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Saturday, January 31, 2009

about last night

I feel decidedly unglamorous this morning in my sweats and fuzzy socks.

But now I have proof that last night I looked a whole lot better.

Thank you, Jennifer, for capturing the magic inside and outside of your beautiful tango studio.

(Look, you can even see the Transamerica Pyramid in the background, and a little bit of the Bay Bridge.)

Friday, January 30, 2009

A Three Advil Night

It's been a long time since I last prayed to Goddess Advil.


Tonight the red shoes came out, and yeah, it is like riding a bicycle.
You never forget.

You never forget how the music fills your ears and you dance with your eyes closed for minutes upon minutes. How your hair gets sweaty and sticks to your forehead and the side of your face, where it's pressed against the face of someone else. How you can't help humming the melodies, laughing when you make a mistake. Milongas, valses, tangos.


Tonight at Ney and Jennifer's.
Music, color, art and friends.
The three most favoritest people I could ever wish to dance with, this being my debut for 2009 and the first day back on the dance floor in many moons.

They didn't forget me!

xoxo to my lovely friends: R, P and T.
You made me feel like a princess, thank you.

ps.: And I got to ride the cable car there and back. Now that's what I call San Francisco Tango.

"I love this dirty town."

The film noir festival, Noir City 7, continues through this weekend. One of my favorite films-- period-- is showing on the last day, Sunday: Sweet Smell of Success.

(Roger Ebert's Great Movies essay is here, and this in-depth write up on filmsite.org is a detailed walkthrough for us groupies.)

This film has absolutely everything going for it: amazing, crackling, memorable dialogue; well-crafted characters at every level; the incomparable cinematography of James Wong Howe, I could go on and on but if you're really interested, the links above speak better than I could...

This scene below is probably one of the best in the film and shows why the Sweet Smell of Success is worth seeing over and over again.


Yesterday morning, the MUNI train I was riding went out of service at Civic Center Station. Rather than wait with the huge, annoyed crowds of people all going my way, I decided to walk the remaining blocks since I was going to be late either way.

Civic Center Station drops you off in the heart of the Tenderloin which, for its bad rep, still is photogenic in its way. The trick is that you just gotta keep walking. You don't hang out and you don't dawdle.

I didn't think too much of these shots at first-- they were something to do while I walked to work, slightly pissed off-- but when you give these images the Noir Treatment, even an early morning photo attains some atmosphere.

Amazing what you can see in 10 minutes sometimes.
And how sometimes black and white makes it easier to see.

See you at the movies.

Happy Free Friday, guys.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

An Excerpt


They call it "chemo skin." It's fragile, so soft, almost translucent looking. It has a beautiful but disturbing glow.

The woman perched on the chair before her, wearing an autumnal looking sweater, all cabled and tweedy in shades of oranges and golds, was wearing a matching turban on her head.

The makeup counter at the Stanford store is very close to Stanford Hospital. The woman told her that she was finishing her round of chemotherapy before going back to her hometown. She was staying in a nearby hotel, with her husband.

The thing you learn when being a makeup artist is how to find a commonality with whomever is sitting before you. Aside from the regular or irregular features, the wishes and desires are also what you learn to tune into. Most people will share the same themes with you (I don't know what I'm doing with my makeup, I need a change). But you always can suss out the deeper desires. Some people will break down and tell you after a few minutes, and some might simply break down, crying. It happens. That's why you always have a box of tissues handy. Not just for wiping brushes but for dabbing tears.

The woman in the chair with the heavy sweater and the turban, dressed for autumn in the heat of summer. Her hands were thin and chilled. The skin so fragile, so thin, that barrier between blood and the atmosphere.

She assembles her clean brushes, some q-tips, some cotton, on a clean tissue. The woman before her is tired and quiet, so she starts working without any direction.

The first thing she must do for this sweet, aging face is to give it some hair. The woman has no eyebrows, no eyelashes. They were victims of the cruel chemicals that are trying to kill the cancer cells but with their loss, her face is fading away.

