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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

My Next Job

I have decided that I need a promotion.

For many years, I have been employed in various incarnations of His Girl Friday. When people ask me what I do in my current position, I tell them that I am The Power Behind The Throne. And it's true, to some degree.

It's nice to be needed: to be the one your boss turns to when he needs an aspirin, a shot of vodka, a last-minute reservation or a little white lie for the client holding on Line #1. I give sage and considered advice when asked. I keep secrets. Not everyone is cut out to do that sort of thing.

I am an especially good Girl Friday because I often know when my boss needs these sorts of things before he even tells me. I even make him toast.

There's no dishonor in being a Girl Friday. But it can be mentally taxing to always be at the ready, anticipating every need before it is asked.

I was thinking that for my next job, instead of being needed, I would rather be adored.

I think I want to get a job as a muse.

Muses work all day long and then at night get together and dance. ~ Edgar Degas

Often the Muse will not respond to direct and logical requests. She must be lured in with the playful and gentle. ~ Jill Badonsky

I'll have to tweak my resume a little, but I don't think it will be too much of a leap from what I'm doing now. I just want more perks.

I think lounging around in diaphanous gowns, while being encouraging and wise--yet sometimes petulant and tempermental--would be a nice change of pace. And hopefully I'll get better vacation and medical.


No, in all seriousness, I've been thinking about some of the famous muses that I'm aware of who have inspired great artists to create masterpieces. What is it about some women that inspire such creativity and devotion in those that surround them? Is it love? It must be more than that.

I wish I knew. It must be wonderful.


Some images I've found to admire before going to sleep...

Hesiod and the Muse by one of my favorite painters, Gustave Moreau. If you go to Paris, you should visit his museum. It is one of my favorites.

The Muse at Sunrise by Alphonse Osbert.

Hesiod Listening to the Inspiration of the Muse by Edmond Aman-Jean.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Let It Be

I sang that song at least twenty times in the car this weekend, on the way to see my grandpa in the hospital and back home again.

It was such a funny feeling to leave San Francisco, as I so rarely even drive anymore, and even more rarely leave the city limits. I just don't.

I felt like I was leaving Brigadoon. For a long time, San Francisco has been more than just a place to live, it's been my everything--the source of my living and my pleasures. I have not wanted to leave it except for my travel daydreams.

So being in the car, with real warm sun shining on me through the sunroof, both windows down, lots of empty highway around me (I was on 280, not 101), that was an odd sensation.

I liked catching the sight of my hair in the rear-view mirror, being whipped around by the wind. I sang Blondie's Greatest Hits, and a little bit from Revolver. But I had all this pent-up-ness inside of me. Part of me felt like it was going to explode and the other part was full of dreading. The closer I got to my destination, the more I could feel it building up.

And then I played Let It Be for the first time and burst out crying. It was instantaneous. I like that song a lot, but for some reason it never hit me until that moment what a song could mean. How a song could comfort you--like a person, almost.

It's probably not a really great idea to cry in the car while you're going down the freeway at speed, but if you're going to cry anyway and there's no stopping you, you might as well listen to this song.

When I find myself in times of trouble
Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be.
And in my hour of darkness
She is standing right in front of me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be.
Let it be, let it be.
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be.

And when the broken hearted people
Living in the world agree,
There will be an answer, let it be.
For though they may be parted there is
Still a chance that they will see
There will be an answer, let it be.
Let it be, let it be. Yeah
There will be an answer, let it be.

And when the night is cloudy,
There is still a light that shines on me,
Shine on until tomorrow, let it be.
I wake up to the sound of music
Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be.
Let it be, let it be.
There will be an answer, let it be.
Let it be, let it be,
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be

Monday, April 28, 2008

My Pit Crew

Remember that everyone you meet is afraid of something, loves something and has lost something. ~ H. Jackson Brown, Jr.


I wanted to thank all of you for sending me such wonderful advice about my grandpa via comments and email. Saying thank you just doesn't seem to be enough because I'm not sure you realize how incredibly helpful and important your concern and care are.

I've had a bit of brain freeze lately about the whole situation, including how to reply to your kind advice and how to implement it.

And I'm still a bit overwhelmed--or maybe just tired--but things went really well this weekend. Much much better than I thought they would.

I kinda felt like I was in my race car, speeding around the track, and when it came time for my pit stop, you guys were my crew. Whatever I needed--refuelling, new tires, repairs--you were right there, and immediately so.

I was able to get back on the track because of you.

I hope you'll consider me part of your pit crew, too. Because I will be when you need it.



Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Other Shoe Dropping

Sometimes at night I light a lamp so as not to see. ~ Antonio Porchia, Voces, 1943


Again, another of those thinking-out-loud posts.

A few weeks ago I wrote about my grandpa and his not being well. Well, a few days ago we found out what is wrong and today my mom called to tell me that things have moved to the next stage: saying goodbye.

