Friday, December 30, 2011

New Year's Eve Eve

Things have been pretty lackadaisical (a word it turns out I'm not very confident about spelling) on the blogging front and I thought in this moment between one thing and another, I might try to say something. If 2011 has taught us nothing else, it's that just when one thinks the Blog Bully is lying dormant, or, at any rate, otherwise engaged, he may suddenly spring from the metaphorical bushes and shake his head disapprovingly. Besides, yesterday I had lunch and Project Planning with the, frankly, almost ridiculously adorable Katy Stephan (was she wearing a woolen cap, a bright blue sweater and a bright green coat-- looking every bit the heroine of some movie I'd happily see on a chilly afternoon at the Clay? She was.) who makes a song a week. Then I see that the highly impressive Lisa Congdon plans to embark on some kind of daily artistic endeavor for a year. Well. It's not like I don't have time on my hands; I've been watching Jeeves and Wooster for hours. Sometimes (read: again and again and again) it takes the example of my very prolific friends to nudge me in the right direction.

Katy, having seen the oft-mentioned list, has offered to take #13 in hand and make me a dress. Apparently, she also sews. I know. It might be better not to dwell too much on it. I don't think does it to make us feel inadequate; some people just like making things and others like, say, eating things prepared by others and sitting on the sofa. I'm terribly excited about this Dress of the Future. I think the very idea of it augurs well for 2012.

Christmas afforded me the opportunity to give my horse-loving nieces cookie cutters that will enable them to make a small celebratory herd of their own. I can only hope that they find it a less overwhelming task than I did. Royal icing? Is very sticky. Blue food-dye gel? Is very, very blue. It's possible there may still be some on the cutting board. I'm not saying. They did seem pleased, which was gratifying, although my younger niece was visibly disgusted to have been given an apron. She is ever vigilant lest we try to foist any gender normative accoutrements upon her. I would argue, however, that cookies, horse enthusiasm, and sticky hands are gender neutral. As is--ahem--the gracious acceptance of gifts.

In other Christmas news, apparently the Bible has been re-translated. Beware, lapsed Catholics. In case you missed Christmas and were planning to drop by for Easter, if the priest says, "Peace be with you," you can no longer rest in the calm assurance that you know the proper reply. "And also with you" has gone the way of hoop skirts, apparently. The (seemingly much more peculiarly translated) response, "and with your spirit" has taken its place. This sort of thing is going on throughout all sorts of prayers I thought I knew. It made for a lively mass. Well, that and the bongos. Yes. Bongos. The thing traditional carols have been just crying out for.

As 2012 rises into view, I wish you well and thank you for keeping track of me over here. I am always astonished (to say nothing of touched) when anyone tells me they read it. Though it may be difficult to detect though the veritable wall of complaining, I do live in a near constant state of gratitude. Were anyone to scratch the complainy surface, in fact, they would probably be sickened by the gooey sentimental mess of love and admiration they'd find. There are so many extraordinary people in my corner, I imagine it's pretty stuffy and uncomfortable. They don't seem to mind. I'm lucky that way.

May your 2012 be sparkly and full of people who love you and small personal hoorays.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas spirit

I bought a goofy little wooden ornament from some bygone era for my bother. It's a very cheerful cat on skis. Here he is:

Unfortunately, he came to me with one broken ski (which seems to bother him not at all, so I see no reason for it to bother me) and missing his little loop from which you can hang an ornament hook. That seemed a graver problem since he is, after all, meant to go on the tree and, besides, he can't stand. Yesterday, I wrapped him in tissue and took him to Tuggy's Hardware a few blocks away. When the man helping me discovered he was out of the very small size of eye hook required for the job, he opened up a prepackaged picture-hanging kit that was hanging there for sale, removed a little eye hook and screwed it carefully into the hole already on the cat's head. Then he just handed it to me, refusing my offer of payment and said, "That's my gift to you. Merry Christmas."

Sheesh. Hooray for neighborhoods. And kindness. And generosity. And fixing what's broken.

In case you need one, here's my gift to you:

Saturday, December 17, 2011

#63: Check.

I checked something off my oft-mentioned Life List.
#63: Buy a real painting.

I really wanted to own a painting--you know--with actual paint. Not a print. But I hardly knew where to begin. You know what there are a lot of? Paintings. Many I don't like, and more I can't afford, which narrows the field a little, but not really enough to give me a starting point. I thought that it would be really great if I could buy a painting from a friend. In that way, I would be supporting the work of someone I care about while also owning art that was that much more meaningful to me. Great idea. However, I didn't actually know any painters.

At least, not when I wrote the list. Enter: Lisa Congdon.

It's very fortunate when the painter you befriend at the moment you're in the market for a painting happens to make art you think is beautiful. She might just as easily painted a bunch of stuff with bleeding eyeballs. (I have a particular horror of bleeding eyeball paintings of which there are more than you might think. Often hung in cafes, which seems to show a real lack of foresight.)

Instead, I am really delighted to have this beautiful little forest to call my own.

Maybe she's made something just for you and you didn't even know it. You should probably check.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The results are in

NPR posted their top 100 songs of the year.

I have heard 8 of them. Eight. I counted. And one of those is by Paul Simon. Of the other 92, I had heard of maybe six of the artists.

So that's official then. I will never be cool.

It's this or silence

In which I write something for fear of slipping back into the black hole of writing nothing. The lack of what I believe is nowadays called "content" should not thwart us, right? Right.

Last night, the blog bully and I went to see a play at Shotgun, where the box office manager is perhaps the nicest man in the world, in addition to being a very snappy dresser. I enjoyed the play, and its sparkly lead actress (seriously, she just glitters up there despite being dressed in Puritan garb), however, I would have enjoyed it, say, 32% more if the songs had been much, much shorter. The songs were a little bit like "you know the story that you are watching? Well, I'm going to tell you, through the magic of song, all the things that are happening, even though you're right here. Understandably, this will take me quite a long time." Perhaps this was a popular device in Ye Olden Times? Perhaps people could not pay attention to things that were merely spoken? I don't know. On the bright side, though: sparkling girl. I cannot overstate this. Also, the blog bully brought snacks in very tiny containers, in the manner popular among parents of preschool-aged children. However, later, as he is ever-vigilant lest people develop any treacly sort of feelings about him, he mocked me for not being able walk up a steep hill at his insane rate of speed. I have a sub optimal level of fitness, yes, but I'm the one with the blog. So there.

Speaking of sub optimal fitness, the needlessly renovated gym reopens today (it really seemed quite nice before; I can only hope they have transformed it into some kind of unimaginable nirvana such that I will long to go there as often as possible) and I intend to go. This very afternoon. I have been in a pool once in the last month and a half, but that was in Palm Springs where I was floating languidly around in my un-serious bathing suit and, thus, doesn't count. Indeed, I dread shimmying into my serious, unembellished bathing suit, which more than any other article of clothing, should quite bluntly reveal what my bread-eating days of leisure hath wrought. [I suspect "hath" and "days" fail to agree grammatically, but I've no idea what the plural of "hath" might be.] Anyway, the point is, I will look silly and then I might drown. So, I look forward to that. I'll let you know how it goes.

Update: The figure I cut in my serious bathing suit was downright demoralizing, but I did not drown. This might have occurred to you since you're so smart, but it didn't occur to me: when the gym is under renovation for three weeks, they turn the heat off. That pool was cold. I hope no octogenarians (of whom there are usually many in the pool) were speeded towards their graves. In other news, there are no longer any curtains in the showers--a strange "improvement"--so my unexpected fascination with the Boobs of Others (seriously. I really had no idea they were so variable) and the cautionary tales writ large on the bodies of the elderly will presumably run rampant.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Is this even legal?

The incense-scented purveyor of saris and scarves and beads and things on the corner by my work is, according to a large banner, having a "Grand Opening!" How is this possible? By my count this is fourth time the store has reopened under different names while continuing to sell exactly the same merchandise. Sometimes they actually go out of business and have a liquidation sale before completely emptying the shop before they bring it all back--display cases, lighting, cash register, ten million incense holders, boxes and boxes of merchandise--a month or two later. It seems like a great deal of work for nothing. Perhaps they have come to share that view because, this time, I'm pretty sure they never even closed. They painted over the awning and changed the shop name to "Things Lucky," (which, frankly, is not too great as shop names go). This new method seems less exhausting, certainly, but also kind of like they are--um--big cheaters?

Are you a tax lawyer? Or maybe a mafia boss? Terrific. Please explain this to me. It's been baffling me for years.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Sing's a round

This has been languishing pitifully in the drafts folder for a full three weeks. It is displeased with me. But today, but hook or by crook, I'm clicking "publish."


We were addressed by several people with good things to say.

