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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

At Midnight Tonight

For last year's words belong to last year's language
And next year's words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
~ T.S. Eliot, "Little Gidding"


I thought it would be fun to give all of you a New Year's Kiss.
Because if you were here, it would be lovely to wish you a wonderful 2009 in person.

But the kisses kept coming out blurry, or worse, which just made me laugh because they were looking very very silly. I had to delete them.

So perhaps it's better to send you a laugh, and hope your year is full of smiles.

Ah, that one's not too bad.


"We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year's Day." ~ Edith Lovejoy Pierce

Happy happy happy New Year, my friends. My, but we were really put through the ringer in 2008, weren't we? But enough of that. Things will be better this time around. I'm so glad you're here to share new stories and adventures with. Un grand bisou to all of you.

"May all your troubles last as long as your New Year's resolutions." ~ Joey Adams

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Your Call Is Very Important to Us

Dear #1 Tangobaby Reader,

Due to the higher than normal volume of comments recently (to which all of us here at Tangobaby World Media, Inc. are very, very appreciative), our normal standard of replying to each and every comment is becoming a wee bit difficult.

We apologize for the disruption in service and would like you to take a moment to give us your opinion on the matter. All of us here at Tangobaby World Media, Inc. thank you for your time.


All of us

ps.: Yes, this is also an excuse to use polldaddy.com's free widgets, since I obviously can't go around making election campaign buttons anymore. *sigh* I miss being on the campaign trail.

The Long Now

The words will show up later (this is a preview).
Unless you already know what The Long Now is.

So, until I can get back here... make up your own story.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Yesterday's Sunset

Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.” ~ Carl Sagan

Good night, friends.

Food of the Gods?

I know I just said that I wasn't going to type anymore because my wrist is giving me these little twinges of "I'm Not Really Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, but I Could Be If You Pushed It," but holy hell, I just clicked on this promo at the top of my gmail inbox.

Baconnaise? A quote on their website reads, "You're right, everything should taste like bacon."

I couldn't agree more.

I'm sorry, but this seriously sounds like something that I will have to start eating regularly.

And it's making me reconsider my choice not to purchase the Wake 'n Bacon Alarm Clock, which now I think I should have, too.

I am SO craving a BLT right now that it's not even funny.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Sunset at Ocean Beach

You can't stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.” ~ Jon Kabat-Zinn


I don't know what I did to screw up this picture, but I really love it.

This is what I call a happy accident.

I took this photo before I had the glass of wine.
And now I am too sleepy to answer all of your lovely comments from the prior post because I did have a glass of wine. I am such a lightweight when it comes to drinking.

So please accept my air kisses and thanks and I will write back when I recover.


Tell Me What I Want to Hear

"The best of seers is he who guesses well." ~ Euripides


"You're one of those artistic photographers, aren't you?" the young street artist asked me today as he was leaning his painted canvases against a cement wall. He was dressed in baggy jeans, a flannel shirt and his hair was sticking out around his head like a faint afro halo.

He had a friendly smile, and his question sounded more of a statement.

"I guess you can say that," I answered, feeling shy. I have gone through various incarnations since getting my hands on this camera in April. It's still wierd to think I might be considered to be a photographer in any way. I have been taking photos for less than a year. I don't have a fancy camera. I haven't taken a photography class. I don't know what I am doing.

Not really qualifications for someone to be called a photographer, let alone an artistic one.

But his question made me stop in my tracks. I tried to own my answer:
I guess you can say that.

It also made me wonder, what is it about receiving information from a strange or unexpected place that can hold sway over the person who receives it? I mean, how did this guy know to say that to me? I was not taking photos. I was just walking down the street. He went on to explain himself without my asking, perhaps hearing the hesitation in my voice: "You walk like you're looking for something. You walk like a photographer."

Wow. Thank you, mystery street artist. I really needed to hear that.


Several years ago, I was going through a really really tough time, and I needed some cosmic answers STAT. I went to a psychic who came highly recommended, a little Italian woman who wore velour sweatsuits and had dark, short curly hair and wore bifocals. She was bubbly and at the same time, very matter of fact. At the end of the hour, I was both soothed and amazed.

She read her Tarot cards like she was reading the Sunday paper to me, and told me all I needed to know. I listened to the tape she gave me over and over again, when I needed to boost my resolve and feel brave. Her information helped me when I thought I couldn't get help anywhere else. I was amazed by her perceptive powers.

Years later, I went to see the psychic again. This time, I was more curious, and much more skeptical. I had some questions, but they were not so burning that I didn't feel they were unanswerable. I think I just wanted to compare her advice to my inner voice.

This time, the reading was different. It was boring. I didn't think it did much for me at all, except to take $100 out of my checking account and put it in hers. When I got hom
e, I listened to both of my tapes, the old one and the new one. Some of her advice was identical, verbatim stock phrases, delivered in vague terms. In the first tape, I heard myself giving her information, which then became the wisdom she offered me.

