Thursday, October 29, 2009

the end of an era

It's sad to think that my good friend is leaving.  Selfish, of course, but there it is.  So much so that I almost understand the allure of a small town, the continuity,  the familiarity: here are your friends.  This is your home.  Whereas we, who had no common home, made one here for a while, but no longer.   Home of course being not just a place but the people in it.  A city is big and doesn't notice that it's changed but it has, all the same.  No home lasts forever, I suppose, and how wonderful that I got to have this one.  Still.  Sometimes.  To slow things down.  The kind of overlap that exists and is allowed in life is not always satisfactory. 

I wish him such good luck.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

the female quixote

"It was with a bleak and puzzled look that she stared at a sunlit and glittering bush which stood at her feet; for she did not see it, she was seeing herself, and in the only way she was equipped to do this - through literature."
                  - Doris Lessing, Martha Quest

  Oh, Doris Lessing, how I love you.  Tell me more about myself.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

bread (not alone)

We got so much free bread that we had to give some of it away.  There was also a cheddar jalapeño sourdough loaf.  That got et up fast.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


I made a pin!  And then I scanned it badly!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Amtrak in four conversations

8:15am Sunday morning, San Francisco 

Because they rearranged the bus stop, I almost missed my shuttle to Emeryville, which would have caused me to miss my train to Sacramento.  "Didn't you see the signs?" the Amtrak employee asked me as he gave me directions to the new, temporary bus stop, "They're everywhere."  I had not.  I looked around.  I did not see the signs which were everywhere.  I expressed my fear that I would miss the train to Sacramento.  "Don't worry," he told me "there's another train right after it going to Sacramento, back to back."  But I've read well and I said "You mean the one that gets in over half an hour later?" (this is a quintessential Amtrak paradox: two trains leave the same stop at almost exactly the same time, they arrive at the same destination but one arrives a half an hour later and both cost $26) 
"Yeah," he responded, "you don't want that one?"
"No," I affirmed, "I do not."
I walked to the temporary bus stop.  I continued to not see the signs.

At the coffee shop in the Emeryville Station, a sign:
Now Available
Different Flavors

8:50am Sunday, Emeryville

A small boy, I'd guess about five years old, sat down across from me, stared, smiled, and launched.  "Hello," he said.  "Hello," I answered. 
"Some of the kids in my class, they're bad."
"Yeah.  They don't listen to the teacher."
"Why not?"
"I don't know."
"Do you listen to the teacher?"
"Good for you."
"I get a sticker everyday."
"You must have a lot of stickers."
This child spoke quickly and with energy but he was focused.  He was watching me.  He asked permission, then took my picture with his cell phone.  My train arrived first.  "I've got to go," I said.
"Goodbye!  My name's Javier."
"Goodbye Javier.  My name's Margaret."
"Goodbye Margaret!"

7:40am, Monday

The conductor makes the usual announcements about seating, the location of the snack car, etc., then: "Ladies and gentlemen," she said "if you look out your window in the direction we're moving, there's a huge, beautiful rainbow."  There was.  It lasted all the way to Richmond, which is almost an hour and a half of rainbow.  Forward in hope.

9:30am, Monday
I was the first person to get on the shuttle from Emeryville to San Francisco and so I moved partway back.  No one else got on.  "Looks like you're my only passenger," said the driver.  "You're a princess today!"
"In that case, I'm going to move up and keep you company."
We nattered all the way to San Francico.  He told me about when he met Michelle Obama at a fundraiser, and we both admired her for awhile and agreed that the White House mattresses must be getting a better workout since god only knows when.  We talked about education and communication and tourists and being a stranger in a strange land.  The driver's name, I found out eventually, was Rufus.  He used to operate a cable car.  "You must have met all kinds of people doing that," I said.  "Yes," he remarked, "but of all the people I've met, you're the most interesting."