We learned that Oprah built her empire based on intention. Not the kind that the road to hell is paved with, but the kind, apparently, that changes the lives of scores of people. I have never actually seen the Oprah Winfrey show, incidentally, but don't tell anyone. What I mostly appreciated is that Brian Piotrowicz, one of the show's producers who came to talk to us, cries every bit as easily as I do. Meet a president? Cry. Meet Carol Burnett? Cry. Hear a terrible story of personal loss? Cry. Disagree with a colleague? Cry. Yep. Me too.

We learned that we are basically zombie slaves to dopamine. Okay, it was more complicated that that, but Buster is smarter than I am. Plus, his name is Buster, which I enjoy.

We learned that one way to address the profound problem of water-borne illness in Ethiopia is to get a bunch of fancy friends together and climb Mount Kilamanjaro. Look, I'm not saying it's my way, or even your way, but it was his way. And frankly, he was so handsome and charming (did he call his mother on speaker phone so we could all sing Happy Birthday to her? He did. Did she ask if he was taking his vitamins and had he met a nice girl? Uh...she did.) that you might have been briefly convinced that you could totally climb Mt. Kilamanjaro if it meant you could hang out with him.

But none of that relates to the Girl Scout song.

Make new friends but keep the old...One of the reasons that this has been loitering around the drafts folder is that I felt unequal to the task of explaining how marvelous these two women are. The good news is that during my procrastination, video of their presentations has been published. Now you can just see for yourself how rad they are.

Old, forever keepable friend: Evany Thomas. I have known Evany for about thirty years. (I know!) I don't think there is a bad photo of her in existence, though that is merely an aside. I have often told Evany that she is my hero, but she never believes me. Evany does all kind of amazing things, but she has the grace to be at least a little apprehensive about them first? I appreciate that.

Camp Mighty - Evany Thomas from Rcom Creative on Vimeo.

New, shiny bright friend: Lisa Congdon. If someone asked, "what did you get out of camp?" I'd say, Lisa Congdon. Lisa is inspiring and quite ridiculously talented and disciplined and generous and snarky. She is way cooler thsn I am. Now, she is also my friend. How great is that? For Lisa, I will try to put together some kind of vegan menu so I can invite her to dinner and you know I've never made THAT commitment before.

Camp Mighty - Lisa Congdon from Rcom Creative on Vimeo.

After the Mighty Addresses (which is a title I just made up), we broke into teams and talked about our life lists and identified five things we'd like to get done within the year. And yes, I did cry. It was exciting to hear everyone's plans and struggles and intentions, but what I found myself reflecting on most--even as I blubbered in front of a bunch of almost-strangers--was how damn fortunate I am and, secretly, even in the fearful, underemployed version of myself, how I'm pretty mighty already. Indeed, even while I was down there I got an email about performing in a story slam and another about collaborating on a podcast. I have this extraordinary community of creative people around me all the time of which Evany and Lisa are just a small sample. One of the things Evany suggested would help to make you the best version of yourself was to "have fantiasigreat friends." Check.

Here are a few of them: Katy writes a song every week. Indeed, she'll even write one just for you. Daniel and Darren and Rob have filled my life with music in a way I never expected. So has Hannah. And Lori. Sara has written/drawn several books. This one is the latest. Christopher still makes me laugh and I've known him for more than 20 years. Stephanie takes people all over the world. Abby flies through the air with the greatest of ease. Samantha writes and writes and opened the door to storytelling for me, which, to our mutual surprise, turns out to be my niche in the world. Andy has done all sorts of things including writing this book. He is developing the aforementioned podcast and wants me on it!

And those are just the people most easily linkable. There's a whole cadre of less cyber-present people who are brightening the world while being solidly in my corner. Finding your people is half the battle. This means, I suppose, that I'm halfway to being really quite astonishing.

It's finished! Can I get an amen? You have no idea what a relief it is to hit....publish.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Mi dispiache

I have read in blogs about blogging (exhaustingly, such things exist) that it is very gauche to A) lapse in posting and B) then blather on in an apologetic way about it. About this I say: too bad. I fully expect to continue to do both as long as this little platform limps along. (A fairly incongruous image, for which I suppose I must also apologize.)

So here's what happened.
1. I never finished posting about camp (I will, I will) and now--lo it does hang over my head in the manner of an unfinished term paper. Interestingly, being haunted by unfinished tasks is pretty much the antithesis of Camp Mighty's Oops.

2. I got sick. Blah. And ate nothing for Thanksgiving dinner but a great many goat cheese crostini, which I was meant to have taken to the family home for hors d'oeuvres. Presumably, they managed within the confines of the actual oeuvres. We didn't really discuss it.

3. Immediate following tiresome illness, I got awfully busy at work and for days came home latish devoid of creative impulses.

4. My gym closed for renovations. I continue not to care at all nor, indeed, to notice very much. This insouciant attitude, combined with goat cheese crostini and similar, will come back to haunt me I suspect.

5. I finished Italian Two. Or, Ho finito Italiano Due. Do I parlo italiano now? Non proprio, ma posso dire uno o due cose. E molto divertente. (My teacher told us that every exercise we were about to embark upon would be "molto divertente." I love her.) Sadly, I will not be taking Italiano Tre any time soon. Forse in primavera. I will miss i altri studenti and my delightful professoressa.

6. I told a story out in the world. It made for an odd evening. I'll tell you about it sometime.

7. I got a Christmas tree. It is smaller than the first (small) one I saw and liked, but it was also not FIFTY DOLLARS. Wha? Additionally, it is from the Christmas Tree Lot of Moral Superiority that funds a nonprofit, rather than the other The Cheapest Thing Here is FIFTY DOLLARS and Funds Two Dudes Who Sell Costly Trees lot. My house is now quite snug and I think it is not inaccurate to say "it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas."

8. I rendered the house jolly in the aforementioned manner while suffering from the worst headache of my life. I took several breaks in order to weep.

9. I am now better and, thus, I am here. Hi.

During the previous weeks of various indispositions, the blog bully similarly has been otherwise occupied and--foolishly--I thought I could sneak all the sloth past him, but he is nothing if not alert. Today I got busted. And I was so close, too. Sigh.

I hope that all four of you faithful readers are in good health, good spirits, and have ten warm toes.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Christmas shopping

I thought I might try to find a baseball-charm necklace for my eight-year-old niece (who is a slugger). A Google search results in this among other things: "Very cool necklace that shows off your passion for baseball and faith in Christ at the same time."

There may never have been a more hardworking piece of jewelry.


As it turns out, rather than trotting my fresh hair cut out to have turkey with my parents and cousins, I will be lying on the sofa in dismayingly hair-flatting fashion, wearing sweatpants, and drinking fluids. Later, I may dine exclusively on goat cheese costini, which, though not popular among the Pilgrims, I have in ridiculous abundance, as I was relied upon to bring hors d'oeuvres this evening.

Why I should be so ridiculously susceptible to illness, I could not say: I enjoy sleeping; I take many vitamins; and did I not, just this very week, eat Brussels sprouts? Yet, nevertheless, I am sick nearly every holiday. Last New Year's Eve, I was lying on this very same couch with a fever. Sigh. Here's hoping the Thanksgiving indisposition means I will be robust for Christmas.

Meanwhile, I am still very grateful. I lead a blessed life, a thing I try to keep in some small corner of my consciousness even on my complainiest days. When you try to call them all to mind at your table this evening, may you too discover that you have too many blessings to count.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Seven things

Let it be known that just because I have been a blog slacker does not mean that I have failed to be mighty. Last week featured (in chronological order): total exhaustion, Italian class, dinner with a stranger (including a delicious sidecar), The Civil Wars at the Fillmore with a woman I'd only met once before (Dear Fillmore, I don't think it would be so very terrible if you let us sit down. Still, thanks for the poster. Dear Civil Wars, Damn. Is it reasonable to be so talented and so good looking at the same time?), catching a cold and failing to go to Caught in Motion's CD release concert, and my much beloved Nice Guy Trio at Viracocha. Ta da!

Nevertheless, I know I owe you Lessons from Camp. I've not forgotten. Domani e un altro giorno.

For now though, lessons from today.
1) The key to not watching TV all night is to not turn it on. I know this sounds elementary, but it I am having a small lightbulb moment. Once I turn on the streaming what have you, I am unlikely to turn it off, but having not turned it on upon entering the house, I have instead done some dishes, made a proper meal featuring Brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes (a previously unimaginable extravaganza of healthfulness for which I am feeling rather pleased with myself), and I'm here--not leaving you all lonely and abandoned in the dreaded blogosphere.

2) Knowing the temperature that baked chicken is done has changed my life. Gone are the days of guesswork and exploratory slicing. For your records, the magic number is 165 degrees Farenheit. The thermometer makes dainty holes compared to the knife.

3) Brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes needn't be disgusting. I know. It surprised me too.

4) While it is profoundly dispiriting to be able to hear one's new neighbors talking through the walls (perhaps the former neighbors never spoke to each other? Perhaps they had softer voices?) I find it less upsetting because they are speaking French. I am officially ridiculous. Ou, si vous voulez, je suis officialement ridicule.

