Wednesday, November 27, 2013


Last week I read that the price of the two-bedroom condos being built at 19th St. and Valencia is from $1.75 million to $2.3 million apiece, and that all have already been bought, in cash. I know that everything changes all the time and that this neighborhood is particularly subject to that. The latest shift began a number of years ago, when the first BMW appeared near my front door. I know that everyone on earth spends much of her time wanting what she doesn’t have and not wanting what she does have—that everyone has sorrows and struggles, losses and regrets, including those amply supplied with money and power. I even know that feeling resentful and judgmental reliably punishes only one person: me.

But I’m still having trouble with the idea of lots of affluent neighbors and who is having to disappear to make room for them. Construction is underway at 20th and Valencia, as well, and that will probably be a similar thing (plus, those people will patronize my personal bike shop!). There is also an enormous lot being developed on Mission St. itself, between 21st and 22nd.

In the past year, I’ve been working with a metta, or lovingkindness, practice inspired by my meditation teacher, Howie, who in his early days in San Francisco would silently offer good wishes to the strangers he saw around him: “May you be happy,” or even, “I love you.”

The first couple of times I tried it, I found it hard to stick with when I didn’t feel the expected outpouring of love, but then I decided that if I did this practice during a 30-minute walk and there was even one moment when I felt friendlier than if I hadn’t been doing the practice, it was worth it, and it is definitely the case that there’s always at least one split second of feeling friendlier.

I also realized that, even if I didn’t feel noticeably friendlier, it was still worthwhile because when my mind is busy thinking “May you be happy,” it’s not lost in the past or future. I feel calmer using my mind in this directed way even if I don’t feel kinder. It’s another way of staying engaged in the present moment.

I learned that it’s crucial to get a brief glimpse of the face of each person I send good wishes to, that it is very difficult to have any sense of connection without that, and that sometimes just seeing all these faces in their various states of happiness, anxiety, or earnestness can open my heart.

When I come upon someone doing something that pushes my buttons, I don’t force myself to send that person good wishes but instead temporarily switch to bare attention and noting what I see. For instance, “There is a person in a green shirt riding his bicycle on the sidewalk.” I’m not sending this person good wishes, but at least I’m not thinking, “These sidewalk bicycle riders should be sent to San Quentin immediately! Why can’t everyone be as courteous as me?” Bare attention and noting can be applied to my new neighbors: there is a building filling up with people with a lot of money.

Now, these are rich people moving into the neighborhood, but what if they were the first black neighbors? What if I were that bigot saying, “Oh, no, there are going to be black people here!” Or, “Oh, no, gay people are going to get married, just like us!”

Someone might rightly want to say to me, “It’s not going to hurt you to have black neighbors. You might discover that you like them! But at the worst, you can still do exactly what you did before, and enjoy everything you enjoyed before,” ditto with gay marriage, and the same is true of me and my rich neighbors. Yet there is the gut reaction, so here’s another plan: to send metta to the person who is actually suffering right now: myself. When I start to think about my new neighbors, I can instead think, “May I be happy.” This probably isn’t going to suddenly change my feelings or opinions, but will at least interrupt the pernicious train of thought and maybe calm the mind.

Here’s another thing: Relative to some, I am rich. Someone without a job or working two minimum-wage jobs might regard me as privileged and oblivious and therefore as loathsome. What would I say to that? I would say, “I’m not loathsome! I’m a good person! I give to charity, and to people asking for money on the street. I think about other people. I try to be kind. I worry about the bad things happening in the world.” Well, that’s exactly what my new neighbors would also (probably) say. If having more money than another person doesn’t make you bad—and it can’t, because I have more money than some—then my soon-to-be neighbors aren’t bad. If being aware of others and trying to do what good you can makes you a good person, then they are good, because that is (probably) true of them.

The reason I have (at the moment) a steady and satisfactory paycheck is that I work for a large corporation and I’m delighted this is the case. It’s not my ultimate passion to sit in a cube staring at a computer, but I’m not brave enough to fling caution to the winds and follow my heart
’s desire. I need X amount of money not to feel insecure, and this is the most obvious way for me to get it. Probably my new neighbors feel that they need X amount of money in order not to feel insecure, and their X just happens to be way more than my X. One might say, “You don’t need that much money,” but fear doesn't often readily yield to an application of common sense. Selfishness, at its root, is fear.

