Sunday, March 30, 2008

Two, Maybe Three, Correctly Cycling Cyclists

Nonetheless (picking up where I left off), I also hate seeing cyclists run red lights. It’s dangerous, it’s illegal, and it’s crappy PR.

So when I saw another cyclist stopped at a red light that cyclists routinely run—the intersection is configured so there is almost no chance of cross traffic—I commended him thusly: “Ha, it’s the other law-abiding San Francisco cyclist!” He said he always stops at red lights, too.

This past week, I again saw someone stopped at that same light and was going to note that he was the third law-abiding San Francisco cyclist, but then I saw it was actually the same guy, so there are still just two of us. He said, “Didn’t I see you in the Tube Times?” and we shook hands and introduced ourselves. It was that kind of week.

Then he said he had seen me running that same light not long before. He absolutely did not, but I wasn’t going to argue. Then he said maybe it wasn’t that I had run the light, but rather stopped in front of the crosswalk instead of behind. In fact, I didn’t do that, either, but realized where he did see me do that: a block or two later, where there is a little skinny bike lane that runs between two other lanes. It looks kind of goofy, but that really is where cyclists ride there, so the bike lane just makes it official.

However, I don’t stop behind the crosswalk there, because that would force every cyclist behind me also to stop in what constitutes a double-sided door zone, so I pull ahead to the far side of the crosswalk, and that is undoubtedly what the other law-abiding cyclist saw me do.

The same day I met that guy, I noticed a cyclist close behind me, and saw that she actually stopped at a red light when I did. In fact, I got the distinct impression she was modeling her behavior on mine. We reached another light that was just turning red, and, assuming I was going to go through it, she started through, but when she realized I was going to stop, she also stopped, albeit forward of the crosswalk, and waited until the light turned green before proceeding.

At the next light, when we were stopped side by side, I commented on her excellent cycling behavior and she said she was following my lead. This was a good reminder that while I’d like to put a sign on my panniers exhorting other cyclists to stop at the red lights for chrissake, probably the best thing is just for me to do this myself consistently, and compliment anyone else I see doing the same.

I went to see the effervescent Carla Martino at Noe Valley Salon for a facial today, an occasional and most wonderful treat, not least because of the accompanying neck, shoulder and foot massage, and also because Carla agrees enthusiastically with everything I say. Today she agreed that cigarette smoke and lighter fluid are yucky, and offered of her own volition that grilling food renders it carcinogenic. Quite so.

Walking home, I saw an angry-looking man standing with his face four inches from a silent sweet-faced Asian woman, berating her. I was furious and paused two feet from them and frankly observed, hoping it would shame the man into stopping. I also thought he might ask me what the hell I thought I was staring at, but it didn’t faze him in the slightest. The woman turned her head and looked right at me, right into my eyes, with an expression I couldn’t identify. She didn’t look angry or disconcerted that I was watching. Did she look imploring, or sad? I couldn’t tell. They got on the train together and I walked off upset.

It would be entirely in character for me to have said something to him, even to have threatened him, but I imagine that would only make things worse for the woman.

Here’s what I would like to have said: “You know, what you’re doing is domestic violence, and it’s illegal. As it happens, my husband is a police officer and he’s on his way here right now. You know that guy who got the broom handle shoved up his rectum? That’s what’s going to happen to you, but splintered end first.” I really must stop mentally rehearsing that before I find myself saying it to someone. It is just so wrong on so many counts, not least that I need someone else to carry out my acts of vengeance, but it’s such a satisfying little speech.

By the way, I used to say to myself after thinking such thoughts, “That is terrible. No wonder the world is engulfed in violence. I’m a bad, angry person. What can I do not to be so angry? Blah blah blah.” Now I say, “Oh, angry thought,” and then I try to notice where it lives in my body, and next thing I know, the thought is gone, ditto any accompanying sensations, and tranquillity reigns again.

The Universe Likes Me! It Really Likes Me!

