Wednesday, December 26, 2012


Frankly, when we started out, no one thought our union would last more than a couple of weeks, but today my kidney stone and I are celebrating our two-month anniversary. It's almost better than Christmas.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Cultural signifiers

1. I think it would be good if I could eradicate from my personal repertoire flashing two thumbs up at people. I do this strangely often, but never well. Despite the enthusiasm that presumably sparks the action, I lack follow through and often forget to actually employ the critical thumb part of the thing, leaving me with my two puny fists raised toward someone in a baffling, albeit cheerful salute. The whole thing lacks dignity.

2. My French friend tells me he was watching "Breaking Bad." There was a scene in which Jesse Pinkman and his cohort were greeting each other. "What up, biotch?" they said. Unfamiliar with this charming form of address, my friend heard, "What up, brioche?" and was briefly hopeful that French pastry was taking American slang by storm. Would that it were.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Marry Christmas

Last night, I went to Evany and Marco's Christmas party. This is not all that unusual. I've gone to Evany and Marco's Christmas party for years. I used to go to it when they lived in an apartment in another town, before they had a child and bought a house. There has been the phrase "Evany and Marco" for a long time. For me, there has been "Evany" for even longer. (I've mentioned her before, for sure.) Almost forever, really. There were parties in other apartments. There were other pre-Marco boyfriends, but I don't even remember their names. And, can we just be frank? I'm pretty sure they were nowhere near as good-looking as Marco. Marco has many excellent qualities, which would be well worth enumerating, but he is also a hell of a handsome guy. It is impossible not to notice this.

Last night's party seemed to be sort of dialed up a notch: more crowded than its predecessors, no child or dog in evidence, a taco truck in the driveway, balloons filling the hallway, paper pom-poms festooning the ceiling, catering help in the kitchen, Evany in a shimmering cocktail dress along with gold shoes with butterflies in her hair, Marco in a suit. But the TV with the yule log was, as is traditional, blazing in the back room. All the usual guests were in evidence. So not so very different, maybe?

Except that, yes. Different. Historic, in fact.

Because in the middle of this party, Evany and Marco got married.

photo by Brian Mello

I have never been to a surprise wedding before, let alone the surprise wedding of two people who--for years--have already been joined by a conjunction in my mind and by their child and their home and their life together. Two people whom I thought had long since decided to forego this particular formality. But now, having been to just such a surprise wedding, I can tell you that the rightness of it is nearly breathtaking.

Evany talked about Marco's extraordinary generosity. She said that he brought out in her the best possible version of herself. She said that when she comes home in the evening she's excited to see him. Marco said that, before Evany, he had always seen love as a supplement, not as a completion. Now he gets it. He said he misses her right away whenever she leaves.

photo by Jill Stauffer

I cried. Obviously. Then we all drank champagne and our friends were married. Marco came out and changed the "e" in on the Merry Christmas banner to an "a." And then we danced, as was only fitting.

That the happy couple could make such tributes to each other eight years into their union is extremely affirming. I want, more than I can say, to find just that with someone. While it is--oof--lonely not to have yet found it, it is greatly encouraging to know that it is not a thing I only imagined to be possible. Indeed, it's right there in my friends' living room. I'm holding out for it, people.

Marry Christmas.

photo by Jill Stauffer

Evany and Marco, long may you reign. I love you crazy kids.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Insomnia haiku

Three A.M. has passed
Whole flocks are accounted for
Yet still I'm awake

Thursday, December 13, 2012

What? Oh. Not that.

To be added to a long list of misunderstandings.

As I have surely mentioned, I am currently fruitlessly engaged in the project of online dating (as seems more or less always to be the case). The site I'm using bases its "matches" on users' responses to a vast number of questions, of which I have answered less than a hundred, but of which there may well be thousands. Yesterday I happened upon this statement, requiring a yes/no response. "I enjoy animated nudity."

