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Friday, July 31, 2009
Thursday, July 30, 2009
Meet Kate over at i live here: SF.
What, is someone at City Hall trying to get a show on the Food Network?
You weren't worried about the city budget anymore, were you? I guess that whole budget thing worked out just fine. What were we all so upset about? And they had enough money left in the budget to make that special Cake Cape.
ps.: I'm sorry to sound like such a spoil sport. I'm back on the low carb thing again and it's making me really bitter and hateful of city politics. I even lied about the cupcake recipe: I don't have one. I suspect that this bakeoff is dredging up (flour pun intended) my long-buried childhood pain from never having an E-Z Bake Oven when I was eight... oh, but I digress...
Thanks to Emamd for sharing this little bizarre petit four of SF politics with us right before bedtime. I wonder if anyone wants to accompany me Thursday to Room 256 to see this special event. I'm unemployed so it's not like I have anything pressing to do.
Goodnight, Fog City. May visions of coconut cupcakes and tall angel food cakes fill your dreams tonight, without any calories.
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
I know this is cheating but why waste a good meme? I've become pretty much an antisocial, anti-meme/tagging person but when Pomegranacat on Flickr tagged me, I thought it might be a fun exercise in amongst my Flickr circle since they probably don't read my blog anyway.
You guys already know all about me, don't you? But since I'm apparently not writing anything lately, if you're really hard up for some tangobaby nonsense, you can read stuff you already know about me on my Flickr page.
ps.: I have to go to a baseball game today.
Is baseball like mushrooms, where you really don't like them for years and then all of a sudden, you find them to be delicious? I am waiting for my baseball tastebuds to mature. But the Pirates are in town today, which means The Boy must go, which means I'm the sidekick. I go for the bratwurst but I'm so paranoid about getting hit in the head by a foul ball or a splintered bat. Is that just me?
Sunday, July 26, 2009
I never thought I'd laugh as often as I cried. But I did laugh. We all did.
We laughed a lot. We told stories. We still burst into tears at different times, depending on the person, but it wasn't all crying all the time.
When my mom and I went to the funeral home to iron out the details for the service, we couldn't help abhorring the depressing Muzak playing throughout the dim blandness. We resolved to bring our own tunes, music that Little Helen liked. We brought Harry James, Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw.
Before the service, Little Curly Girl wanted to dance. So I picked her up and put her on my hip, and we danced to Glenn Miller's "In the Mood."
LCG giggled as we danced and whispered in my ear: "Dip me." She likes to be dipped.
"Which way, front or back?" I asked. We dipped both ways.
Little Curly Girl went up to the coffin a few times, sometimes with her mom and once with me. She said to me, "I want to see her inside." I told her we can't do that but that Grammy's resting in there. LCG looks at me all serious and says, "I'm pretty sad that Grammy died." Nods her head. "I'm pretty sad," she repeats solemnly.
I said, "I understand. I'm pretty sad, too."
During the service, the rabbi had all of us go around the room and say who we were and perhaps share a story or memory about Little Helen. I really did not think I could do it. I was one of the last people to have their turn, and everyone kept saying, "Well, I met Helen through..." to start their story.
When it was my turn to speak, still not sure what I would say, it came to me... I said, "I met Helen through my mom." And got a room full of laughter. So then I could tell my story, too.
I didn't realize how long it's been since I really could remember my grandma in her good and sweet humor, her chubbiness, her funny way and how I used to tease her. When someone's sick for a long time, you can only focus on what is immediately in front of you and it's hard to keep it happy. I was so glad to recover the lady that I loved so well, through our shared stories, through our shared laughter last week.
A friend said to me, funerals are for the living. I didn't really understand what he meant until now, but it's true. That togetherness is what makes the loss and sadness bearable. It doesn't make it go away but it makes you realize that you will go on, and that others care.
One of my favorite songs is Kitty Kallen singing "It's Been a Long, Long Time." It just about killed me when I heard it played at the service, but when I got home today, I realized I wanted to play it here in this post. I found some old photos of Little Helen, ones that I had forgotten I had, photos of when she was young and voluptuous and lovely and newly married, and perhaps she danced to or sang this song.
