Thanks for visiting. This site will no longer be updated.

Please visit my new site.

You can find new writing, new photos at


Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Girl with the Black Helmet

It's true: my hair really does look like this today (the rest of me does not, however). It looked like this yesterday, and the day before, too!

Lovely, wonderful Kat at the Wak Shak is keeping my inner Flapper alive with my Louise Brooks-y bob.

Kat is simply the best hairstylist I've ever had, ever ever ever. And she introduced me to Rosamunde Sausage Grill so that almost makes her an angel.

Please go and see Kat, and tell her I sent you. She will do things with your hair that you never thought possible, and in the very best way. But the Saturday 10am appointments are MINE!

The Workhorse

These are my go-to tango shoes. Every time. I have them in green, too, but somehow it ends up that these silver sandals are the ones that carry me across the dance floor.

When I went to Buenos Aires last year, I really did not comprehend what an extravaganza of shoes awaited me. MJ, L. and I were gluttons. I don't know how to say it nicely. We went out tango shoe shopping every day for two weeks. We didn't want to miss anything.

Our teacher told us to stop buying shoes. But we didn't listen. And every night we would have a fashion show before going out to a milonga and the others in our group would clamor to see what "the girls" had bought this time.

(Well, maybe they didn't clamor, but they were interested.) We were very fashionable. It was fun!

So I barely got everything into my suitcase. I bought 12 pairs of tango shoes, a whole bunch of dulce de leche for Mr. L., and some hats from the flea market in San Telmo. I had to leave some clothes behind at the hotel just so I could cram all of those shoes in my bags.

A year later, I find that this silver pair is the winner. Some pairs I've worn maybe once. Some are completely abandoned. This silver pair wasn't the one I expected to fall in love with. But that's how love works, right? You never can tell.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Friday Night Tango

When you were in junior high and high school, did you go to the dances? Wondering if someone would ever ask you to dance...wondering if you were dressed right, if you were cute enough, if you hanging out with the right kids? School dances (to me) seemed an exercise in psychological torture.

Luckily the tango dance scene for me does not cause traumatic flashbacks of the dance scene at Castillero Junior High and Pioneer High School. Ah, San Jose public schools...

But I digress. And I do kind of have a point.

As much as I do not regress to teenage angst at these milongas, the subculture of the tango world can be equally mystifying to the novice and not-so-novice dancers. But now I think I have a sense of humor about it. A little.

This past Friday, I went to a milonga in Diamond Heights. It's one I've enjoyed before and wanted to go back to but somehow never got a chance in past months. It was a densely foggy night, even by San Francisco standards. The mist and coolness of the air only added to my happiness of being there. I got there early enough to take the class, which is something I normally don't do. I made some nice connections and had my second experience dancing with P., a young quiet woman who is working very hard on her lead. We laughed a lot and I'm sure I was messing her up. I'm not used to dancing with a woman, let alone a petite one who feels very fragile. I was afraid I might fall on her.

I was glad to see that some people had arrived for the dance that I haven't seen in a long time. I got to dance with Mr. Big (any of you who've watched a few episodes of Sex and the City will know what I mean) until the better dancers showed, and I was cast aside. But I expected that, and was happy for the dances I got early on. Nothing personal there. Several other guys I enjoy dancing with were there, especially one who has been absent on my tango dance card for a few months now. For reasons I don't know, but let's just say I'm glad he noticed me again.

But then there's the other one, who is seeming a little more and more, oh...I don't know how to say this correctly: bi-polar.

It used to be that I danced with this guy, lovely tandas, at every single milonga, for months. And then he wasn't around for a few weeks. And then I would see him again and he would act like he just met me, which was odd. And then the next time, he would act like he couldn't live without me. And back and forth. Now it's just silly. I don't even want him to bother coming near me. I even went as so far to pretend I was talking on my cell phone just to get away from him.

And I thought I was done with junior high school...

Today I found a post on Tango Love and Other Demons, a tango site that is now a favorite of mine, which carefully explains the various species of the Tanguero. I have to say, it's spot on.

PS. The lovely image above is taken from some vintage sheet music that dear MJ bought me while we were in BsAs last year. The picture hangs near my vanity where I can see it every day and has everything I love: Paris and Tango!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

A Transcendent Moment

I think all of us have a need to transcend the everyday. To find a place where you're just yourself, even for a brief moment where labels don't apply to you, and you lose yourself. Everyone has their method of how to do it or is looking for a new way to try. People meditate, play a musical instrument, paint, draw, drink, pray.

I dance.

I discovered this relatively late in life (meaning that I wish I'd figured this out 20 years ago, but hey, better late than never, right?). And not just dancing in general. I've tried ballet, line dancing, belly dancing--but none of them made a lasting impression on me.