I had never noticed that before. That I had been the one talking. All this time I thought she was just offering unsolicited wisdom. But I had been supplying the clues, with my tears, the whole time. No wonder she knew what to say.

I didn't feel taken advantage of. It just made me realize that next time I could give myself an injection of my own wisdom and save myself a Benjamin.


I really enjoyed my little gift of unanticipated street wisdom today from that random fellow, partly because I did not say a word to him first, and because it was unsolicited. But it still gave me something I needed to hear today.

It made me hope that I give out little bits of random, helpful wisdom to others in need once in a while.

Like I'm a hidden angel hanging out somewhere unexpected, like over the doorway of a bar. Like this little guy.

Or that I'm a friend, even if you can't see me.

Or that somehow, some day, you might paint this on the sidewalk (even if it's just a sidewalk in your mind).

Or that I might paint this on my own sidewalk.


All photos taken today in the Mission.
Thanks, street artist angel.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Tagalicious Redux

Ahhh, the Getting to Know You meme. (Now I have that song playing in my head.)
I've been tagged by Mari at maybeinutah for that meme where you wonder "how much do I divulge without alternately boring or scaring people?"

I think last time I did it, I played it safe. Colored inside the lines.

Now I'm going to blow this meme out of the water. I know you guys can take it.


But, like how the accounting and consulting firm Price Waterhouse must explain their practices before the Academy Awards, I must first list the rules of this meme:

1. Link to the person who tagged you. (See, I've done it twice, just to be safe.)
2. Post the rules on your blog. (Here they are.)
3. Write six random things about yourself.
4. Tag six people at the end of your post and link to them.
5. Let each person know they've been tagged and leave a comment on their blog.
6. Let the tagger know when your entry is up.

And with that, here are six random things about me that have nothing to do with the other seven random things I gave you last time. I hope these six things are more randomer and more interesting. If not, you can also read the old list and decide. Then you will have a total of 13 Random Things about me for general educational purposes.


1. There are two times in my life when I have won a dollar. One time was when I won the "Bone Bee" in physiology class in 11th grade. It was like a spelling bee, except for that Mr. Church held up pieces of a skeleton and then you had to say what bone it was. So I knew more bones than anyone else in my class, and won a silver dollar. My dad still calls me Bone Girl. (But you know all about my dad now, don't you.)

The other time I won a dollar was when some kids on the block dared me to write the F-word in colored chalk on our driveway. Which I did in big, bold letters. And then immediately afterwards, my dad came home from work and drove right over my word. I got in trouble and had to give the dollar back. (In case you were wondering, this wasn't when I was in the 1th grade.)

2. I have two degrees. Actually one is a degree and one is a piece of paper-- you decide which one is which. One is a Bachelor of Sciences in Industrial Technology. The other one is from beauty school.

I always have to explain the Industrial Technology degree because no one's ever heard of that area of study. I tell people it's like an engineering degree for people who couldn't get into engineering school, or hate math, or both.

I don't have to explain the beauty school stint, except to explain why I went there after I got my four-year degree. And then have to listen to people sing "Beauty School Dropout," from Grease.
I just want you to know that I graduated at the top of my class in BOTH areas of study.

I can tell you about the crystalline structures of certain metals OR do your eyebrows to movie star perfection, depending on my mood.

3. I have only accepted a ride with a total stranger once in my life. But it was in Paris, so to me that doesn't count as dangerous or stupid. Also, he had a Mercedes convertible. (To be fair, so you don't think I'm totally shallow, I accepted the ride before I knew what kind of car he had.)

4. Things that annoy me, in no particular order, are: sappy movies (generally chick flicks but anything that hits you over the head to make you cry or laugh), Great Lash mascara (the biggest beauty marketing fraud foisted upon the mascara buying populace), Julie Andrews (I'm sure she's a very nice lady but I can't stand her films), people who can't write an intelligent sentence but have more money than God, and there's probably more here but this is all I can come up with right now without sounding angry or scary.

5. I read one book at least once a year and have been reading it ever since I was nine years old: A Wrinkle in Time. I am so sad I never met Madeleine L'Engle. I grew up to read her other books, her wonderful journals-- The Crosswicks Journals especially, but A Wrinkle in Time is a book that probably shaped my young personality and imagination more than any other.

6. I am pathologically on time and avoid being late to any event or occasion, not just because I want to get a good seat (if necessary), but also to avoid any chance of an embarassing situation or being rude. However I habitually pay my bills late and never seem to be able to send out a present before an occasion. I say this because I still have Christmas presents sitting here that need to go out. Luckily the people who are receiving these gifts still love me.

And here is a bonus Random Thing: 7. I was once dragged by a horse by my right ankle. Let's just say that the horse and I are no longer on speaking terms.

And with that, I have filled your coffers with Random Things and now pass the torch to Char, mrs. sarah ott, NamasteNancy, Heartbreak Tango, Cynthia/Oasis Writing Link, and Blissfully Unaware Lounge Singer.