Of course I cried my eyes out just putting these photos to music, but it also felt so right and sweet that I'm glad I did. And it is such a perfect song.
Monday, July 20, 2009
What can you say? I'm always terrible with these sorts of things so I sure as hell don't know what to say either. I know you're all sending good thoughts my way and I thank you for that, even if I'm not in a place physically or mentally to reply to you right now.
So, for me... go out and hug someone you love and celebrate something, anything-- and yeah, live. I'll catch you later.
"The act of compassion begins with full attention, just as rapport does. You have to really see the person. If you see the person, then naturally, empathy arises. If you tune into the other person, you feel with them. If empathy arises, and if that person is in dire need, then empathic concern can come. You want to help them, and then that begins a compassionate act. So I'd say that compassion begins with attention." ~ Daniel Goleman
"Compassion is the radicalism of our time." ~ HH the Dalai Lama
In that easy way, I can now say that I met a little angel. Her name is Colleen.
Since then, I've been inspired, awed, overwhelmed and impressed by Colleen's incredible grasp of our byzantine and broken system that fails so many of our underprivileged citizens. She is constantly providing important information about the machinations at the state and city level, attending meetings in the state capitol and City Hall often. She's been a support and wonderful help with K and the kids, as well as my friends Lisa and Rachel's growing organization to help homeless and poor mothers called Help a Mother Out.
Colleen exudes a sense of quiet determination and compassion. I was thrilled when she agreed to be part of i live here:SF, mostly because I wanted to share a part of her with all of you. As we walked through the Tenderloin, scouting her favorite spots, she was regularly greeted by the locals, some for a quick wave or hello and some for a hug or a handshake. Colleen's photo shoot turned out to be as beautiful as she is and I think you'll see what I mean. I feel honored and oh so grateful that she added her story to my collection.
Saturday, July 18, 2009
Or a handful of sidewalk chalk.
You get the idea.
I had a great time today combing the urban landscape with Plug 1 and Plug 2. They'll be making a guest appearance soon on i live here: SF, so keep an eye out.
And watch out for the land sharks. This one's busy eating a VW van, but I have a feeling that SF is full of these menaces.
Friday, July 17, 2009
Three months ago today, a young mother struggling to fight back the tears as people walked past her on their way home (home, to their homes) as she held up a sign written in colored marker and decorated with some glittery stickers that her beautiful seven-year old little girl gave her, a sign pleading for enough money to pay for that night's shelter: she and her young family stood cold and crying on a cold afternoon sidewalk in the canyon of tall banks and glass windowed buildings on a cold and windy street in San Francisco.
Three months ago today, my life intersected with these lives and this little family became my conscience and my sadness, my hope and my passion.
It seems like forever ago but it was only three months ago.
How lives can change in such a short time.
For those of you who listened to Adam's podcast and shared your comments and thoughts, thank you.
For those of you who took the time to repost or retweet the original story and the updates, sometimes as many times as I did, thank you.
For those of you who wrote K a note or a letter, even though you had never met her and never will, and gave her hope and let her know you cared about her and her family, thank you. She received each and every one of your letters.
For those of you who found you could donate some money, thank you. For those of you who donated a little refrigerator, clothes and diapers, food and toiletries, adorable stuffed animals, and a beautiful writing journal, thank you.
For those of you who didn't give up on this little family, thank you.
That might be the greatest gift of all.
"Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come." ~ Anne Lamott
UPDATE: It's funny to have an update to a post that hasn't been published yet, but I got this information after I had written the text above, but before I was ready to hit Publish Post.
It's too perfect, too wonderful and oh so real.
K called me. Her apartment is almost ready.
She and the kids will be moving into their new home on August 4.
On August 4, they will no longer be homeless.
Her son will have his own room, and hopefully he will get a football comforter for his new bed.
Her daughter will have her own room to decorate with all of the Hannah Montana and High School Musical posters that four new walls can handle.