A couple of weeks ago I felt quite exceedingly depressed—the “My life is crappy and it always has been and it always will be” type of mood—and was thinking that if perimenopause and/or menopause are going to bring lower lows than I’ve always dealt with, I don’t think I can do it.

This week, however, I felt absolutely great, with all manner of things going my way, so perhaps higher highs are going to come with the lower lows, and I just have to remember, as always, that the lows are always followed by something good.

I had a piece published in the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition’s Tube Times, for the second issue in a row, which was a good thing in theory, but turned out to have an unexpected aspect, which was that nearly every paragraph had been reworded, and a transition had been chopped out so that it looked like I said, “There was no reason I would do such-and-such, so I went ahead and did it.” Huh?

I had received a copy of my article a few weeks ago with one or two minor changes, and an assurance that I would be notified if anything else changed, so I was pretty surprised to see my name above a lot of stuff I never said.

I wasn’t going to say anything, but discovered a couple of days later that it was still kind of bugging me, so I sent a note to the woman who had edited the issue, and got the sweetest, most apologetic note back. She had had to step in when the previous Communications Director left the SFBC, and in working so hard to get the issue out, some things happened she wasn’t aware of.

She was so nice about it, I wished I hadn’t said anything, or at least had tried harder not to sound at all stern. On the other hand, she had said I would be notified if there was a change, and I wasn’t notified despite there being many changes, so I guess it was OK that I inquired into the matter.

I got some good news about the proposal I wrote for my company to implement secure bike parking, which is that it has trickled up to nearly the top person in the properties department, which delighted me. I have no idea if anything will ever actually happen, but I’ll keep pushing it when I can.

I have a coworker who puts in a tremendous amount of time volunteering here and there, and who asked me to nominate him for our company’s volunteer service award, because he thought it would be indelicate to nominate himself, though you can do that. I was flattered to be asked to write something on his behalf, and will be thrilled if he ends up winning an award.

A couple of cyclists were killed near here not long ago, which became yet another occasion for car-versus-bike debate, with the Chronicle publishing an article saying that cyclists are to blame for most car-bike collisions. However, since many motorists are unaware that cyclists even have the legal right to use the road, let alone that the safest place for a cyclist to ride in a lane that is insufficiently wide is in the center of it, I must take such statistics with a grain of salt.

Even many cyclists don’t know that while it may seem safest to edge along the right side of the road, it often isn’t. Doing that can put cyclists in the door zone and make it harder for them to be seen by motorists.

The cyclists were killed because a deputy sheriff dozed off and crossed the yellow line. As Leah Shahum, the Bike Coalition’s executive director, pointed out in an excellent follow-up editorial in the Chronicle, this was not a bicycle safety story, but a story about dangerous driving. If the cyclists had been in a car instead, there would have been even more loss of life, because the sleeping driver would likely have died, too.

Leah also appeared on KQED’s Forum show, and did a tremendous job. She is a wonderful writer and speaker, and, via her position at the Bicycle Coalition, a formidable force for positive change in San Francisco. Another guest on the show mentioned how often cyclists break the law by running red lights and Leah countered that cyclists, pedestrians and motorists all break the law, and that it’s always easiest to notice the person doing the wrong thing instead of the many doing the right thing.

And certainly red-light-running motorists are way, way more dangerous than red-light-running cyclists. I have had too many heart-stopping moments to count watching some jerk in a car speed through a red light downtown. I fear it is only a matter of time until I see a ghastly injury to a pedestrian who is under the mistaken impression that the walk signal means it’s safe to cross the street.

Blown Away by Roget

Here are a couple of things I think are, uh, fruitful! My new thesaurus! It’s really, um, husky as well as commanding! Verily, it is chock full of idiom-related items, and I expect to be a lot more—wait a sec—silver-tongued from now on.