I puzzled over this for quite some time, imagining it to refer to some preference for a frolicsome approach to nakedness rather than, perhaps, being naked and just lying around. Then I thought it might be trying to politely address the level of vigor one might desire in one's sexual collaborations. But then, there are many other questions that address that very issue with, if anything, disconcerting frankness, so why would they suddenly be coy? It finally dawned on me that the question referred to comic books? X-rated cartoons? Something? I'm sure there's some approved term for those, but I have no idea what it might be. So I guess maybe I'm a "no" on that one. Having sorted that out, I'm sure to be united with my future spouse shortly.

Then this morning on NPR, I heard part of a series about people doing community-service oriented jobs. I heard the introduction as, "Today we will hear from an emotional Management Counselor working to help women transition from prison back into society." I thought that it seemed reasonable that that sort of work might make someone emotional, but also thought it strange that they mentioned it. "Well," I reasoned, "Maybe she cried through the whole interview or something." Only well into the segment did I realize that Oh, wait! It's Emotional-Management Counselor. Not emotional Management Counselor.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Rock steady

To answer your question, yes. I do still have a kidney stone. Every time you think "Man, I sure am tired of her talking about that." I invite you to think about how tired I am of having it. There. Do you feel duly chastened?

In brighter news, the Human Dermal Product is coming along nicely. My oral surgeon did a great job, as he will be the very first to tell you. If I had anything like the, um, let's call it "self-confidence," of my oral surgeon, I would probably be in charge of the world by now. But then, no one wants a poorly trained namby-pamby in charge of sewing things into their mouth, I suppose. I have been eating apples with gusto.

Yesterday, I went downtown to return some misguided online purchases and I felt rather sentimental about living in a place where my very glamorous Gap cashier, with long hair, flawless makeup, beauty mark, skinny jeans, and chiffon blouse was a youth named Kevin. I hope Kevin gets a fantastic employee discount. Gap clothes should be so lucky as to be chosen by Kevin.

The Banana Republic staff were very friendly, though not one of them shared my feeling that the song playing in the store was the stupidest song ever written. I don't know what this song is called, but I'm going to guess it's "I'm Waiting at the Airport." Do you ever musically narrate your day to yourself? Well, I do. Perhaps I wouldn't if I didn't live alone. However, it's not uncommon that I might sing a little ditty about, say, eating lunch. It would go something like "Hey. You should eat some lunch now." The tune would not be an act of musical genius, but it would pass the time.

That is exactly what "I'm Waiting at the Airport" is like. I don't know who sings it, but he tells us over and over again that he is, indeed, waiting at the airport and then, at some point, in a pretty dramatic plot twist, he sends a text. I tried to share the moment with someone, but, incredibly, no one else seemed stunned or amused by the relentless inanity of this--possibly very popular--song. It was a lonely time. But then, though all I did was return a tee shirt and mock the Banana Republic soundtrack, they presented me with a small complimentary jar of jam.

Christmas magic.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

If they want it, they give you a cup

In the ladies' room near the urology department, I discovered that not one of the toilets been flushed following its last use.

I attribute it to either an over-enthusiasm about urology or a slight misunderstanding of how it works.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Sudden springtime

As I was driving down Oak Street, there was a car from Tennessee slightly ahead of me in the next lane. I saw a young woman in the passenger seat reach back to throw something out the open rear window. I was getting ready to be all tsk-y about it (no one likes a litterbug) but it proved to be a handful of flower petals. Pink. Possibly from a peony.

She did it three times. The petals fluttered behind their little hatchback and gave the busy street an air of a parade or a spring wedding. It was quite lovely. Then, having finished her work, she reclined her seat all the way back so she could smoke politely, holding her cigarette out the same open, back window.

I think her life might be markedly improved if they got the front window fixed. Maybe Santa is looking into that.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Next step: PhD

Today I got a CT scan and also filled out a questionnaire in which I said:
A. That, yes, I know what a radiologist is.
B. That no, a radiologist is not a doctor.*
C. That I have a master's degree.

So. That went well.