The baby will have a crib, finally. He has never slept in one.
K will have her own room, her own bed.
Her own life.
If you're shedding a tear while you're reading this, you're in good company and I think that this is the best kind of crying.
I will be seeing K today and we are going to start putting together a wish list for the new house. I will keep you posted on that because I know some of you might like to help with donations of house-things.
This update seems to be the best sort of way to end a post that already had an ending, but wouldn't you know it, life just goes and surprises you like that sometimes.
Thursday, July 16, 2009
Who'da thunk it? 871 posts later, thanks for being here.
ps.: As you know, I don't have an actual toddler so I borrowed my sister's. Plus, we haven't had a good LCG pic up here in a while.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
She has one of those canes that has the little rubber four-footed stand at the bottom. Of course I thought of Little Helen as that whole story is ongoing and sad but mostly I saw myself in this woman and how she seemed like she couldn't move from the spot she was in.
I've been in constant motion for the past two days, enjoyably so, with Relyn and Robin. Yesterday we did our North Beach trek via the incredibly steep yet lush and beautiful Filbert Steps, the 30 Stockton through Chinatown with a dash of sugar provided from XOX Truffles (the Earl Grey truffle is still my favorite) and a canolli at Stella's (I can't eat a cannoli without thinking about that scene in The Godfather: "Leave the gun. Take the cannoli.") and then to SF MoMA to see the Richard Avedon exhibit and the Robert Frank. Both couldn't be more different kinds of artists and seeing these two influential and important ways of seeing juxtaposed was quite striking.
Even though I've been in motion, walking the city and enjoying the company of these two fine ladies, there's a part of me that seems even more stagnant and refusing to budge. I still don't have a job. My grandma is still dying and my mom is still stressed to the max. K and the kids are still homeless and low on money. I can't seem to change these things. There's a cloud of poverty around me and my thoughts and I hate it. It's distracting.
Yesterday, Robin asked me what my goals were and I really couldn't think of anything less mundane that to not feel poor so I said that I don't think I had any goals. But actually, now I do. Earlier in the day, Robin let me play with her camera while we rested in the shade near Coit Tower. I don't even remember what kind of camera it is but I would describe it as a Real Camera. With Real Lenses. I had this huge feeling of AHA! And WOW! So this is what everyone keeps talking about. Realistically, I would need about $3-4K to get started.
I took these photos with my little PowerShot which now does feel small and puny. I still can see that these are good images but not great ones. Every picture I take makes me wonder now how it would be if I had a better camera. A Real Camera.
I feel like one of those misunderstood princesses who is waiting for the magic to start happening. The magic waiting in the wings that will change everything and for some reason that magic seems like it would be a new camera.
But I don't have time to wait around for a fairy godmother or a dashing prince so I'd better get some goals developed asap and get this camera myself. Somehow, I will. And now I have a goal and perhaps I'm teetering on the threshold of a bright new day. And I do think I have Robin and Relyn to thank for that.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
I went almost immediately from days of darkness inside the Castro Theatre to full-on sunshine and hot temperatures (especially for San Francisco).
Robin and Relyn are still visiting our fair city and this is Day Two of our SF: Tangobaby style marathon. Yesterday we spent half the day in the Mission and the other half in Chinatown, by way of The Castro, the Palace Hotel and the Lower Haight. (And yes, that is a lot.)
Today is Telegraph Hill (hoping for wild parrots), the Filbert Stairs and North Beach in general, SF MOMA to see Robert Frank and Richard Avedon, and who knows what else while we still have feet.
I'm just beside myself to see what photos Robin will get with her big camera. She has been so generous in trying to figure out how to help me use my little baby one. I'm inspired to save money and get a real SLR and lenses like hers (but first, a job must come). I have this feeling of anticipation in having a photographer friend I so admire take photos of the places I've come to love so much, and then see them through her eyes. I know her work is going to be incredible and cannot wait to see it.
Relyn has a perfect little camera but I have a feeling she'll be getting a bigger one soon! We've got to have some sort of camera fever that is contagious.
