Saturday, October 31, 2009

Thank you, kind sir

At about midnight, my friend and I disembarked from the N Judah and were standing chatting on the corner of Carl and Cole. A man approached from down the street and I stepped aside slightly to give him better access to the crosswalk. As he passed us, not only did he say, "excuse me," he tipped his hat to us. Not in an exaggerated ironic sort of way, but in a genuinely mannerly sort of way. And then he simply carried on up the street. And now I am probably in love with him.

Thursday, October 29, 2009


Logging onto (the details of which I generally try to spare you), I get an error message. There's a little dialogue box which, at the top in large letters, says, "Even dating has its difficulties" and then in smaller print it says "We couldn't process that request." and then the usual customer support contact information.

Hoo boy. I don't know if I've ever seen a more hilariously misused "even." Oh, naive little, when you suggest that a computer error message may be the first dating mishap I had ever experienced, I can but laugh derisively. I assure you that this error message is not the first dating difficulty with which you have presented me. Indeed, were I not already quite aware that dating has its difficulties, I would never have logged onto your site to begin with. Thank you, though, for your quaint apology.

The Bangles

Jonathan Lethem is probably smarter than you too. He certainly seemed to be very smart. He did say one thing that resonated and which I will now misquote. "The experience of reading books that you love is that of encountering yourself." Basically, that when a book speaks to you profoundly it is because it affirms or reveals some deep part of yourself. I wish I could recall what he said exactly, but I know that my reaction was complete agreement.

However, I was inattentive on the whole because seated in the two rows directly behind me was a whole class of university students. I pray that they are mere freshmen and that there is yet time to mold them into adults, although part of me despairs that by university age they wouldn't have already gleaned some basic theatre-going skills.

1. Keep your phone off and closed.

2. Don't talk. No. Really. Just don't. That whispering you did steadily for at least thirty minutes counts as talking. Good theatres have excellent acoustics. We can all hear you. And we don't like you.

3. The question-and-answer period at the end of the formal interview is still part of the event. Which means you still can't talk.

4. If for some reason you find it fashionable to wear 18 bangles on your arm, for the love of God, keep your arm still. I don't know what you were doing back there--calisthenics?--but you sounded like an entire team of horses bedecked with sleigh bells.

There are others, but let's start by mastering these, shall we?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

And the answer is: no

It is actually not possible for your upstairs neighbors to move away without your noticing. Don't concern yourself with that worry. It's true that they might give their cat away a few weeks early to throw you off the trail, but there will be a great deal of stomping and dragging and banging near the end. It will go on all night. You won't miss anything.


A.S. Byatt is smarter than you

Not that she'd say so. She's very polite. I don't know that you've read any of her books, but I have and I'm a bit in awe of her. She is one of those writers who is able to take all sorts of elements of the human experience--art, history, science, emotion--and weave them into a complex narrative. Reading her books makes me feel the way I did after I saw Tom Stoppard's Arcadia: what must it be like to be that smart?

Here are some things she said at the Herbst on Monday:

1. That one of her great heroines is Elizabeth Blackwell, the first woman doctor in England. She said that she admired her particularly for the way in which she became a doctor. That is, by being very polite. Apparently Ms. Blackwell would just turn up for lectures and exams and when told she shouldn't be there would say "Oh, I'm just attending. Thank you." and stay. Eventually, they had to pass her. "She became a doctor and never lost her good manners," said Ms. Byatt.

After this tale, Robert Hass mentioned that Gertrude Stein had gone to medical school for three years, but had given it up and became a writer. Ms. Byatt remarked that it was probably just as well and that she "wouldn't have liked to have been tended by her at all. Alice B. Toklas would have been better."

2. When asked about the future of the planet she said that it seemed very likely that according to all the scientists she's spoken to, it is very likely that we are going to extinguish ourselves. She said "human beings are very clever animals, and we make all sorts of clever things. But we're just not quite clever enough to stop."

3. She told us that when she is working on a book, she first fills notebooks with copious quotes, research, ideas, etc. When she sits down to write the book she does it chronologically straight thought. She said that if she makes a mistake, she throws the page away and begins again. She doesn't cross things out or move things around.

Have you read a book by A.S. Byatt? Yeah. I'll just give you a moment to contemplate the fact that it was written in that manner. You should probably sit down before you think about it too much.

4. She has four children. I mean, they are not children now, but they were at some point. How she was simultaneously the sort of writer she is and the mother of four, I cannot say. It puts parent blogging in rather harsh perspective. Any sort of blogging, really. She spoke about the decision one can make to be a person, not just a woman. She quite obviously achieved a level of personhood that is miles above my head.

On the whole, it was delightful and I felt honored to be there and I can't wait to read her new book. Hooray for writers. Hooray for thinkers. Hooray for good manners and understated humor. Hip Hip Hooray!