If (and this is hypothetical) my new neighbors have 500 times more money than I do because they’re 500 times more scared than I am, then they deserve my sympathy (though—ahem—maybe not as much as the Latino families who are going—where? Where are they going?). Also, probably some of these people did become rich by flinging caution to the winds and following their hearts. Let's not forget that. No doubt many of them are fabulous, dear, adventurous people.

Lately El Tecolote has featured many stories about the eviction crisis and the political action and protests that are underway. I never seem to find out about a protest until after it’s already happened, but I’m going to call Charlie today and find out how you get advance notice of a protest so I can stand with my neighbors who aren’t rich, while also endeavoring not to dislike those who are.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Bank of Google Ford Armani Super Costco Cloud

Very disagreeable day lately when I got a bee in my bonnet about Google. In the past year, this icky-looking man popped up there, petitioning to join my “Google Circle,” whatever that is, and adding me to his circle, so that quite often I bump into his picture when I’m doing something in Google, and it is highly irritating: who is this person and why do I have to see him all the time?

I looked for the instructions for getting out of someone’s group, but there aren’t any. Google feels it isn’t hurting me to be in his group, and so I’m stuck there forever, but I agree with the online commenter who observed, regarding this specifically, “If you don't want an association with somebody then it’s your right.” That is true, or should be.

Now that Google (which owns Blogger and YouTube and probably soon Ford and Bank of America) is starting to seem like some kind of malign force, taking things I like (my blog and looking stuff up) and things I don’t (the icky-looking man and the fact that every time I go to Google, an icon shows that I have an unread “notification,” but when I click on it, nothing happens) and mixing them all together as if with superglue, I decided it was time to get Google out of my life, as much as possible, by taking down my one YouTube video, and removing the (very nice!) photo of myself that I attached to my Google profile in a weak moment. The photo was taken three weeks before Carlos fell ill. I was utterly happy. I was walking with Lesley at Crissy Field. The sun was shining on my face and the bay was behind me.

Of course these simple tasks ended up being immensely frustrating. Typically, Google says something like, “If you want to do such-and-such, go here,” which is perfectly clear. Oh, good: the instructions are going to be right there! But when you get there, either there is no sign of the topic of interest or the instructions don’t match reality.

On some websites, the second you arrive, someone offers to engage you in a live chat. On others, if you make your way through their whole array of support-related offerings and are still stuck, an email form is provided or even a phone number, but not at Google. Their list of possible problems is short (like, “Do you have a painful goiter or do you wish to clean your low-flow showerhead? Neither of those? Oh, well, guess we can’t help!”) and you soon arrive at a dead end, where you get to fill out a form rating their “service,” at the bottom of which it says something like, “We’re sorry we’re unable to help you directly.” This means, “We’re way, way too massive to provide actual customer service, but that’s fine (with us).”

But this is overlooking the key point that we're not Google's customers. People who buy ads are their customers, and information pertaining to us is the product for sale: what we search for using Google, what YouTube videos we put up or watch, what we write in our blogs, the contents of our Gmails, and probably much, much else. People who place ads can probably telephone someone at Google anytime they want. 

When I went to remove my YouTube video (which is of me singing to my mother on Mother’s Day), I first had to attach my YouTube channel to my Google account, or something or other, and there was no way to proceed without doing that. I considered deleting my whole YouTube account, but that would have also removed my Google account, and, therefore, my blog. So I upgraded my channel and then it of course claimed my upgraded channel didn’t have any videos associated with it and I feared the video was permanently stuck in limbo, but eventually I got rid of it; can’t remember how.

You used to have your bicycle and your spatula and your radio and you could easily see what was where, and you could decide to throw out your spatula without damaging your radio, or you could give away your radio without causing your bicycle to have a flat tire, but now so much that we deal with every day is invisible and connected in ways we’re unaware of or that are exceedingly unhelpful. Why should deleting my YouTube account cause my blog to disappear? It shouldn’t, any more than moving my dictionary should cause me to run out of Lemonaise Light. But it’s all one big snarled rat's nest now.