I am not going into all of the details because that's not what I'm looking for right now. In a moment, my day turned from a regular one to a surreal one. I am supposed to visit him in a day or so, and just be with him and tell him what I am up to and keep him company and not talk about his condition.

I honestly don't know how I am going to do that. Just the thought of it is killing me. I am horrible at hiding my feelings and I know that I am not supposed to go in there and cry.


Tonight I was looking for some sort of diversion so I could get myself together and get resolved for what comes next. I feel like I'm in a car that's going to crash but it hasn't happened yet so now I am just bracing myself for the impact. I know I have a seatbelt and airbags and I won't be killed, but it's still going to hurt a lot and there's no getting around it.

I thought at first maybe I would still go dancing but I just couldn't handle the thought of being overcome by emotion in either a perfect dance or by being a wallflower and bursting into inappropriate tears at a milonga.

So The Boy was very kind and took me to North Beach. We listened to Ella Fitzgerald singing Cole Porter and the warm, pink light of the setting sun made the wonderful old buildings seem like understanding friends. And then as the sky darkened, the neon lights of Columbus Avenue were distracting, and hanging out at City Lights Bookstore for a while and reading Lawrence Ferlinghetti was calming. The Boy tried his darnedest, bless him.

But there is a certain time of night where nothing can distract me and I'm just here stuck with what the hell am I going to do now?

Which is now. Which is why I have a question for you.

If you have a favorite thing that is soothing to you, something that always works for you when times are dark, I'd like to know what it is. I feel like I need to build up a bunker of stuff that will either keep my mind distracted, calmed, or whatever. I have a few things in my arsenal, like some books I'll read again and I'll watch Rivers and Tides again, but I'm really tired and kind of at a loss right now and I'm wondering what you turn to.

I don't drink, take drugs or have a TV, so that might limit some of your suggestions. I'm also not religious so that might put a damper on things too. But if you still have a thought after all of this, let me know. Please don't feel you have to write something sentimental and kind--if you've read this far, I know you're already thinking something kind already and if you write that to me, you'll make me cry at work, which is where I read a lot of your comments anyway.

But if nothing else, despite my chatter about rainbows and Jane Austen characters, I am a practical person. So whatever I can do to prepare myself (if such a thing is possible) will make me feel like I am doing something useful besides running my mind around in circles.


Below is a scene from Rivers and Tides. If you have not seen this film about artist Andy Goldsworthy, then perhaps I've given you something for your bunker someday.

Rainbow Baby

When the mind is wandering and there is a backlog of too many half-written posts that are uninspired, it's nice to have a diversion.

You Are a Rainbow

Breathtaking and rare

You are totally enchanting and intriguing

But you usually don't stick around long!

You are best known for: your beauty

Your dominant state: seducing

Thanks to La Tanguerita for the little pick-me-up this morning. I like the idea of being a rainbow and hopefully I'll be "enchanting and intriguing" tonight on the dance floor before I disappear.

Are there any other rainbows out there? What are you today?

Monday, April 21, 2008

This Time Tomorrow

I don't know about you today, but I was full of daydreams and it made for an interminably long day. I was in some weird suspended-animation state, frozen to my Aeron chair, answering phones.

My passport has been crying to me from inside my wallet, where the euros still live.

Where I am going? What am I leaving?

Who's coming with me?

This time tomorrow where will we be
On a spaceship somewhere sailing across an empty sea
This time tomorrow what will we know
Will we still be here watching an in-flight movie show
I'll leave the sun behind me and watch the clouds as they sadly pass me by
Seven miles below me I can see the world and it ain't so big at all
This time tomorrow what will we see
Fields full of houses, endless rows of crowded streets
I don't where I'm going, I don't want to see
I feel the world below me looking up at me
Leave the sun behind me, and watch the clouds as they sadly pass me by
And I'm in perpetual motion and the world below doesn't matter much to me
This time tomorrow where will we be
On a spaceship somewhere sailing across any empty sea
This time tomorrow, this time tomorrow

Friday, April 18, 2008

Flamenco Night and My New Boyfriends

I have two new boyfriends. Technically, I guess you would call them crushes because they probably don't know that they are my boyfriends. Well, the first one might. Let's take this one at a time...

To the left, you will find the adorable Mattin of Iluna Basque restaurant in North Beach. (If you think he is cute here, you should see him in person. In fact, I think you should see him in person, and order a lot of his food because it is good.)

My Flamenco friend E. and I decided to go here for dinner last night before we went to see the Flamenco performance at Peña Pachamama.

We were greeted and seated by Mattin, who told us that usually he works in the kitchen but tonight was his first night waiting tables. My friend and I automatically congratulated him on his "promotion" and it wasn't until a few minutes into the conversation that Mattin let slide that he owns the restaurant. And has worked very hard day and night since he came here five years ago from the Basque country. He pointed shyly but proudly behind him to the flag over the kitchen: "That's my flag."