Those of you I have not tagged, do not despair. It was either because 1. I think you might have been meme'd out already, or 2. you might be shy. However, if I'm off base on either one of these suppositions, by all means consider yourself tagged and do play along. Just be sure to let me know.

Now I am off to consider breakfast. xoxo

Friday, December 26, 2008

The Tardy Awards

It is better to deserve honors and not have them than to have them and not to deserve them.” ~ Mark Twain


"I have a theory about the human mind. A brain is a lot like a computer. It will only take so many facts, and then it will go into overload and blow up." ~ Erma Bombeck


I don't know why I am such a dork about this, when perfectly lovely people give me these award thingys and then I go and run off on all of these bloggy tangents and forget to pick up these awards and put them on my little virtual awards shelf. I get so distracted sometimes. Maybe that's part of the problem... running about saying Oh, I have to write about that before I forget, and Oh, don't forget to post this photo!

It's like leaving my Sarah Siddons Award in the coat check room. (Yes, film mavens, there really is such a thing as the Sarah Siddons Award. It is not just a plot device from All About Eve.)

I promise to be better, lovely people who have given me awards. (Please tell me that at least I said thank you! Oy.)


Anyhoo, I am belatedly acknowledging two gracious bloggers who sometime this season gave me an award. Both of these awards feel like the Heisman Trophy to me, and I don't even play football.

Thank you, lovely and talented Willow of Willow Manor, for my Superior Scribbler Award. Sometimes I really do feel like a scribbler, not of bon mots but just plain scribbles, but if you appreciate me, then I'm thrilled.

And then I come to the chic and artistic d i a n a : m u s e, whose blog I've admired from afar for quite some time... pressing my nose against the glass in the window of her blog, wondering just how does she do it?

And then she goes and gives me this I Love Your Blog award. Wow.

I think there's another award floating out there somewhere, but true to form, I cannot remember where it is or who gave it to me. So, dear friend, if you are reading, please understand it's not on purpose. It's my butterfly brain.


When you get these awards, you're supposed to 1. link to the people who gave them to you (done!) and 2. give them to other people who's blogs you enjoy reading.

So here is the next part, and because I'm so tardy, I'm giving both awards to whomever is below. The blogs are both old and new and are full of beautiful photography, wonderful writing and lots of heart. For my recipients... you can pick one or take both because if your name is here, I think you're the bee's knees! xoxo

Julochka of Moments of Perfect Clarity AND her superfabulous new blog, Balderdash
Christina of Soul Aperture
Tara of Paris Parfait
Robin of Bird Tweets
Debi of emma tree
Namastenancy of Chez NamasteNancy
Johanna of Tangri-la
Red Shoes of Heartbreak Tango
Char of ramblins...
Gabby of Dr. Bob's Nightmare

and my little protégé, dutchbaby of the aptly named dutchbaby

Happy Tardy Awards! Don't follow my lead. Go out and bequeath these to someone you love to read right away!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Take a Walk in My Backyard

All was silent as before -
All silent save the dripping rain.
~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


Today it rained for much of the early morning. Hard rain. Even thunder and lightning.

The rain and strong wind made the kind of sound so that you were glad it woke you up, and then made you even more grateful that it was still dark outside and you were cozy in your bed, listening.

And then when the clouds cleared, I went out for a walk. In my backyard.

Want to come along?

Actually, I'm teasing a little. This isn't really my backyard. It's Golden Gate Park. But it's close enough to my house to practically be my backyard, so that's what I call it.

My hands and nose were red from the crisp cold air. Everything smelled like eucalyptus, wonderful and fresh.

Leafy puddles everywhere.

Little branches had flown off the trees.

Pools where sidewalks should be.

Today all of the park's squirrels were out en masse. If you stood very still, they would run up to you, almost gaily, as if you were their long lost Uncle Phil, bearing gifts.

And then when they realized you had nothing to give them, they pouted.

But they still let you take their photographs.

Fuzzy pussy-willow like buds floated atop empty branches.
I wondered what they were. If they were coming or going.

But then a few shared their secret with me. I am looking forward to spring.

Bye for now. My boots are muddy and it's time for dinner.


Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Merry Whatever You Do!

eat, drink, play, sleep, cuddle and be merry, friends.


Delete, Delete, Delete

Hey guys,

I'm sorry if you woke up with an inbox full of spam emails from comments on my blog this morning. And one comment from a total asshole, which I've since deleted.

I hate to do this, but to avoid me dealing with my inbox this morning and thinking that I've been the conduit for a bunch of garbage into yours, I'm turning on that stupid verify thingy and content moderation. I'm so sorry about this. I think it's a total pain. But hopefully it's a preventative more than an annoyance. And maybe once the glow from Blogs of Note wears off, I can go back to the way it was.