She has learned to master the art of the eyebrow. Shaping its geometry is not easy and takes practice. There is an actual science to it, but this will be the first time she's created something from absolutely nothing. First, to locate the spot where the brow would naturally sit. Then, to skillfully sketch in tiny hairs to create those delicate arches. The trick is to make the sketch marks look like they have dimension. A waxy brow pencil is the first step, but then adding layers of different powders gives the illusion of depth.

Then the lashline. How to make it natural, yet defined, not too overwhelming so that it's apparent there are no lashes there? The thinnest flat brush, wetted and dark with waterproof cake liner in brown, not black. Applied to the inside of the lashline where the hairs would grow. Deft flicks of the brush bring the eye into shape. Then a smudge of shadow, above, blended. The effect is soft. It works.

All this time, the woman is quiet. She seems to be resting, napping. Enjoying. When the woman finally sees herself in the mirror, finished, she sighs. She cannot stop talking about how wonderful she feels with this face on. Both of them look at each other with glistening, teary eyes. The woman adores the lipstick, a glossy sheer warm red with a golden tinge. Simply is crazy for it, she's so thrilled. All her life, she says, she's been searching for the perfect color of lipstick (like so many women) and finally she's found it. An $18 tube of color and shine that's made her feel complete.

The two hug, rejoice for the simple happiness of finding the perfect lipstick. They part with kisses.

The next day, the woman comes back with her receipt and the lipstick in the bag and a stoic attitude. "My husband didn't like the color."

She is floored. All of the happy thoughts of yesterday evaporate instantly. "Then tell him not to wear it." She says it in a joking way but actually she's dead serious. What else can she say? Who gives a flying fuck about what the husband thinks? His wife is dying before his eyes.

Amazing. She's never forgotten that woman, to this day. Her greatest hope is that the woman recovered fully from her cancer, and has left that man in the dust. Perhaps she has a lover now, and eyebrows and eyelashes and a beautiful, perfect shade of lipstick.


The above is part of the writing project I mentioned. I'm relieved to know that as I'm getting older, the moments in my life that I thought were disappearing from my memory are still there. They might take a little more digging, but once I start, the scenes are lining up in my mind, one after the other, impatiently waiting to be dusted off and told to someone, to you.

That photo is one I took when I first got the camera, and it makes me happy to realize that I can also reach back into my own cache and find my images that help support what I'm writing now.

It's a good feeling to know that everything you need is right there for you. And thanks to all of you who are already infusing my project with the encouragement and support I need to keep going.

Okay, time to get ready for work.


Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Read This Blog

You can read mine, too, but I want you to read his.

Gabby's beautifully written essays will take your breath away, bring tears to your eyes, and make your heart glad that there's a guy out there who brings his memories forward with such power and clarity. This man can write. Boy, can he write.

This post in particular would be a good one to start with.


Tuesday, January 27, 2009


"My case is a species of madness, only that it is a derangement of the Volition, and not of the intellectual faculties." ~ Samuel Taylor Coleridge


When I sold my kit several years ago, I thought I had closed a chapter in my life. Well, I did. I walked away cold turkey and was glad about it. I was so burned out. I tried to stay away from the stores, the magazines, anywhere I might be tempted to relapse.

Until today, when apparently I'm off the wagon again.


This morning on the train into work (at 8:07 am, to be precise), I got a brilliant idea for a writing project, a book. At least, it's a brilliant idea to me. I had the kind of feeling that you get when you have a dream that's so clear and true that it keeps you going all day, like a muse has been whispering in your ear all night and you wake up with all kinds of aha's! and connections in your mind.

I'm not going to say too much yet, because you know how some of these brilliant ideas can be. You pursue them passionately to an unforseen dead end and then when you run out of steam, you realize that your idea wasn't really all that brilliant and you got all excited about nothing special.

So I'll tell you about the details if it looks like there's something to share details about.


When you're a makeup artist, you're a technique snob and product junkie, a review hound and an ingredients smartypants. You watch other artists work and appropriate their style, when you see them do something new you haven't tried yourself. You can't really go to school to learn how to be a makeup artist. In theory you can, but in reality, to succeed you need hundreds of hours of practice, on real human faces of every make and model. You pore over printed materials and you can pick up a Glamour magazine or Allure and, without reading the photo credits, you know which makeup artist did the cover model. You don't even care who's on the cover. You go gaga for the technique: if it's good, you go gaga. If there's a perceived flaw or mistake, you rip it up and you and your friends talk about how you could have done it better.

