit at first. Moaning and groaning, I called Tom to see what one does about mashed fingers—I figure that, as a teacher, he has all kinds of first aid tips up his sleeve in case his students need them—but he said moaning and groaning is the only thing you can do about pinched fingers.

I completed my grocery list, meditated and stretched, and in the evening, Tom came down and we watched Citizen Cohn, in which James Woods plays lawyer Roy Cohn, the henchman of Communist-hunting Sen. Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s. I had seen it before, but thought Tom would really like it, and he did.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Tremendous Blessings from My Wonderful Teacher, the Building Manager

This morning, because it was raining, I was waiting for a cab on the front porch—remember, bikes are for losers—when my neighbor who most recently grilled came in. I said hello, but he ignored me, so it’s official: he’s not speaking to me.

Fortunately, the building manager has given me a tremendous amount of practice in abandoning upsetting thoughts right away, so I noticed that it gave me kind of a scared feeling in my stomach, but I didn’t otherwise flip out. I gave myself permission to feel scared, and in five minutes it was gone. (I wonder why it feels scary to receive a social slight?)

The building manager has in fact given me a tremendous amount of practice in multiple areas. It used to be that a rude email from her really pushed my buttons, but now it doesn’t. Now I just say, “Oh, another uncivil email from so-and-so.”

It has also given me practice in asking for what I want even when it very obviously causes people not to like me. I don’t so much care now whether people like me or not.

At the same time, I do believe in courteous communication. She might not like what I’m saying, but I don’t think she can point to an email where I have been rude. And if I had to choose between being the person who sends insulting emails or the one who receives them, I’d much rather be the person who receives them.

I’d been thinking that the building manager had probably misrepresented to the neighbor what I’d said to the landlord, but today it occurred to me that maybe she didn’t do that. Maybe the neighbor hasn’t talked to the building manager at all, and is simply mad because the building manager’s note made it appear that I’d mentioned him to the landlord, which I did—but we’ve been over all of this already.

My mother says if I were really Zen, I wouldn’t care who burned what near my windows. I one hundred percent agree, and I will probably never be that Zen, as wonderful as it sounds. However, I do feel great about not keeping the Fume Wars going in my mind.

The fact is, my neighbor has every right to feel however he feels. He has every right never to get over it. It is totally OK that he’s angry. I’m not angry back, nor particularly hurt: I can see the matter from his point of view.

In that frame of mind, I arrived at work to find a small crisis. A colleague of mine had lately expressed that he didn’t feel confident training users on a certain piece of software, so I sent him the training manual I wrote, and offered to conduct a training session for a group of his users so he could see how I approach it.

In addition, I set up a test environment to simulate what the users will be doing later in real life. But when I got to work today, I saw that someone had made half the test environment disappear literally overnight.

I called my colleague and said I was afraid we’d have to reschedule, and he was quite disappointed, so I said I would try to restore the environment in the 30 minutes before our session. I put it back as much as possible, but 45 minutes into the 90-minute training, we ran into an issue that couldn’t be fixed on the spot, so we stopped and will continue next week.

My colleague was enraged at the person who’d made the environment disappear, and sent a couple of sternly worded emails to the whole group, in which he also thanked me extravagantly for all I’d done to try to make things work.

I was extremely stressed out when I was trying to put everything back so hastily, but I wasn’t mad at our other colleague. Obviously it was done in error, and nothing would be made better by my blaming her.

Later in the day, I got a note from our team lead saying, “I appreciate your patience and understanding through all of [the day’s mishaps]. Are you sure you don't want to some day be the Team Lead???”

Such a thing had never crossed my mind, actually. I have many times thought that I would not like to be a manager, but I had never thought about the team lead role one way or the other.

I wrote back that, come to think of it, it might be right up my alley. She said that based on my strengths, she thinks I would make a good team lead. I wrote back that her kind words had made all the difficulties of the day seem worth it, and that’s part of why she's a good team lead.

I was recalling that in my peer review, I had been dinged, relatively speaking, in the areas of mentoring, communication and leadership, so today was particularly satisfying.

Hey! Just like my father said: psychically rewarding, when I do my best.

Fashion Demystified: It’s All in the Neck Hole

Last Wednesday was another Bike Coalition volunteer night, and on Friday, I saw Equilibrium, with Christian Bale, who really is extremely handsome in every single movie he’s in, unlike, it pains me to say, Daniel Day-Lewis, who has the bad habit of disappearing very convincingly into his roles. He may not be aware that this is causing him to be only intermittently fabulous-looking.