Not only is Mattin extremely boyish and charming, but he has the most adorable accent ever (my friend and I were instantly smitten with him). We asked him to order for us, and we shared a lovely spread of a variety of tapas: Baby Shrimp and Potato Croquettes with Aioli (crunchy crispy outside and heavenly creamy inside); Seared Tuna with Bleu de Basque Sauce (the sauce is to DIE for); Egg Mimosa with Anchovies Toast (a light egg salad topped by pickled anchovy fillets--YUM!); Mache Salad with Feta and Walnuts and Stuffed Calamaries with Ink Sauce over Spanish Rice. This last dish--OMG--the rice was out of this world.

Mattin chose a nice bottle of Rioja for us to go with our meal, and he came over often enough so that we were able to grill him on his family, how he came to open a restaurant in San Francisco and why he loves what he does. He showed us pictures of himself when he was 10 years old--he's been in the restaurant business for that long! Anyway, we were looking for excuses to have him chat with us. We were unabashedly enchanted by him. I have a feeling we are not the only ones.

And then it was time for dessert. Mattin told us that he started working at 10am that morning on his special rice pudding and it was "still warm" so of course we had to order that. But we also got the yummy warm chocolate cake that I can't remember the name of. Both desserts disappeared in minutes.

We probably would have stayed all night and kept ordering food if we didn't have prior plans to meet some friends across the street, which leads me to Boyfriend #2.

Boyfriend #2 is Jorge, the guitarist from my Flamenco class. In class, Jorge is sitting quietly in the corner, playing for us while we limp and struggle through our beginner's exercises and routines.

But tonight, here he was, dressed and polished in black with a grey blazer, and he was the muscial star of the show. The talent that I knew he must have from the snippets I've seen in class were blazing mightily on the little stage at Peña Pachamama.

His passionate gypsy guitar rocked the house.

Accompanied by singer Azriel El Moreno, the dancers Carola Zertuche and Roberto Aguilar made the floors shake with their rhythmic percussive steps. Flamenco is so in-your-face, and I love it. The dancers were sweaty and strutting. Some of Carola's hair clips went flying as she twirled but it seemed like a natural part of the excitement her dance. Even her hair could not be contained.

At the end of the performance, Jorge came over to talk to me and my friends. I think he was glad to see us outside of the classroom setting, so we could see what his passion was all about.

He was holding his guitar like it was a beloved child and his face glowed when he talked about his music and how much he loves to play his guitar, for hours and hours at time if he can. He talked about his touring and who he's played with, and all the while sounded like a guy who was head over heels in love with a beautiful girl. But the girl happened to be the guitar he was holding so close.

I could not help but want to catch that moment of his happiness, which he kindly obliged.

Being around talented people who love what they do is such a wonderful gift.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

If We Could Talk to the Animals

"When the last individual of a race of living things breathes no more, another heaven and another earth must pass before such a one can be again..." ~ William Beebe


I have always remembered this quote. It made quite an impression on me, ever since I was a little kid. You can see it engraved on a stone monument at the San Francisco Zoo, on the way to the gorilla habitat.

For some reason, it seems that the years of my childhood (and maybe yours, too) were filled with a lot of awareness about our closest relatives, the chimpanzees and gorillas. I remember watching Jane Goodall quite often on television and years later I had a chance to see Goodall speak at San Jose State. It was a wonderful experience just being in her presence and hearing her stories about the chimpanzees she studied that we all seemed to know so well.

I also remember reading and learning about Dian Fossey and her work with gorillas, especially her beloved Digit. Fossey's brutal murder by the people who were poaching her adopted family of mountain gorillas is something I haven't forgotten either.

But maybe the most influential and exciting person to me was Koko, the gorilla who could talk in American Sign Language, and who had a kitten named All Ball. I think lots of kids have a dream of talking to animals and wishing they could be the next Dr. Dolittle.

So here is an update for those of you with the same fond memories: Koko is alive and well and talking in her private home in Woodside, about 45 minutes south of San Francisco. The Boy was recently contacted to do some work with Koko's organization, The Gorilla Foundation, and it rekindled my memories of Koko and her story.

The Boy did not get to meet Koko or Dr. Patterson on this visit, but he did come home with some amazing videos of Koko and her life as a talking gorilla. There was one excerpt that was especially moving, of her friend Michael, another gorilla who learned ASL. I cannot embed this video, but I hope you will watch it. If you ever wondered if animals have feelings and memories, this should clear things up for you.

The saddest thing about reaquainting myself with Koko is learning that it is entirely possible that gorillas may be completely extinct in about 10 years. In our lifetimes. Please pass along the word, so that the quote at the beginning of my post doesn't come true for Koko and her kind. For our closest relations in the animal world.