It’s Roget’s 21st Century Thesaurus in Dictionary Form, in paperback. Easy to hoist and also easy to use. I looked at a big hardcover version and could not make heads or tails of it, between you and me. I’m sure I could have learned to use it, but it was also too big to pick up and brandish menacingly.

I also like very much my long-distance telephone service, OneSuite, which saves me a fortune relative to anything I used before. You go to their website, buy some minutes, and then use them up talking to your mom.

However, I know someone who signed up and then didn’t use the service for a long time, and when she went back, OneSuite had cleaned out the rest of her minutes, which turned out to be what will happen if you don’t use the service for six months, plus their customer service is also terrible, but I virtually never have to call them about anything.

I have finally solved the hair products problem, which has taken me nearly ten years, the problem being that nearly every product meant for the hair, including ones billed as hypoallergenic, makes me itch.

Here are the answers: Wash hair with J. R. Liggett’s Old-Fashioned Bar Shampoo. Comb hair while still in shower. Upon departing shower, dry hair very slightly, and work in a generous amount of Stonybrook Botanicals Fragrance Free Unscented Organic Herbal Oil-free Extra Body (hold on, I’m getting there) Conditioner. Finally, apply a dollop of Real Purity Natural Styling Gel. And voila! Frizz-free hair with no, or very little, itching.

Two or three weeks ago, I had a massage at a place toward the southeast quadrant of the city. When I made the appointment, based on rave reviews on the Internet, I asked if there would be a safe place to lock my bike. The receptionist said I could lock it outside and that it would be perfectly fine there, that many people arrive on bicycles.

On my mental map, it seemed to me that that intersection would be a dismal, desolate, semi-industrial spot, but perhaps I was a couple of blocks off. I pictured a thriving shopping districtlet, sprung up since the last time I was there.

I went there after work one day, via a lonely ride south on Third St., followed by a lonely ride west on Cesar Chavez. The place I was visiting turned out to be a dismal, desolate and semi-industrial spot, precisely as pictured—the only soul in sight was a street person. Fortunately, there was one (and only one) thing inside the electric gate I could affix my bicycle to.

My masseuse was nice, her music was horrible—that is, her taste was extremely sophisticated and drew on diverse cultural influences—and the massage itself hurt quite a bit. From now on I will avoid anything described as “deep tissue.”

The next week, to rid my body of the memory of that massage and rid my bike of any memory it may have of being chained in such an inhospitable place, I went to Spa Solé at Fillmore and Clay, which is a busy neighborhood where one feels entirely comfortable locking a bicycle outside and where I had quite a nice massage.

I used to have two pairs of the same Pearl Izumi cycling gloves, which I liked a lot and which lasted forever—years—but eventually I had to shop for new gloves, and by then, gel-filled gloves were no longer in vogue. The idea now is that you wear gloves with little padding, and use squishy handlebar tape.

After buying a few pairs, I finally found some Avenir gloves that were comfortable, but they turned out to be pretty shoddy in construction, sprouting actual holes after some months. Freewheel carries hardly any Pearl Izumi gloves, so I ordered some online that seem to be working out well.

I have discovered one teensy downside to the iMac, which is that the top of the screen is much higher than the top of my old PC’s screen, so a stiff neck can ensue after a while, from squinting at menu items. Unlike on a PC, you can’t just drag the menu bar to the bottom or side, but what will probably help is learning more key shortcuts.

Tonight Tom and I saw Daniel Day Lewis’s amazing performance as Christy Brown in My Left Foot, and then I watched Ryan Gosling play a Jewish white supremacist in The Believer. Tom picked up his chair and went home soon after the latter started, saying it didn’t look like much fun. It wasn’t a highly satisfying movie—there were too many elements of the story that were murky or improbable—but I think Ryan Gosling is a really great actor, so it was worth it to see him.

A Friendly Peck on the Cheek from Princess Leia

Yes, it does look like I'm wearing a fabulous metallic hat, thanks to the sculpture behind me—I chose the location for the photo—and yes, my eyes are closed.