4b) While it is profoundly dispiriting to be informed that one of one's new neighbors is pregnant, I find it less upsetting because she is French. Je continue d'etre officialement ridicule.

5) Yesterday, I said, "I can say almost nothing; I'm in Italian Two" in Italian to an Italian. He seemed favorably impressed. Upon reflection, that doesn't really count as a lesson so much as showing off. Sorry about that.

6) If you sleep through your alarm, you will be late to work, but rested.

7) My back hurts rather a lot. Also not a lesson, just something that is becoming increasingly clear as I sit here. Or perhaps it is a lesson after all. Now hear this: do not be twisty in your sleep. You will regret it, even if you do have the benefit of accidentally sleeping an extra hour.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Forward looking

I just happened upon this interview with REM on NPR. It's worth looking at just to see the picture of them. Were any of us ever so very, very young?

In discussing the strangeness of a new life as seen from the audience rather than the stage, Mike Mills says to Michael Stipe that that is not likely to be their future. That surely they will continue to make music, just not together. "It won't be what we had," he says, "but it will be what we have."

Ah. I struggle with that particular life lesson (as we shall discover in further dispatches from camp), but it always helps to have things so nicely said.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


I'm back! Did you miss me (as requested)?

I am very aware that it is difficult to make a case for the fact that I am mightier in the face of all the silence. I'll be honest; I've been tired. It turns out that meeting hmmm...let's say meeting 127 new people (There were 125 of us; I knew 2 before I got there; but I also chatted with several members of the hotel staff and the lead singer of the Ton Tons, so yeah. 127.), dancing, swimming, drinking, trying to make a plan for a shiny new life, and driving for many, many hours takes a lot out of a girl.

It was good. I wish you had been there.

I think I'm going to have to take it in pieces, so there will be further camp dispatches to come, but we'll start small. It's less overwhelming that way.

1. A salute to Joanne Harris whose book Gentlemen and Players--in CD form--I listened to alll the way there and allllllll the way home.

2. I stayed the night at the Crescent Hotel in Beverley Hills before I went to camp. When I pulled up to the [compulsory] valet (p.s. I never use valet parking because I resent paying for parking and I have tipping anxiety) I was all sweaty and t-shirt clad and shaky from the scary LA freeways and the disinclination of the populous to let anyone change lanes under any circumstances. I told the valet that I felt like I was one of the Beverly Hillbillies. I'm pretty sure that saying that made me even more one of the Beverley Hillbillies. I'm also pretty sure that he was from another country and had never encountered the Beverly Hillbillies. So that went well.

3. I bathed and changed and later looked totally like I belonged in the swanky lobby. In case you worried.

4. Marja came to see me, which is always a good thing.

5. The bartender gave me better directions to Palm Springs than Google did.

6. The Crescent has perhaps the most comfortable bed in the world. I also found the sheets to smell very faintly, and yet not unpleasantly, of grape soda.

7. I got out of LA without dying in a fiery crash, but I very much felt that it could have gone either way.

8. The Ace Hotel is a charmer. The rooms, though in the middle of the desert, have a nautical theme. Go figure. The shampoo, conditioner and body wash have rather masculine scents and there are many channels of gay porn available. I'm pretty sure these are serious indications that the Ace has been given the gay seal of approval. This means, of course, that its cool status is now official.

9. The Crescent has better beds, but the Ace has that warm, warm open-late-at-night swimming pool. Even. Oh! The Ace also has these lights over the bed that on one end is a bright, normal reading light or, on the other end, a red bulb with a dim glow. These made me sad to be alone as it would have been entertaining to have some witty fellow to make "Roxanne" jokes with and then share, you know, hotel bed shenanigans. Alas. 'Twas not to be. Someday I'm going to meet that guy, though, and then I'm going back.

10. The singer for the Ton Tons is almost too fantastic to be real. We pretty much all wanted to be her and use our hands in big dramatic gestures.

11. The chili at the hotel restaurant was too spicy for me to eat. I felt I had failed.

12. The tea at the restaurant was $4.85. I am still trying to get over it.

13. Many people you've never met before prove to be delightful. That was a pretty pervasive theme.

14. A lady admired my bathing suit. That's always nice.

15. There is a fig cocktail available, but I can't whole-heartedly recommend it. Get the one with gin and mint instead.

16. We were given small camp care packages: s'mores kits wrapped in bandanas. There was a chocolate bar, some graham crackers, and a little box of marshmallow peeps. That was jolly.

17. It turns out that a Space Camp themed costume party is way more fun that I imagined it would be. People from the wedding on the other side of the property showed up to do some dancing. Also, my large astronaut helmet (which, when on one's head, is like listening to a seashell in surround sound) was a huge hit both with other campers and with random hotel guests. Some of the latter group seemed to find it life altering. They were also sorry to have missed the hotel's monthly full-moon drum circle the night before. You may draw your own conclusions.

18. Previously, I had only been to camp once: Girl Scout Camp. It was not altogether a success. I was very shy, for one thing, and for another, they tried but ultimately failed to wake me up for the midnight fairy party and I still harbor some bitterness. Still, I'll bet we sang this Girl Scout hit "Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other gold." They don't specify which is which, but I don't suppose it matters. We will further discuss the real life enactment of this ditty another day when we address Things I Learned. To spare you the suspense I'll just tell you now that there was some crying. It wasn't all coming from me, though, which made for a pleasant change.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011


So. It's upon us. In the morning I get in the car and drive to LA. I am taking too many clothes, but that is the joy of driving rather than flying. It takes much, much longer, but you can overpack to your heart's content.

Unless I become suddenly both sufficiently technologically advanced and patient to update this from my iPod (a thing that strikes me as actually hilarious; therefore, unlikely), I will tell you all about camp when I get home.

Meanwhile, please behave yourselves and if you miss me a little bit, that would be nice too.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Go see it

I'll be honest, I'm all excited about camp and I think it might be keeping me from having amusing things to say. Is that possible? Probably not. Nevertheless, my brain is mostly doing this: "should I take those shoes? Those shoes are really pretty, but they make me miserable to walk in for five seconds. or the other shoes that are less impressive, but also less crippling? I think it's going to be colder during the day that we thought. I have to rethink the sundresses. Should I take snacks in the car or should I plan to look for an In&Out Burger like the rest of America? blahblahblahblahblah." Like that. It's not entertaining.

Instead, I will tell you that Race, by David Mamet, is a hell of a good play. An uncomfortable, surprising, great play. In fact, the only down side was that the blog bully, who came along, somehow lost his hat at the theatre. It is a small hat and a large theatre, but still. It's gotta be in there somewhere. And yet...where? We were sad. But that was not the play's fault. Really, I think you should go see it. If you live here, that is. It's in its last week at ACT, so hurry.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Bad news: Bob Marley is no longer with us

This morning, a woman called into the radio station with an urgent question.

Woman: I might have dreamed this because I dream a lot of things, but my friend told me that Bob Marley died. Is this true?

DJ: Um...well, Bob Marley...

Woman: (laughs) Oh! No! Not Bob Marley. But a man with a son.

DJ: A man with a son died....?

Woman: A reggae guy.

DJ: A reggae guy. Um...I'm going to have to go with: you dreamed it.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Now I don't have to stop in order to smell them

Remember this? So do I.

Aside from a sense of bitter disappointment, I walked out of that doctor's appointment with a prescription for a nasal spray. Never having used a nasal spray, I think I lack panache in administering it, but I do try. The most notable quality of this product (aside from mitigating the headaches) is that it smells like roses. I don't know if it is actually "rose scented" or if it just seems that way to me. The result of squirting rose-scented liquid up your nose is somewhat confusing-- olfactorily speaking--as you thereafter encounter various things that never previously smelled of roses, but it is not entirely unpleasant.

Still, as a concept, it lacks the romance of "looking at the world though rose-colored glasses." Squirting stuff up your nose is just not all that poetic, no matter what the result.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011


Last night, I had a dream that a hot Australian guy moved into the garage of my building. He'd put tile down on the floor which apparently made it legal for habitation. Upon waking, this amused me mostly because "hot Australian guy" is not a big ideal of mine. I'm more for "lanky, attractively be-spectacled, tie-wearing, literary guy." I think the buff dream Australian was also a surfer, which, if you're me, is even funnier. However, dream me was all flustered around him. Understandably, that type of guy is not particularly drawn to me, but I was very taken with dream Australian and desperately wanted him to like me. He kindly helped be re-set the level on my water heater (which was located in his "apartment") and then... invited me to have pizza! Sadly, I was already late for my birthday picnic and wasn't able to stay. But, for the record, I was very torn.

Monday, October 31, 2011


The blog bully is displeased with the waning posts, but I would argue that the blog bully was spoiled by an unusual flurry of posts that should not be looked upon as the norm. Ahem.

A thing I like very much about the school where I work is that in a huge costume contest--including miscellaneous pop culture icons and the inevitable cross-dressing boys, ultimately it was the girl dressed as a rosemary bush (brown pants and a green shirt festooned with actual rosemary branches) who won the popular vote.