*The whole time I was filling it out, I had in mind the technician who performs the scan, but there's no going back now. I am very hopeful that it's anonymous and that all the radiologists don't get together at lunch and say, "Did you see this Kari? Ha! Master's degree, my irradiated kidney. I bet she's got some pathetic MA in, like, Humanities." And then they all laugh and laugh, entirely unconcerned about choking because, even though they're radiologists, they all totally know the Heimlich.

Monday, November 26, 2012


Today my kidney stone and I are celebrating our one-month anniversary.


Sunday, November 25, 2012

Cafe culture

This afternoon, I went to my favorite cafe on Valencia Street. It has some good armchairs and floor lamps. They play no music. When I order tea, they give it to me in a diminutive pot along with a cup, a tiny pitcher for milk, and a wee spoon. All this they put on a little oval tray. The cafe is attached to a bookstore. It is clearly a cafe for people who want to read. I thank them for it.

Today, the chair I chose was facing and fairly proximate to the bathroom--not in a "last row of the airplane" unpleasant way, just in a "hard to ignore the bathroom line" way. Generally, to access the bathroom, you must fetch a key from the front counter. Today, however, the door was not firmly closed, such that when cafe-novice would-be bathroom users approached, they could quite simply push the door open and walk in.

Unfortunately, when the system is meant to involve a key, and there is a sign explaining this on the bathroom door, to go into the bathroom without the key is to have a false sense of security. Really, you are open to a sudden and embarrassing encounter with someone who does have the key.

For a long while, people came in and out without incident, each letting the door fall mostly, though not entirely, closed behind them, essentially perpetuating the perilous situation indefinitely. I worried about it for about an hour and remained ever-vigilant. Finally, someone came out and pulled the door closed--click--behind him and I was able to relinquish my self-appointed role of Bathroom Door Guardian.

Everything about this episode strikes me as terribly telling about my character. I am not altogether pleased.

And now, to make me seem even worse, a small screed
Dear sir,
Aside from this one, every other cafe on Valencia, of which there are seemingly hundreds, seems primarily designed for you to come with your colleague and a variety of electronic devices and talk loudly about your business plan for hours on end. Everyone else will have their earbuds in anyway, or their own business plan to discuss, so they won't even notice.
If you feel you must do this in the one cafe for miles around that does not scream "hipster internet millionaire," I think you should have the courtesy to at least buy a cup of coffee. Seriously. Even if you don't want it. We are all renting our chairs for the price of a beverage. That's how this business model works.

I feel better now. Thanks.

Thursday, November 22, 2012


I will not try to make an all-encompassing list of things for which I am grateful because A) it would be impossible and B) it would be boring for everyone but me. Maybe even including me. I try to stay pretty actively grateful year round, so for today I'll just look to the recent past and the imminent future and see what I come up with.

First, I am so overwhelmingly grateful for my parents that it brings tears instantly to my eyes to even think about it. I'm grateful they're so nearby and available to keep me company and feed me custard when I have a mouth full of newly-sewn human dermal product, even though I'm a grown-up. I'm grateful that my mother can hear all my weird issues about how our tiny three-person Thanksgiving makes me feel like a lonely spinster and then devises a Thanksgiving plan that involves swimming pools in Calistoga and going to a restaurant. Ta da! Magically transformed from sad day with not enough people to glamorous California outing. My parents totally top the list. I like them. Long may they reign.

My friends come next. I like them too. Have you noticed how good it is to have friends? I'll bet you have. You're pretty perceptive like that.

Next I'm going to say:
1. Grant, my colleague's husband, who hardly knows me but who calmly answered the phone and then drove me to the hospital one morning at 4:30am.
2. Health insurance
3. Drugs and the kind people who administer and/or prescribe them.

I know it's a bit kidney-stone centric around here, but I am very serious about my gratitude for having access to a whole system that let me step quickly from agony to painlessness and then continue to keep the pain at bay for what is now almost a month. It's no joke. I have been thinking a lot about people who are obliged to suffer because they don't have that access. It shouldn't be allowed. Period.