Tonight, back to Herbst to hear what Jonathan Lethem has to say for himself.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Neighborhood watch

My upstairs neighbors are moving to Switzerland. The question is, have they already moved to Switzerland? And the answer is, I really couldn't say. Hmmm. Surely I ought to know. There are only four apartments in the building and what these particular people call their floor, I call my ceiling. Is it actually possible for them to have moved out of the country without my noticing? Would there not have been some "schlepping all of our possessions down and uncarpeted staircase" noise? True, I haven't heard their cat lately (hooray!). You know what? I think they may really be gone.

I fully intended to say goodbye.


Saturday, October 24, 2009

Muddled and shaken

But in a good way.

My friend Samantha knows about cool things and she invites me to come with her to do them, which is just the sort of friend you want to have. Last night I went with her to Workshop to take a class called Mad Men Cocktails: Old School Classics. We got dressed up for the occasion and, frankly, we looked fantastic. So much so that when we were walking down the sidewalk and some guy said "Has anyone told you ladies that you look beautiful tonight?" The appropriate reply that came to mind was "Not yet, but thank you." And it's true. He was the first, but not the last. Sorry you missed it, because we might not be stuffing ourselves into those dresses and heels again any time soon.

Our lovely instructor taught us to make a Tom Collins, an Old Fashioned, and a Gibson. And, less interesting to me, a negroni.

I skipped the Campari because nothing you can say will make me believe it's palatable. However, I did learn that campari was and/or is dyed with insects (true!) but that vegans are all upset about it and have been lobbying for a bug-free version. This bit of information created quite a hubbub among the students because, get this San Francisco, we are tired of vegans. My favorite remark to come from the general decrying was "Do vegans have, like, a big need for campari?" A very good question indeed. Surely there are enough roots and organic grains to keep them busy and they can just stay away from our liquor. And bugs.

Anyway, it was delightful. Do you live here? Workshop is a very cool place. Check out their schedule. I hear there's a grilled cheese sandwich workshop coming up. I'm so there.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Things I didn't miss

The good news is that before I got sick I had a week in which I did not miss things. Indeed, I had two double-event evenings one after the other and that may have been my undoing, but, oh well.

1. Nick Hornby interviewed by Dave Eggers at the Herbst. Delightful. I like to listen to amusing people talk about how much they love books. Presumably, this does not surprise you. Next week, I'm going to hear A.S. Byatt (who I think is scary smart and I'm glad I'm not the one interviewing her as my questions would be along the lines of "So. What's it like to be so darn intelligent?") and Jonathan Lethem who is also no dummy.

You want an anecdote? You got it.
The interview was part of City Arts and Lectures, which, as you may already know, is broadcast on public radio. Anyway, in person, the stage is just set with two armchairs, and a little table with water on it. Dave Eggers sat in one and Nick Hornby in the other. They were chatting companionably and at one point, Nick Hornby mentioned that before he'd been a writer, he'd been interested in music and football.

"Really?" says D.E. "Music and football, you say." He jokily pulls a pen out of his pocket and pretends to add this information to his notes. "Well, I had no idea you were interested in those things. It's not even in my notes here."

There is much general laughter from the Nick-Hornby-familiar audience.[Note: if you yourself are not familiar with Nick Hornby, this is officially not amusing. Sorry.]

But then, Dave Eggers just has this pen in his hand, and, as you sometimes do unconsciously, he starts clicking it while he's talking. "click-click. click-click. click-click." He doesn't do it continuously, but in little spurts of clickiness. This seems like it wouldn't matter much, but the theatre is very well-mic-ed so it is really quite loud and distracting. Also, they're recording for radio, so you know somewhere there is a sound editor weeping.

This goes on for a while and then at one point, a stage hand comes on and fairly unobtrusively refills Dave's water glass. She then reaches over him and physically removes the pen from his hand and replaces it with a pencil. Much laughter and applause from the audience. Dave himself looks somewhat bemused. Then he says "Oh my god. Was I going like this [mimes pen clicking.] Oy."

General mirth.

2. My friend Kirk playing yet another show. This time with only one trumpet, but also a violin and an upright bass. Good times.

3. The Nice Guy Trio playing a big finale concert at the de Young featuring all the people they'd collaborated with over the past six months. A jazz extravaganza. And, beautifully, it was in the lovely Koret Auditorium instead of the anticipated open main hall, which is cacophonous and acoustically a ridiculous place for a concert. It was great. But then, I'm their biggest fan. Did you know they have a CD out? They do. You should probably buy it.

4. The Lit Ball



And thank you to my parents who celebrated their 42nd wedding anniversary this week.

It is awe-inspiring to me to contemplate being with someone for forty-two years, particularly since in the last year and a half I haven't managed to find anyone I wanted to go on more than three dates with.

Speaking of which, the adventure of online dating continues apace. Most recently, an email from a man too old for me. He said many genuinely flattering and complimentary things, but among them was this: "you are sexy in your way."



Things I missed

Hello mystery cyber readers! I am not dead. I am not even in bed. I know. I'm as surprised as you are. I still find it perilous to venture more than a few steps away from a box of Kleenex, but I am nearly well. The hot question around the school has been "Was it the flu?" Because, of course, we've been led to believe that we will all die of flu this year. No! It wasn't the flu. My life never hung in the balance. I never even had a fever. But I did feel lousy for days and days and surely that should be enough to satisfy everyone.