I was also rooting for the large piece of foam toast who had yellow kitchen-sponge butter pats.

Happy Halloween. However, please don't come to my house hoping for candy. I will be hiding in the kitchen, the light from which is not visible from the street, trying to do my Italian homework. In my defense, the past tense is, in its own way, quite scary.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Relaxing or....?

Dear Lady Outside the Sauna,

If you lie on the floor with your naked limbs all akimbo like that and with that towel over your face, you make the locker room look very much like a crime scene.

I thought you'd want to know.

Best wishes,

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Breathing normally

I am reading an article in Fast Company magazine about Apple. Well, about Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Google and the epic battle among them. This sentence made me laugh, "This passion for the Fab Four of business is reflected in the blogosphere's panting coverage of their every move."

Now, when people say "the blogosphere" they are not referring to me and my thoughts about, say, tea and swimming, and my five readers. Obviously. Nevertheless. It is a blog. So, let me just state for the digital record that I am not breathlessly covering anything's every move and were I, for the sake of having inexhaustible content, take it into my head to do so, I can pretty much guarantee that I wouldn't choose the "Fab Four of business."

What's more, I'll bet I'm not the only one. As it turns out, the "blogosphere" is a pretty big place.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Fitness dispatch

To save time, I put my bathing suit on under my clothes before I went to the gym today. The unexpected result was that when whisking off my outer layers in the locker room, I felt like some kind of swimming superhero.

It was a fleeting feeling, alas. I shared a lane with a man who looked to be approximately 83 and who, from my vantage point on the pool deck, seemed to be swimming very slowly indeed. However, I now know that were we in a race, he and I would be quite evenly matched. I might win, but it would be disspiritingly close.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Man Booker

Having recently heard a round up on BBC radio of this year's nominees, I decided that reading 100 Man Booker winners/nominees would be a worthy life list goal.

Here are all the books.

I discovered that I've--somewhat accidentally--got a good start having already read:
The Life of Pi
True History of the Kelly Gang
The Blind Assassin
The God of Small Things
Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha
The English Patient
Oscar & Lucinda
The Bone People

I also twice tried and failed to read Midnight's Children, which I was meant to love but didn't. Additionally, I have a strong feeling that I've read Hotel du Lac, but since I have no idea what it's about (other than, presumably, a hotel by a lake) I suspect that I am lying to myself.

Guess what? The books I actually did read are good books. Really good books. Word to the wise: those Man Booker people may be on to something.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Moral support

A man and a woman are standing outside of Bi-Rite on their break.

Woman: I'm getting emotionally prepared for Thanksgiving. I'm excited about it...

Man [interjecting]: I love that about you!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Wrong one

I had a doctor's appointment today because for basically the whole of the fall, I have felt lousy. I continually feel as though I'm coming down with a cold, though I never actually seem to get a cold. Just a festival of sore throat, headaches of varying severity, fatigue. Yesterday, for instance, I felt quite horrible. Turn off all but one light horrible. Head down on the desk at lunchtime horrible. That's what prompted me to call the doctor. Today, of course, I feel completely fine. This is not dissimilar from having spent all of last Friday frustrated to the verge of tears trying to figure out some website thing, only to have it work instantly as soon as the tech guy walked into the room. Sigh.

I went anyway even though I felt silly. I was briefly excited when they told me I was to be seeing Dr. Artie Shaw. I mean, if Artie Shaw can't make you feel better, then who can?

But it turned out to be Dr. Arti Shah. Life is full of these disappointments. And, so it would seem, allergies.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

First, wake up, then...

Life List
Some of it, anyway.
Here’s hoping life is full of hundreds more delightful things

As discussed, to go to Camp Mighty, I was obliged to make a list of one hundred (or so) things I'd like to do (the "before I die" is silent). Generally, if I were to make a list such as this, it would be in a notebook by my bed and, basically, nobody's bee's wax. It is therefore quite uncharacteristic and sort of scary to put it ON THE INTERNET, but that was part of the deal. it is. Feel free to just ignore the ones about romance and underwear.

Reading this is a very scrolly experience, I know, but I can't seem to find a better way. Mi dispiace.

1. Change jobs
2. Be paid regularly for writing (a column? A blog?)
3. Perform out of town
4. Do a reading at Litquake [done! Literary Death Match 2010]
5. Be on The Moth
6. Be in Mortified
7. Take a vacation that involves renting a house with friends
8. Go to Rome [done! And I stayed in a place I loved.]
9. Speak basic Italian [Mezzo fatto. I think maybe I have "go on vacation and don't disgrace yourself" Italian, but I want more.]
10. Travel somewhere that involves sleeping overnight on a ship or a boat
11. Have a beignet in New Orleans
12. Have a sidecar in the Algonquin bar (or perhaps, more fittingly, a Manhattan)
13. Have a green dress made
14. Learn to apply eye makeup befitting fancy nights
15. Attend or host an evening garden party that features paper lanterns
16. Swim naked in some natural body of water
17. Visit les chateaux de la Loire
18. Attend the Cannes film festival (do ordinary people even do this?)
19. Go to Quebec
20. Visit a French-speaking country that is neither in France nor Canada
21. Serve food to a guest or guests once a month
22. Learn some ballroom dances
23. Dance at a ceili
24. Go the Humana Festival
25. Go to the Kentucky Derby
26. Have Jameson in Dublin
27. Have Ruby & Emma over for a sleep-over
28. Learn to make 5 vegetarian dishes that I would actually serve to others [in progress thanks to Mollie Katzen]
29. Make Thanksgiving dinner
30. Have an elegant New Year’s Eve party
31. Have lemonade somewhere on the Eastern Seaboard. How about Martha’s Vineyard?
32. Spend a month in Paris
33. Achieve consistent subjunctive-style fluency in French
34. Learn to make bread
35. Go on one of Stephanie’s trips--somewhere I would not otherwise go (Africa? Bulgaria?)
36. Learn to make elaborate paper snowflakes
37. Learn fancy gift-wrapping skills (paper flowers, elaborate bows, etc.)
38. Have wine in Tuscany with an Italian
39. Own something from Carli [Attempted. Far beyond my financial reach. Ah well.]
40. Have at least two grownup sets of lingerie (that fit) at any given time—lovely things that make me want someone to undress me
[Done. Perhaps slightly less romantically than envisioned, but done nonetheless.]
41. Swim a mile [in progress. Slow, slow progress. A mile is 64 lengths; I’m at 20]
42. Learn to sing a jazz standard in tune (I like “It Could Happen to You” and “I Can’t Get Started with You”)
43. Find a perfect vintage suit
44. Stay in a tree house hotel
45. Submit five pieces a year for publication (which would necessitate actually writing them. Ahem)
46. Plant a window box and/or some herbs. If ambitious…tomatoes!
47. Have a pair of shoes made
48. Ride in a paddleboat on stow lake
49. Visit Liz in Canada and go to Castle Fun Park!
50. Visit Kathleen and KC in Switzerland (and pray they don’t make me climb anything)[done! hooray! and there was no scaling anything.]_
51. Visit Copenhagen
52. Read a biography a year
53. See 100 Criterion Collection films [in progress. Must count them.]
54. Read 100 Man Booker Prize winners/nominees
55. Find and acquire the Mary Poppins recordings of my youth
56. Go to Barcelona
57. Learn to make ratatouille
58. Make melon balls [Done! Weirdly, I'd never done it, but thought it looked fun. It was.]
59. Dance at an outdoor bandstand some summer night (do these still exist or did I make this up based on movies?)
60. Learn to read a pattern and sew something simple
61. Be at Ruby & Emma’s high school graduations
62. Befriend a dog
63. Buy a real painting
[Done. Happily own one of Lisa Congdon's lovely birch forests].
64. Make the mantle beautiful
65. Solicit aid in redrafting my resume
66. Have my portrait taken
67. Create a tradition (e.g. peonies and champagne brunch on the first Sunday of May. Something.)
68. Walk in an aspen forest
69. Find a long-term solution to the dumb pain and eliminate that anxiety from my bag of tricks
70. Hear Jean-Luc play his harmonica in Brazil
71. Go inside a windmill
72. Go to the top of a lighthouse
73. Write a book (let’s just sneak this in at #72 so as to reduce instant panic)
74. Have a picnic by a stream
75. Learn to use chopsticks
76. Visit Tim in Hong Kong
77. Go rafting in a non-terrifying way with Mel
78. Learn to carve a chicken
79. Go on a trip (anywhere, anywhere) with Christopher
80. Ride a bike—even for five minutes—on some un-terrifying non-urban lane
81. Make a soufflé
82. Have a local friendship in French
83. Learn to make mojitos
84. See a play in an ancient Greek theatre
85. Have an apartment here and Elsewhere (NY? Paris? London?)
86. Visit 10 extraordinary international libraries
87. Have carnal knowledge of [redacted] (the one who got away)
88. Go to a sandcastle-building contest somewhere balmy (i.e. not in Northern California)
89. Attend one of the “cool kid” conferences/events [Done. Camp Mighty. Nov 2011]
90. Go on a hot-air balloon ride
91. Learn to tie a necktie
92. Kiss someone I’m in love with on the Pont de la Tournelle
93. Buy a beautiful umbrella
94. Record my parents’ stories
95. Donate something to NPR and Planned Parenthood every year (no matter what amount) [Done. Became continuing member of KQED and a monthly contributor to Planned Parenthood. Five bucks a month forever or until I say stop.]
96. Send flowers to a friend at random once a year
97. Travel on a beautiful train à la The Orient Express (sans murder)
98. Learn to make custard
99. Step onto an escalator without pausing
100. Get married (to someone with whom I am madly in love. Not, you know, just "get married")

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Story time (Part 6)

I was proud of myself for this. My friend Samantha was supposed to do this gig, but couldn't. I was asked on Wednesday if I would tell a story on that Friday. You may recall that I mentioned it here. It was quite scary, and unexpectedly depressing, but I did it. And it went well. No, really! There's proof. I'm introduced at about the 28 minute mark.