PS. I think Koko's Foundation is looking for a director of fundraising. If you know of any experienced non-profit professionals who are skilled at fundraising and PR, let me know and I'll see if we can make a connection.


One last video. For all of you artists, human and otherwise...

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

What They Don't Teach You in Fourth Grade

I'm sure you remember the secret Big Day in elementary school when the boys and girls were sequestered from each other in order to watch The Filmstrip. I think for us kids at Los Alamitos Elementary, a new school nestled in the growing suburbs of San Jose, this momentous event took place in either the fourth or fifth grade.

I never got to see the boys' filmstrip, although I would have liked to, so I can only comment on the one I saw. One would think we were being initiated into the Freemasons or the junior sect of the Knights Templar, but alas, it was only that we were being formally introduced to Puberty.

With the lights turned out, my friends and I seated on the carpet taking turns scratching each other's backs, we were breathlessly entranced as we finally gained this top secret knowledge. I recall images of daisies, product shots of a variety of Kotex goods, and joyful girls excited about the prospect of Becoming A Woman.

Yeah, right. By the time I was done with all that educational propaganda and reading Are You There God, It's Me, Margaret a thousand times, waiting for The Period to finally arrive was an even more exciting prospect than being kissed by James Sarge. (Where is he now?)


What they forget to tell you in The Filmstrip is that on some days you're ready to decapitate loved ones at any given moment, that you will cry at the drop of a hat for the most bizarre reasons, that the only things you will want to eat are big chunks of steak (and candy), and that having your period can be really annoying and a huge pain in the ass.

I have decided NOT to go out dancing tonight.


For your educational pleasure and a good laugh, here is the Disney version (I am not making this up) of Becoming a Woman, with its epic title: The Story of Menstruation. Had I seen this movie and thought that I could have produced a baby that looked like it was born with makeup and fake eyelashes, I would have been trying to get pregnant since I was thirteen.

I guess I'm glad things worked out differently and we saw The Filmstrip instead.

It's awesome that someone on Rotten Tomatoes actually took the time to review this classic forgotten piece of Disney animation:

The narrator also gives the girls some peachy advice: "Try not to throw yourself off schedule by getting overtired, emotionally upset, or by catching cold!" There is also motherly advice to avoid constipation and depression, and to always look beautiful. "It's smart to keep looking smart!"

Wow. Them's words to live by.


PS. Thank you for listening. But please don't tell me to eat yams, drink herbal tea or get mental help. I'll grow out of this phase soon.

Screen capture borrowed from onemansblog.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

This Is How I Get Ready for Tango

No, I'm kidding. My room isn't that big. ;-)

I thought it would be nice to share some more Cyd Charisse clips with you since you guys liked the last one so much.

This clip is actually my very favorite Cyd Charisse scene ever. It's from Silk Stockings, a film she stars in with Fred Astaire. It's a musical remake of the Ernst Lubitsch film Ninotchka starring Greta Garbo.

Click this: Part Two, because you can't get too much of this kind of beauty.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Glorious Technicolor Goddess

If I was Gene Kelly, and I had a chance to dance with Cyd Charisse, I would go out of my freaking mind. Damn. I lose my mind just watching her. She is a Glorious Technicolor Goddess.

Or maybe it's the haircut.


She is wearing green Cuban-heeled, backseam stockings. Be still my heart.

Actually, I had to post this after reading your comments about the recent hilarious and memory-tripping viewing of Flashdance. Think of this clip as the antidote to that MTV crap. I mean, here's a classic, perfect film (Singing in the Rain) and crazy as it may seem, the principal characters are doing their own dancing. The director actually cast people in dancing roles *gasp* who could dance.

This is just another example of how more contemporary movies will never rise to the level of these classic films, and there are many of them worth watching often. This caliber of talent either never makes it on screen because the Hollywood powers-that-be don't think it will sell to moviegoing audiences, or this kind of talent just doesn't exist anymore. I'd like to think it's the former reason and not the latter. And I just hope that kids today get some sort of exposure to real music and real dancing so it all doesn't become forgotten.

Okay, herein ends the rant. But I know you all agree with me.

Give Me an "L"

Maude: A lot of people enjoy being dead. But they are not dead, really. They're just backing away from life. Reach out. Take a chance. Get hurt even. But play as well as you can. Go team, go! Give me an L. Give me an I. Give me a V. Give me an E. L-I-V-E. LIVE! Otherwise, you got nothing to talk about in the locker room. ~ Harold and Maude


It has come to my attention that I might not be preparing as well as I might for my future. Certain people who love me very much are concerned that I have no savings, no money. (Well, so what else is new? When do people have all that they need, in the bank and in their hearts?)

I suppose it can be said that I'm at that part of my life where I am halfway to being dead. But who is not? And who knows what will happen tomorrow?