Oops. I didn't mean to go quite so Power to the People there, but seriously. Health care. It's a good thing to have. Still, so as not to leave you on quite so serious a note, I will add one more:

4. The guy who just moved in next door who looks like he was sent here after an open casting call for "hot neighbor."
What? Like there's no room in Thanksgiving for a tiny bit of objectification? C'mon.

May your own blessings prove too many to count.
Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Say what?

In a radio commercial I am hearing constantly of late, Taylor Swift informs me in the flat voice of someone new to reading aloud that: "Wonderstruck Enchanted is the next chapter in the story of my Wonderstruck fragrance."

What? Do fragrances have chapters?

To me it sounds as though someone has taken a lot of arbitrary words and strung them together in the hopes that, for the listener, being confused will be similar to being fascinated. Bicycle tea cozy astonished dumbstruck harmonica wheelbarrow. Also, a pretty girl! Coming soon!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Holiday glow

People are all fretting about the potential shopping mayhem of Black Friday--crowds! crowds1 CROWDS!

The big secret is that everyone is flocking not to the mall, but to the UCSF radiology department. Or, I assume so, based on the fact that when I called to make an appointment for a CT scan this morning, I was on hold for an hour. It was a dramatic hold, replete with sudden breaks in the hold music suggesting that I may have been disconnected; many recorded updates letting me know that they were experiencing high call volume (a thing I was able to deduce by the very fact that I was still on hold, but thanks); and many actual rings of the phone that implied someone was about to answer, but really, just prompted another announcement that everyone was busy. It was all very exciting.

So, if you gaze into the faces of your loved ones in the coming days or weeks and see that they seem to be positively glowing with holiday spirit, it is highly possible that they have been recently irradiated.

In related news: kidney stone, joke's over. We know you're still in there, and we're coming to find you.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Two meals

Last night I waited for a very long time at Pizzeria Delfina, where I had been planning to have the Margherita pizza, my favorite. However, once I was confronted with the menu, I entered into a spiral about how always getting the same thing is illustrative of how I lead my sad little life, etc. and so ordered the special. It was liberally seasoned with some mystery herb that my waiter informed me was part of the catnip family. I still ordered it. It was a misguided decision. Let's just be honest, shall we? Even without catnip being involved, no matter how fancy it is, pizza that does not involve tomato sauce always disappoints me. Viva marinara! (as they no doubt say in Italia).

It occurs to me that in this increasingly gluten-obsessed town, with its passion for soy products, my breakfast of Cream of Wheat with 2% milk is totally punk rock.

As you are no doubt wondering, but too polite to ask, yes. There is still a kidney stone stuck in me somewhere. I believe this is day 23.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Well, now we know

So much has happened since October 25, back when we were young. The Giants won the World Series; a scary storm ravaged the East Coast; we set the clocks back; we reelected our lovely president. We also had Halloween, about which I care not at all, but I don't want you to be distracted thinking, "Hey! What about Halloween?"

And yet, I spent most of that time asleep. From time to time, I would be awake for a couple of hours, during which time I forced myself to drink gallons of water. Remember poison stomach? Yeah. Me too.

It's funny to look back and realize that I wrote about poison stomach on Thursday of that week and then Friday night at 8:30, I was suddenly doubled over in pain. "Wow." I thought, "That poison stomach is really not messing around. I guess I shouldn't have eaten that slice of pizza. I'll get some Tums on my way home." Have you ever needed Tums and been literally unable to hold yourself upright due to crippling pain? No, me neither. And yet, I was totally committed to this Tums theory even though I could barely drive the car. I will spare you the long version of Walgreens trip. It involved a lot of nausea, weird limping, shallow breathing, and sitting on the floor of the store. You know what didn't ultimately alleviate any of my symptoms? Tums.