I used to think it was fine to have a forum here for anyone who wanted to leave a comment on what I was writing about. But now I've changed my mind. If you're a total angry jerkoff with nothing to say and all you want is to get people to read your blog from my blog, with the intent to abuse them once they get there: Sorry, buddy. You're not getting that opportunity from me.

And now, onto our regularly scheduled programming. I am going to eat my raspberry danish and then I'll be back shortly.


ps.: If you are an Eddie Izzard fan, then you will have instantaneously recognized the reference in the title of this post. If not, then I may have given you the best holiday gift yet: The Wonderful World of Eddie.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Ice Flowers

I'll tell you more later... but isn't this lovely? It's a photograph of a snowflake, taken in 1905.

A winter's gift for you. Stay warm and cozy and I'll catch you later.

Sweet dreams.



Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.” ~ Buddha

For those who believe, no proof is necessary. For those who don't believe, no proof is possible.” ~ Stuart Chase


I wanted to thank all of you who so sweetly wished me a happy Chanukkah/ Hanukkah (however you like to spell it... I could never get the spelling right) from the last post.

kind of feel like a heel. Part of me wants to just to revel in your lovely wishes because I know it made you happy to wish that for me. And it made me happy to receive your wishes, your blessings. You are all so very very kind. But the other part of me has to come clean and say I don't celebrate Hanukkah (or any other holidays) anymore. I fell off the wagon quite a while ago.

I think I first started to fall off it around the age of eight or ten. It had to do with me reading the story of Abraham and the Sacrifice of Issac, in a book I used to really love called The Children's Story of Israel. It was a really interesting book. I remember loving to read it, not only for the vivid stories, but for the smell and feel of the paper,
and the stark black and white illustrations. I think they were engravings. The paper was incredibly silky and smooth. I remember just running my fingers over the pages because they felt beautiful. It was odd. I've never had another book quite like it. I have no idea where that book went to, but it was old.

Anyway, I used to read that book a lot. And then one day it dawned on me what was really going on in that story of Abraham and Isaac. I understood that it meant that Abraham might actually kill his own son because God told him to. And what would that say about any father who might get a message from God. That scared the piss out of me, to be quite frank. I never read that book again. I remember feeling betrayed. And it made me wonder exactly where these stories were coming from and why I read them.

This post isn't to rain on anyone's parade (I don't mean to do that in the least) or to expound what I believe or don't believe. But what this holiday wishing made made me think about is Tradition. Why we believe what we believe.

Like the Buddha says in that quote above: How much of our beliefs are our own? And how often do we question ourselves and our own minds? What is the relationship between our individual identity and what is forged by the traditions and beliefs handed down to us?


In thinking about my Hanukkahs of the past, I think about my grandmothers. My grandma Helen (aka Little Helen) and my grandma Annette. For Grandma Helen, I remember the potato latkes and how I've never had any that taste better than hers did. Every year she would come to my mother's house, with an old metal food grinder in an ancient cardboard box. The grinder part was held on by rubber bands. My mom and I would peel potatoes, keeping them in a bowl of water to keep them from turning pink, until Grandma Helen could grind them up into a big bowl filled with eggs, onions and flecks of black pepper. I remember her forehead getting damp. It was hard work grinding all of those potatoes.

But she said that's what made them taste so good and she was right about that. I've just come to realize that I'll never have that particular taste in my mouth again.

And then there was my Grandma Annette. In her being absent for most of my life now, I think she's come to make a greater impression on me because I didn't know her well. But she represented Tradition to me in a way I craved. She came from the "Old Country" (the Ukraine) as she called it in her heavy accented English, and I still vaguely remember her stories of village life and her brothers and sisters and escaping the Cossack raids.

She knew all of the Sabbath blessings and kept kosher. She was tiny and also very formidable in a quiet, fragile way. I used to watch Fiddler on the Roof a lot as a kid, because I imagined that her vanished village with no name was just like the one in the movie. In a way, I was probably right.


Looking back at grandma Annette and her lost world of the Old Country, I realized for many years that what I wanted, or perhaps envied most, was her tradition. The surety of a world where your place was known, where everyone knew what was expected of themselves and they were surrounded by a community that might have been confining but was also there as a protection. I had this fantasy of how life might just be so much easier if I knew exactly what I was supposed to be when I got older.

Unfortunately or fortunately, life in the 'burbs just isn't the same thing as life in the shtetl. Of course now I'm grateful that I ended up where I am, but for many years, I really felt I was missing out on something very subtle and very important. But my world is a lot bigger now. And I'm not so scared of it anymore. I'm not scared of not being what I thought I was going to be when I grew up, either.


Several years ago, I went on a business trip to Houston. On the flight home, my fellow passenger was an Orthodox rabbi. He had the peyes, the prayer shawl, the black hat. He was my age, rotund and jolly. He had five beautiful children (in his words, I'm sure they were) and he and his wife ran an Orthodox community in Dallas. He was flying to Palo Alto to perform a wedding.