A couple of weekends ago I saw All the Little Animals, featuring a toothsome young Christian Bale as a young man whose mother has just died and whose truly evil stepfather wants him to sign over his late mother’s flourishing London department store. He runs away to Cornwall and joins forces with John Hurt, who has assigned himself the task of burying animals killed by cars.

I also saw Murder by Numbers, featuring Sandra Bullock as a hard-boiled homicide detective and Ryan Gosling and Michael Pitt as high school students who commit a murder just to prove they can pull it off.

Friday night a week ago, Tom and I saw all of Metallica’s music videos from 1989 to 2004. I really liked all of them, particularly the ones for “The Memory Remains,” with an aging Marianne Faithfull looking just splendid, and “King Nothing.” This is not Tom’s musical genre at all, but he said he quite enjoyed the videos, and that if Metallica play around here, we should go see them.

The next evening, we went to see The Bank Job, about a bank robbery that happened in real life in London in 1971, the objective of which, unbeknownst to most of the robbers themselves, was to recover incriminating photos of one of the royal family.

I was swooning from the first moment Jason Statham, the lead actor, appeared onscreen and now have added nearly all of his movies to my Netflix queue.

Fortunately, this week’s “getting to know you” question at our team meeting at work was what film set we would like to have been on and why, so I said I would like to have worked on The Bank Job as Jason Statham’s wardrobe assistant.

Last Sunday Ann and Mac treated Tom and me to a lovely brunch at Bistro Liaison in Berkeley. I decided on both a salmon appetizer and a salmon entrée, and told the server that I was going to have the “Salmon Extravaganza.” When she brought my appetizer, she remembered my joke and said, “Here’s the beginning of your Salmon Extravaganza.”

Ann and Mac were in Berkeley for Carrie Fisher’s one-woman show, Wishful Drinking. After brunch, we accompanied them to the theater and decided to see if there were any tickets left. There were just two places left where two people could sit together. The price was higher than I would have spent of my own accord, but Tom was in the mood for a splurge, and so we ended up in the very front row, soon covered with confetti tossed by the star.

Tom was given a small recurring role, which he handled with aplomb, and later was given a medal, as well as a hug and kiss. I also got to stand up and have a bib affixed around my neck—I forget how this pertained to the story—and say my name and get a kiss on the cheek from Carrie Fisher, best known to many as Princess Leia in Star Wars.

At the same team meeting at work this week, a couple of people said they would like to have been on the set of Star Wars, giving me a perfect opening for my Carrie Fisher anecdote.

When we got home after Carrie Fisher’s show, we watched our favorite Metallica videos again, and then saw Eddie Murphy: Delirious, from when he was 23, I think. I think my favorite thing was the person of Eddie Murphy himself, jaunty in shiny red pants, because his humor tended to the homophobic. It really wasn’t funny at all, though I admired that he was already such a commanding stage presence at that young age.

The funniest thing I ever heard Eddie Murphy say was on Saturday Night Live many years ago, playing a person whose neighbors have telephoned to complain about his noise. “Loud? That’s not loud! THIS IS LOUD!!!” (And I loved him in Dreamgirls.)

This past Thursday, my new book club met for the first time. Via Craigslist, I drummed up five people who said they would like to read The Omnivore’s Dilemma (a crafty choice of mine, since I was almost done with it at the time) and meet to discuss it.

In the event, wildly exceeding my expectations, two actual people, both perfectly delightful, turned up at a quiet café near where I live and we had quite a congenial discussion which did in fact touch several times on The Omnivore’s Dilemma. I’d brought another book with me in case no one came at all.

I have recently finished The Blind Assassin, by Margaret Atwood, which I thought was extremely well written.

Somewhere along in here, Lisa M. and I had dinner at Osha on Second St. and then saw Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, with Frances McDormand and Amy Adams.