The drugstore errand was sufficiently harrowing that when I got home I looked up "appendicitis" online and, having established that the pain was on the wrong side, I came to the end of my list of medical theories which looked like this:
1. Gas
2. Appendicitis
So, I settled in for several hours of writhing and keening and rocking back and forth and vomiting. It was novel. I'll give it that. Finally, at 2:30am, I called the advice nurse who told me to call the doctor on call. I was embarrassed to bother the doctor at 2:30am, but made the call. She suggested that I should go to the emergency room. I suggested that maybe I should try Alka Seltzer. She said she doubted that would really help, which was too bad because it seemed a lot easier than going to the hospital.

This is perhaps the main reason that living alone is maybe not such a great idea: you might need to go to the hospital in the middle of the night. I may get married this week, in fact, just to ensure that someone is around in case this ever happens again. Neighbors seem like a good Plan B, but there are just three apartments in my building. One of them is currently vacant and my remaining neighbors were out of the country. (Was this karmic payback for being so delighted that they were going? Possibly. Just kidding, neighbors. I'm not excited about your baby, but could you please come back and drive me to the ER? But maybe in a few minutes? Right now I can't actually get off the floor.) The doctor had suggested that I take a taxi. I pretended that that was an option, though my real reaction was "yeah, right." Have you ever tried to get a taxi in San Francisco? It's not one of the things we do all that well. I lay there for another couple of hours running through the "who can I call at this hour?" emergency list and finally settled on a colleague who I knew lives very nearby. She was out of town, as it happened, but her very kind husband came to fetch me at 4:30 in the morning and took me, clutching my trusty vomit-receptacle trashcan, to the emergency room.

The wait was not so very long and though I was in agony, I was at least no longer in agony while simultaneously trying to figure out how to get from bed to the hospital, so that was reassuring. Once I was in a room and in a gown, the doctor deduced almost immediately that I had a kidney stone. This made me laugh, which puzzled him. "I don't know." I told him. "It's just not something I ever imagined having." The tech said, "It looks like you're doing the kidney stone dance all right." (Make a note of that. It might be a big sensation in the clubs, if that's your scene.) Meanwhile, he was helpfully prepping me for an IV and, just when I thought I might actually die, he hooked me up to dilaudid and my life improved by about 1000% in 20 seconds. (I haven't worked out all the details of my plan to get married this week, but that guy is at the top of the list of candidates. Thank you, kind sir.)

Now it's twelve days later and it's still lodged in there somewhere, unimpressed by the deluge of fluids I have consumed, so I take a narcotic painkiller every six hours and look forward to some future day when I'm no longer so sleepy all the time.

Meanwhile, the moral is, if you feel like you have to crawl to get from one part of the room to the other and no position gives you any relief from the sensation that someone is stabbing you in your lower back, Tums is probably not the answer. There's no need to wait eight hours to go to the emergency room. Just go. What? You can take a taxi.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

I'm not winking. It just looks that way

The bad news is that for four days I've had something I'm going to diagnose as "poison stomach" and my left eye has been twitching for TWO WEEKS. It's all very tiresome. Perhaps I am more stressed out than I think I am, or perhaps I'm suffering from severe crunchy-food withdrawl (as soon as I get the okay from the periodontist, look out, apples, I'm on my way). Or maybe I'm dying of a silly disease that is like a pitiful patchwork of relatively benign symptoms. Next I'll probably get seven hangnails and one stopped-up ear. In any case, vim and its rugged companion vigor are not currently in evidence.

The good news is that, on Monday, my mother and I went to see another of those National Theatre Live productions and I'm telling you, if you like theatre and you live somewhere that movie theatres exist, you really ought to look into it. I have seen numerous plays that I have loved--LOVED--through this program. The Last of the Haussmans was one of my favorites. Damn. It was the playwright's very first play, which amazes me. The cast was perfect. I would see it again if that were possible (which, alas, for me, it isn't. However, I know it's playing this Saturday afternoon in San Francisco, so if you live here, it's not too late). I am now officially a fan of Rory Kinnear. If you see him around, be sure to let him know. I'm sure he's been waiting years to get my attention.

To sum up: Yay, National Theatre! Boo, achey stomach, twitchy eye, and general malaise. (I originally had an exclamation point at the end of the "boo" sentence too, but I reconsidered. If you give general malaise an exclamation point, it only encourages it. We can't have that.)