Now all these years later, I felt like I finally had my chance. I had to ask him what was up with the Abraham and Isaac story. I told him what it did to my kid psyche and I could see on his face that I wasn't the only one who had a problem with the tale. He looked pained as I poured my heart out to him. He explained it to me, in what the metaphor of the story really meant, and apologized that no one was there to tell me that when I was young. I tried not to cry. But I did and he gave me his beverage napkin so I could blow my nose. His explanation was calming in its way, but still did not erase the savagery of the act that almost was.

I don't know why it affected me so, to have some closure on that story so many years after the fact. I mean, I could have gone to any temple around and just asked someone. But that was the right time for me. It was the right time, and at the same time, it was too late.

The rabbi and I kept in touch for a little while via email but whatever tradition I felt I should have had just wasn't inside me. I think some things you have to be exposed to at a very young age for them to take hold in your heart, otherwise the roots are just too shallow.

But I don't feel too badly, because I also realize that there was a little eight or ten year old girl who read something and then had an opinion about it and took a position. Above all else, I appreciate that little Julie who reads and thinks about what she reads. And wherever that tradition came from, I'm most grateful for that of all.


More and more, I'm fine with where I'm at. It's a journey though, and I'm still working on it. But I'm not as worried so much about not having all the answers.

Frisbeetarianism is the belief that when you die, your soul goes up on the roof and gets stuck.” ~ George Carlin


Paintings by Marc Chagall: 1. Solitude (1933). 2. The Birthday (1915). 3. Title unknown (if you know, please tell me).

"One fine day... as my mother was putting the bread in the oven, I went up to her, and taking her by her flour-smeared elbow I said to her, 'Mama ... I want to be a painter.' " ~ Marc Chagall

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Some Jose Before Another Monday Morning

This is the Christmas song I love most. When you're a little Jewish kid, you might not have as much exposure to the wide range of celebratory song, but this one I adored. "Feliz Navidad" by Puerto-Rican singer-songwriter Jose Feliciano. This song just makes me feel young inside. Maybe you feel that way too.

And here's a more recent version. Super awesome.

Last summer, The Boy and I were privileged enough to hear Jose sing his famous and wonderful, personal version of "The Star Spangled Banner" before a baseball game at AT&T Park. If you've never heard it (and obviously this has nothing to do with Christmas), you should take a listen. I was so surprised to learn that this was controversial when he first sang it in 1968:

And then while looking for a video of Feliz Navidad to share here, I found his cover of "My Sweet Lord." Normally I never want to hear anyone cover the Beatles. Especially my George.

I like his version. I'm okay with it. See what you think.

But now I miss the Man. I guess I can only be so flexible.

This clip is from the Concert for Bangladesh which, if you haven't seen it, is a great concert film. Now I'm getting all teary-eyed. Such great music.

Happy First Day of Winter

"Every winter, When the great sun has turned his face away, The earth goes down into a vale of grief, And fasts, and weeps, and shrouds herself in sables, Leaving her wedding-garlands to decay, Then leaps in spring to his returning kisses." ~ Charles Kingsley, Saint's Tragedy (act III, sc. 1)

This is it, kids. The days start getting longer again from here. Happy Winter Solstice! For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, this astronomical event means that tonight will be the longest night of the year. To quote wikipedia: "Astronomical events, which during ancient times controlled the mating of animals, sowing of crops and metering of winter reserves between harvests, show how various cultural mythologies and traditions have arisen."

I don't practice animal husbandry, or plant crops or store food for winter (although maybe that isn't such a bad idea these days), but I can appreciate why it was so significant to have practices of observing this day for our ancestors. Basically, if you didn't understand the seasons, you didn't survive, and neither did your family or your tribe. That information bears honoring and remembering through future generations.

Aside from the astronomical event, I enjoyed reading about the myriad of Winter Celebrations that occur all around the world at this time of year, as so many cultures attach significance to this happening. And an informative classification of the major world's religions can be found here.

I'm not a religious person. At this time of year, I cannot help but consider all of the beliefs that are held around the world. My main wish for all is of tolerance, if we still decide to associate any particular philosophical or religious aspect to this day or time of year.


Aside from that, there are some wicked cool photos in the Flickr Commons, if you've never visited yet. The Flickr Commons is a public archive of photography, with an amazing array of images on many, many subjects. I just typed in "winter" and came up with these two gems.

What captures me about old photos is the humanity of them. Even more than a painting, we truly see ourselves in our predecessors. People are people. No matter where and when they live.

"For those who have seen the Earth from space, and for the hundreds and perhaps thousands more who will, the experience most certainly changes your perspective. The things that we share in our world are far more valuable than those which divide us." ~ Donald Williams, former NASA astronaut, who has logged a total of 287 hours and 35 minutes in space

Saturday, December 20, 2008

I Think Jon Stewart Secretly Reads My Blog

Guys, I know some of you recall way back when during the election madness when I had this total realization that some Hall and Oates songs were really politically prophetic?