And then, in 1997, I saw a movie that showed me something I never knew existed but inside me was absolutely captivated and knew it was very important: Argentine Tango. If you ask anyone that is into Argentine Tango about a movie called The Tango Lesson, they'll nod knowingly and smile a little. I saw that movie and then silently fixated on tango for about five years. Then a year and a half ago, I started taking lessons. In some unexplainable way, my life changed at that point.

It's the first time I've ever done something where I wasn't immediately successful at it, but still loved it so much it didn't matter. Lots of classes, private lessons, workshops, a trip to Buenos Aires last year, some good dancing friendships and a dozen pairs of shoes later, I am still dancing and wait every week to hear those same beloved strains of music. Even on a bad dancing day, I'm still happy to be a part of this other world.

Sometimes I have a single dance that transports me and the residual memory can make me smile inside for days. Many times I don't have that experience. But the magic for all dancers is they know that next transcendent moment is out there, somewhere.

This little video was taken on Sunday night at a local milonga (dance) in SOMA. It was hot and crowded in the dance studio, so I went outside to get some fresh air. Someone I enjoy dancing with was outside too, and spontaneously we decided to dance in the street. Unbeknownst to us, another dancer had a video camera and taped us. (Actually he has a better rendition of the story than I do so you can read it on his blog for the details.)

So is it the best example of tango ever? No. Is it something that I'll remember forever? Probably.

It preserved a moment of transcendence for me, and for that, I'm very, very grateful.

The Happiest People in the World...

...Have four legs and play at Duboce Park off of the N-Judah line.

If you are ever sad, tired or down on life, go over to the dog park at Duboce and Noe and watch every imaginable size, shape and breed of dog have the time of their little doggy lives in the park.

This is the best part of my commute, every day. I wait for this stop and hope lots of people get on and off so I have more time to watch the pups at play.

(I don't have a dog, but if you do, check out dogwalks.com. It's where I found this picture of "Spankster.")

Monday, July 23, 2007

The Red Shoes

Dorothy had a pair. The girl in the Hans Christian Anderson tale had a pair, too (but she had a very bad time because of them--and then she died.)

And now I have a pair of red shoes that are super fine! For tango, of course!
Last night I gave them a test drive at the Sunday night milonga at Studio Gracia, thanks to some wonderful dance partners who made me feel like I was floating on air.
Even though these are the highest heels I've danced in to date, they are quite easy to move in and look H-O-T!
I've got to hand it to these Argentinian shoe designers. Who could dream of dancing on pencil-thin, 4" stiletto heels and only have good things come of it.
I feel like Rita Hayworth in these shoes! Love you, Comme Il Faut!
PS. The above link for Rita Hayworth is a medley of some of her best dance numbers, with Fred Astaire. If you didn't know Rita was an extremely talented dancer, you are in for a huge treat!

Come Along With Me

This weekend, I met my new friends Dagmar and Carsten from Berlin for dinner at the Palace Hotel as they passed through SF on their return from visiting the giant Redwoods.

I was the first one there due to my chronic tendency to be extremely early to things. So I waited in The Pied Piper Bar at Maxfield's in the Palace. If you want to see the most beautiful painting in San Francisco that is not in a museum, this bar has a mural that was painted by Maxfield Parrish when the hotel reopened after the 1906 earthquake (quote courtesy of sfhistoryencyclopedia.com):
Celebrated American illustrator and artist Maxfield Parrish was commissioned to paint a mural for the hotel's 1909 re-opening. His magical seven-by-sixteen-foot oil on canvas depicts the children's fable of the Pied Piper of Hamelin and was recently appraised at $2.5 million. It has been a permanent fixture above the hotel's club-like bar, which was originally named The Pied Pier Room, and later renamed Maxfield's Bar and Restaurant.
The best way to appreciate this painting is to sit directly in front of it at the bar. The vivid colors and detail are mesmerizing. I've always loved Parrish's work...what a unique opportunity to see this treasure in a public setting and not a museum or a book.
A couple of observations...I wonder how many people even really look at the painting, given the fact that it is in a bar and flanked by two televisions constantly tuned to ESPN, and that the genius and beauty of the painting makes you forget that, in actuality, the story of the Pied Piper is really creepy.

n. friz·zle

1. a condition of weather, in which the hair is made to resemble a damp helmet.

2. a state of weather that is more robust than fog, yet not considered drizzle. Occurs commonly in the Sunset District of San Francisco, mornings and afternoons, and sometimes in between and all day.

When encountering frizzle, do not attempt to try to fix your hair afterwards. You will only make it worse.


Today the frizzle-ometer in the Inner Sunset was quite high. I left the house with a cute hairdo that was destroyed by the time I got to the corner.