I found a wonderful recipe online for lentil soup with tarragon and thyme. I had never used tarragon before and had to buy some for this recipe, which says it’s the last lentil soup recipe you’ll ever need, and I think that might be true.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Looks Like My Mental Health Professional Was Right—Again

I saw a post on Craigslist lately from a person who was trying to make friends but finding that participating in group activities wasn’t helping. I replied thusly:

“I think it is rather challenging to make friends in an urban area, where people do so many things and are moving so fast. I think you were totally on the right track with going to activities and advise keeping on doing that, but with a tiny shift of attitude. I, too, thought, ‘I’ll go do such-and-such and I’ll make friends!’ I also found it didn’t quite work like that, at least not right away, but what I have discovered is that if I go participate in a group activity regularly—and there are tons to choose from, the blessing of being in the Bay Area—then, if nothing else, for that period of time, I’m with people, enjoying myself doing something of interest to me.

“I’ve been making a point of doing this for the past three or four months and now I find that I look forward to going to those activities and seeing the folks who are there, whereas when I started, they seemed like rooms full of strangers.

“Maybe some one-on-one friendships will come out of this in time, maybe not. I’ve kind of let go of that as a goal and now have the goal to participate in groups that are of genuine interest to me, and to enjoy my time there, which I do!

“Best of luck putting together a life full of satisfying activities.”

The next day, I had gotten three answers, one from the original poster thanking me and saying she would keep at it, then, but also two from other people saying they thought my advice was good; one said she didn’t know me but was proud of me for persisting in this effort, which, now that I think about it, was what Deborah told me to do the last time I saw her.

The other person who wrote to say she liked my advice was someone I have corresponded with twice before via Craigslist, though she had no way of knowing she was writing to me yet again, since email addresses are anonymized. She just happened to answer two questions I posted over a period of months. The second time, I joked that from now on, I was just going to email her directly instead of posting on Craigslist. This week we had a virtual chuckle over having bumped into each other for a third time. Maybe it’s time to invite her to tea.

Three Sundays ago found me at Eugene Cash’s sitting group again on Sunday night. My friend was there with his father, who is 97 years old and very charming. He looked like he felt better than I do, though he allowed, wiggling a bit and smiling, that an ache or two was starting to set in.

It turned out that another person was riding her bicycle home to a neighborhood near mine, so we rode together. Her routes both to and from Eugene’s are different from mine, so I learned something. I think she’s a little more intrepid than I am; her route home was down Gough St., which she likes because there are plenty of lanes, so she feels free to take one, which makes sense.

However, that kind of street, several lanes going in one direction, seems to me like a freeway, with cars going so fast, and I don’t really like to ride there at all. I have taken Polk St. home the other times I’ve ridden my bike to Eugene’s. There’s hardly any traffic on it at 9 p.m. or so on Sunday, and there is also a bike lane.

The following week, I went to Eugene’s again, but my cycling buddy wasn’t there, so I rode home by myself and decided to try Gough St. again, which saves having to go two blocks out of my way to Polk St. and then come back those same two blocks once I get down to Market St.

It was perfectly fine. I took the lane and, because several blocks in a row go downhill, I was often moving just as fast as the cars were. This time I could see a lot more of what was around me. Fright has the interesting effect of narrowing the vision, literally. The first night I rode on Gough St., all I could see was the pavement immediately in front of me plus what I glimpsed in my rearview mirror, which I checked often to make sure I wasn’t about to be killed.

(I have finally received John Forester’s book Effective Cycling, in which he says worrying about getting hit from behind is really useless, since there’s hardly a thing you can do about it, but that’s still the thing I fret most about.)

Sailing down Gough the second time, I could see the whole street unrolling before me and take in the general surroundings and it was more fun than the first time, as well as a much quicker route home.

Friday, March 14, 2008


The stately iMac! See how it dwarfs its fellows, and how nicely it reflects the outdoors.

Mere days after I needed it, a picture of Hammy near the iMac.