It's not that I'm profligate with my money; I don't have that much money to be profligate with. But if every penny I make goes in the bank and not to help me live my life while I live right now, I'll be retiring on what?--A lifetime of memories spent working for other people? An existence spent during the hours of 8:30am to 5:30pm?

During the week I make small choices: to go out to lunch and get a hamburger once in a while, or to eat a can of soup and take a dance class instead. Usually I opt for the dance class and the soup. But sometimes I opt for the dance class and the hamburger.

Neither the hamburger or the dance class costs enough money to help me retire comfortably. I suppose giving up a hundred thousand hamburgers or a hundred thousand dance classes would be a start towards something practical.

But I'm hoping that the enjoyment of having them might give me something to smile about when I am too old to eat the hamburger or get up out of my chair to dance.

If I live that long.

I don't want to retire on a dearth of experiences. I'll be old soon enough anyway, why start now? I'm not trying to be maudlin or sad, just practical.

But thank you for thinking of me...I love you, too.


How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. ~ Annie Dillard, The Writing Life


From one of my favorite films, Harold and Maude:

Well, if you want to sing out, sing out
And if you want to be free, be free
'Cause there's a million things to be
You know that there are

And if you want to live high, live high
And if you want to live low, live low
'Cause there's a million ways to go
You know that there are

You can do what you want
The opportunity's on
And if you find a new way
You can do it today
You can make it all true
And you can make it undo
you see ah ah ah
its easy ah ah ah
You only need to know

Well if you want to say yes, say yes
And if you want to say no, say no
'Cause there's a million ways to go
You know that there are

And if you want to be me, be me
And if you want to be you, be you
'Cause there's a million things to do
You know that there are

Saturday, April 12, 2008

The Slumber Party

Last night I went to a slumber party at Ms. Wellspring's house.

The Boy (and probably a lot of others like him) think that at girls' slumber parties, we lounge around like Elvgren Girl pin-ups in frilly negligees, giving each other pedicures and talking about them (boys), breathlessly waiting for the Panty Raids to start and hoping some handsome scamp will climb in through a window to kiss and/or ravage us.

When, in truth, most slumber parties involve wearing baggy sweats and/or fleece and old t-shirts (but sans bra so I guess that is somewhat titillating--pun intended), eating unfortunate amounts of junk food (including, but limited to, Doritos, potato chips, Red Vines, cookies, ice cream, hickory-smoked almonds and microwave popcorn--but we also had some grapes), talking about ourselves (maybe we did talk about you guys but only for a second and then it might have been to make the others laugh), and watching silly movies.

The only difference between this slumber party and ones we had when we were twelve were that we did not do makeovers, make crank calls or have a seance (light as a feather, stiff as a board) but only because we had to start our party after we had gotten off of work and we had already lost a few hours.

So it was a pared-down slumber party but still lots of fun and pretty true to the original format.


This slumber party was very educational because the first movie we watched was Flashdance. I remember seeing this movie when it came out and I'm pretty sure I liked it. I didn't remember a whole lot about the particulars of the movie aside from Jennifer Beals' torn shirts that created a huge fashion trend of which I was a lemming to, some sexy dance scenes (see below) and that she played a welder.

Watching the movie after a 20-plus-year hiatus was a sociological event and an opportunity to hone our skills at playing Mystery Science Theater 3000. I had no idea that Flashdance was such a bad bad b-a-d movie! It also raised a million questions in my mind, including:

1. Did we really look that stupid in the '80s?! (Yes.) Between the giant padded shoulders, stiletto heels with white anklet socks, shredded clothing and ratty hair, a miasma of bad wardrobe images floated in my memory. The '80s look made the '70s look seem like a well-considered fashion statement.
2. Why was it okay for an 18-year old to be stalked and hit on by her employer who was, oh, a good 20 years older than she was? By stalked, I mean following her home on dark rainy nights in his Porsche while she rode her 10-speed bike back from work and coming on to her at work and where ever else he stalked and found her. But then she stalked him too and pyschotically threw a brick through his window and generally acted like a freak.
3. What is it that a 40-year old guy sees in an 18-year old girl who works as an exotic dancer? (Silly question.) One ponders the scintillating conversations they must have had about life, the universe and everything. Clearly they had so much in common.
4. Who hires an 18-year old girl to be a welder in his factory, for Chrissakes?!
5. Why must a young woman become a stripper when her career as a waitress and her chance to become a professional figure skater don't work out?
6. Why did I not realize that Jennifer Beals did not actually dance in any of the dance scenes? Other dancers wearing crazy black poodle wigs were flinging themselves all over this movie and I had no idea it wasn't her until last night.
7. Why did I not remember this being one of the worst films of all time?