The next project was to remove my photo from my Google profile, also not an easy task, and by then, I was bound and determined to get my blog out from under Google. I called Dotster, where my domain name is registered and bought three years of web hosting from them, but then discovered that Dotster gets very poor reviews for its web hosting services, and also, there’s not much point in moving my blog off Blogger, because Google, along with the NSA, has probably helped itself to every bit of data on my computer already, so what’s the point? It’s also one of those projects I would never actually get around to.

At some point, I was encouraging my parents to comment on my blog (so that anyone whatsoever would be commenting on my blog) and told my father that one way would be to have a Google account. He was reluctant to sign up for one, and at the time, though I wasn’t at all offended, I thought he was being too careful, that a Google account was entirely benign, but how right he was. A Google account eventually tries to suck your whole online life down its voracious maw.

I called Dotster back and was relieved to find I could cancel the web hosting order, but there was some sort of miscommunication and they thought I wanted to cancel my entire domain name, which I certainly didn’t. It was stressful, but I hadn’t forgotten what happened when I lost my temper with the phone company, so I kept calm. Also, there mostly isn’t anyone to lose my temper with these days. The only way I'm ever going to speak to anyone at Google, let alone lose my temper with him or her, is if I step out to Valencia St. and throw myself down in front of a moving Google bus.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Carlos in the Hospital

Wasn’t he darling? 

I actually am feeling much better. There was a turning point right around seven months, when I finally ran out of tears, mostly, or just started to be more used to this, and the joy of living once again decisively outweighed the sorrow of the enormous loss.

My mother has this photo on her laptop desktop and I can tell when she's looking at it because she smiles and waves at her computer.

(Click photo to enlarge)

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Biggest

Friday night I went to Esperpento with Tom. I eat salmon (though I try not to think too much about it, because they are sentient creatures who don’t want to die any more than cows and pigs do), so seafood in general seems like fair game. Tom sometimes has a garlic shrimp dish that comes in a beautiful pool of greasy orange juice—he doesn’t mind if I sop up a little with a hunk of bread—and I decided to give that a try, but one of the shrimps still had its spindly little legs or whatever they are still attached, so I’m never ordering that again. Tom ate that one.

Yesterday morning I met Ann Marie at the Samovar Tea Lounge at Page and Laguna. Ann Marie is the recruiter who got me my job 15 years ago, and thus one of the top several benefactors of my entire life. We’ve taken a walk from time to time, but never on a weekend, so this was the first time I’d seen her in her non-work attire, and it was spectacular. Red and draping and with jeweled cowboy boots, and there was lace, and of course her mane of curly naturally blond hair, and her crystal clear bright blue eyes. She is gorgeous, and a delightful person who takes joy in many things. She was wearing a large ring with Tibetan lettering on it (“What does it say?” “Om mani padme hum? One of the oms”) and another ring that stuck straight out about two inches. It was all metal and looked like a flower balanced on top of a teacup balanced on something else.

For brunch, I had vegetable quiche with a salad and fruit and Ann Marie had the mini Moorish platter, with hummus and olives and eggplant, we split squash dumplings with sesame dipping sauce, and we both had tea. Then we walked over to Creativity Explored, which is a nonprofit that supports people with developmental disabilities to become working artists, and toured their huge working space / gallery. I heard a thing on KQED about them, how they spend a year learning all about something and making art based on that theme. The current theme is Day of the Dead, so there were lots of studies of skeletons and skulls. There were some wonderful things there. One artist had made a piece that was a love letter—I think it was from a man to a woman—saying things like, “You are lovely and you are wonderful and you are the tallest! And you are the biggest!” It was utterly charming.

Then we went next door to another shop that sells art, jewelry, books and periodicals, handmade clothes, and greeting cards. In there, a fellow—I gathered he was an artist—very flatteringly asked if he could take my picture. He liked the colors of my yellow cycling jacket and grey-blue homemade pants together (as do I). The proprietor said, “You should get one with her backpack, too,” (which is red), so he took another.