When you're a makeup artist, your kit is your most prized possession and it encompasses your ongoing quest for the Holy Grail. My kit was a classic silver metal train case, five compartments high and lined with black velvet, which doubled as a side table and I used to perch a small lamp on it when I wasn't using it. I needed to wear a wrist brace when transporting it to jobs because it was so heavy. I remember a lovely Nigerian taxi driver helping me at JFK Airport, who asked me if I was carrying bars of gold in the case because it was so heavy. A totally understandable question. When I told him the case was full of lipstick, he started laughing. I don't think he believed me.

When you're working, you try to make connections with account managers so you can get free product and then you never have to buy as much.

But you always end up buying stuff. Every artist says the same thing: Oh, but it's for my kit. If you say it's for your kit, then spending hundreds of dollars on shiny new packaging that's smooth and perfect under your fingertips, and subtle, finely milled powders that feel like silk, and soft sable brush hairs of every shape, and perfect bullets of lipstick full of pigment and sensual emollients, spending that money doesn't hurt so much. Because you're a pro, and you need whatever it is... for your kit. It's for my kit justifies a lot.

The truth is that it's never for the kit. It's for you and you just pretend like it's all business.


Pictured above, today's naughty haul at Sephora. Several months ago, I had heard a chorus of angels singing (in my head) when I first realized that now I can get YSL cosmetics there, and now I don't have to deal with the snobby clerks at Bloomingdales. Today's pile of beauty started because I got a gift card from my sister and because people keep asking me why I retired from being a makeup artist and all of a sudden I have a basket of items in my hand and in my head, it's all flowing back in a rush of creativity and memories.

It's for my kit.


And then, just to prove that fate or fortune or whatever is truly shining on me and my brilliant idea today, my dearest dutchbaby (who knows exactly what I like) scored a bacon scented, bacon flavored lip balm from... you guessed it, the guys at Baconnaise!

Dutchbaby went to the wonderful Fancy Food Show here in town last week and met the proprietors of Baconnaise and now not only do I have the option of glossing my pout with YSL Rouge Pur no. 134, but I can also make my lips smell like bacon! (This is sounding a wee bit pornographic, I realize that now.)

Dogs and men are going to find me irresistable. And No, this one is not going in my kit.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Rewind and Read These (Interviews, of course!)

rewind rewind rewind

The post before this one was my 700th (wow) and not that I need to attach any symbolic significance to that, it's such a nice solid number that now I feel badly that it was wasted on the dreaded First Day Back From Staycation dreck post.


I was rereading a post that I wrote last year that seems a little too familiar today. Even though I still have the Euros and the passport in my wallet because of it, and the quote by Anais Nin is always a helpful reminder to me, running off into fantasyland isn't the most productive option, really.

There's just something about cramming all of this living into two weeks out of a 52-week year that makes me anxious. Time really does fly by. I think that's what hits me most.


Today in Chinatown there was a New Year's Day Carnival at Portsmouth Square. The narrow alley was filled with cheap arcades where you could pay a dollar to try to win a stuffed animal or a trinket. You could buy churros, caramel apples and Cup-O-Noodles at the snack wagon.

Little girls dressed in colorful New Year's finery were begging for toys and balloons everywhere you looked. Older children were lighting firecrackers and throwing those little exploding balls onto the concrete. The ground everywhere was littered with the remnants of these noisy festivities.

You watch these tiny colorful people going about their business: tooting plastic horns, begging for dollar bills from their mothers to play a carnival game, or running about like the wind. Watching them doesn't make the worries of the day go away, but it does help for a while.


Two more delightful interviews floated in across the interwebs today.

Please spend some time with Liz and her family at Eternal Lizdom. She makes you feel welcome and like you're already part of the family.

And then there is my tango love and photographic muse, my sweet and talented Red Shoes of Heartbreak Tango. I have a ginormous crush on this woman, and you will too if you read her blog.