The theme was "Not knowing when to say when."

Monday, October 17, 2011


I got an email today with a subject heading Last chance to get paid to write!

And I deleted it.

Now I guess I'm screwed.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Point of clarification

Okay. I give up. What is steampunk?

Friday, October 14, 2011

A surfeit of cleverness

I saw this by way of Evany and was instantly delighted. I sent it along to the person I thought would appreciate it the most, but I have been fretting. Because what if you are the person who would appreciate it the second most? And I never sent it to you? And you never saw it? That would be a very sad story.

Let us amend it at once to be a story with a happy ending.


Wasn't that fun? Read all about it.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Open apology

Dear refrigerator,
I'm so sorry for all the suspicion I've cast upon you and all the rumors I've spread about you and the fact that I've called you "stupid." You're quite old, but you're not stupid. We have this in common. More importantly, you're not the energy glutton I suspected you of being. Not at all. I called PG&E and while they agree that my bills are mysteriously high, they've cleared you completely. Please accept my sincere apologies.

I look forward to working with you for many years to come in a renewed environment of mutual trust.


P.S. Water heater? We're going to need to have a chat. The PG&E technician is coming next week to act as moderator.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

To begin with, Delfina's across the street

In Bi-Rite Creamery, where I was unapologetically having three flavors (honey lavender, balsamic strawberry, and white chocolate raspberry), I overheard the man next to me (a man, it seems worth noting, who was not having any ice cream whatsoever) declaim to his (ice-cream eating) wife, "Bah. There are two good restaurants in San Francisco: Aziza and Chapeau. The rest is barren. I would rather eat at Burger King in Sunnyvale."

Wha...? I am not sure I have ever heard anyone say anything that amazed me more. In fact, I would probably still be sitting there with my mouth agape in mute shock, but my ice cream was melting so I had to pull myself together.

For a fun visual aid, here is a map of restaurant critic Michael Bauer's top 100 San Francisco restaurants. The two restaurants noted by the Burger King enthusiast are those little flags furthest to the left. That means the other NINETY-EIGHT are in the part of San Francisco we call "not the Richmond District."

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Bright new tomorrow

After yesterday's screed, I thought it was only fair to say that today was rage-free, albeit overflowing with calories. Is there a correlation? Quite possibly.

Today there was strolling and breakfast and a book of Italian verbs and tea and readings in a park and music in a bar. There was kind of a tough moment when I dropped in on an open house I happened to pass and accidentally fell in love with an $800,000 condo. Sigh. These things happen. Mostly, though, a good day. Thanks, San Francisco. I hate it when we fight.

Downside: I did eat a burrito in a sort of freakishly ravenous way and for the past--um, going on four hours now-- I have both looked and felt not unlike a boa constrictor. It ain't pretty, but I can't blame anyone but myself for that. Bright side: living alone means no one has to see your blinding white boa-constrictor burrito belly.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

In which I am angry and complainy and not amusing

A list of things I hated just in the past three hours:
1. A $14 movie ticket

2. Leaving the house to discover that some [insert stream of expletives] dude has opened my (large, latched) front gate in order to piss in my entryway. The fact that I was home when this happened makes it worse somehow.

2. Looking for a parking place for 20 minutes

3. Homeless dudes standing in vacant parking places waving a white towel so motorists will be able to find said parking spots. This enrages me. Does this make me a terrible person? Perhaps. But I already told you my stance on kittens, so how can you be surprised? Look. I have to park on the street every day. Looking for parking places is the only sport I participate in. I do not need assistance finding an empty METERED space. They are large and readily apparent. Additionally, I do not need to pay a guy for providing a service I did not request and do not require. Another hot tip: as I am usually alone in my car, I do feel great about getting out of it while a strange man waits for me in the dark.

4. Having a guy on a bike with no lights swerve in front of my car and across two lanes of traffic to make a turn with no signal of any kind.

5. The fact that the cyclist was wearing ear stretchers. The fact that anyone outside of the tribe that originated them wears ear stretchers.

6. Getting home and having to get a bucket and broom and set myself to the task of washing someone's piss off my walkway, as I had not had time before leaving--what with the parking situation.

7. The semi truck that uses the bus stop across the street from my house as a rest stop. In fact, he's doing it right now.

8. Having my bedroom smell like pot, which I do not smoke, because people walking down the sidewalk smoke it routinely and lo it does waft into my window.

San Francisco, you are seriously pissing me off tonight.

On the other hand, I do officially have a crush on Ryan Gosling.

Friday, October 07, 2011

People: the bright side

On the most recent "Modern Family" (do you watch "Modern Family?" You probably should. Oh, but it is droll.) Phil and his son Luke are watching a documentary about a tightrope walker. They are both slack-jawed with amazement.

Phil: How awesome are people?
Luke: So awesome.

And that's how all this makes me feel. First of all, Radiolab is unfailingly fascinating and charming and makes you feel curious but never stupid. It is extra heartening that producer Jad Abumrad got a MacArthur Genius Award, which means he'll be able to do even more smart, life affirming things in the future. Ira Glass likes him too.

In a recent episode, there was a segment about whale fall, that is, what happens after a dead whale sinks to the ocean floor. It turns out a lot of things happen. In fact, a dead whale can support a whole host of organisms for 50-75 years. This is something it had never even occurred to me to wonder about. That's the beauty of Radiolab. Those guys are apparently sitting around thinking, "hmmmm. What happens to a dead whale?" and next thing you know you're saying, "Yeah. What does happen to a dead whale?" And then, suddenly, you know.

But wait! There's more!

These women heard that same story and were inspired to illustrate it thusly . It's quite beautiful. I recommend watching the full-screen version.

Whale Fall (after life of a whale) from Sharon Shattuck on Vimeo.

How awesome are people?

So awesome.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Hello, kitty

II had a dream that I was moving into a large flat with a woman I'd never met; she'd been assigned to me by the landlord--college dorm style. She proved to be a French-speaking Swiss woman, which was pretty exciting and unexpected. Aside from the fact that the former tenant had left hundreds of lousy books on the built-in shelves, and that I had to part with my beloved dining room table because it looked weird in the living room, things were going really well. That is, until I discovered my roommate's three (three!) kittens behind a chair and freaked out. I told her they could either live outside or exclusively in her room, or I was moving out.

That's right people. Kittens, whether actual or from the depths of my fretful subconscious, are a deal breaker.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011


Sometimes it takes until 3:15 for coming to work to seem remotely worthwhile.

I have been trying to schedule a playwriting workshop for a gaggle very busy students and I just received an email featuring this delightful sentence: "If Wednesdays are better for the others, I can fence on Tuesdays instead."

Thank you kindly, Douglas Fairbanks of 2011. You are every bit a gentleman.

Monday, October 03, 2011


I have enrolled in Italian Level 2 (si! continuo!) and had my first class last week. It turns out that the two Italian-free weeks between Italian 1 and Italian 2 were sufficient to erase almost all Italian from my brain and I have reverted to answering most Italian questions in French. Triste ma vero.

Meanwhile, we have been joined by a new student who explained that he had never studied Italian, but thought Italian 1 would be too easy for him. Since he explained this to the teacher in seemingly fluent Italian, I think he was probably right. This leads me to ponder whether I might secretly be able to hold extended discourse in Japanese, or any number of other languages I have never studied. I'll seek out various foreigners (they are readily available all over San Francisco) after work and see how it goes.

Edited to note that the Mystery Student dropped after the first class, presumably having realized he already speaks Italian. He's probably in North Beach if you need to find him.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Le concert

I went with friends to see La Nouvelle Vague in concert tonight for the first time.


pause between songs

Lori: Last time I saw them, it wasn't like this. They did more of a mix of upbeat get-you-dancing songs and slow numbers. I'm ready for something dancey.