Had I absorbed some Life Lessons from this film in my formative years, I could have known the following Truths about Life as "Important Things I Learned From Flashdance":

1. You can ride your bike to a fancy evening at the ballet in a sequined gown and high heels without looking like a sweaty mess.
2. You can live in a cool-ass loft complete with Shabby Chic antiques and a dance studio on a welder's salary.
3. You can work as a welder and an exotic dancer. You can have two careers AND have a dream of being a classical ballerina.
4. And most importantly, it is okay to stick your foot in a man's crotch while you are in a fancy restaurant. And to eat lobster like a crazed ho as long as your date is paying. (Bet you don't remember that scene! I sure as hell didn't. And I don't think my mother does either.)

Below is all I really remembered about Flashdance until last night. Thanks, Ms. Wellspring, for allowing me to rediscover my buried memories of the '80s while eating Doritos and Red Vines in a sleeping bag at your house.

The scene we all remember (no, it's not Jennifer Beals.)

And this scene, which ain't her either.

Friday, April 11, 2008

There Goes the Diet

Well, just for a day.

Now you know where I will be on Sunday, April 13 from 10am-6pm.

Yes, I will be taking my camera.
Yes, I will be trying everything I can get my hands on, especially if it is made out of dark chocolate.
Yes, I will be fasting for all of next week.

I do this for you. You know that, right?

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Run Away, Tangobaby

I wish I had a great followup story to my Tango Angel/crazy milonga last night, but I don't. I did try, though.

Tonight I went to the Milonga That Shall Remain Nameless. It's one I used to go to religiously back when it was crowded and the best game in town. And then it just wasn't my place anymore, so I started going elsewhere. (And lots of other people stopped going there, too, apparently. Which has nothing to do with me.)

I had seen on the calendar that Miriam Larici was supposed to perform tonight. For those of you who have seen Miriam, or like me, have had the opportunity to take classes with her, you know she is a gorgeous, amazingly talented, and super-wonderful lady. Just to see her for a ten-minute performance was enough to get me back to the Milonga That Shall Remain Nameless. I was also kinda hoping that maybe things had changed and I would enjoy going there again. No such luck.

Not only was Miriam not coming (sounds like a scheduling snafu because I seemed to be the only person expecting to see her) but the place--for me--well, I'll be PC and say it is just not where I'll be needing to frequent anymore. I now have exactly zero curiosity about the place.

To illustrate my point, I have selected a video clip that will give you an idea of my feelings on the evening's festivities (or lack thereof), where the rabbit would be the milonga and I would be King Arthur:

So now I am home, in my pjs, eating my dinner (some Junior Mints) and singing this song. Nothing better than some candy and a little Mick to revive your spirits:

Better luck next time, tangobaby. (But my eyeshadow looked hot. Oh well.)


PS. If you want to know what I was hoping to get a smidgen of tonight, click here for some awesome Miriam Larici performances. Watch the 3rd and 4th songs especially where she dances with Hugo Patyn. I was there in the crowd (no, I am not going to tell you where), and let's just say that was so exciting to see her dance like that. She has so much energy and grace--the woman is amazing. And Hugo is not too shabby himself.

PSS. I am kind of amused with myself that I was able to bring together Monty Python AND The Stones to illustrate a tango post.

The Calm in the Eye of the Storm

"Please send me your last pair of shoes, worn out with dancing as you mentioned in your letter, so that I might have something to press against my heart." ~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Someday I hope to have a pair of shoes like that.


Cellspace again tonight. The dancing does have a wildness to it that I am not used to. Lots and lots of crazy boleos and ganchos and leg wraps. And twirls. Twirls?!!

I am not always able to hear and feel the music because so much movement is distracting me. Plus, I got
kicked twice and stepped on once. I cannot believe my fishnets survived such abuse.

But there was yet a new Tango Angel who made it all worthwhile. He made me forget those other people even existed. He hummed and sang the music softly while we danced. He danced so smoothly, so calmly. Pausing and moving to the music so I would hear the music though his movements. Waiting for me and not rushing me through my steps. Letting me do my thing. It was a partnership.

And then I self-wallflowered when I realized I had already danced my best dances of the night. So I got to enjoy the others enjoying each other and captured a few moments before calling it a night.

Good night, tango. Good night, tango dancers everywhere.

Un beso.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The Other Spice Girl

“I must have saffron to colour the warden pies; mace; dates? - none, that's out of my note; nutmegs, seven; a race or two of ginger, but that I may beg; four pound of prunes, and as many of raisins o' the sun.” ~ The Winter's Tale


(This post is inspired by my dreamer friend Relyn and my gourmet gal pal Christie at Fig & Cherry, thank you!)

I am a Spice Girl. Not a Posh or Baby or Sporty or even a Tango Spice Girl (she is the secret Spice Girl you may not know about).

I am a Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme Girl. Actually more like a Saffron, Herbes de Provence, Garam Masala, Cardamom and Coriander Girl. You purists are going to say that some of these are herbs, not spices, and yes, you are right. But bear with me.