I bet he says that to everybody.  Still.  I'll take what I can get.

the white sickness

"...she had the same smile even as a toddler...when her future was a closed book and the curiosity of opening it had not yet been born."
"...for the first time she asked herself if she had some good reason for wanting to go on living.  She could find no reply, replies do not always come when needed, and it often happens that the only possible reply is to wait for them."
                 - José Saramago, Blindness

O, Tannenbaum

When I was in the third grade I went on a field trip to North Star Tree Farm, a Christmas tree farm in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains.  Every year since then my family has there to get our Christmas tree.  It's a charmingly low-key place.  In October they invite their regular customers to come early and 'reserve' a tree.  This, quite simply, is fun.  You tramp around the forest until you find a tree you like and then you get one of the employees to put a special tag on it.  The best part, however, is in December, when you have to come back and scratch your head over where the heck you found that perfect tree (luckily, the employees write it down for you, so if you really can't do it on your own, they can locate it quickly).

Some highlights from tramping around:

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Friday in the park with Kim Epifano

Going for my usual jog around Dolores Park Friday morning, I saw a small crowd of people gathered on the park side of the bridge over the train tracks, near the statue.  I stopped to see what they were seeing and that was how I stumbled onto part of the Trolley Dances performance.  Amazingly, even though this is something I saw in a public place, it is not yet on youtube, although you can watch this clip to get an idea:

What you absolutely cannot get from this clip is how lovely it was to just encounter this for the space of about three or four minutes, with a group of strangers and school children, silent, at the top of a hill, the city spread out behind us.

Monday, October 12, 2009

further updates from the kitchen

On Saturday, I came home to find people making pasta.  

No complaints here.

specifically, they were making ravioli

stuffed with squash and goat cheese

they were boiled

then gleefully consumed.


"In the early eighteenth century, when nearly all German princes were growing oranges in their palaces, Johannes Volckamer, of Nuremberg, in his Neurenbergische Hersperiden, described how women could cause whole trees to die.  'Many will deride this as something foolish,' says Volckamer, 'and I myself should not have believed it had it not caused the undoing of some of my most valuable trees.  Once, in winter, I noticed a woman of my gardener's household seated upon a beautiful orange tree in full bloom.  The next day, the tree started drying up from the top downwards, and so rapid was the progress of the disease that in the course of a few days it had infected every single branch, causing all the leaves to wilt and die.'
Later writers have guessed that Volckamer was ignorant of the effects of frost. My own belief is that science erases what was previously true. The earth was the center of the universe until Copernicus rearranged it. Life did begin in Eden before Darwin restyled it. In the early eighteenth century in Nuremberg, a woman did sit in the branches of an orange tree and kill it to the ground."
                  - John McPhee, Oranges

Saturday, October 10, 2009

give thanks

I have a housemate who works at a farmer's market.  She brings us home extraordinary things.  

this large box was full of produce

squash varietals

tomato season is drawing to a close.  I don't know how I'll cope.

not ripe yet.  (sigh)

Everyone should be so lucky.

worthy of rage

who are these idiots, these dribbling, drooling morons who write their rather inane and decidedly uninteresting thought-vomit in library books?  at what point did they fail to understand the concept of library book?

I did the world (or at least the lending population of the sfpl area) the favor of erasing these remarks.  After I scanned them, of course, so that I could preserve their idiocy for the general public.  Whoever wrote this should consider themselves damn lucky I don't have access to their library record.  I'd track them down and give them a piece or two of my mind.

Friday, October 9, 2009

count the time in quarter tones

lovely sunshine, free time, and a surplus of thoughts led me to traipse over to Bernal Heights.  I took some pictures of my neighborhood along the way:

in my neighborhood, we have lots of tiny gardens

and taco trucks with folding tables

the pushcart ice-cream vendors are a constant presence.  I hear 
their tinkling bells approach and fade away all day.