Me: Well, maybe the next one. Oh...except she's still doing the sultry walk. [pause] And here comes the poet again.

Lori: Uh oh. And the dancer's in bondage. It's not looking good.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Just thinking out loud...

I just had a hamburger (Do you like how I just blithely announce that as though I were talking about lunch rather than savagery toward animals, weight gain, artery clogging, and systematically destroying the earth's atmosphere? Yeah. I'm quite casual like that) and upon this hamburger was a tasteless tomato-shaped disk. This is hardly unusual. It has been true of millions of its hamburger forebears, to say nothing of the millions of sandwich brethren that have come before. Indeed one wonders if it might be some kind of rule that no real tomatoes may be used in the construction of 80% of culinary creations served between slices of bread. And yet, I happen to know that at the market just four doors down from the restaurant, there are bins full to overflowing with enormous, beautiful, deliciously tomato-tasting heirloom tomatoes. Yea verily. For I have seen them with mine own two eyes. Apparently tomatoes are currently what insiders call "in season."

Perhaps institutors of the 80% regulation fear that having tasted real tomatoes, we will thereafter clamor for them and create a dangerous ruckus in the long tomato-less wintry months. And, frankly, well we might. There may be tomato standoffs and protests and riots during the first few winters, but we'd get used to it. We could institute a system by which we joyfully eat them when they are plentiful and ripe then, later, instead of eating pathetic, anemic tomato imposters, we could, you know, just not eat them until they're plentiful and ripe again. It's crazy, but I think it just might work. And once we've got the tomato situation under control, we can move on to cantaloupe.

Thursday, September 29, 2011


Anthropologie is having a sale. This means that the rug I scrolled past and said, "Oh. That's pretty." is a mere $3,599.99, down from $5,998.00

Oh, Anthropologie. You're hilarious.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Sunday afternoon

On Sunday afternoon I put on a dress and went to tea at the estimable Ms. Stephan's home, which seemed like a highly civilized sort of thing to do, not least because she has several pianos and things are automatically made fancier by their mere proximity. We drank from dainty cups and ate wee homemade cupcakes.

I understand, of course, that this is not everyone's idea of a well-spent Sunday. Indeed, on my way, while stopped at a red light, I watched a young man emerge from a parked car wearing only work boots and very snug briefs, the camouflage print of which disguised exactly nothing. "Huh." I thought, because I have lived here a very long time and it takes more than that to rattle me. Then he turned around and I discovered that the print of the briefs was not their most compelling feature. And I laughed.

Where exactly does one go in nothing but ass-less underwear of a rainy Sunday? I could not say, but I am guessing it wasn't a tea party.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Coin flipping

This week, they have been painting upstairs and the fumes seep down into my apartment to a shocking degree. In order to mitigate the headache/nausea combo that greets me the moment I walk in the door at the end of the day, I have been leaving all my windows wide open all day. I was more than usually dismayed, therefore, when I woke to see a gaggle of workmen scrambling up to the roof directly across the street this morning. All of them went up except for the one guy who was left on the street to attend to the bubbling vat of tar outside my window.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


I frequently get mail for people who do not live in my apartment. At least, I've never seen them. If they are there, they owe me a great deal of rent. My assumption is that they used to live there and their correspondents are very slow to get the news of their relocation.

Yesterday, however, I had a new postal experience. Among my many catalogues was one piece of real mail. I was briefly excited thinking that someone had written me a letter (you know how I enjoy that), but when I looked closer, it proved to be a letter that had been mailed to New Orleans two weeks ago and returned as undeliverable. The sticker says: Return to sender. No such street. (Deeply disappointing, incidentally, because it was addressed to a bookstore on Pirates Alley, a street I very much wish did exist.)

Here's the thing though. This note to this possibly fictional bookstore on this imaginary New Orleans street was not sent by me. And yet, it has been returned to me--understandably, since the return address in the corner is definitely mine.

We must conclude that somewhere in the metropolis is a person who not only does not know the addresses of his would-be correspondent, but is equally misinformed about his own address. A sad state of affairs. Perhaps this person should restrict himself to phone calls.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Quit it

Insects: Stop biting me. For real. I'm sick of it.
I'm just sitting here at work minding my own business. If you need to bite someone's elbow, bite your own damn elbow.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

A memo

Dear Disappointing Melon,
When I chose you, it was because I expected you to be sweet and good. You have proved to be neither. Frankly, if I wanted that kind of experience, I'd be dating, not eating fruit.

Out of the loop (part infinity)

ANNOUNCEMENT: Kneebody is coming in November.

The world in general: OMG! Kneebody! In San Francisco? You've got to be kidding me! I am buying 18 tickets right now! Kneebody! Kneebody! Kneebody!

Me: ?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


Yesterday I heard a snippet on the radio that, of white collar workers, the unhappiest is someone who is an unmarried 42-year-old woman who is making less than $100K as a doctor or a lawyer. Note to self: do not become a lawyer next year for fear of sinking into suicidal depression.

Today I had trouble dragging myself to work, as I will spend much of the day cutting and sorting nametags, a task that makes me grouchy in the "I'm smarter than this" vein (though why it should, since I have to sing the alphabet song over and over again in order to alphabetize anything, I couldn't say). However, today's radio snippet was about unemployment in California. And you know what that was? Awfully damn sobering. I am newly grateful to have a job and to have my big budget struggle be whether or not I can afford to take Italian Level 2, not whether I can afford to pay my rent or buy food.

Hi there, nametags. What's up?

Monday, September 12, 2011

Marketers take heed

Girls in the hall are discussing drinking water. One girl is signing the praises of sparkling water over plain water. To sum up she says, "sparkling water....ignites your spirit."

And, really, you can't ask more of a beverage than that, can you?


in unrelated news, Blogger has changed their interface and now, in order to have spaces between paragraphs, I am obliged to put in HTML codes. This displeases me. Not least because I know really nothing at all about HTML codes and must clunk along like the Frankenstein's monster of the digital age. In fact, are they even called HTML "codes?" I don't know. See?

Dear Blogger, remember when you did the technical things and I just, like, wrote stuff? I miss those days. If I wanted to be all technologically advanced, I'd use Wordpress. Love, Kari

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Up to the minute

I am in the process of making a cake for my friend Meridith's birthday, which is why these two disturbing things occurred simultaneously.

1. I hear on the radio that the U.S. Post Office is in danger of becoming obsolete. Many jokes are made about email, etc. I assume these jokes are made by people who never receive letters. Because, really, is there anything more lovely than getting a real letter, handwritten by someone who loves you? (Hint: there isn't.)

2. The recipe calls for half an egg. And here I make another assumption, namely, that this recipe was penned by someone fairly unfamiliar with the properties eggs in their uncooked state.

So...go write a letter. By the time you're done, we'll know how the cake turned out.


Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Non c'e

Last night found myself too exhausted to go to my Italian class. I know. Lame. If I had been able to teleport to class, I would definitely have gone, as I very much enjoy my Italian class, but I lacked the will to get downtown. Indeed, at the moment I should have been walking to BART, I was asleep on my sofa. These things happen. As a compromise, I watched Cinema Paradiso. It is about the same length as class, and unlike class, it involves no English whatsoever.

It breaks down like this.

In both class and in Cinema Paradiso, I recognize and understand some Italian phrases. Si! Vero! In class, I often laugh. In Cinema Paradiso, I also laughed a little. In class, I have yet to cry. In Cinema Paradiso I wept copiously and was overcome by feelings of painful nostalgia for hours afterwards.

Moral: go to class. (Vai in classe.)

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Zombie head

You know what's sad? When you 1) drag your pitiful tired self to the laundromat on a national holiday while everyone else is at a BBQ with charming friends or similar

2) spend extra time on having lovely wrinkle-free bedding [did I iron the pillowcases? I totally did. I ironed and ironed, in fact. Where is my prize?]

3) take a pre-bed bath so as not to sully flawless sheets

4) crawl into perfect bed totally exhausted [probably from ironing] at the old timer hour of 10:18pm and then

5) spend the whole night in a sleepless, itchy allergy frenzy--very likely resulting from overly fragrant linens.

Now am post allergy-night work zombie.
I am not pleased.

This uninteresting addition to Cereal for Dinner (and likely many subsequent uninteresting additions) is brought to you by the Blog Bully and his relentless appetite for updates at any cost.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Hardy har har

I am unexpectedly going to be telling another story at the Mill Valley library on Friday. Oh. Oops. That would be TOMORROW. I am subbing for my friend Samantha who--just yesterday--had to withdraw. I am not ready. If you want to come and see if I get ready between now and then, do.

Generally, in what I laughingly refer to as "my work," I take unfortunate incidents from my life and/or personal shortcomings and make fun of them. Ta da! Humor writing. It's been working for me for years. Yesterday, I thought I had come up with a story for tomorrow's event that would lend itself nicely to this model, but what I am finding is that while I might be able to craft it such that others may be amused, I am not amused. At all. Embarrassed, yes. Sad, yes. Full of chuckles, not so much.