Monday, October 22, 2012


It would be okay with me if no one said these things ever again:
Dive bar
Gluten-free or, really, even just gluten
Partner in crime, unless used to describe an actual accessory to a legal violation.
Oh! I just remembered this one three days later. Midcentury modern.

And, while we're discussing terminology, here's a question. Is the whole thing still called "online dating" if it takes a great deal of time and emotional wherewithal, but does not result in any actual dates? I think it may be time to coin a phrase.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Oh, sorry

A short list of inanimate objects to which I have apologized aloud today:
1. My car (which I bumped into while getting in)
2. The blotter on my desk (onto which I spilled a tiny bit of tea, leaving a small stain.)
3. The last third of my banana (which I didn't eat because it had a huge bruise)

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

A list including spinach

I can't be all, "Oh look at me. I'm so on top of updating my blog." one day and then not post anything for days on end, so this is a bit of a grab bag.

1. I just came from the periodontist's office and was slightly embarrassed to see a surgical assistant who, presumably, last saw me weeping and bleeding. She asked, "How are you?" and I said, "I'm fine. I think last time you saw me, I wasn't, but I am now." To which she replied, "You did really well." I have no idea what that means, in that I was out of my mind on drugs and remember nothing at all, nor do I know how one could "do poorly" as a sedated patient, but I am fond of praise, so I'll take it. Maybe I'll put it on my resume.

My doctor was weirdly cagey about when I'll be allowed to eat whatever strikes my fancy, so we're still going to have to hold off on the tortilla chip/carrot stick fiesta you were going to invite me to. And the making out? We're definitely going to need to postpone that. Bummer. But I am now capable of smiling at you without pain, so that's progress. However, I may have chopped spinach in my teeth. Sorry about that. I promised my mother I would eat vegetables, even while being unable to chew. I keep insinuating chopped spinach (which I don't really enjoy) into things.

2. On Saturday, the nice guys of Previously Secret Information had me perform with them during LitCrawl, which was flattering for me. It's always exciting to be part of LitCrawl. It makes me feel very legit. Public speaking with a mouthful of sutures, however, is not something I can wholeheartedly recommend. Vexingly, just twenty-four hours later, the most problematic of the sutures came out. Sigh. So if anyone would like to hear me tell a story with a less numb tongue, let me know.

3. Someone in the hall is recounting an anecdote (breaking news!) and just said, "My then boyfriend..." a phrase which, in the context of my own life, always implies a break-up, but then she finished, "now husband." Oh. Right. That's also a possibility. Sigh.

4. According to my calendar, I will be seeing five plays in the next three weeks. That seems like a lot. In fact, it makes me think that some of the rest of you must be slacking off on your theatre-going. Step it up, people.

5. Among the many things I think I'm supposed to enjoy but don't are jazz flute and, increasingly, "30 Rock." I am working through my emotions on this and will let you know how it works out. I suspect just eschewing jazz flute will have fewer social repercussions than giving up on Tina and the gang.

Friday, October 12, 2012


This is my 500th post here at Cereal for Dinner. Five hundred. Looked at a certain way, it's not a particularly impressive number. After all, I began this project eight years ago and, though I'm not great at math, I do know that there are significantly more than five hundred days in eight years. However, if I were one of those super-motivated, self-supporting, widely-read daily bloggers, this site would probably be called Balanced Meals Every Night: Musings on Self-Actualization. And, you know what? It's not called that. And only partially because that's a terrible title.

To me, five hundred feels like quite a milestone. I'm still here. I'm still doing this. Since there were years when I only wrote a handful of times, there was no guarantee that I'd keep it up. What's more, I've even taken to admitting it to people rather than keeping a secret available-to-anyone-on-earth-with-an-internet-connection diary, as I did for years. (I'm not totally clear on how the internet works, I guess.)