Before I moved to San Francisco, I used to cook a lot. One of the benefits of living in this town is that the opportunities for adventuring in the world of food is pretty endless and is as irresistable as catnip for any foodie.

So, why cook when you can explore? To me, eating is another form of travel, especially when you can try foods from all over the world in just one place.

Although my neighborhood trends more towards Asian cuisines--fresh Hong Kong-style dim sum, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Thai, Indonesian and Vietnamese--I can also easily get a variety of other cuisines, including Mexican, Italian, Indian, Fusion, Mediterranean, Ethiopian (which I have not tried yet but mean to) as well as good ol' American fare like hamburgers and onion rings. That is not counting the bakeries, cheese shop, gelateria and numerous coffee houses.

All of this bounty lies one, two, three blocks from my front door. The possibilities are even more exponential if I hop on the N-Judah to the next neighborhoods of Cole Valley or the Haight or the Castro, or grab a cab to destinations farther across town.

One of the things I do miss though is the exploration and acquisition of unique food stuffs. When I lived in Silicon Valley, my favorite haunts were the Indian and Middle Eastern groceries. I loved filling my basket with herbs and spices I'd never heard of but wanting to have them in my larder, just in case.

I am, or was, a spice collector. I don't know why. A lot of the things I never even used. But it was such great fun finding them and wondering what they were. The Indian groceries especially were a delight.

In between the piles of colorful boxes of incense and black hair dye, you could find aesofotida, which I purchased but never used, or glass jars of pickled limes or dented cans of coconut cream from lands far, far away. You could peruse the countless types of dal while listening to Bollywood hits and watching women in colorful saris pick out their vegetables. Just being in those small, independent markets was like an instant passport to somewhere else, all for the price of a bag of interesting groceries.

I've done my share of exploring the Asian markets at the end of Irving Street, where the live fish swim in tanks before they meet their makers and where tough old Chinese ladies push each other (and you) to get at the produce, and I've wandered the less exotic Russian market where the stony-faced man guards the deli case full of bland-looking meats and sausages, but these shops don't have the fantasy-producing ingredients of the spice markets I've left behind.


The photos in this post are some of my favorites. Taken in Venice, which to me evokes dreams of the Spice Trade and ships laden with nutmegs and cinnamon and black pepper, is this shop in Cannaregio, very close to the Rialto Bridge.

When I saw this shop window, I stopped dead in my tracks. It was the Spice Shop of My Dreams. The displays were so perfect and lovingly prepared with every imaginable kind of spice and seasoning.

In thinking about this post, I've been doing my homework about the Spice Trade and its history. Unfortunately, it's a history fraught with the destruction of habitats, cultures and empires.

But the more I read and learn about history, it seems that most human endeavors are filled with such things. I tend to go for the fantasy and leave the hard truth behind at times.

Perhaps knowing more about the history and spirit of where these spices came from gives me more to digest that just the taste they bring to the food I eat. And hopefully because of it, I might appreciate my food all the more.

For more interesting information about spices and the Spice Trade, check here, here and here.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

My Commute

Relyn was kind enough to share a little bit of her commute with me, so I thought it would be fun to return the favor...

So here is the exciting world of tangobaby's daily trek:

This is where I wait for the train in the morning. It's Muni's N-Judah line and it goes all the way from the ocean to the ballpark. Part of the time the train travels above ground and then it goes underground for a few stops, too. I have a pass that costs $45 a month, but lots of homeless guys ride for free.

I like this old sign, and I always wonder how the graffiti got up there! It's just not San Francisco if there isn't graffiti somewhere.

This is where I get on and off: Montgomery Station. This is coming up from underground.

This building is one of the ones I like to look at. It's much more impressive in person.

This is actually a little detour. I had a flamenco class tonight, so now I'm coming back from Civic Center Station. It happens to be a creepier station than the others, imho.

Here comes my train! Hooray, it's not packed like a can of sardines tonight!

This pup licked the bandaid on the back of my heel after I took this photo. It was very nice of him to think of me.

Look at all the happy faces on the people.

This place is a second-hand clothing store in the Castro, aptly named Out of the Closet. They always have fabulous window displays, as you might imagine.

Just whizzing along home.

Now here is the fun part. For the second time in a week, the N-Judah has stopped at Hillview and has to turn around. So we are getting kicked off the train and I have to walk the rest of the way. Why? Who the hell knows.

So here I am walking the Streets of San Francisco. Funny, wasn't that a TV show?

Here is UCSF Medical Center. It is a very acclaimed hospital and teaching facility. Let's hope none of us ever need to go there.

Just a random building. I think this is on 4th and Irving. I like the color.