As mentioned, KQED had accepted a Perspectives submission from me, and I was waiting for the last remnants of my flu to go away before I went to record it. There’s a link to it at right, but not here; nothing disfigures a pleasing expanse of text as does a link.

The night before recording, a massive amount of wood smoke rolled into my apartment (not generated by anyone in this building, of course) and since then I’ve been coughing horribly again. I have asthma, though it doesn’t give me severe problems, and I think that’s why it takes so long for coughs to go away.

The recording went fine, but later that day I went into Walgreens to look at something which happened to be near the laundry products; the laundry products smelled ghastly and set off a violent bout of coughing, causing snot and tears to run down my face copiously.

Last Saturday I went to a class at Spirit Rock taught by Eugene Cash on Whole Body Breathing. At the concentration retreat I go to each year, about the only instruction is to attend to the sensations of the breath at the nostrils. It does produce a concentrated state, but it also can produce a headache, probably due to a subtle effort to enhance the breath to make it more exciting, or at least more noticeable. Such headaches are not unknown in this type of practice.

So Eugene’s class was on feeling the breath in the whole body, and not just at this or that particular point. I got out of it exactly what I’d hoped.

That night, Tom and I saw A Room with a View, featuring Daniel Day-Lewis at the nadir of attractiveness, plus a remarkable amount of male frontal nudity. The sets were charming. Helena Bonham Carter was extremely young and had a dismaying amount of hair.

After Tom and I saw The Crucible, I went back and paused on a few frames where DDL looked especially comely (did they think up the words “comely” and “homely” at the same time?), until Tom said, “Do the two of you want to be alone?” Not long after, he picked up his chair and went home. He has to bring his own chair when he watches a DVD here, but he claims he’s comfortable, and says he prefers coming here because the iMac is bigger than his TV.

Last Sunday I made Dad’s very quick two-bean vegan chili and then Tom and I drove, in a rented car, because the train schedule was not favorable, to Sacramento for Chris’s 30th birthday party. Eva and Paul shared memories of his birth which made our mascara run, literally or figuratively. It was a lovely gathering. Chris is approximately the world’s best person.

Today Sir Dave sent me the link to a YouTube video of a 9/11 demonstration we attended more or less together that, unmistakably, features me at three different moments. Yep: there’s that dorky hat, and those baggy green pants, the exact same pants I was wearing when I received Sir Dave’s email today and am wearing right now, or some mighty like them.

It’s easy for this to happen, because I have three pairs of baggy green pants, and eight navy t-shirts, because I wear a navy t-shirt nearly every day, because, think about it: you can wash the car in it, or with it, if you have a car, and if you got invited to the White House for dinner, you’d look just right in a navy t-shirt.

I think I’m going to take the obvious next step and make five more pairs of green pants and wear green pants and a navy t-shirt every single day, because that really is the best thing to wear.

The pants are entirely under my control, but the t-shirts can be tricky. Sometimes Eddie Bauer has good ones and sometimes not; ditto Lands’ End. The ones I have now are Eddie Bauer (men’s XXL; I like a draping effect, and if I have to go to XXXL to get it, I will), but I just recently ordered some brand new Eddie Bauer navy t-shirts and they are too big!

By the time I’d fully comprehended this, I’d washed all of them, but since I’d spent a fair amount of money, I called them and they said to send the t-shirts back anyway. That was nice of them.

I have ordered a single navy t-shirt from Lands’ End, though the last time I got a t-shirt from Lands’ End, it was too big—you know, the neck hole was too big and so forth—so I have my fingers crossed.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

How to Use a Trumpet to Make People Disappear

There’s nothing new in the Fume Wars except that I’m making a concerted effort not to think about it, meaning that when I start to hear myself mentally delivering a lecture to the building manager or an explanation to the offended neighbor, I just drop it, and wish my neighbors well.

But when I see a note on Craigslist from someone saying their neighbor’s cigarette smoke is making them miserable and wondering if there is anything to be done, before replying to say there is, I allow myself a little “Ha!”

A couple of weeks ago I went to a special volunteer night at the Bike Coalition to help mail out the latest Tube Times, in which I have an article about the process of requesting bike parking at a large corporation.

A day or two later, the building manager was going to visit each apartment to replace the batteries in the smoke detectors. Hammett moves faster than Thelonious did, and he is eager to get out and see what's happening in the hall, so while I know the building manager (probably) wouldn’t let my cat out accidentally—it did cross my mind that she might do it deliberately—I decided to put my mind at ease by leaving a brief note asking her to be careful not to let Ham out.