Then we walked to BART and Ann Marie went home to Berkeley and I went downtown for my final Alexander Technique lesson with Flora.

When I came out, three young fellows were hawking CDs and suggested I should acquire one. “What does it sound like?” I asked, and they enthusiastically explained that it’s “beats” but sounds like Miles Davis and would definitely “get the party started.” They were darling. The artist himself, who did all this on his computer, had beautiful green eyes. After about ten seconds, he decided just to give me the CD for free—the artist is known as Zodgilla and the CD is called Languid Pace—but I felt I should make a contribution, of $10, and they seemed thrilled. I realized that’s because they were thrilled—making a CD is thrilling, and being downtown trying to sell it is thrilling, and having someone give you actual money is thrilling.

I passed another band nearby whose sound system was being powered by a volunteer pedaling a modified bicycle.

At home, after listening to Languid Pace and finding it sophisticated and atmospheric, I meant to read and/or watch The Nun’s Story, but thought of another approach to figuring out what those two songs are: to save some alternative rock stations as favorites on my Internet radio (the beloved Squeezebox Boom) and hope that sooner or later, the songs turn up. Nearly everything on the Boom has the artist and song title displayed. So I spent about 90 minutes doing that, also saving some 60s, 70s, 80s, metal, and disco stations—disco rules—and after that, my right little finger was numb and tingling and, as of this writing, still is.

Maybe I should just give this HD radio away on Craigslist and forget about those songs.

Friday, November 15, 2013


I called The Femur today to find out if their HD2 station will ever be available via a live stream and the very helpful person I spoke to said he’s not sure. Some stations stream their HD2 stations and some don’t, and The Femur hasn’t decided about this yet. But he put my mind at ease on one point: he said that if I got an HD radio, I’d be able to select either the HD1 or HD2 station, given my location in San Francisco. Specifically, he said to tune the HD radio to the correct frequency and wait for a few seconds and I should find that I’m listening to the HD1 station (i.e., Zeppelin) and then I should be able to tune up one notch to the HD2 station. I decided I’d have to get an HD radio, namely an Insignia NS-HDRAD.

I asked if, once I had it, I’d be able to see the artists and song titles and he said I would.

This afternoon I took another City CarShare Toyota Yaris back to Bed Bath & Beyond to return a couple of pillows and was able to use the method described above to listen to The Femur’s HD2 station the whole time, driving extra carefully now that I have something to live for. 

Next I went to Best Buy to get the aforementioned radio and when I was nearly there, I heard one of those two songs again! And after I left Best Buy, I heard the other one. Possibly this station only plays ten songs, but if two of them are fantastic, I guess that’s fine.

I brought the radio home and fired it up—it’s quite small, just 8.25” long and 4.25” tall, with a telescoping antenna—and it tunes in the HD2 station perfectly, but it doesn’t display the artists and song titles for The Femur’s HD2 station, though I can see the artists and song titles for other local HD2 stations. So I am now sitting less than two feet from my HD radio, listening to my HD ratio, and still having to Duck Duck the lyrics, still without success! 

There are apps (like Shazam) that will listen to music through the air and display the metadata of interest, but they are for smart phones only and not available online. I draw the line at getting an entire phone to find those songs. Not only do I not have a desire to have a smart phone, I have a strong desire not to have one, so my next move will be to call The Femur back and beg them to start transmitting this information.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

He Are Nice Day Wednesday

At walk time yesterday, I went to Modern Times Bookstore Collective to pick up a Spanish grammar book I’d ordered, one of the several my parents have. I’m tired of limping along in the present tense. I also went to the Mission Cultural Center to look for a Día de los Muertos altar for Carlos that someone had told me was there.

There is a neighborhood nonprofit that has an annual memorial gathering to remember all who died in the past year. When a friend told me about it, he started by saying, “Carlos was there,” which startled me for a moment: he was? But after a split second had passed and I realized Carlos had not returned from the dead, I was mildly irritated. If our loved one can’t be touched, seen and heard, then he or she is not “here” in the way I use that word, though of course he or she is remembered and loved—here in memory, to be sure.