Well, I'm catching up on my Daily Show episodes (because I don't need it to watch it as much right now so that I can sleep without having nightmares), and I see this:

So either Jon Stewart OR Hall and Oates OR both read my blog and were totally inspired by me.

That can be the only explanation, right? Well, whatever it is, this song is still really funny. (Jon! Hire me! I have Fridays free starting in January. I can telecommute.)

ps.: Just so you know, I am actually working today. That's why I have written four posts today.

Oh, swish!

I'm just quoting. He said it.

As she writes, still pyjama clad. Will someone please make me walk away from the computer?

The Trouble with Women

This really explains it all.

Although, one has to wonder... what IS Brad's problem? Could it be that he's a jerk?

Seriously, it's almost noon. Am I still in my pyjamas? Yes. Have I cleaned my room? No. Am I screwing around and watching these 1950's educational films? Absolutely.

I promise this is the last one. For today.

A Girl Likes to Know You've Had a Good Time

From the immensely enjoyable "Dating: Do's and Don'ts." Part 1

Part 2

I wanted to share some advice with you for the weekend, just in case you've got a Hot Date with Woody, or Anne. Or both.

I am now addicted to the Prelinger Archives, from last night's presentation. I'll share more about that later (it was awesome), but right now I have to learn How to Be Well Groomed. ("Sue avoids red nail polish since it would call attention to her stubby hands.")

Friday, December 19, 2008

Invisible Cities

"At times I feel your voice is reaching me from far away, while I am prisoner of a gaudy and unlivable present, where all forms of human society have reached an extreme of their cycle and there is no imagining what new forms they may assume. And I hear, from your voice, the invisible reasons which make cities live, through which perhaps, once dead, they will come to life again." ~ Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities

Tonight, my friend Chipmonkey (the lady of the long eyelashes) and The Boy and I will be attending a presentation called "Lost Landscapes of San Francisco."

This lecture will be part of the ongoing use of my Mental Stimulus Package that I came up with recently. For those of you who know my penchant for history, and especially the history of this particular city that has captured my imagination, I can't wait for the rare finds we'll get to see tonight. From the program description:

Rick Prelinger is a guerrilla archivist who collects the uncollected and makes it accessible. Prelinger will be presenting his third annual "Lost Landscapes of San Francisco" event, an eclectic montage of lost and rarely-seen film clips showing life, landscapes and labor in a vanished San Francisco as captured by amateurs, newsreel cameramen and industrial filmmakers.

How we remember and record the past reveals much about how we address the future. Prelinger will preface the film with a brief talk on how fragmentary, incomplete histories are being overtaken by pervasive real-time documentation, and how history, memory and property are combining into a new matrix of experience.


On my own, I'm always looking for remnants of San Francisco's past, juxtaposed against the constant construction I see on a daily basis. One of our favorite pastimes is to watch old movies set in San Francisco, and freeze frame scenes that show a location that we might try to place in the maps of our minds. And when we can, we make little pilgrammages, too.

I happen to love finding old brick buildings, because brick buildings of unreinforced masonry are a little more rare when you live in a town associated with earthquakes. But even more so, I love finding these old painted advertisements on the sides of buildings.

These painted signs are becoming an endangered species, whether due to the desecration by graffitists or destruction in the wake of "progress." I treasure my glimpses of them and rejoice when I find a new one in my wanderings. I am trying to take photos of as many of them as I can, my own little collection of San Francisco's city within a city.

I have a recent photograph of a building and that is all that remains. I found the yellow painted billboard advertising for an ancient brand of cigarettes on an early morning walk on my way to the office. And now that building is no more. Just my memory of it and the photograph. Places are always devouring themselves and becoming new, but how quickly a place can become unrecognizable to itself.

I was never able to finish Invisible Cities before. I really wanted to, but it always made me sleepy (I fault myself and not the author). I tried to read the book before I went to Venice, and also when I returned home. Perhaps after tonight I will try it again (I have two copies of it floating around the house), and see if I can't start to weave my own imagined stories of San Francisco, for me and to share with you.


ps.: First two photos taken downtown, on Kearny Street. Last photo taken in the Tenderloin.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Nocturne #2

"I am the keeper of fragile things and I have kept of you what is indisolvable." ~ Anaïs Nin


I feel like a watercolor this week.

By the end of the day, all of my edges are blurred. My eyes seem to get more tired than usual, and the rims of my eyes are red by 5pm, like clockwork. My makeup disappears, where to-- I have no idea. It's like I never put it on at all. I have to go to the bathroom and dab on a bit of rouge, a little lipstick, just to show up and not be a shadow of myself.

I feel like I'm one of those marbleizing trays of water, when the drops of dye are added and they swirl together, little eddies of color. Each time a different pattern. Each night I come home looking like a different person than when I left the house in the morning. I almost don't recognize myself.