When I returned home from work, there was a note from the building manager saying how offended she was that I had dared to leave her that note. I didn’t respond, because the only thing I could have said was, “From the tenor of your remarks over the years, it is obvious that few things give you more pleasure than being offended, so I’m certainly glad I was able to give you an opportunity for ire.”

On Friday of that week, I went to Love on Wheels, the cyclists’ version of the old TV show The Dating Game. I was remembering that when I moved to San Francisco, I went to AA meetings where I made a wonderful bunch of friends. I almost never see any of those people anymore: I hardly ever go to an AA meeting, lots of people moved away, and, most damaging of all, I spent ten years in my apartment practicing the trumpet three hours a day.

I ended up being a dern good trumpet player, if I must say it myself, but my social life had nearly vanished by the end of that period.

When I was on my way to Love on Wheels, I ran into a woman I met in that era, not a close friend but a very familiar friendly face, and I ran into another at the event, which seemed like a good omen. I didn’t stay that long. I’d forgotten I don’t really like things that take place in bars where it’s hard to hear what anyone is saying. I don’t drink and I was there by myself, which always feels a tad awkward, so I watched a couple rounds of the dating game and came home.

Maybe that same evening I went up to Tom’s, where we watched videos on YouTube. I recommend Amy Winehouse’s video for “In My Bed”—you’ll see what all the fuss is about—and the video for Pearl Jam’s “Jeremy.” What a handsome fellow Eddie Vedder is. When I got home, I went to YouTube and watched more videos on my own and was lamenting that Tom had finally succeeded in giving me a nasty YouTube habit, which he’s been trying to do for some time, but after a bit of the hair of the dog the next morning, I was over it.

Saturday was a splendid day and I was planning to do this and that, but it turned out to be a perfect day for a Big Nap, until five p.m.

In the evening, I took Tom out for sushi to celebrate a long-overdue milestone, that of setting a boundary with someone who had known no shame in asking him for rather large and inconvenient favors for several years, and no, I’m not talking about myself.

After dinner we watched The Boxer, with Daniel Day-Lewis. My favorite line, spoken of a boxer who at the moment was not prevailing in the ring: “He should get the Nobel Peace Prize for Boxing.”

On Sunday I cooked and, in the evening, watched The Unbearable Lightness of Being, with Daniel Day-Lewis, barely credible as a ladies’ man. So far, I think he’s most attractive in The Ballad of Jack and Rose and The Crucible. When I mentioned to my mother that I thought DDL was handsome in this or that movie, she said, “Oh, did he have his face shortened?” Remarkably, she doesn’t think he’s particularly pulchritudinous.

In the reading department, there’s not much to report. I don’t read anymore. I have Netflix. Well, I guess that’s not quite true. I’m still working on The Omnivore’s Dilemma, and I’m rereading When Women Stop Hating Their Bodies, and getting a lot out of it.

Fantastic news: Twisty Faster is back, at I Blame the Patriarchy.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Have More Fun? That Sounds Horrible!

There has been one piece of fallout from Round 937 of the Fume Wars that I’m a little unhappy about: The neighbor who grilled outside my kitchen door not long ago seems not to be speaking to me.

Given the building manager’s note, he must think I said, “So-and-so was grilling; tell him to stop,” when what I actually said was more like, “I’m glad the building manager has agreed to omit lighter fluid from her charcoal grilling operation; can you please ask the rest of the building to do the same?”

I do like this neighbor and his wife and considered leaving them a note to tell them what I actually said and why, but decided not to. It might not make any difference, and besides, why should I deprive him of the pleasure of being peeved?

Tom said, reassuringly, “It’ll pass.”

I have realized that I’ve been conceptualizing my decision about whether to move back to Michigan or not exclusively in negative terms: It will be horrible if I have to continue to live here with hardly any in-person friends and so far from my parents, but then, it might be horrible to live in Michigan, so far from Tom and his family and the wonderful San Francisco weather, and especially horrible if I have to part company from my job. What will I do to avoid the horribleness that threatens from all directions?

Not to mention that whatever I do, I will end up dead as a doornail, prior to which I’ll be a lonely old lady. Let’s see, will it be more horrible to be a lonely old lady in San Francisco or in Ypsilanti, Michigan?