The Mission Cultural Center has a gallery upstairs, currently featuring Day of the Dead altars in an exhibit called La Llorona: Weeping for the Life and Death of the Mission District, where Latino families and Latino-owned businesses are disappearing one by one as tech workers rearrange the place to suit themselves, installing bland ugly banks of condos, dining establishments and other amenities at a steady pace. (The La Llorona exhibit is dedicated to five people, one of whom is Carlos.)

Whenever Tom and I spot something new being built in our neighborhood, one of us jokes, “God, I hope that’s going to be housing or a restaurant for rich people—I’m worried they’re going to run out.” San Francisco already has many neighborhoods catering to people with money, and increasingly few where brown and black faces are common; where arts organizations flourish, or at least exist; where there is a vibrant sense of community and culture. Does every neighborhood in the city have to look exactly the same?

So I had to chuckle over the altar that featured a Google bus made of cardboard and a picture of a grinning skeleton with a bright pink Lyft-style mustache affixed to it. And to tear up a little over another altar devoted to children who have died, featuring scuffed little shoes and toys. This one didn’t have to do with the Mission. These tech workers aren’t killing children. Yet.

But they are smiting people who dare to interrupt their congress with their smart phones.

Día de Los Muertos altars typically feature photos of the dead loved one and many bright decorations. More than one had a loaf of bread; this must be traditional. Items that symbolize the person’s interests are included: a pen, a pan and spatula, an empty liquor bottle. Personal artifacts might be included: a perfume bottle or a half-used lipstick.

On the ground floor of the Mission Cultural Center, in the lobby, were just two large altars, and one of those was Carlos’s, which must have been made by his friends Jorge and Holly. It featured the large display of photos from his memorial service some of Carlos’s frogs. He liked frogs, but I never had a chance to ask why. A pen and some musical accessories were included, to remind visitors that Carlos was a poet and musician.

Down 24th St., at Precita Eyes Mural Arts Center, the right front window was devoted to a couple who were married for many decades and died within two years of each other, the wife just this year, and the left front window displayed the photos of four or five neighborhood luminaries, with Carlos right in the center.

(Click photos to enlarge.)

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Inside of My Head

Happy eleven twelve thirteen!

Last week I went to Ypsilanti so I could be with my mother in the hospital while she had a spot of joint-related elective surgery and for a few days afterward.

Her surgery, which took only about an hour, was Monday morning and she remained in the hospital until Thursday around noon. My father and I both slept over on Monday night, on chairs that folded out into sleeping apparatuses. The two chairs were wedged side by side in an alcove next to the room’s one large window. The next morning, my mother said it would be nice to open the shade, but I was still lying down, so I said, “I think it’s going to be hard to get to the pull cord without standing on my stomach,” and my father said, “I haven’t ruled that out.”

Another day, my mother said, “I could use a toothpick.”

My father stood up and happily said, “Well!”

“Not your metal one,” Mom added.

Dad extracted the item in question from his pants pocket and announced, “I have a home away from home in this cargo pocket!”

I slept over again on Tuesday night while my father went home for a more comfortable night’s sleep—only one of the hospital chairs had proved to be really suitable for sleeping on—and the reverse on Wednesday night. I would have been happy to stay over in the hospital a third time even if it hadn’t been the case that I was scared to sleep in a house by myself, but my father wanted to be with my mother and my mother thought it would be a character-building experience for me to face this fear.

It sounds stupid, but I’d never slept in a house by myself before. When I was a kid, my family was there, and then I lived with roommates for a couple of years, and for 30 years I’ve lived in apartment buildings, where someone else is almost certainly always in the building. Plus: Ypsilanti (no offense). I mean, there is the occasional home-invasion robbery in my parents’ neighborhood, plus plenty of regular robberies.

But, remarkably, I was still alive the next morning and didn’t even experience any anxiety to speak of. I went in the house, ate, watched a little Rachel Maddow, slept, woke up, and that was all there was to it, except for one discovery. My mother sometimes comments to herself as she comes upon something interesting in the news. Possibly the only time you’re talking to someone who really understands you is when you’re talking to yourself; I’ve fallen into the same habit.