This is a very nice little hole-in-the-wall place called the Lime Tree that serves Singaporean/Indonesian/Malaysian food. The owner's name is Ming and he is just the sweetest man. They make this black jasmine rice pudding with coconut milk that is TO DIE FOR.

This is a Michelin-starred sushi restaurant called Koo. It's not my favorite (I'm an Ebisu gal) and you definitely need a reservation. But some people rave about this place.

In case you didn't know, San Francisco is Obama's town. I live in Obama-land. If he doesn't win the nomination and then the presidency, I think a lot of San Franciscans are going to seriously flip out. Or move to Canada.

Home sweet home!
Time for some Brussels sprouts!
Update, 1:53pm: I know you are dying to have my Brussels sprouts recipe, so I've included it in the comments. If you still don't like Brussels sprouts after this, then I've done all I can to help you.

Ballerina Daydreams

The other day when I got to the dance center for my flamenco class, the hall was full of willowy people. They were waiting for a ballet master class next door.

Ballet dancers stretching. I love looking at them. I don't blame Degas for painting them over and over again.

They sprawl and stretch like cats.

When I see ballet dancers, I wish I was long-legged and tall and elegant like they are. But a willowy, delicate body is not in my genetic makeup, alas.

I tried very hard to take some photos without the dancers knowing, and I am too shy to ask for their permission. Or maybe I don't want to ask.

It is very difficult to be sneaky sometimes. Maybe I should just try being bold instead.


Last week, I was the recipient of quite a fantastic windfall: two tickets with primo seating (fourth row center, orchestra!) for An International Salute to San Francisco Ballet.

With the always effevescent and lovely Ms. Wellspring as my ballet buddy, we first enjoyed a lovely meal at Sauce, a restaurant we'd both been wanting to try. It's in Hayes Valley, and we had a cozy table at the bar (book ahead if you want reservations).

Soon, our little table was filled with lobster and crab sliders, baby arugula salad with blood orange and Point Reyes bleu cheese, sesame shrimp, spinach and artichoke brulee, and their signature dessert, which is not to be missed.

Called simply PB&J, this dessert is not like any peanut butter and jelly sandwich you've ever had: pan-seared sponge cake layered with homemade strawberry preserve and Frangelico peanut butter with a vanilla ice cream center...yummmmm...

I apologize that I do not have any decent photos of the food. First of all, the lighting was too dark, and second of all, we were too busy eating.

And then with full bellies, it was time to head for the ballet!


The San Francisco Ballet performs in at the exquisite War Memorial Opera House, directly across from City Hall. The building is designed in the magnificent French Renaissance style by Arthur Brown Jr., who also was the architect of Coit Tower and City Hall. It opened its doors to audiences for the first time on October 15, 1932, and served a very important historical function as the birthplace of the United Nations. In fact, when President Truman signed the United Nations charter on June 26, 1945, it was on San Francisco's very own Opera House stage.

I learned that the San Francisco Ballet is the oldest professional ballet company in America and was founded as the San Francisco Opera Ballet in 1933. Initially, the ballet's primary purpose was to train dancers to appear in full-length, lavish opera productions.

The interior of the War Memorial Opera House is gilded confection. I tried not to look too touristy as I snapped some quick photos.

And then it was time to get settled in and wait for the curtain to go up.

From the program notes: ... San Francisco Ballet regularly tours the world, delighting audiences with its passion and excellence. This season, three international companies—New York City Ballet, Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo, and The National Ballet of Canada—take the Opera House stage to pay tribute to SF Ballet and its imprint on the world of dance.

Once the performances began, I was completely hypnotized by the dancers and the dance as it interpreted the music. I actually won't go into too much description because it's really not possible to describe how beautiful these performances were. I wish I could have taken you with me.

Instead, I've found some photos and an a small video clip. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words so hopefully in this instance I can share a little bit of the beauty I saw with you.

The first act, A Delicate Balance, was a thought-provoking juxtaposition between modern clad dancers and men and women dressed in suits and 18th-century ballgowns.

This piece was danced on a stage full of glistening, glowing snowflakes.

The second act, Duo Concertante, featured two dancers from the New York City Ballet, who performed magnificent pas de deux with a pianist and violinist onstage. Of the three performances, this was the most classical in technique.

The final act, Altro Canto, performed by Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo, is impossibly beautiful and impossibly difficult to describe. All I can say is that it was like watching a dream but you happened to be awake.

The stage was hung with many candles that magically floated from the ceiling. Suspended against the black, the candles moved in and out of the dance, creating a very spiritual, almost cathedral-type setting. The music was a haunting choral singing that made the stage feel like a sacred place.

I cannot believe it, but there is a tiny bit of video of this performance. The music is not at all what we heard (in fact, this selection does not do the performance justice at all) but watch it to get a taste of what we saw--especially for the last few seconds with the tall ballerina.
She was pure and utter magic and breathtakingly etheral.