Then I got to thinking about Tom’s brother Paul, who runs his own business, and otherwise seems to spend most of his time doing what he likes to do. Everything he ever says seems to be about something he is enjoying in the moment, as when we are gathered over one of Eva’s splendid feasts, or expects to enjoy in the future: a trip to this place, a concert, a day on the slopes.

Such a peculiar way to live, but one I would like to learn more about.

About the same time, I was corresponding with my online Overcoming Overeating friends about the million pounds of potato chips I’d eaten lately, before I remembered that fried foods are implicated in cancer. Getting cancer, of which all four of my grandparents died, would be horrible!

Supposedly, if you bring a glittering food into your life in quantity, you will relax about that food and not feel compelled to binge on it. I have seen this work many times, but I have also seen it not work many times.

Certainly there are all kinds of edibles in my kitchen that I could never have had there in the past, but just as certainly, I find myself eating very compulsively sometimes no matter how stocked up I am.

A woman from the email list wrote to me privately to recommend a book that she said helped her a lot when she was struggling with the same things it sounds to her like I’m struggling with, namely, too few sources of pleasure, which makes the joy of potato chips loom large.

She listed the wonderful things that had happened to her just in the previous week, including going on dates with four different men, all of whom called afterwards to ask her out again. Right then, I hastened to the library’s website to request this book, which I cannot bring myself to name, so I hope someone tells you about it in your hour of need.

I’m not brooding quite so much about Michigan just now, because I feel better in general. Maybe that’s just the current focus for free-floating angst. For decades, I assumed that the solution for any form of distress was to go on a diet and lose weight, or to “eat more healthfully” or whatever allowed me the illusion of control and obscured the real issues.

Maybe deciding about Michigan is a real issue, or maybe it’s just something to obsess about that hides something else I’m not ready to see.

The process of identifying what’s underneath a thought about food or weight is known in Overcoming Overeating parlance as “decoding.” A recent example: I realized that when I look at my chin, which claims more territory than previously, and think “This isn’t really my chin,” it actually means “This isn't really my life.”

It’s a handy thought if believed, because then I don’t have to think about what would make my life better but only about what would give me the somewhat sleeker under-chin of my youth.

If I completely believed my eating and body were fine, and had every expectation that they would always be exactly as they are at this moment, what then would I think my problem was?

That is, assuming my chin is exactly the way it’s going to be forever, what are some ways I can enjoy my life?

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

How to Influence People While Also Losing Friends Left and Right

On my door this week was a typed note from the building manager that began, “I find myself in an uncomfortable position.” I was marveling at the courteous tone when I realized it was something all tenants had received, hence the lack of open vitriol.

Here’s the rest:

“The building owners and I have received complaints from one tenant and we feel we are being pushed into making some rules which we really do not fully support. In the effort to get the complaints from one to stop, we are being pushed into altering rules for everyone. This is not a comfortable or enviable position to be in. So to all of those who this may negatively affect, please accept our apology.

“If you will be BBQ’ing please do so only in the backyard and near the hoses in case anything gets out of control. Although it is not illegal to use lighter fluid to start a BBQ, please refrain from using it as we have a tenant who is sensitive to the smell of it. Also, it is not illegal to smoke cigarettes in the garden, but please refrain from doing so as the same tenant opposes this as well. I also will no longer be allowed to use my fire pit as a wood burning fire pit, which was a real source of fun for me and my guests.

“We trust that this will satisfy the tenant who wants this put out in writing. The owners and I have made special accommodations for this person in the past, which we feel go unappreciated as the complaints continue. We hope this will finally put an end to the complaints regarding these issues and hopefully will curtail future ones. We find it unreasonable that everyone must alter their behavior to accommodate one, and for this again we apologize to all of those who make an effort to coexist peacefully in the building.”

As you can imagine, I was tremendously pleased to be even indirectly identified as the one person in the building smart enough to have figured out that having an apartment full of lighter fluid fumes is not a good thing, although in truth, Tom has also said that, with his allergies, he would just as soon people wouldn’t smoke in the back yard, and I have in my files a note from my neighbor across the hall expressing dismay about the cigarette smoke produced by her upstairs neighbor.

Also, for the record, I have said nothing about fire pits; I didn’t know we had one. We do have a fountain. Perhaps this has been repurposed as a fire pit.

However, writing to “clarify” would only be about having the last word, or to try to convince the landlord and building manager that I’m not 100 percent evil, obviously impossible at this point.