There is a certain sound I’d for years thought was Mom remarking upon something to herself, but when I was alone in the house, I still heard it. Which means that Mom doesn’t talk to herself as much as I’d thought, and either that the house naturally makes a sound like my mother saying something in the next room or that the sound of my mother’s voice, barely discerned, is the same as the sound of the inside of my head.

My mother was a real trouper throughout and remained in pretty good spirits, except for one whole lousy day of feeling nauseous. She was able to rise to her feet, at least briefly, late on the day of the surgery. Her surgeon said it was the worst such joint he’d seen in 40 years of practicing medicine, which he evidently began doing when he was about eight, because he appeared to be in his 50s and bursting with robust good health.

The most exciting thing that happened was one evening as I was returning from the public restroom. As I neared my mother’s room, I could hear my name: “daughter,” as in “Where’s my daughter?” and “Where’s her daughter?” I walked in to find my mother drenched in blood, but not perturbed. She had fallen asleep and her IV, which often became wedged between the side of the bed and the railing, had gotten pulled out. There was blood all over her gown, on her arm and hand, and on the blanket and sheets, but no actual harm done.

(Except that they thought the IV might have come out due to an unauthorized attempt to get out of bed, which was entirely my fault—it’s a long story—and so they decided to install a bed alarm. I asked, “Is it going to go off every time she moves?” and they said it wouldn’t, but it pretty much did. However, they disconnected the alarm the next morning.)

Once my mother was back home, she was soon getting around remarkably well and the standard dose of pain medication at the standard intervals seemed to be doing the trick.

The weather was mostly cold and forbidding that week, extremely overcast, but the fall colors were lovely and the dramatic cloudy evenings were beautiful.

On Friday, my sister came over, and I also had a nice lunch with Amy at Seva. She just got married and she and her husband have bought a ten-acre place out in the country. And on Saturday Ginny and I had a pleasant brunch at Café Zola.

Saturday, November 02, 2013


I was walking along Mission St. the other day and saw a woman wearing a t-shirt with a big M on it, which at first I thought was the University of Michigan’s M, but it was an M for the Mission district, and for the first time in 30 years of living in this neighborhood, I realized how similar the sounds are, the name of the place where I spent my first 20 years and the place I’ve been ever since, except for that first obligatory year in the Haight Ashbury: They both start with “mish” and end with “un,” but one of them has an “ig” stuck in the middle of it.

When I left for work Thursday morning, Hammett made a break for the hallway, but was hustled unceremoniously back inside. When I got home later, I could tell from his expression that he remembered something untoward had occurred earlier, but also that he couldn’t remember what it was.

That evening, Lesley and I had dinner at Santaneca. It was Halloween, when I usually hide in my apartment from all the drunken revelers outside, so I was surprised to see who was actually thronging the streets about 6 p.m. on Halloween: many, many tiny princesses.

I sent Frank a birthday card and he emailed back, “Funny, I didn’t even realize it was my birthday up until the day before, when my mother said, ‘You have a big day tomorrow.’ I thought she was referring to my beloved Liverpool football team, and was enthusiastic that after 37 years she was finally taking an interest. Alas.”

On Friday, Tom’s girlfriend came to town—at last! It’s been several months. Over dinner at Esperpento, D. teased Tom: “Were you worried?” I interrupted to say, “I was worried! I can understand if you’re tired of Tom, but I was starting to think you were leaving me.” I told D. that I had conducted an investigation, asking Tom, “The last time you saw D., did everything seem fine? You always offer to pay for her overnight parking, right? You don’t?! If D. ever comes to visit again, offer to pay for her parking!”

But it was truly just a case of mismatched schedules and expensive kids, and it was delightful to be with good-natured D. again, and dinner was fantastic. That place is so wonderful, and so surprisingly inexpensive. Tom had grilled trout, I had grilled salmon, and D. had garlic shrimp, and we all had rice and potatoes, the latter with yummy brava sauce.