I like this vehicle combination

detail on a DIY art motorcycle

I, too, am excited

the Golden Gate looks like it's trying to sneak up on the city.

the couch at the edge of the world

someone went to some lengths

San Francisco: now in technicolor

At the top of the hill, I could hear the wind making a soft fast whisper over the ridges on my corduroy jacket. This is what the word susurrations is for.  The hill is very steep, and I lolloped down, passed by fearless dogs bounding over what looked like (but thankfully, proved not to be) sheer cliffs.  Conveniently, Humphrey Slocombe was on my way home.  I love my neighborhood.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

check it out

My good friend Vaughn just got published in the Atlantic's online magazine, which is completely and totally awesome.  I whooped and holler'd.  You can read his article on a complex Japanese culinary tradition here.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

negotiating with the living

If I hadn't been so sick, I might have thought of a question to ask Margaret Atwood when I saw her Tuesday evening at the Herbst (she was appearing as part of the City Arts & Lectures series).  As it was, I put on a nice dress and drug myself to the theatre.  She is sixty-nine years old.  Who knows when I'll get a chance to see her again.

Besides, she sang.

Apparently she wrote some hymns for her new book, The Year of the Flood.  Pre-publication, the book was lying around the home of her L.A. agent, whose partner, Orville Stoeber, a professional musician and composer, picked it up and started writing music for the lyrics.  Now it's been performed all over the England and Canada, and the U.S. is next.  Atwood claimed that this was the only tour stop she was going to sing at.

Some highlights from the evening which I hastily scribbled down:
 "Teachers sometimes pose the unfortunate question 'What was poet trying to say?' as if he had some kind of terrible speech impediment...he really wanted to say 'I love you so much' or 'War is terrible' or 'Death is scary and I don't want to do it' but instead he stuffed it into 14 lines of ABAB..."
after a long discussion of why she thinks it's important for characters to have different, distinct voices, referencing Faulkner and Blake
"I also like to have characters with different colors of hair."
In response to the question, "Was your most recent book written for a specific audience, and if so, who?"
"...Readers are readers.  They have a republic of their own.  So I write for readers.  I think they're very good people to write for."

She was wryly hilarious throughout.  As I walked into the lobby, she was ushered right past me.  She is very short.  I didn't join the long line of people waiting to get their books autographed; I remembered an article I read years ago in the New Yorker in which she complained about how tiring it was to autograph books.  Supposedly she invented a gadget which would enable her to autograph books long distance.  It was not in evidence.

in the choir, listening to the sermon

A few weeks ago, I got a free ticket (thanks to this lady) to go see "What's the Economy For, Anyway?" at the Commonwealth Club.  Annie Leonard stole the show.  She's got a fantastic voice and is a damn compelling speaker.  Fox news was no doubt delighted to quote someone who called her her Karl Marx with a ponytail.  I actually think she's much more likable in person than in her very popular video, which I can't help but finding more than a tad condescending and, well, kind of sensationalist.  So it goes, I guess.  The evening I saw her, she initiated a bizarre revival of the obsolete meaning of "disease" (synonymous with "unease").  It seemed unconscious and so it was interesting to watch her co-panelists Colin Beavan, aka No Impact Man, and David Batker echo it.  I came prepared to dislike Beavan, largely on the basis of this review of a documentary about him.  He got in one good line, though: "People like to deny that there's a problem if they can find no solution that they can take part in."   Ultimately, it was a really interesting evening where everyone in the audience nodded wisely and we all agreed with each other.  Excellent reception afterwards.  File under: things I love/hate about San Francisco.

facebook and the 24-hour public confessional

Of course, the idea of a confessional was that sins were shameful and had be spoken of in whispers, absolved in private. Now, of course, we want everyone to know how wild, depraved, in love, in despair we are. The confessional has imploded and we all scream, not for forgiveness, but for envy, admiration, attention. I am so hip, insane, fickle, shallow, lookatme! we cry into our megaphones, tattoo on our bodies, on buildings. Re-reading Milan Kundera's Immortality:
"Individualism? What does it have to do with individualism...On the contrary, it means that the individual no longer belongs to himself but becomes the property of others. You know, I remember my childhood: in those days if you wanted to take somebody's picture you asked for permission. Even when I was a child, adults would ask me: little girl, may I take your picture? And then one day they stopped asking. The right of the camera was elevated above all other rights, and that changed everything, absolutely everything."
Of course, that was written in 1990.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

stuff I've been eating

Here are some culinary projects and experiences, working from least to most recent.