Both of them are more wonderful to hang out with than you might even imagine. Robin is fearless and strong with her camera. I really admire her passion and pursuit of the image and how generous she is to share her enthusiasm and her wealth of knowledge. Relyn is bubbling over with humor and laughter and pure enjoyment where ever she is. She wants to do and see everything, and appreciates all she sees. I am enjoying them both tremendously.
I had more fun watching them take photos of the places I love, but here are a few images I took yesterday that I like.
playing the hand you're dealt in Chinatown
waiting for mama to finish the laundry in the Mission
the last picture show, in the Mission
their tiny master, Chinatown
Okay, time to prepare for another day.
Saturday, July 11, 2009
Every year I tell myself I'm going to buy a special, "real" vintage outfit to wear, but I still keep being able to cobble together outfits from my existing clothing that look enough of the part so that I can wear something somewhat in the 1920s fashion. The only thing I'm wearing here that's vintage is the fur stole that was my grandmother's, but even that was probably circa 1940. The hat is from Buenos Aires (the main compliment getter today. I am still convinced that people will go out of their way to be nice to you if you are wearing a cute hat.). The shoes are Clarks (even though a fellow waiting in line with me told me they looked more 1930s) and the coat was a bargain at H&M on clearance for $30.
The best thing about this outfit was that I dreamed it up in my sleep. How's that for multitasking? The only other really useful thing I've done in my dreams that I can recall was to invent that Crack Potato recipe.
I also had a sexy dream about Buster Keaton but I'm going to chalk that up to pre-festival excitement.
Next week, I'll be spending quality time with Relyn and Robin, who have trekked down to SF to visit me and dutchbaby. I didn't mention it earlier due to... stuff... but we should have some adventures and lots of photos to share soon.
But now I'm off to dream of tomorrow's festival outfit. Hope your weekend is full of whimsy.
Thursday, July 9, 2009
Thank you for cutting this family's welfare check from $683 to $580 a month for a family of four.
They don't really need that extra $103 anyway.
Not even this little guy.
I just wanted to thank you, dear readers, for your continued support of K and the kids. K has been sick with a summer flu (just after the baby had it) and while she was sick, I told her how you all continue to step up and help to keep them afloat until August.
I could just hear the relief in her voice.
Today she gave me a letter to transcribe to give to you all, which is at the bottom of this email.
But first, a little treat.
I had a bit of extra money in my wallet so I thought it would be fun to have dinner at Chevy's.
Lots of baskets of chips later, and lots of laughs and fun, we ate ourselves silly. I, for one, will not be eating anything tomorrow. The kids interrupt each other constantly to tell me something new and exciting: "Auntie Julie, guess what happened..." "Auntie Julie, we saw spider monkeys at the zoo yesterday..." "Auntie Julie, I can do my times tables up to 12s..." "Auntie Julie, Auntie Julie!"
And now here is K's note to all of you...
"To my Guardian Angels–
Hello everyone, My name is Kelaya.
You all just don't know how much of an impact you have had on my family. The kids are so greatful [sic]. Words can't even express my gratitude.
You all helped save my life. Each and every one of you, I am in tears right now as I write this thank you note. I also wanna thank God for such wonderful and careing people. You all did not know me or my children but still you helped us. I think of you all as my family.
Thank you all for believeing in me. All the emails that you sent to me made me feel a lot better about my situation and [kept me] strong. I would read them over and over just about every day once the kids were at school and the baby was asleep. My life was so hard before I new [sic] you all.
Thanks for easing the pain. We Love you guys so much. Big Hugs and Kisses from K and kids.
ps.: Can I read some more inspiring emails from you all? Please you guys are awesome!!!"
And with that, I hope you feel proud of yourselves. Those of you who helped in all the ways you could. Of course, we'd still appreciate any donations you can make, friends you can share this with, or emails you can write.
Mostly, I want you to know that these people are real. They have hope and laughter and life because you care. And so I add my thanks to theirs and my hugs and kisses, too.