It's been a long week and there's still one day left to go. I grant that much. And it was wonderful to share some laughter with you yesterday, with that post about my dad. You guys gave back the joy of laughter to me tenfold by telling me you laughed too. That was the real gift.


Tonight I had dinner with my little friend Chipmonkey. In my watercolor state, I look at her and all I keep seeing are her beautiful eyelashes. I don't know if I have come right out and told her she has pretty eyelashes, but she does. And if she's reading this, then she'll know.

After dinner, we walked through the Mission back through the Castro and in my watercolor state, the streets just shimmered with lights and people walking to restaurants, riding bikes and generally just being outside, together.

It drizzled a little. Little rain droplets, intermittent. More watercolor.


On the train home, the fluorescent lights are harsh on the eyes. A young Asian man is sketching in a clothbound journal with a pencil. I watch him and he's drawing people sitting nearby. He's doing it so quickly and secretively that they don't even notice. But I do.

I smile at him and I can tell I just made him feel shy. So I smile at him again and then I can see that I've reassured him it's okay that I saw him drawing, and he starts to draw me. Then I feel I must turn my face away and pretend I don't notice. Please, I think, draw me pretty. I am so smudged right now. I have no hard lines and everything's running together.

The only thing I really want to do is listen to a nocturne. That is what they are for, inspired by night, to be listened to when it's dark outside. If there was music written for a watercolor, then I would listen to that. But right now it is Chopin. There is a reason why ladies still leave flowers at his grave at Père Lachaise. I would too if I were in Paris.

I'm sorry if this post makes little to no sense at all. I'm probably confusing you right now.

Perhaps if you listen to this nocturne with me then you'll understand what I mean. Have a good night.

“Music melts all the separate parts of our bodies together” ~ Anaïs Nin

Chopin: Nocturne #2 In E Flat, Op. 9/2, CT 109. Photo taken at the Palace of Fine Arts.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

My Dad Is SO Not Joe the Plumber

Some of you guys have really been so kind and complimentary lately about my writing. Thank you! And I did write some comments back about writing about what you know and writing from the heart and writing often because the more you write, the better you get...

And all that's true and I totally believe it. But the real deal about the history of my writing efforts became clearer to me tonight when I called my parents to say a quick hello. They were both hysterical on the phone and had a hard time talking to me.

They were laughing.

They had found a box of old papers, cartoons and photographs of my sister and me. Apparently, the old papers and cartoons were works that I had created, basically skewering one family member or another. So the truth about my love of writing really stems from me making fun of my family, and I must have done it so well that some pieces are pretty damn timeless, at least as far as my mom and dad are concerned.

What I learned from re-reading the story below explains why: 1. I truly appreciate a guy who knows his way around a toolbox, 2. where I learned to swear like a sailor, and 3. that my parents are totally cool--especially my dad-- in that they will let me go all David Sedaris on them publicly and tell humiliating stories about our family when I feel like it. (Tonight I told my dad that this family tale would make him famous and he was all for it.)

I wrote this little story when I was either a freshman or sophomore in college. I have only edited it a tiny bit to protect one innocent (my sister, and also because you won't be able to pronounce her name). I probably shouldn't call this a story because it's all true, every last word of it. You can even call my mom or dad to check... if they've stopped laughing.

ps.: Neither one of these guys are my dad.


Water Music

I believe that everyone has an area of expertise, a subject or hobby in which they excel above the average Joe. And then there are the instances where it’s just better to call in a professional. Take plumbing, for example. If our suburban ranch-style house could talk, I’m sure it would have pleaded mercy with my father on many occasions. My mother tried to intercede on the house’s behalf, but my father was always steadfast in his assessment of the home repair job to be done. “We don’t need to hire anyone. I can fix it myself.”

I grew up in a house where you had to explain the variety of toilet handle positions to newly arrived guests, lest they become embroiled in an embarrassing bathroom predicament by trying to flush the toilet by pressing the handle down (a situation normal to most homes) instead of the more exotic upward flush movement common only to toilets in our house. Our interest in our guests’ bathroom habits probably seemed strange and out of place at first, but I’m sure they were grateful for the advance information once they were on their own in the lavatory.

Although we didn’t live anywhere near a bayou, our house’s windows steamed every winter from the small lake that accumulated under the floors with each rain. My sister and I whiled away the evening hours drawing amusing faces, alphabets, and tic-tac-toe games in the condensation on the bay window in the living room. We didn’t need to draw the drapes in the winter at our house; our family was cleverly concealed by the inner fog that bloomed from beneath our floorboards.

A slight downside to the underground lake was that the moisture warped our front doors, making them very hard to close, and each year was a little worse than the previous one. It got to the point where it was easier to let guests in through the garage rather than slam the door with the force required to propel a cannonball, and that the slam made almost the same noise as that aforementioned cannonball. The booming crashes (it always took several tries before the door stayed shut) became so horribly embarassing one year that my father ended up tying the door handles together (from the inside, of course) with a strong piece of rope. At first, I had delusions of knife-wielding attackers sawing their way into our domicile through the one-inch gap between the doors, but as the weeks passed, I realized the attackers probably felt sorry for us and I slept much more soundly.