Now then. Here's a little list of things I intended to do and then stayed in bed instead. I'm not sure what purpose such a list serves. Hmmm. To prove that my life would be fascinating if I could just manage to participate in it? Maybe.

Things I Missed (in order):

1. My lovely friend Katy Stephan doing her thing at the piano at Martuni's. Not to worry! It's a steady gig. I haven't missed it forever; it just seemed so clever to go on a Sunday night that was followed by a Monday holiday. 'Twas not to be.

2. A day off that was fun in any way.

3. A reading of the epilogue to The Laramie Project at the Magic.

4. Fancy cocktails at Alembic to bid farewell to my friend Liz who is moving to Canada. She came over instead and we had soup. Because, you know, when your friend is moving out of the country, you can't cancel altogether. She didn't even laugh at my weird laryngitisy voice. In all ways, she's the sort of person you wish wouldn't move away.

5. The National Theatre of London's cinema broadcast of All's Well. Isn't that cool? I'll definitely be there for the Bennett play in the spring. I was sorry to miss it, but I couldn't rally for three hours of Shakespeare punctuated by coughing (my own, of course. I'm not implying that it was an avant garde interpretation of the play.) It was also a twenty-dollar ticket out the window. Sigh.

6. Howard Wiley and the Angola Project at the de Young. They played at school once upon a time (what? How is it that famous people play in this tiny school's gym? We are lucky round here.) and I was all agog.

7. Basically all of Litquake.

On the bright side, I did see about 200 movies on Netflix instant viewing and I drank 700 cups of tea. Something like that.

Anyway. I'm back. Hi.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Another blessing counted

Let's say you live alone. And you're sick. Not sick like dying, but sick like sore throat, snuffly, shuffly miserable.
Do you have a friend who would call you at midnight and read you stories until the Nyquil kicked in?

I do.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Aptly titled

"Real Life Despite My Best Intentions."

This is nicely illustrated almost every day in ways large and small, but I think last night's example is particularly rich.

When I returned to my car after a small workshop about mindfulness and breaking negative patterns in one's life, I discovered a hundred dollar parking ticket.

I could tell you a far more detailed version of this story, but why?

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Your savior

I heard on the radio this morning that some study has recently been conducted that shows that 1) people who live with a partner live longer than those who live alone and 2) men will live longer if they live with a college-educated woman.


Gentlemen, I have a Master's degree. And I'm single.

Step right up.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Monday Miscellany

I do complain about my job (I complain about everything, actually, so this is really not surprising), but on some days there is nowhere I'd rather be. Those days, friends, are Talent Show days. Let's just say that Monday morning is very much improved by witnessing two seventeen-year-old white Jews stepping into their DJ personas of Rhymeoceros and HipHopopatamus* and doing a little freestylin' on the mic. One of HipHopoptamus' lyrics ended with "how could you come up with such a preposterous hypothesis." I only wish I could remember more because it was mad quotable yo.


Later, overheard in the hallway.
"Yeah. In Spanish, I just put an "o" on the end of English words."
"I got an F-o."


Hardly Strictly Bluegrass was this weekend and it was quite an extravaganza. Billy Bragg said that football is a game they play in England which is called "'football' because you play it with your feet. See? What you play here that you call 'football' we call 'runny, runny, catchy, catchy.'" Aimee Mann was astonished by the size of the crowd and the blinding sun. "I feel like my forehead is a giant solar panel," she said. And darling, adorable Neko Case said all manner of ridiculous things because she is a big goofball. She also snorts when she laughs. And we love her. She did have to keep hoisting her pants up and said, "It's hard to do rock and roll when you've got no butt. You have to just keep pulling your pants up. Belts don't do no good."

Thanks for the music, y'all.

And now, MUNI, may I just have a word? Do you see this picture?

Yeah. That's the crowd at one of six stages. This will apparently come as a surprise to you, but after the festival all those people had to get home. So, I'm thinkin'... maybe run more buses? I know. It's a crazy idea, but it just might work.

As for me, although I exited the park at a bus stop, the (two) buses on Fulton were full, so I walked to Balboa, where another bus passed me, so I walked to Geary. Once there, I just walked and walked and walked for the better part of an hour during which time only one bus passed me at all. After 35 blocks, I finally came upon an empty taxi at Geary and Stanyan which took me the remaining 17 blocks home. Had the taxi driver proposed to me, I probably would have married him.

View Larger Map

The way this was supposed to go was a straight shot down Fulton on the trusty #5 and a leisurely 10-block stroll home. Had I planned to walk between 30 and 50 blocks, I would have worn different shoes. And I definitely, definitely would have peed first. Just to recap: four buses are insufficient to transport 750,000 people. I only mention this in passing.


P.S. The one bonus of walking directly east for an hour in the dark was that I did see the moonrise. And it was lovely.

{10/7/09: I have since been informed that while our two students are still clearly adorable and entertaining, they are not rap parody geniuses. But they are.}