I am trying very hard to start shaking my head and smiling ruefully at all those gosh-darn romantic misadventures of yesteryear since I don't really have time to come up with a new idea, but [special behind-the-scenes glimpse into the creative process], I've been on the verge of tears since about 10pm last night. Hilarious!

NB: If you are secretly in love with me, this might be a good time to mention it.

Sunday, August 28, 2011


I'm not sure which is more remarkable, that Restoration Hardware sent me a catalogue that is 615 pages long, or that there is nothing in 615 pages that I can afford.

There was a heady moment when I thought a small lamp was $54, but how would that possibly have been true? [Lamp: $295, Shade: $54]

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Farewell (or fare poorly. Whatever.)

My neighbors moved away today.
Things I will not miss about them:

1. The completely relentless crashing, crashing, crashing of things on their floor/my ceiling.

2. The fact that much of the crashing happened directly over the head of my bed, a thing I explained to them time and again, though they made no effort to change anything about their lives to ameliorate the situation.

3. The fact that they let their children bounce balls indoors, despite living in an upstairs apartment.

4. Ditto bike riding.

5. Their general stance that, though noise a bummer, it was entirely beyond them to address it in any way. (Suggestions: put a rug on the floor. Hell, put a towel on the floor. Make balls and bikes outside toys. Let your children play in any of your numerous rooms that are not over my bed. But no.)

6. Sometimes opting to sleep on the sofa so that I might not be awakened by the crashing over my bed. I was still awakened in the living room, but not quite so startlingly.

7. The fact that they additionally rented the building's third apartment so no one would move in and make noise under their bedrooms--a desperate move that, ironically, incited no empathy for my situation whatsoever. Indeed, they spent no time at all in the auxiliary apartment, despite the fact that had the children played there instead of upstairs, I would not have heard them.

8. Their practice of leaving numerous bags of soiled diapers on the (indoor) landing outside their kitchen door--directly over my pantry, which subsequently frequently smelled of shit.

9. Their refusal to break down boxes before putting them in the shared recycling bin, thus filling it to capacity.

10. The man's practice of sweeping leaves and detritus from the front entry and the sidewalk in front of his garage, but never from in front of my (directly adjacent) garage.

Things I will miss about the neighbors:

1. They were very quiet after 8pm.

2. Since they rented the only two other units in the building, when they were out, the whole place was mine all mine.

3. There is no 3.

Just for the record, puzzled that my apartment reeked today despite a fairly robust cleaning and airing yesterday afternoon, I opened the kitchen door. And gagged. As I have so many times before. I then proceeded to take four bags of soiled diapers from the upstairs landing to the outdoor trashcans.

The song may be over, but the melody lingers on.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

How about you?

The Anthropologist is a project of Anthropologie, the clothing store. It has nothing to do with clothing, or the store, as far as I can tell. It seems to be simply a celebration of beautiful things. I recommend you visit.

Doesn't this project make you want to create a collection of your own treasures, such that you might admire them all together? Why don't you?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


I am weary of hearing the delightful words "tea party" bandied about on a daily basis and having them relate neither to tea nor to a party. In addition to causing me personal disappointment, surely this is confusing for children and foreigners learning English.

For the record, a tea party doesn't look anything at all like this:

A tea party looks like this (you may click on the photo to enlarge it) :

Of course, there is also tea. At the time of the photo, the kettle was on. You don't want to get ahead of yourself. After all, you don't want the tea to get cold before your guest arrives.

There now.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Culinary irregularities

Very occasionally, I cook real food. And so rare is the occurrence that I become all proud of myself and am sometimes compelled to document my accomplishments. You are under no obligation whatsoever to care about this, particularly as I am certain you comport yourself as an adult and cook proper meals daily. I doff my cap to you.

Poulet provencal

Pork tenderloin, green beans almondine, mashed potatoes

Roasted summer squash with onions and tomatoes

Un petit poivre

Well, to be fair, I did not create that pepper, but isn't it pretty? It was a gift.

Friday, August 19, 2011


Look. If I could wear four-inch heels while just strolling around looking at sidewalk sales, I might also look, oh so casually, like a supermodel. [Photo from The Sartorialist.]

To wear these shoes, I would have had to strategize extensively about the proximity of the target venue to the chosen transport (how close is the bus stop? If I drive, can I park within three yards of the front door? Is it worth the money/effort to take a taxi? If not, do I have a bag big enough to bring flat shoes in which to access and leave the venue, pausing just out of sight of the front door to put on/remove the glamorous shoes.) My point is, there is no strolling. There is never any strolling. Even standing is pretty limited.

Fie on you all, towering women, for making me feel like I'm bad at being a girl.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Story time (Part 5)

This story was recorded by actual professionals, so it's quite swanky. This is also the final addition to the collection. I'd better get back out there.

June 2011. Mill Valley Public Library. The theme was "What Went Wrong."
You can see all the stories, or, if you'd rather cheat and just watch me, my introduction comes in at about 4:45.

Mill Valley Library - First Friday, June 2011 from MarinTV on Vimeo.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Fair warning

It is not unusual for me to pass random furniture that has been left on the street in the Haight. In fact, my friend Theo and I used to call it the Almost Furniture Collection--a chair with no seat, a chest with only two of its four drawers, a table with just three legs, things like that.

Today out by some trash cans, I saw one of those backless chairs you're supposed to kneel on at your desk. Do you remember those? On it was taped a handwritten note. I assumed it would say "Free," as is usually the case with abandoned items, but it said, "This is not that comfortable. Thank you."

I think the "thank you" was my favorite part.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Thank you, internet

One of the downsides of swimming is that I now frequently smell like chlorine and consequently make myself sneeze, which is kind of funny at first, but not for long. Today I thought I'd consult Google.

"Get rid of chlorine smell after swimming."

The good news is that many people are trying to deal with this same issue; the bad news is that there doesn't seem to be much to do about it.

Two of the more memorable responses:
1. Don't swim in a pool! No matter where you work, you're close to a canal or a lake.

2. Why would you want to? Is it that annoying? I'm only asking because sometimes a very light smell of chlorine can smell amazing on a woman.

My feelings:
1. I'm pretty sure there is neither a canal nor a lake anywhere near the Haight.

2. No matter what random issue you're dealing with (e.g. cleft palate, ingrown toenails, extraneous and/or missing limbs), there is guy somewhere who thinks it's hot. That's an absolute guarantee.

Friday, August 12, 2011

I only had to ask

It's come to this. I am posting something cheerful from Facebook. That's right, Facebook, you win again.

A few days ago, I posted something about the fact that there are no forks whatsoever in the kitchen at work. And then something marvelous happened. Voila.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011


I have been feeling quite pleased with myself as regards the gym, which is to say that sometimes I actually go there. If nothing else, it gives me the chance to do an anthropological study of the locker room.

Here's what it isn't: sexy. Here's what it is: fascinating.

Really, it's a dissertation just waiting to be written.

Oh. I am also exercising. For real. I smell like chlorine, so I can prove it. Just now, feeling quite smug about my new fitness-forward self, I looked at the gym's online attendance tracker. In July, apparently, I went 5 times. Five. In a month.



On the bright side, it also says I've been 4 times in August and it's only the 9th. There may yet be hope for me.

Fortunately, there is no tracker for how many episodes of Mad Men I've watched in a week.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Story time (Part 4)

More unflattering photos! Yay! I thought I was wearing a great deal more makeup than I apparently am. Note: If you are going to the Elbo Room, ladle it on, ladies.

This is from October 2010, the LitQuake edition of the Literary Death Match. I was robbed! Robbed, I tell you! of the title by Jason Bayani who looks, it has to be admitted, pretty cute in his crown.

Jason Bayani

Kari Kiernan

Kari Kiernan

Kari Kiernan

(please note how enthralled Jane Smiley is behind me. Sweet.)

And here I am indicating to this scary man, that he'd better not shoot me with a huge water gun, because I'm totally going to be finished by the 10-minute limit.

The Lieutenant

Kari Kiernan

All photos by TJ Faust. The full set is here.

Saturday, August 06, 2011


One of the enemies of [here you must insert the word that means "producing a great deal" which for some reason has left my brain. I have been staring at the wall for five minutes trying to lure it back, but it is gone. I refuse to see this as telling, though that is probably exactly what it is. The only words that come to mind are "voracious" which is altogether wrong, but leads me to think that the missing word might start with a "v" and "ubiquitous" which is closer, but also wrong. One might say, for instance, that having written something like forty plays, Noel Coward was a [missing word] playwright.]

What was I even saying?

One of the things that um...keeps you from writing a waiting until you have something to say. As you see, I am taking up arms against my enemy by writing with no regard to content. Ha! Take that! The truth is that my self-appointed muse, whom I would describe more aptly as a blog bully, will soon begin to tsk tsk if I do not generate some morsel for the consumption of my 2-3 readers. I shrink from being tsk'd and so am here.