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
I had to laugh at one of the first emails I got after people could see that I had finally left my judgemental ivory tower and registered with Twitter. It was from my darling little Chipmonkey, asking if I was feeling okay because she had gotten an email that meant I was either ill or else someone was sending out a hoax email purportedly from me.
I had to tell her that I really did sign up for Twitter, all by myself, after all of my endless high horseness and anti-social networking attitude. After all, aren't blogs enough?
But here is the real reason I signed up: for K and the kids. When the story first started picking up lots of views and attention way back in April (gosh, that seems so long ago!), people were so kind to twitter this for me and truly great things happened. Because I didn't want to Twitter myself, and couldn't see why I needed to do it if other people were doing it for me, I just let things run themselves and it worked out just fine. I figured it was enough to have other people do it for me, and it was.
You guys kept this family safe, off the streets, with a place to sleep and food to eat and clothes and medicine. YOU did it.
All we need to do is get to August 1, when her situation will most likely improve financially (fingers crossed). However, until that time:
We have enough cash to last another week or so, but we will need about $700 more to keep us going until August, unless they get into their new apartment by then. I know you all have done so much already, so it's hard to ask one more time for help, but I'm asking.
If you can donate something, the PayPal button is still in the sidebar. You'll be helping us get that little extra push across the finish line. We've come so far.
Saturday, July 4, 2009
While strolling in the Botanical Garden today, a trio of friendly young ladies pointed out a dragonfly to me, a remarkable creature who was happy to pose for the camera.
It sat there so still that I wondered if it was dead. But then I startled it and it flew away... only to come right back and resume posing for its closeups.
I got the feeling that this dragonfly quite enjoyed having its picture taken, and kept hearing a tiny Norma Desmond voice in my head.
I know I'm still a little "under the weather" after my Kir Royalelapalooza last night, but it can't be just me... what the fuck is she talking about? Is this what speaking in tongues sounds like?
I am so pissed that Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert are on vacation.
Only they can explain this speech. And perhaps why she is gasping for breath.
Normally, I don't give too much thought to what I might read in a bathroom stall, but yesterday I think I found a whole new world of poosibilities to take pictures of. Ladies' toilet stall wizdom. ;-)
Obviously the person who wrote Edith Head gives great wardrobe in the ladies' bathroom at Tosca is someone I should be friends with.
Anyway, I'm sure you can tell this is not a 4th of July post. But since so many people are writing them, then I don't feel obliged to. Last night I went to Tosca to help bid Bon Voyage to a friend (and former colleague and sister layoff-ee) who is going to Scotland to live with her sweetie and start a new life in Glasgow.
We all had a grand time. But for some reason, I ended up holding court in my own little plush patent leather booth in the back, like Tallulah Bankhead, and people kept buying me Kir Royals (or else they kept magically appearing in front of me), but in either case, I kept drinking them. Must have been the blond hair, or the fake leopard fur coat, or both. People patted my hair and my coat.
Next time I'm going to start with Shirley Temples.
Be safe today and don't start any fires. I'm going to put a cold compress on my head.
Thursday, July 2, 2009
That patented smiley face has hardwired one of those knee-jerk ughs in me. But here I like it, and I do smile... perhaps because it's unexpected and the bike is a bit grotty.
Suddenly something trite and worn becomes a little less so.
I have steadily –at first unconsciously but now intentionally– been putting myself on the anti-trite movement: write-what-you-mean and use-your-thesaurus (or your brain) kick. I've found myself in a morass of sophomoric language (ie., drivel) that I have created all by myself. (Also, I think I am getting crotchety in my old age.)
I think I've let my pictures do most of the talking and it's turned into a bad habit. Which means that certain words will be used on extremely rare occasions (by me) on my blog anymore, unless they're the words I really mean to write and are not subbing for something else just because I'm too lazy to think about what I'm trying to describe.
These words include, but are not limited to, the following: sweet, lovely, awesome, amazing, little (that's going to be a tough one), darling, fantastic, wonderful (another doozy), really, love. Should be interesting.