The exciting thing is that I'm getting better at showing up. If you look over at the archive list to your right, you'll see that in 2010, I only wrote seventeen times, but in 2011, I got that up to 110. Was this because I suddenly had a lot more to say? No. This is because in 2010, I didn't know the blog bully and in 2011, I did. Seriously. It's that simple.

This one's for you, Blog Bully. Thanks for paying attention. Thanks for tsking. Thanks for caring. It has made all the difference.


Extra! Extra!
Tomorrow night as part of LitCrawl, I'll be telling a story (as best I can with my poor abused tongue that has been rubbed raw by sutures) at Stage Werx Theatre at 6:00 with the good folks of Previously Secret Information. It should be a good time. Come on by. It's free. If you don't like my piece, there are at least 450 other writers presenting within a three-hour period. There's going to be something in there you totally love.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Frankenmouth II

Oh, friends. The levity about Frankenmouth has significantly diminished now that I officially am Frankenmouth. My craw is veritably brimming with Human Dermal Product. Well, so is yours, if it comes to that, but mine is now the Human Dermal Product of others and it has been sewn in. I am finding this to be approximately as revolting as it sounds. However, the pain is very nearly gone. This doesn't mean I want to do anything crazy like chew or brush my teeth--let's not get ahead of ourselves. However, it does mean that I am no longer crying and counting the hours until my next dose of ibuprofin (a thing I'm pretty sure I don't know how to spell correctly and am too lazy to look up. What? I had surgery. Can you not cut me some slack?)

Down Sides
1. Reportedly, I wept upon coming (sort of) out from under sedation. My mother had to say, "Tell the doctor you're okay, honey." Which I did, I guess. Then I continued to cry all the way to the car and possibly much of the way home. I remember nothing whatsoever about this (see Bright Sides) but I can't stop thinking about it. Evidently, it is an unusual reaction. My mother thinks it was just a drug reaction. My doctor thinks it is a reasonable reaction to the trauma of a fairly extensive procedure. I can't stop wondering if I am really just deeply sad. That if you dip into my subconscious self, I am just a weeping mess. I have no evidence to support the theory that gum surgery sheds light on secret existential mourning, but I am doing plenty of fretting about it. Conscious or unconscious, I am an excellent fretter.

2. I woke up only three hours after getting to my parents' house post-surgery. They say some people sleep as long as ten hours. I enjoy sleeping; I was hoping for more.

3. When you get to the point where you have to start cutting back on the pain meds, it hurts. That's right. Having things sewn into your mouth hurts.

4. I had one stabby suture. Every time I would move my head a certain way, it would stab me in the cheek. I started to take it personally.

5. For several days, I felt like I looked more like Luke Wilson than myself. Look. I like Luke Wilson, but dude has a weird jaw.

6. Despite not being able to chew, I think I may be gaining weight. I'm looking at you, Trader Joe's pudding.

7. I'm performing on Saturday. And I kind of can't talk normally. Or smile.

Bright Sides
1. I am overcome with love and gratitude for my parents who gave me sympathy and company and many, many edible things that do not requite chewing. Seriously, had I had to just come home by myself...well, I don't want to even think about how depressing that would have been. I am lucky.

2. I remember nothing at all about the surgery. The last thing I remember, I was in the lobby, looking at a magazine with pictures of Keira Knightly in costumes from Anna Karenina.(Which, for the record, are gorgeous.) My next clear memory is waking up in my parents' guest room. Thank you, drugs.

3. I went in to the doctor's office on Monday and they trimmed the stabby suture. Ha! Take that. Also, they seemed entirely delighted by what an awesome job they'd done sewing things into my mouth. I basically just have to take their word for it.

4. Accidental experimentation suggests that with the Human Dermal Product in place, I may be able to drink cold beverages without pain for the first time in years.

5. While lying around waiting to take more drugs, I read The Marriage Plot in three days. I liked it very much.

6. I have allowed myself to buy Trader Joe's pudding.

7. Theoretically, I'll now be able to keep my teeth in my head for many years to come. This pleases me.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012


It's countdown to oral surgery. Indeed, it's oral surgery eve eve. Which is to say, it's scheduled for Friday. I am fairly terrified, but am trying to distract myself by making jokes about it. You may have noticed that this is my strategy for most of life. Well, that and crying.