UPDATE 10:26pm: If you want to know about a fascinating lady who's working on a book titled “My Life as a Bra Queen” (I'd buy that book!), please visit Debbi at An Ever Fixed Mark. A talented costume designer (and tango dancer), she describes her office as "a library and fabric store had a whirlwind romance near my desk." I don't know about you, but that sounds like my kind of office.


ps.: I'm officially interviewed out... I still have a few more to write and am waiting for others to roll in. For those of you arriving late, thanks for your interest but I'm hanging up my Baba Wawa hat now and not taking any more requests at this time.

20/20 has not called me, sadly.


If someone is roaming around downtown SF with a tranquilizer dart gun, let me know.

Normally I'd want the dart for someone else, but today it's for me.

Images from here and here.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Desperately Seeking Sponsor

January 25, 2009

Department of Employment, Tourism, Mental Health and Grants for the Arts
City Hall
San Francisco, California

Dear Sir/Madam,

Please excuse the formality of this letter as I had hoped to speak with someone in your office. However, I could not find your office so this letter must be my voice and representative.

As you may or may not know, I am a resident of San Francisco and have been on a "Staycation" (aka, vacation at home due to insufficient funds for travel abroad). At first, I was ambivalent as to the quality of the vacation I would enjoy here, even though as a resident I feel that San Francisco is one of the best places to live. I had my sights set on more exotic locations.

However, I must admit that this has been one of the best holidays I have ever had, which is why I am contacting you today.

Due to my increased productivity and overall enjoyment of life in general, I would like to request a grant of sufficient monies (including health care) so that I might continue my Staycation and not have to go back to work tomorrow. The benefits to me as a happy citizen (and registered voter, I might add) would not even begin to compare to the benefits that San Francisco as a city would reap due to my redoubled efforts to promote our city by taking thousands of photos and writing about my adventures on my blog. The amount of time such PR takes is tremendous and even now I have only been able to describe a fraction of the fun I've had, not to mention the delicious meals I've enjoyed around town and the new friends I've made.

I think I could greatly improve San Francisco's image and overcome some disturbing stereotypes that may be disrupting tourism.

Also, I am incredibly bummed at the thought of going back to the office tomorrow (it's almost too much to bear) and this grant would allow me to continue in the lifestyle I have become accustomed in the past two weeks.

Thank you for your consideration and I look forward to hearing from you soon (today would be great but I'm guessing your office is closed on Sundays).

Very most sincerely and incredibly appreciatively yours,


ps.: I have enclosed a photo from the last Staycation I had so you will know that my request is quite serious. Until now, I had not had a Staycation since that photo was taken.

pss.: I am the one in the plaid pants.

psss.: PLEASE help me and give me a grant so I can stay on Staycation.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Okay, that was crazy.

Yeah, that was crazy.

Human bumper cars + pro wrestling + cat fights = roller derby


Well, now I can check that off the list of things I've seen.

Most of the fighting photos were blurry but I think you probably get the idea.

You can tell these gals are hamming it up, but still you wouldn't want to pick a fight with one of them. They could flip you. Big time.

And one of the referees was pretty hot.

Is it just me or does she have glitter in her cleavage?


I kind of feel like I should be eating chunks of raw meat or watching Xanadu right now.

Or both.

Boy, gone are the days of the Aloha Roller Palace in San Jose, California.


Hot Off the Press! More Interviews!

I'm home for a tiny break between the Noir Festival matinee (Chicago Deadline with Alan Ladd and Donna Reed) and Women's Roller Derby tonight.

And wouldn't you know it... two more interviews have come in. While I'm out watching the Bay Bombers tonight, please enjoy the following interviews:

My two favorite blogging sisters, Kath and Margie, at soeurs du jour. (BTW, you might also remember that Kath is my VP from my Tangobaby Presidential Campaign last year.)

A lady who is a passionate artist, writer, tango dancer and a delight to know. And she lives too far away from me. Elizabeth at Working Artist.

More interview questions are floating out there in blogland, awaiting answers, so stay tuned.

The Only Dick Cheney Post I'll Ever Write

It's drizzly and grey and foggy this morning... perfect weather considering that Noir City #7 started last night at the Castro Theatre. (Bill and Iasa, it's really making me sad that you're not here for this film festival.)

I'm just lounging in my La-Z-Boy, wishing so much that Richard Widmark's greatest villain, Tommy Udo from Kiss of Death, had been the one pushing Dick Cheney's wheelchair to the Inauguration.