One morning I awakened to the sound of a very long, very loud shower being taken in the bathroom next to my room. Which was kind of strange in that no one ever took a shower in that particular bathroom (it had nothing to do with plumbing anomalies in this instance). The water was absolutely pelting whoever it was hitting, and after a moment, I heard other noises besides the water: someone running, and muffled voices with an hysterical edge. Someone was crying. I should have stayed in bed, but then I would have missed the only geyser I know of in our neighborhood.

I stood in the doorway of the bathroom, and watched in gap-jawed amazement as an eruption of hot, steamy water from one of the sinks was smacking the ceiling with surprising intensity. My sister was perched on top of the counter, trying to stem the geyser with a pile of sodden towels. Her hair was plastered around her face in clumps and her eye makeup looked like Tammy Faye Baker’s Great Lash mascara on a particularly tearful day. My sister’s school outfit clung to her teenage body like Saran Wrap. She was crying. “Dad, I’m going to be late. They [the school administrators] are going to send me to Broadway.” (An explanation: My sister suffers from C.T.S., otherwise known as Chronic Tardiness Syndrome. Because of her condition, she was always on the verge of being sent to our high school’s version of a correctional facility. The mere mention of Broadway struck terror into the hearts and minds of kids and parents alike; therefore, my sister got a ride to school from my father every morning. This morning, however, she was definitely going to miss first period.)

Before I could comprehend exactly what was happening, an ominous thud crashed behind me. I whirled around to see my father, having just run in from the garage, wearing soggy flannel pajama pants so heavy with water that he was in grave danger of exposing his private parts to his children. His sopping rust-colored suede booties had left bright footprints on the beige carpet in the hallway, and his glasses were fogged up like pieces of Lalique glass. His expression was tragically frantic. He was holding a hammer.

I got out of his way.

My father dashed under the sink with the hammer, striking the frozen knobs under the porcelain bowl in an attempt to shut off the source of our newest attraction. The knobs didn’t budge. (We now know that you’re supposed to turn those knobs once in a while to keep them from freezing up.) My mother stood in the door to her bedroom, mirroring my expression on her face. She knew how to handle certain people (namely my father) in crisis situations. In the most restrained voice she could muster, Mom asked, “Don’t you think we should call a plumber? I bet Frank knows what to do.”

The fury from under the sink was palpable. “We don’t need a plumber! Dad raged. (If this wasn’t an instance for a professional, then I am at a loss to ever think when a more appropriate time would be.) “These goddamn knobs are frozen! Son of a bitch!” With lightning speed, my father dashed back down the hall to the garage. My mother made a run for the phone, and called Frank the plumber anyway. My sister, frightened that she would never be allowed to leave her scalding perch, looked at me with enormous eyes. I went back to my room and shut the door, where I immediately burst into silent convulsive laughter (any giggle from me at that moment might have been my last). When I felt I could return to the scene, I put on my straightest face and reopened the door.

Dad had run back from the garage and into the fray. “Where’s my fucking hammer?!” he demanded of the gods. “Where is it?! Goddamn it!” My mother replied evenly, but with a tinge of iciness, “Sid, the hammer is in your hand.” Wild-eyed, my father looked confusedly at the hand tool he was clutching so tightly. His crazed glare softened and he seemed to understand English once again. My mother quietly repeated the instructions she had received over the phone, and like a somnambulist, my father glided into the garage, turning off the hot water heater as he was told. The geyser quickly stopped. The house was very silent, except for the sound of water dripping from the lip of the sink onto the three inches of standing water on the floor. My mother opened one of the bathroom drawers. My father’s watch, wallet, and other odds and ends were suspended in the miniature pool like vegetables in aspic. She closed the drawer again without comment.

My father reappeared from the kitchen holding a turkey baster. With that same sleepwalking gait, he moved silently into the bathroom and sat on the floor-cum-wading pool, mindfully sucking water into the turkey baster and squirting it into the bathtub. This was the scariest thing we had yet seen this morning; it appeared that his mind had completely snapped. My sister, my mother, and I looked at each other with furtive glances. My mother spoke again, with compassion, but also as if she was approaching a mad dog. “Sid, why don’t you get dressed for work? Your youngest daughter has to get to school. Don’t worry about the water; Julie and I will take care of it.”

He looked up at her like a three-year old who had been given a cookie. “Okay,” he said placidly. He dressed, and took my damp-haired, re-outfitted sister to school. After a few minutes, the shock wore off, and doubled over in laughter, my mother and I got down to the business of disaster recovery, minus the turkey baster.


I think this story might also explain where I got my sense of humor.

Now don't forget to turn those knobs under the sink! It's very important! Otherwise your children might write embarrassing stories about you someday and then put them on the internet for their own amusement.