Colorful things you can eat!

H. likes to drape his neck over things, as here.

Hammett keeping an eye on his roommate.

It's the Hamster! Selecting a toy from the toy bowl.

Hammett admiring the flip-top trash receptacle. Notice the halo it casts upon the wall (and how clean the bathroom is!).

Hammett taking a nap under his fuzzy green blanket. There's a wee darling ear sticking out at right.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

iMac Sullied with Posterior-Produced Serum

A couple of weeks ago, at the laundromat, I ran into the wife of the neighbor who isn’t speaking to me. She is extremely sweet, and I would have felt really crushed if she had ignored me, but she didn’t at all. She was perfectly friendly.

After asking if it would be OK to discuss it, I told her where I was coming from when I contacted the landlord, and she said she totally understood, and that her husband tends to get mad easily, but that he usually doesn’t stay angry for very long.

I actually saw him on my next trip to the laundromat, and he didn’t say anything, as nor did I, though I nodded genially. I couldn’t tell what his facial expression was, because I can’t see that far without my glasses on.

This past week was very busy at work. A sibling team has been installing servers with the latest version of the software we administer, and whoever is on call in my group is responsible for checking the servers at night after the upgrades, which requires a huge amount of pre-upgrade preparation.

On Tuesday night, I was still trying to do the pre-upgrade setup at 6:30 p.m. and finally had to go home with it unfinished. It had dawned on me by then that there was no way the post-upgrade procedures, as written, would work in real life, and when I got home, I called a coworker to confirm my suspicions. (“May I ask you a philosophical question?”)

She agreed that the procedures would not work, and said that when it was her turn, she had improvised. I was the second-to-last person to do this task, and I imagine everyone else had had to improvise, too, but hadn’t mentioned it. In the end, I was up until 12:30 a.m. and had to leave much undone, and then my exacting coworker (a different person) screamed at me the next day in a meeting for being so lame. Blech.

Sadder but wiser, I began revised pre-upgrade steps—ones that would allow the actual check to work properly—for Thursday night’s work on Wednesday, and was done by mid-afternoon Thursday. I started work at 7:45 p.m. that night, after the servers had been upgraded, on a laptop connected to my work PC, where all of the tests were set up.

Everything went well until I got a message saying that software was being updated and that my work PC would be rebooted in 45 minutes!

Sometimes you can postpone the reboot, but this was the kind that couldn’t be postponed, so then I was in a panic. I had done all the setup on my work PC and was using the laptop to connect to it. I knew that if the reboot did interrupt my work, my exacting colleague would say I should have set everything up on my laptop, which would have involved schlepping it to work and back, which I don’t like to do.

Rushing like crazy, I managed to finish all of the tasks in time. Fortunately, everything went smoothly. My final notification was sent with 44 seconds to spare.

Then I discovered it was actually my laptop that was rebooting, not my work PC, so I could have just reconnected to my work PC once the laptop was back up, but just as well: Thinking the time was short certainly focused my mind, and I got to bed nearly on time.

I have started to feed Hammett in the tub because when I put his bowl of wet food on the kitchen floor, 50 million ants show up five minutes later. I suppose the same thing will start happening in the tub soon.

Some cute things he has done lately: Stuck his snout so far into my open mouth that I could feel his forehead bumping my teeth. (I could tell he was trying for an olfactory read, so I opened my mouth gapingly to accommodate him.)

Another day, trying to help me with my grooming, he attempted to chew off my thumb nail, which he must have perceived as a hardened piece of crud that didn’t belong there.

One night when I was swabbing the tub out after a shower, he walked into our tiny bathroom, licked the back of one of my ankles, and walked out again.

And here’s an awful thing he does that drives me crazy: He leaps up onto the desk and stands between me and the iMac. Then, and this is the bad part, he casually turns so that his hindquarters are worryingly near the gleaming surface of the monitor. He does this quite frequently, and sometimes mashes his keister, which periodically leaks a foul potion due to a lack of full anal gland expression, against the monitor, leaving a streak! On my iMac!