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
Our house has something right now we've never had before: a completely empty freezer. (Well, except for a bag of frozen corn niblets and half a pint of Haagen Dazs Rocky Road ice cream, it's an icy wasteland.)
Last night I defrosted the one remaining piece of meat we had in there, a brisket of beef. I don't want to say for sure that I moved to SF with this frozen piece of meat, but I must have come pretty darn close. When I read the date on the cellophane (once it had defrosted), I was a little shocked at myself for "saving" this meatsicle (saving it for what, so I could learn to extract the DNA and clone my own cow?), and the date I had purchased it.
But I had already come so far, and then the meat kind of seemed like a science experiment as well as a potential dinner. I figured I should at least give it a shot.
Luckily for us, the mammoth tasted fine. (And we feel okay this morning.)
I've been cleaning out the bomb shelter. What I call the stockpiles of food we used to have regularly in the olden days, when I had a car and went to Costco on a regular basis. (Also, having a job really helps with those shopping exploits.)
I didn't realize how much old food we had and what got thrown out regularly until I moved to SF. Until then, my old routine of filling up the car with food and then eating a portion of it, storing some of it attractively on my shelves and throwing the rest away was an unconscious activity made effortless by a stable income and a sporty, fun car.
It really never dawned on me how wasteful I have been for many, many years (both with food and money) until I recently opened (and ate) a can of tuna that had expired two years ago. (That tasted fine, too.)
Living in the city has made me retool a lot of my thinking in a way that I'm happy to have brought to my attention.
What I realize now is that I can only consume what I can carry. Even with that, there are still plenty of good intentions (ie., fruits and veggies) that get tossed but not on the level of my former Costco/Safeway life. Our neighborhood has several small corner markets, where I can pop in and get just a few ingredients that I really need and more importantly, that I can carry in bags back to my house.
I have to be discerning. I have to question my motives and not tell myself, Oh get whatever you want! like I would have if I could load up my trunk with stuff just because it sounded yummy. I also have to be discerning because I can't afford to buy everything I want anymore either. Unemployment will do that to ya.
But mostly, I think I enjoy shopping more these days. I like the experience of being in my little corner grocery stores. I like knowing the people that run them and seeing the same faces. How the people help you pack your tote bags comfortably because they understand you have to walk home with these groceries. And if one store doesn't have what I need, I walk a block to the next one. Imagine that... I walk! Not something a little gal from the 'burbs was used to doing. (I remember being in Paris and going to the boulangerie on the corner, and the cheese shop in the next block and of course the patisserie as well. I loved the nearby street market on Blvd. Raspail and watching people shop for their daily needs from vendors they knew well. It's a very different experience than loading up at a Safeway and befriending the check-out girl.)
If I don't want to walk, I can take the N-Judah down several more blocks to the small Chinese markets on Irving, where instantly I am on a gourmet and cultural trip to Asia, as well privy to some of the cheapest produce in town.
I thought about this a lot on one of my recent visits to see my family, as I revisited my old stomping grounds and supermarkets I used to shop in. In the middle of the day, the suburban grocery stores were so vast and empty of shoppers, the air conditioning blasting through the sliding front doors as we entered, the shopping carts tremendous, and the aisles mostly filled with lots of processed foods I never knew existed. Our little markets don't have room for the plethora of prepackaged crap out there, so they need to be discerning too.
I'm not saying that my neighborhood corner markets have the answers to everything, but I do wonder how much the national problem with obesity and unconscious overconsumption and overspending has to do with these mega-markets, filled to capacity with so much food it makes your head spin, people blindly filling up those upsized shopping carts to the brim and then loading up the car, slamming the trunk down on all of it. Out of sight, out of mind. It's so easy to do... I should know.
ps.: I normally find it easy to use images from my own private stock photography studio, but I didn't have a personal photo of a woolly mammoth for this post. I snagged the image from this article in The Telegraph.
Funny thing, I couldn't find a good image from the mind-blowing (and not in a good way) Creation Museum's website, a very scary place in Kentucky, but at least some paleontologists found their trip there amusing.
(See, I had to circle back to the mammoth somehow.)