It’s like getting a note that says, “Because ONE TENANT keeps complaining, we’re going to have to stop murdering homeless people in the garage. Yes, if you can believe it, ONE TENANT, with her endless complaining, has now made it so that NO ONE can murder homeless persons in the garage. We’re sorry for the inconvenience.”

Going too far to liken secondhand smoke to murder? Not in Northern California. (Well, maybe just a tad.)

When I was visiting Michigan in November, I went along on my father’s monthly lunch with his high school classmates and was astonished to see people smoking in the restaurant. “Those people are smoking,” I whispered to my father. “Should we call the police?”

At least in these parts, the era in which one person can flood another with secondhand smoke is over, and landlords are not uncommonly sued these days for failing to protect tenants from fumes and smoke, so directing tenants not to produce fumes in problematic areas seems merely prudent.

However, in all this wrangling over the amazing amount of smoke I’ve encountered in our nominally non-smoking building, I have never once let the word “lawsuit” escape my lips. It is my understanding that neither party ever feels happy after legal action, and so my goal has been to succeed by other means. Thus I consider that note a victory and I don’t care if it was worded to try to make me feel bad.

One doesn’t have to take offense even if the other party is working her fingers to the bone to GIVE offense.

During the recent rains, my beloved 25-year-old Columbia yellow rubber rain jacket sprang some undeniable leaks. Not two weeks ago, a woman in Chinatown asked me, with a gleam in her eye, where I’d gotten it. She knew an excellent rain jacket when she saw one.

I went online to see if Columbia offers something similar these days, and they do, but not in yellow in my desired size of men’s XXL. The old one is an XL and was no longer quite as baggy as preferred.

So I called them and they said, “Sure, we have those.” They directed me to a store called Shyda’s in Pennsylvania, and, sure enough, they said they’d send me one. Score!

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Flaming Carcinogens Bring Pleasure to All

I’m slightly embarrassed to say I am having yet another issue with my landlord, over fumes. Fortunately, having a conflict with the actual landlord is a lot more pleasant than having it with the building manager, from whom I have received quite an impressive stack of insulting emails.

To recap, there had been two occasions of the building manager grilling underneath my windows, thus filling my place with wood smoke on one occasion, and lighter fluid fumes on the other.

It possibly might not have been so bad if my windows actually closed, but the last decade in which they did so probably featured the Summer of Love. If there is a strong wind outside, I can stand inside my ostensibly closed windows and enjoy quite a stiff breeze, so when it comes to carcinogens aflame just outside, “closed” means pretty much the same as “open.”

Fortunately, after a few emails back and forth, the landlord said the building manager had agreed not to use lighter fluid in the future. I think she should get a propane or even an electric grill, but as long as there’s not actual lighter fluid, I think that will be OK.

A couple of weeks ago, on a rainy evening, it seemed to me that I could smell burning lighter fluid in my kitchen, and I opened the door to the trash area to see that, sure enough, some neighbors were grilling near the trash chute, a major fire hazard had it not been raining. This building is old, and made of wood.

I mentioned that to the neighbor and he said he was going to stand right over it, so there was nothing to worry about. Soon my apartment filled with fumes; I also noticed the grill was in fact largely unattended. I opened several windows and asked my neighbor to let me know when the fire was entirely out.

He knocked on my door later and said they wouldn’t be grilling in that location again. I said that was great, and that it would also be super if we could ixnay on the lighter fluid, at which he looked a bit blank, so I decided to leave it.

But when I recently had occasion to email the landlord about something else, I mentioned the grilling near the trash chute, and she said that she would ask the building manager to ask all tenants to grill in the back yard only. I imagine that she, like me, perceived a fire hazard.

I replied that it would be great if the notice also included a request to avoid lighter fluid, and she wrote back, “Still the same folks in the building so just a little reminder about grilling should be all that is necessary.”

Since, as far as I know, the tenants have never been asked to eschew lighter fluid, I wasn’t sure how a reminder to grill in the back yard was going to convey that aspect, and wrote back to make my thoughts on the subject as clear as I possibly could, which I like to think is pretty clear.

Then I was afraid she was going to send me a mean email, which is what the building manager always does at this juncture, but she didn’t reply at all, which was fine. Probably the building manager warned her that I always have to have the last word and that the only way to stop a conversation with me is to drop your own end of the rope.

Then I wondered if I was being more of a pain than necessary, but decided I wasn’t: If the landlord is going to let the windows fall into such disrepair that they are useless against smoke, I don’t think it’s too much for them to ask their tenants not to burn toxins right under said windows.