Once upon a time, I would have said that any cat who smeared unsavory juices on my iMac would be taken back to the SPCA in the next passing cab, but when it’s your own darling boy who licks your ankle, it’s OK.

It’s Like This. Something’s Wrong!

One of my online friends has recently had quintuple bypass surgery, and is still in the hospital. What struck me particularly was that she strolled out of her house one recent morning to have breakfast with friends, and will never return home or see her beloved cats again: She went from breakfast to the hospital, and will go from there to a different state entirely, to live with relatives not far from where her daughter lives.

While she is in the hospital, her son has had to pack up all her stuff for shipping, trying to figure out what she would want to keep or not, and find a home for her cats.

What a major, and entirely unexpected, change. Since such things don’t happen all the time, it can come to seem as if they’re not supposed to—as if there were such a thing as supposed to or not supposed to, or should or shouldn’t. I recall Howie asking us one night if, when things were going badly or we felt upset, we said to ourselves, “It’s like this,” expressing equanimity, or if we said, “Something’s wrong!”

One fellow said, making people laugh, that he says to himself, “It’s like this. Something’s wrong!”

Insight meditation (vipassana) refers specifically to insight into some aspect of one of these three characteristics of existence: impermanence, suffering, and no-self. The latter means that if we pay attention, we will discern thoughts, feelings, smells, sounds, sights, and tastes, and nothing more. The self is something we make up by saying “I” all the time.

Until Eugene’s class a couple of weeks ago, I never realized that I think of only two of those things—impermanence and no-self—as simply being the way things are, while I think of the third, suffering, as something that doesn’t belong.

But it does belong. It, too, is just part of the way things are (until ultimate liberation is reached, which I am not expecting in this lifetime).

By suffering, I mean getting what you don’t want and not getting what you do want, from tiny things all the way up to having to go from breakfast to the hospital for a quintuple bypass, or having that happen to your mother.

The problem, though, isn’t in the events but in our attitudes about them. If I could see having quintuple-bypass surgery as no more or less desirable than sitting in my comfy chair eating Barbara’s Original Cheese Puffs, I would be happy all the time, or at least serene, which might be even better.

If I could see having my apartment filled with lighter fluid fumes as equivalent to not, ditto.

(I can't.)

Our online group has been in touch with our friend’s daughter a bit, and I have also been reading both our friend’s and her daughter’s blogs, and have been very impressed at the daughter’s positive attitude, and how she seeks to find the good even during this frightening, stressful experience.

I have other friends facing very serious health situations, even possible fatal diagnoses, and so am feeling very grateful that today, at least, I can rise from my bed and wash the dishes and listen to Audioslave. I am alive and, as far as I know, perfectly well. This is great!

Last weekend I went to buy fabric at Stonemountain & Daughter in Berkeley. I couldn’t find anything I really liked for pants, except for plain green cloth, of course, but bought a few things I hoped might grow on me, plus some pretty cloth for various uses in my apartment.

However, I’m now considering tossing out the cloth I’m not crazy about, or taking it to the thrift store, and waiting until something turns up that I really like. I know: after the apocalypse, when there’s no cloth, I’ll say, “Darn it, I wish I had back those two and three-quarters yards of the reddish cloth with the snail-like design that made my eyes feel like they were vibrating slightly.”

Maybe pants that make people’s eyes feel like they’re twitching could be an asset if I ever have to do any high-level negotiations, though having pants like that probably makes it more likely that I never will have to do that.

I have lately seen My Beautiful Laundrette, in which Daniel Day-Lewis is just darling, and makes an extremely convincing gay man. In fact, there is more chemistry in his scenes with the Pakistani fellow than I have seen in any of his romantic scenes with women.