(Just pretend that Cheney is the old lady in the wheelchair and enjoy.)

And now to ponder breakfast and what Noir Festivities I'll be enjoying today (there is also Roller Derby at Kezar Stadium tonight). I feel a bagel is in my future, which has nothing to do with anything.

Enjoy your day. Watch Kiss of Death.


ps.: I lied. I would write more posts about Dick Cheney if the Hague saw fit to put him on trial for war crimes. Is there some sort of write-in campaign we can start? Does anyone know anyone that works at the Hague who could get that ball rolling?

Friday, January 23, 2009

The Good, The Bad, and The Naughty

Today is the day that I almost ended The Staycation in a very very bad bad way.

Have you ever done something where you really know you shouldn't be doing what you're doing and the Little Mom Voice in your head is telling you to Stop what you're doing this very instant or else you'll be very very sorry, young lady but you don't listen and you do the bad thing anyway?

I know you know what I'm talking about. You do it too.


Today is the second and absolute last time I get my camera wet. (You may remember the first time I got it wet, with some pretty lovely results.) This is the Bad Part of the story. (Then I'll work backwards to the Naughty and Good Parts to make it all have a happy ending.)


I was supposed to go tango dancing outside with that fellow from the tango video and it was drizzling, so he called to postpone when I was on the train, halfway to our meeting place, which put me in a teensy bit of a mood because I was really looking forward to dancing with him. (T., if you're reading this, I apologize.)

Anyway, I thought, Shoot, I've never let a little rain get in the way of something that I want to do, so I took my tango shoes and boombox back home and grabbed the camera and lots of extra batteries. I decided to head back to Telegraph Hill to see if lighting might strike twice and I could find the wild parrots again.

Let me tell you, Telegraph Hill is a bitch to climb. It's really crazy steep. But thank goodness in that last block when I thought I was going to slide back down the sidewalk, I could hear this really loud, crazy squawking so I knew that the parrots must be close by, and it was worth the trek. And the nice drizzle was keeping me from sweating.

I went back to the secret little pyracantha bush/tree I found in an alleyway at the top of the hill. Yesterday, the tree was teeming with the vibrant bright green and red wild parrots, who were devouring the red berries and making quite a squawking racket. It was a glorious sight, because the birds matched the tree in an incredible way. Their bright lime green feathers matched the leaves and their brilliant red feathers around their eyes and on their shoulders were the same color as the berries. It was a tree filled with chameleon birds.

But today, when I went back to the tree, the birds weren't there. I could hear them, but could not figure out where they were. They were loud enough so that I knew they were close by.

I trudged around the neighborhood where I could but aside from breaking into people's backyards in the rain, it looked like I was out of luck this time. No feral cherry headed conures for me.


Then I saw a few parrots flying overhead and followed them down to a part of the Filbert Street Steps that I did not know existed. (San Francisco is full of steep and wonderful stairways that you can climb for pleasure or torture, depending on your degree of fitness and choice of footwear. A delightful book that's great for touring these steps can be found online here.)

As I got closer to the terminus of the stairs, the squawking got insanely loud. The rain came down harder and the trees above me were dropping giant loads of rain onto my umbrella. As I turned to look over the retaining wall down the hillside below, I could see that I had hit the Wild Parrot Jackpot.

And this is where the Bad Part of the story happens. I had to put down all of my things, including my umbrella, in order to take photos of the birds, who were going crazy over in a tree and on a bird feeder. I walked as slowly and quietly as I could, and before I knew it, I was right on top of them, taking photos. They must be used to people because aside from grazing my head a few times, and giving me those curious sideways or dirty looks that birds do, they let me get so close to them that I could almost touch them.

And the rain poured down. I was soaking wet and soon even my sweater was too wet to wipe the camera lens on without it streaking. The Mom Voice in my head was getting louder, but the birds were so amazing that I couldn't tear myself away.


When I finally left the birds, I knew I had done a bad thing. I was so sopping wet that even my socks inside my boots were wet and my hair was a dripping mess. I postponed the Bad Part (where I check my camera) by having a piece of Golden Boy Pizza, which can cure most ills and is probably some of the best pizza in town. But then came the reckoning.