1. Not that it's any of your business, but I currently have less money in my checking account than I have since 1999--the leanest year of my adult life. It is disconcerting. Nevertheless, I do have rather a lot of flowers in my apartment, which, while displaying a certain lack of common sense, I hope also suggests an enchanting commitment to aesthetics.

2. Several weather reports today announced that it would be 70 degrees at the coast. These reports were demonstrably not made from the coast, possibly because the meteorologists were unable to locate it, shrouded as it is in fog.

3. Come Monday my summer vacation, such as it was, will be officially over. I am feeling panicky. Are you having a party tonight or something? Can I come?

Two hours later: It came to my while cutting a watermelon. The word is "prolific." But then, you already knew that. It's just as well that I couldn't think of it because I would have had to employ "prolificacy" which sounds like "proflicacy" and gives the wrong impression.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011


Last night I dreamed that one of my colleagues moved to Stuttgart, while another left to become the official translator of Agamemnon for the US Postal Service.

Manual dexterity

Though everyone I know has told me I will love, love, love it, I had not seen "Mad Men" until yesterday. And yes. It is a brilliantly written, entirely convincingly acted, stylishly realized piece of work. And, admittedly, there are some dresses I covet. However, I did not anticipate it evoking a near constant state of feminist rage, such that I am obliged to flip off the screen--two-handed--complete with vigorous upward thrusting, at least once during every episode. I have to put down my bourbon and cigarette to do it too, which, obviously, is tiresome.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Ad infinitum

One more entry on the endless scroll of Things I Disdain:

People ordering things to go and then sitting at a table.

If you're going, bon voyage and bon appetit from afar; if you're staying, pay the tax and then use real dishes. You get to save a tree and be civilized. And who wouldn't want that?

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Mysteries of my own mind

I'm doing a little blog tinkering and I discovered this in the drafts folder from February 16, 2011. It was nothing but a link to the Webster's definition of this word:

It is, undeniably, an excellent word. It is also a word I have no recollection of learning, let alone setting aside for the edification of my 2-3 readers. Is it possible that senility sets in prior to menopause? That seems unjust. Nevertheless, we shall try to adopt a pococurante stance on the matter.

Haute couture: not quite dressed

The other day I saw a teenage boy sort of tiptoe-shuffling his way down the sidewalk in what I'm sure, if you move in the right circles, was a very chic outfit. He wore a jacket, a bulky sweatshirt, plaid boxers, jeans belted entirely below his ass, and unlaced sneakers into which he had inserted his feet only half way. Is this a new trend? For those who want not only their butts, but also their heels to garner the benefit of a refreshing breeze? Niiiice.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

It seemed like a good idea

Several months ago, someone tried to break into the trunk of my car. At least, this is my theory. I got a bag out of the trunk, went the store, came back 15 minutes later and was unable to open the trunk with either my key or with the trunk release lever inside the car. As far as I know, locks don't just up and break themeselve, so I suspect foul play. Apparently, it will cost $150 to replace the lock, so I have chosen to ignore the problem since there are scores of other ways I'd prefer to spend $150. And have. And continue to.

Today I had two bags with me--my purse and a tote bag (for additional things I was obliged to tote). As we all know here in the big city, it is a mistake to leave a bag sitting in the car even if it has nothing of value in it because someone is still likely to break in just on the chance that you have left a sack of cash carelessly on the backseat. So, I couldn't leave it there. Still, I was annoyed at the prospect of having to schlep this second bag to the movies with me.

Just as I was preparing to get out of the car, it occurred to me that I could use the fold-down capability of the back seats, sneak the bag into the trunk from the inside, fold the seat back up and be on my way. I got into the backseat and began to pull vigorously and with considerable force on the seat backs. This did nothing whatsoever, though I did try for rather a long time with increasing agitation. Finally, I fetched the owner's manual to see if there was some sort of release button I wasn't seeing.

There is. It's inside the trunk.

Story time (Part 3)

Levi's has (or had?) an initiative as part of their "Work" campaign called Levi's Workshop: a physical workshop that would be set up in a city for a few months to do cool things, then shut down and moved on. We had one on Valencia for a while last summer. It was full of printing presses and things and it was sad to see it go. They invited Porchlight to collaborate with them to make a little book of stories about work. Alas, I was not included in the wee book, but I was invited to fill in for someone at the last minute for the storytelling performance. The story (about being fired by the Red Cross) as a whole was not recorded, but there is still evidence that it happened. And that I made this face:

There are bits of me onstage here (I mean, all of me was onstage, they just recorded moments):

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

There's only so much to say

I assume that people who write for clothing retailers and magazines and the like sometimes look at the blank page and think things like, "what else is there really to say about cardigans?"

Moments such as those lead to emails such as today's from Anthropologie. Subject heading: "That's the thing about dresses" Email: "They make our world go round."


Photographing the model next to a globe didn't do all that much to clarify the assertion.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Plus, there was cake

My birthday was on Friday and I felt very well celebrated. There was miniature golf and lunch and a handmade birthday crown. Then there was fancy pizza and Harry Potter in the balcony of the theatre where you're allowed to drink wine (I drank wine). But the very best thing of all was this.

I walked in with my two friends to find our seats. We were in a little row that was three seats together (enough for us), a little table, and one lone seat in which a man was already sitting. I put my birthday crown on the little table and saw him glance at it.

"It's my birthday!" I explained. (I'd been telling people all day in case they might be very excited.)
"It's my birthday!" he replied.
We shook hands very enthusiastically and then wished each other happy birthday for the first of several times.

And if that's not jolly, I don't know what is.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Life in a small dwelling

Sole: A Cautionary Tale.

Kitchen. Dinnertime: Yum! That smells delicious.

Bedroom. 8AM the following day: Dear god. What a revolting odor. Has someone sneaked a dead fish under my pillow?


Friday, July 15, 2011

Equal opportunity

I went to the Sports Basement today (I know; I'm practically an Olympian) in my continued quest to find some kind of sweat pants that don't look like they were developed as an anatomical guide (seriously. yoga pants = too much information) and to replace my swimcap. There are various kinds of caps, each of which is helpfully on display with a little sign explaining its merits. The sign under the one I purchased said "Gentile on hair."

I'm not even entirely sure what that would entail, but, to be on the safe side, I borrowed a Sharpie from the clerk and now the Jews of San Francisco are free to swim with non-denominational caps.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Making a list, checking it twice

I mentioned that I had made this list of things I'd like to do and that I'd taken preliminary steps to do some of them. I am pleased to report we have moved to secondary steps.

On Tuesday, I went to the gym for my "fitness assessment" which actually was not as horrible nor as shameful as I anticipated. The trainer who conducted the test would strongly disagree, as attested by her look of pure horror when calculating the amount of my body that is comprised of fat. Apparently, a lot of it. I suggested to her that she might want to work on her poker face. She replied, "But these are not the numbers you want to see!" Uh...right. Exactly. Maybe she has never heard of a poker face. Anyway, my level of fitness is "fair" in most areas, which it really has no right to be. And my so-called "fitness age" is only three years more than my actual age, rather than being 15-20 years more than my actual age. Again, a miracle. While the trainer was very scowly about all this, I thought it would be more appropriate to be popping the champagne. Not that she'd approve of that.

Immediately following Fitness 2011, I went to my Italian class. Buon giorno. Come stai? Io sto bene. Grazie.

See? It's totally working already.

Yesterday, I actually went swimming in the serious bathing suit and hear this: I did not die. My spindly arms felt like they might snap off, but still. It was a beginning.

Then I ate vegetables.

I know. At this rate I may become a superhero.

Will she continue on the path of righteousness? Or will she spend the weekend eating chocolate cake in her nightgown? Stay tuned.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Story time (Part 2)

This is my favorite. (I originally mentioned it here). Plus, although orange, I look pretty good. Later evidence will show that this is not always the case.

Porchlight's 8th Anniversary Show, July 2010. The theme was "Magic 8 Ball." Video once again by Evan Karp, whom I do not know, but who I made laugh a couple of times.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Festivals and parades

If festivals and parades aren't your thing, then maybe you could do some dancing in your living room or have a quiet drink. The point is, celebrations are in order. My accursed neighbors with their crashy, screamy children are moving away by mid-August.

There are no words to describe the joy this brings me.

Say a prayer to the gods of tenancy that whoever the new neighbors are prove to be light-footed book-readers who enjoy silent contemplation of life's mysteries.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Thoughts from Tahoe

1. Smoking indoors is legal in some places. You will have forgotten this. It will not be pleasant to remember.

2. When you win on a slot machine, it will be completely unclear to you why even though the "pay line" is helpfully highlighted.

3. Lake Tahoe itself is primarily made of melted snow, which makes it very cold indeed. Nevertheless, it is unaccountably elating to swim in it. After taking the full underwater plunge, you may not laugh uncontrollably for five minutes, but I did.

4. It is possible for a bed to be too soft.

5. Miniature golf is pretty much always a good idea.