I did this:

while making this:

Which, in case you are wondering, is a leek & Gruyère potato gratin (my mother's recipe) that I took to Arlene's Hotluck. Worth it.

Meanwhile, here's a snapshot from a week or two ago in the kitchen:

Sadly, this does not even begin to do justice to the marvel and bounty of that Sunday morning. This was the scrambled egg preparation table. Meanwhile, I roasted summer squash zucchini in the oven to make bruschetta, and Alyssa and Coleen pitted and skinned peaches for a pie.

In the final frame, starting at 12 o'clock: beets with brown sugar and ginger by John, mashed winter squash and sweet potatoes by Annabel, couscous with beet juice by John, bok choy stir fry by Kristin. Not pictured: nectarine and white peach cobbler by Tim. Possibly the most colorful meal I have ever eaten. Also: delicious. What did I make? Nothing. I'm sickly. I sat in the corner, drank lots of black tea with red current, and took pictures.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Amerikanisch Oktoberfest

is in October, because that is comprehensible to USAmericans. A festival called "Oktoberfest" which takes place from mid- to late-September only prompts head scratching and skepticism. And so it is that Shroeder's, an otherwise rather legitimate-seeming German restaurant and bar in the Financial District, hosted one of its several Weis'n celebrations this past Friday. Allow me to be entirely clear:
this party : Munich's Oktoberfest
my 8th birthday party : Tiberius on Capri

(okay, it's not me, but you get the idea)


For the record, I had a lot of fun when I turned 8. I had a piñata and ate a lot of cake and got nice presents. Even so.

I really enjoyed this Oktoberfest, though. I got to drink some good German beer and my very cool housemate John was seconds away from winning a drinking contest. I took my dirndl out for the first time, and it worked exactly like a dirndl should: quick service at the bar and plenty of attention all round. I even got whirled around the floor by a member of the Golden Gate Bavarian Club who knew what he was doing. I didn't, but this is one of those rare instances where it's so blessedly easy to be female: smile, stay on your toes, and just keep moving.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

last Wednesday: a variety show

6:15am - Alarm goes off. Climb down from my bed, hit snooze, climb back up.
6:30am - Alarm goes off. Get up.
6:30-7:45 - stretching, yawning, shower, humming, coffee, opening eyes, granola
7:45-7:55 - bike to Mission High School
8:00-9:50 - tutor freshmen on oral history narratives for their ethnic studies class
10:00-1:20 - work work work, put add on craigslist for extra theatre ticket, filter candidates, choose one contact, give ticket
1:20-1:35 - bike to Golden Gate Theatre
1:35-1:45 - eat ham & cheese croissant, aka lunch
2:00-5:00 - watch South Pacific with my a free ticket. As I'm leaving a man tells me "You know, I saw the original." "On Broadway?" I ask. "Yup, that was back in 1949." I was one of the few non-grey- or white-haired people in the audience. But then, who else goes to a Wednesday matinée of anything, especially Rodgers and Hammerstein?
5:00-6:00 - grocery shopping
6:00-6:20 - dinner
6:20-8:00 - baking cupcakes for cool-housemate-Kristin's birthday, singing, dancing, candles

While we're on the subject, the playbill for South Pacific, which has rather heavy echoes of Gaughin, doesn't include any facial details for the native women. Really? They aren't minimized enough in the musical by the pigeon English of one and the attractive, smiling silence of the other? Do designers not study these things? Or do they just not pay attention?
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