The camera appeared to be giving up the ghost. The lens wouldn't retract and the camera kept shutting itself off and saying horrible things like lens error, restart camera. And it was making a little squeaky sound, like a mouse on a wheel in a cage sound. Super Not Good.


Needless to say, the ride home on the train was a bummer. I really really adore my camera (like you couldn't tell) and I don't have $800 lying around the house to replace this one because I'm a dummy. The thought of not having a camera was making me sick to my stomach and it made me realize how much I love taking photos and being able to do it whenever I want. Plus, The Boy would have been very upset with me. (Thankfully he was not home when I got back. Whew.)

I tried to google some answers to see if there was something I could do for my poor drowned Canon, but to no avail. Then I thought maybe I could blow-dry the camera with the hairdryer and see what happens. At this point, what did I have to lose?

So I did. I blew dried my camera.

And after a little while, the squeaky mouse wheel sound was gone and the camera appears to be fine and we're on speaking terms again.

So that was the Naughty Part.


And now here is the Good Part. Why I was willing to do such a stupid thing in the first place. These wild parrots are exciting to watch and a gorgeous treat for the eye. They are true eye candy. I have so many photos of them that I'll probably upload an entire set to flickr, but in the meantime, here's a taste. (For the record, the color in these images is not tweaked at all... this is exactly how beautiful these birds are. You can look right into their eyes and feel their little parroty personalities just by standing still and watching them.)


For those of you who have not seen the wonderful documentary The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill, here is an excerpt so you can have a peek into the world of these wild and beautiful birds and the city we share with them. You've really got to see this film-- it's magical.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

More Movie Star Sightings

This was even better than seeing Bud Cort tonight! Look who else I saw today!

Here's a little real San Francisco movie stardom...

Hopefully some of you saw this movie because it's really wonderful.

Of course I was totally freaking out about these guys. And I got some great photos but they'll have to wait. I have got to go to sleep before I pass out in my chair.


My First Snowman (and Interviews!)

Look! It snowed!

Nah, I'm playing with you. It snowed where Starlene lives. She took this photo for me.

AND she made me my very first snowman! I don't have a lot of basis for comparison (none really), but I'm going to go out on a limb and say this might be one of the cuter snowmen ever made.

I especially like his little jaunty hat, and if you look carefully, you'll see that he's packed a suitcase for his trip to San Francisco. We are going to run off together, me and Snowy.


Before I really do run off for today (lunch in North Beach with namastenancy, who is my art guru, and then the Harold and Maude anniversary screening and interview with Bud Cort at the Castro Theatre), I did want to give you some new interviews to read.

The nanny you wish you had at Brainy and Beautiful (and yes, she is)
A straight-talking guy who can do almost anything with a Blackberry, Adam at I don't give 2 cents, I throw quarters.

I'm so glad these great interviews are filling up the blank spaces while the clock is running down on the Staycation. Catch youse all later.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Backstage Pass

So-called art restoration is at least as tricky as brain surgery. Most pictures expire under scalpel and sponge. ~ Alexander Eliot


I honestly don't know how I'm going to be able to go back to work on Monday.

This Staycation has been so full of cool little adventures that I literally have not had time to process them all, let alone post them.

(Yes, this is a Sir Joshua Reynolds portrait.)


Behind this secret white door is the paintings conservation lab at the de Young Museum.

You might remember my friend T., who is an art conservator at the museum. Actually he works on paintings for most of the fine arts museums in the city. Last year he was kind enough to take me on a tour of the labs. Now it looks like we might collaborate on a project together, making a book about how paintings are conserved. A book for kids. We're both really excited about it.

So today I came back to the labs and spent half the day there, watching, observing and learning more and taking over 300 photos.


This is just a fraction of what I took pictures of. I'd add more but I've also been invited to a movie night with the art conservators. We're going to have chicken curry and watch Lust for Life, the Vincent van Gogh biopic starring Kirk Douglas. I think watching this movie with a bunch of art conservators will be pretty interesting and I bet there will be some fun commentary.

I won't be able to add much to the discussion, so I'm bringing the ice cream.

The last post I did about T. and the paintings, with some other great photos, is here.