Another thing about living in this neighborhood is that you leave the house dressed like Nanook of the North, and by the the time you get downtown in your coat and scarf (in July) you look quite silly because the weather on the other side of town is completely different.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Rock the Casbah, 4:42 a.m.

Not to sound blasé about earthquakes, but at 4:42 a.m., you're just too tired to get out of bed and stand in the doorway. I know I'm supposed to be prepared for these things, but unless the earthquake happens during business hours, I'll be lucky if I remember where I put my shoes.

Since the only casualty this time was the storefront window of a doughnut shop in Oakland, I guess we're all fine... for now.


Thursday, July 19, 2007

Union Square in 1921

Here is Union Square just a decade or so later. (Click on the photo to get a larger picture.)

I really like the grassy park and I'm sad that it's all covered in cement now.

The building behind the statue is now Neiman Marcus at the corner of Stockton and Geary. More on that building later...

History of the Familiar

Today I was wondering how Union Square got its name. It just never occurred to me before. I've been there a million times and never gave the place itself much thought, except when it's time to shop. So I looked it up (courtesy of verlang.com) and the picture is of Union Square, circa 1910. (You can click on the photo to get a great look at this panoramic photo).

Union Square has been the heart of San Francisco's shopping and hotel district since well before the 1906 earthquake leveled its first commercial buildings.

Laid out in 1850 during the mayoralty of John W. Geary, the informal grassy plot, then the heart of a residential district, acquired its name in the 1860s when pro-Union rallies were held there. Its civic status was further assured by the erection of the monument to Admiral Dewey's 1898 victory over the Spanish at Manila Bay. The 95-foot high column was designed in 1901 by Robert Aitken, sculptor, and Newton Tharp, architect. The monument survived both the 1906 disaster and the 1942 transformation of the square into the first-ever under-a-park garage, designed by Timothy Pflueger in cooperation with the city park department. Built in wartime, the concrete structure was meant to double as a bomb shelter.

I wonder if all of the ladies who are lunching at the Rotunda at Neiman Marcus realize they've just parked their new Mercedes in a former bomb shelter.

The History Around Us

I work downtown, right off of Union Square. Every morning on my walk to work, I make a point to see something I haven't noticed before (and I always do). San Francisco is full of incredible buildings and architecture, everywhere you look.

As soon as I leave the Muni Montgomery Station underground and emerge to the street level, I see one of San Francisco's historic landmarks, the Hobart Building. This building is a delight to see every day. Apparently, when the building was completed in 1914, it was the tallest in the city. Although the Hobart is now dwarfed by its taller neighbors, it still is the most appealing and interesting building by far.

Also, Hobart is the middle name of one of my favorite people in the whole world...

Monday, July 16, 2007

The Lady Eve

This scene is so incredible. I think this is my favorite part of the movie. Poor Hoppy--he never stood a chance!

A Favorite Scene from Double Indemnity

And they're only getting started!

Happy Birthday, Barbara!

Today is Barbara Stanwyck's birthday. Treat yourself and celebrate by watching one of her fabulous movies...

Time Travel

This weekend was the San Francisco Silent Film Festival, at the historic Castro Theatre. I managed to get over there for some part of each day of the festival, and the films were charming, glorious entertainment. I am already looking forward to next year's festival.

The highlight (for me) was the Ernst Lubitsch film, The Student Prince in Old Heidelberg. This lovely fairy tale brought a smile (and a sniffle) to everyone in the audience.

If this is the only silent movie you ever saw in your life, you would be very lucky indeed. The crisp print of the film was exquisite, and you couldn't help but fall in love with both Norma Shearer and Ramon Novarro. My only other experience with watching Shearer was in The Women (which, to be honest, I find to be an extremely annoying movie) but I could see here immediately the charisma and talent that made Norma Shearer the star that she later became.

And "the Lubitsch touch"... makes his movies worth watching over and over again. If he was Billy Wilder's favorite director...well, what more can be said?

The First Post

"The coldest winter I ever saw was the summer I spent in San Francisco."
--Mark Twain

Today, I wore a sweater, jeans, and a coat to work. It’s the middle of July. And the best part is that I don’t mind it one bit.

It’s finally dawning on me that I may never need to own a pair of shorts again. That’s a happy thought.

The other thing I realized today is that I actually do live in San Francisco. I’m not here for a long weekend. Up until today, I’ve felt as if I’ve been on some sort of strange holiday, soon to be leaving again and waking up in a place where it's sunny every morning.

I'm not ready to call myself a San Franciscan yet, although I can see where there will come a day that I might.


So why the blog?

It's been such an adventure moving to San Francisco, starting my new job downtown and adjusting to a new life here in the City...however, it's been hard to keep up with family and friends.

So my hope is that, in the meantime, I can let you know what's up with me via this blog so that the next time you ask, I haven't already forgotten what I've done (I seem to do that a lot lately)!!!