However, I did decide to let another issue go, which is noise coming from the building manager’s apartment, which is right underneath mine. She arrives home from work around midnight, and I have asked her in the past to go easy with the stereo and TV after she gets home, because I have to get up at about 7:30 a.m. for work.

I got a nasty email or two, but I also haven’t heard thumping bass too much since then, so it was worth it. In fact, I mostly have heard nothing until recently, when she has again taken to watching movies or listening to music when she gets home, though not with the bass turned up, which does help. This can easily go on until three or four in the morning.

I can hear it loud and clear, and it does wake me up, but I decided that if I lived in Baghdad, I would learn to sleep through the sound of bombs exploding; therefore, I can learn to sleep through this and/or use earplugs.

It would probably be going too far to speak of preserving political capital for the purpose of combating fumes, but at least I can try not to go farther into the hole.

Whoever Invented Rope Was a Real A-Hole

After my depressing weekend a couple of weeks ago, several good things happened, which was kind of a refreshing and unusual way to have a period of gloom abate. It will always pass on its own, sooner or later, and often it teaches me something, but actual good events are welcome, too.

For one thing, I found out that my little essay on cycling had been accepted by KQED, the local NPR affiliate. Once I sent it in, I forgot about it entirely, so was pleasantly surprised to get an email from the editor of the series saying it was worthwhile and asking me to call him.

When I did, he asked, “Are you one of those cyclists who blocks my way when I’m trying to drive? God damn you.”

I will go record my essay for broadcast once the flu is entirely gone; my voice is kind of raspy the past few days. While waiting to do that, I got some excellent suggestions from David in regard to the organization of my little piece. I hated to bug the Perspectives editor again, but finally decided David’s suggestions were too good not to use, so I sent another draft incorporating them.

Another good thing that happened was finally having a breakthrough in regard to the same parking garage that affords me many breakthroughs, because it affords me so many periods of anxiety. (Could that garage be my higher power?)

One of the parking attendants had idly mentioned that a change to the bike parking was in the works, so I called the building manager to find out what she was planning and to make sure she was aware of the considerations cyclists would have. It turned out there was a new manager, the fifth since I began calling them. I left her a message and she didn’t call me back, so I gave it a week or so and tried again.

The period of phone tag eventually stretched to eight weeks, during which I received one voice mail. I had to remind myself to be patient, and not to indulge in thoughts that the manager was dissing me. For all I knew, she was a perfectly lovely person I would like a lot and simply busy, though I will say I don’t let people wait longer than 24 hours for a response to a work-related call.

I was starting to entertain thoughts of involving her boss, the strategy known in the workplace as “escalating” and in families with children as “I’m telling on you.”

Finally, I threw myself on the mercy of her assistant, who has been there from my first call years ago, and said I was having trouble reaching the manager and that I didn’t want her to feel pestered, but did he think she might be amenable to an email?

He said he would see if she was free, and if not, sending an email sounded fine. As it happened, she was there, and we spoke, and she is working on a change, which she described in detail, and it sounds just fine. She is obviously planning things carefully. Thus eight weeks of low-grade stewing ended, which was fantastic.

I finally went back to work this past Thursday, in a cab, now that I’ve decided bikes are for losers. That is, the day I suddenly got so sick, I had ridden my bike to work in a downpour, so I secretly blame it.

I found that my coworker had ended up getting the same thing, and like me, had spent two days unable to get out of bed. Neither of us was feeling that great even by Thursday, but I was sick of burning PTO days.

During one of my days in bed, there was a period when I could hear someone moaning on every out-breath, and even though I knew it had to be me, it seemed like it was some other person entirely, some person I had nothing to do with.

I told my coworker about how Tom brought me the omelet and she was impressed. She said that was more nursing than she’d gotten from her actual husband.

I think my therapist reads this and so was hoping she’d call me and tell me what to do about moving to Michigan. I used to have quite a close friend who was in therapy and now and then would mention that she had said something about me to her therapist.

I liked this, because I trusted that her therapist would speak up if she heard anything seriously amiss: “Tell Linda skydiving is a young person's game” or “I hear real estate in Florida is heading south, no pun intended” or some such. Now and then, I would ask, “How’s your therapist think I’m doing?”

Last night Tom and I saw Will Ferrell in Blades of Glory, which we have seen before, with Tom's nephew, Chris, and from which comes the title of this post. Today I went to Rainbow, in a cab, and tomorrow I hope to do some cooking.