Friday, November 01, 2013

Don’t Tell Me That It’s Over

You probably know all about this already, but: HD radio! I recently used a City CarShare car to run an errand—I could probably lash four new pillows to my bicycle with an assortment of bungee cords, but in this era of life find myself disinclined to—and, as usual, had the radio in scan mode in order to hear everything at once. Then my ear fell on something so pleasing that I stopped scanning to hear the rest of this song that was both surpassingly excellent and yet constructed of such simple lyrics that it has proved impossible to find by Duck Ducking the words (what one does now instead of Googling; between our government and Google, it’s getting to be a tossup as to who is more intrusive and rapacious when it comes to personal information; once they officially join forces, it’s all over; and furthermore, the first time I see some freak in Google Glass anywhere other than on the sidewalk, or even on the sidewalk, I’m going to—well, I haven’t decided quite what yet, but something). Yes, I am aware that this blog where I share all this personal information, and which is tied inextricably to my IP address, is owned by Google.

Anyway, where was I? Right, so I heard this really fantastic song, and then a song by Queens of the Stone Age, who I’ve never heard on the radio before, and there were no commercials, but periodically a fellow would share that he’d been invited to create an awesome rock station, and then, within the same 20-minute period, a second song came on that was so good I pulled over to write down the lyrics, which were also not findable by Duck Duck Go, and yet the whole time the dial showed a station I will call (not wishing to end up involved in a time-consuming lawsuit) 666.6 The Femur, which I well know to be a classic rock station and thus loathsome to me.

There was a time when I loved Led Zeppelin. I bought every studio album they produced, and I still have all of them, not to mention a turntable to play them on and a spare turntable in case something happens to that one. (Though neither turntable works right now. It’s on my list.) Even into the 1990s I loved Led Zeppelin, and then one day, while listening to KSJO, I hit the Lifetime Led Zeppelin Limit. I don’t know how many songs it took, but once the LLZL arrived, that was that. Someday, when one of my turntables works, I might get out those albums and listen with pleasure to an obscure track or two, but the four songs that they play over and over and over on classic rock radio stations—my god! How can anyone stand it?

So I could not figure this out. It was The Femur, but definitely not The Femur. I noticed something at the right end of the dial that said 2/2. Then I turned a corner—I mean, I literally turned a corner, using the steering wheel of the CarShare car—and voila! Led Zeppelin, and I noticed the thing said 1/2 instead of 2/2.

What was this mysterious and magical 2/2 station? I came home in a state of dazed euphoria: two splendid new songs and a thrilling cornucopia of superb music pouring right out of the radio, but only when it said 2/2. The joyous sentiment ebbed slightly once it became clear I was not going to figure out what those songs were, but an absorbing research project was soon underway. The first step was to email The Femur to ask what that station is that has the same frequency as theirs but actually plays good music. Haven’t heard back.

Well, it turns out it was HD radio! A station operating via the traditional radio frequency can have up to three of these digital stations; the frequency is the same for all. The original station is considered to be HD1, and the first digital station is HD2, and so forth. All this additional capacity allows the freedom to experiment with expanded formats, additional artists, commercial-free programming, etc. You need an HD radio to hear them; some cars, such as the Toyota Yaris I was in, now have HD radios. Some HD stations are available via online streaming and some are not. The Femur’s is not, at least not yet. 

I decided to get an HD radio and, even if the sound quality wasn’t great (I was thinking of getting the one that costs $50 and not the one that costs—really—$7000), I’d be able to tell from the digital display the name of the song and the artist and then I could get the mp3 and hear it on my Logitech Squeezebox Boom. But then I remembered my vow not to acquire any further electronic devices I don’t strictly need. I already have, in a studio apartment, eight devices that can be used to listen to stuff, seven of which have no other purpose.

Also, once you have an HD radio, apparently if it can tune in the HD station, it plays that, but if it can’t, it plays the regular station. This was faintly worrisome, since I did hear both stations in the course of my short trip. Maybe one would come in near the fridge, but the other near the sink. I pictured myself walking about my kitchen: “Yeah, yeah, yeah! Wow! Ugh, Zeppelin! Yeah, yeah, yeah! Wow! Ugh, Zeppelin!”