I also saw The Night Porter, in which Dirk Bogarde plays Max, a former Nazi concentration camp guard, and a young Charlotte Rampling plays a woman who is sexually brutalized by Max while imprisoned. Years later, they meet again and resume their relationship, which ends in tragedy after not too long. Dirk Bogarde (a gay man in real life) was wonderful. I will now append his movies of the same era to my Netflix queue.

The Night of the Green Balloon

Since last writing, I have been to Eugene Cash’s Sunday night sitting group twice. Over the years, a few people have drifted from the meditation group I used to go to, led by the person I still consider to be my teacher, Howard Cohn, over to Eugene’s, so the first of the two recent times I went to Eugene’s, I saw a couple of people I knew, but was left wondering if I would actually end up making friends if I went there regularly.

At 12-step meetings, you can raise your hand and talk about yourself (obviously my favorite thing to do) and then people can come up to you at the end and say, “That happened to me, too,” or you can go up to them and say that, and because of that and because people are sharing about their lives, it can be quite easy to make friends, though this seems to me to happen somewhat more easily in AA than in Al-Anon. Al-Anon is for the families and friends of alcoholics, and it’s the only kind of meeting I go to these days.

I will digress to say that I did hear from my boss that I have permission to move to Michigan and retain my job, working full-time from home, but by then, I’d decided that maybe I wouldn’t like to work at home all the time. It sounds like it would be lonely.

My mother said hopefully that if I WERE to stay inside all the time, I wouldn’t be able to ride a bicycle! She worries about me getting squished.

Getting squished aside, because I ride my bike to work, I get some exercise at least five days a week without having to do anything special. I’m sure I would vow to go out and walk or bike, anyway, if I worked at home, but I probably wouldn’t. So I have asked my boss to find out if my company has an office location near Ann Arbor where I could work.

I was also thinking of all the things I would do to make friends in Michigan, or anywhere. I would go to Al-Anon meetings, and find a meditation group, and join a local bicycling organization and go on group bike rides. Since I know what to do to meet people, I might as well do those things here. Even if I move, if these are good things to do, there’s no reason not to do them now.

I went back to Eugene’s last Sunday, and this time I sat with a couple of my friends from Howie’s, including a fellow I am very fond of, a really sweet person, and I found that sitting with friends, meditating, was extremely pleasant. Just as nice, in its way, as talking. Maybe nicer.

When we were done meditating, Eugene asked if anyone had questions, so I got to ask a question that had arisen from my new practice of whole body breathing, which was that I have been extremely stressed out and grumpy since starting to do it—is that what’s supposed to happen?

Eugene said heightened sensitivity may be a side effect of greater awareness, and he encouraged learning to relax, and letting things move through me instead of getting stuck. I think there might be something to that. Earlier that day I was making cupcakes (from which I learned that if I want a really good vanilla cupcake, I should just go to Starbucks) and, as usual, was liberally tasting the dough and frosting.

However, I noticed that it was making me feel profoundly terrible, and I actually put a large amount of frosting in the compost bin instead of eating it. It probably always made me feel terrible, but I just wasn’t aware of it.

While Eugene was speaking that evening, a green balloon came drifting slowly through the air, well above our 150 heads. It edged diffidently toward Eugene, and then slowly sank down to the ground, taking a seat in the front row, where it remained exactly as it was until Eugene was finished speaking.

I got to chat with my friend from Howie's during the break, and at the end of the evening I talked to someone else I knew from Howie’s, who encouraged me to come back (and also to go to Howie’s), and I left feeling very connected.

On my way to Eugene’s on my bike, I saw the Harvey Milk movie being filmed at City Hall, and on my way back a couple of hours later, I saw Sean Penn filming a scene with a bunch of extras. That’s one thing you’d have to do without in Ypsilanti, Michigan.

I got a kind note from my father saying that while they’d love to have me living closer, San Francisco is a great place and I should be sure I really want to leave it. That put my mind at ease and made me feel that both moving and not moving would be fine.