I have been provided with a great many documents by the periodontist: instructions for pre- and post-surgery, waivers where I agree to not sue them if I lose all feeling in my mouth or if my face becomes permanently discolored (what?), financial agreements where I agree to pay them more money than I actually have, etc. The best of these forms is entitled "PATIENT'S CONSENT FOR CONNECTIVE TISSUE GRAFTING WITH HUMAN DERMAL PRODUCT"

Human Dermal Product is pretty much comedy that writes itself.

There is also a lot of focus put on the need to be escorted from the treatment by a "responsible person." Obviously, you can't drive yourself, but you are also not allowed to take a bus or a taxi unaccompanied. In fact, if you cannot produce evidence of this responsible person, they will either cancel your appointment, or proceed without sedating you. I wrote to my mother to double check whether she felt she qualified as responsible. Because you know what? I'm not undergoing this without sedation. She thinks she can make a good case for herself. She used to be a kindergarten teacher.

I also gave her this information from the post-op instructions:
" Attend to either an alert of sleepy patient in the same manner; do not trust him/her alone."

You know I am not to be trusted when I'm sleepy. ANYTHING COULD HAPPEN! (Most likely, sleeping, but still. I might do it in a CRAZY, RECKLESS manner.)
So, there will probably be bleeding and gauze and things. There may also be sleeping. I'll keep you up to date. If you wanted to get together for chips and salsa and corn on the cob and then make out with me, well, I'll have to take a rain check. (But that sounds fun, so let's be sure to get that on the calendar.)

Friday, September 28, 2012

Ham, poetry, flowing beards

I struggle to title these things, titling not being my strongest suit, and I realized that this particular title makes it sound like I'm going to write about the Mission district. Ha! Fooled you. I'm going to write about amusing pirate-based literature, but I'm going to try very hard to do it while not employing any of the usual pirate-speak. We'll see how that goes.

When I was little, I had a book that if you read it one direction, was Peter Pan, and if you flipped it over and read it the other direction, was Alice in Wonderland. I loved that. Two books! Upside down! Forwards and backwards! It was pretty cool. So, several years ago in NY, when I encountered a book that was, in one direction, The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists and, in the other direction, The Pirates! In an Adventure with Ahab, I was pretty excited. And that was before I even knew how funny it was. It's always hard to quantify "amount of funniness" so let's just say, very, very funny. The only drawback I could identify was that I did not actually know the author, Gideon Defoe, because I was pretty sure we would get along famously (though, clearly only one of us was a celebrity of any sort).

Years went by during which Gideon Defoe wrote several other amusing pirate books and, unsurprisingly, continued to be entirely unaware of my existence/our potentially fantastic relationship. And then, last winter, I saw a preview for a pirate movie. This pirate movie. I recognized the source material straight away. I was sufficiently excited by this development in the career of my imaginary friend that I went to his website and sent him a star-struck, laudatory email. And you know what? He wrote back. And that, dear readers, is how my imaginary friend, Gideon Defoe, author of very droll pirate-based fiction, became my slightly less imaginary friend.

Now, movies are all very well, but the books are closer to my heart. They have footnote humor. Movies do that poorly. Fortunately, he continues to write and to footnote very liberally indeed. His most recent book, The Pirates! In an Adventure with the Romantics may well be my favorite. Have you secretly yearned to read a book in which jokes are made about the boringness of Switzerland? And Byron and the Pirate Captain compare the magnificence of their hair? And Mary Shelley secretly finds poems kind of tiresome? Of course you have. Now is your big chance.

You may remember that I recently (and rather ineptly) joined Twitter. In my second tweet of all time (I am now up to 29, I believe. Amazing.) I tried to be flattering and helpful. I did it wrong.

To be fair, I did not know I was solely responsible for the US marketing. Now that I have been informed of this awesome responsibility, I am shilling the book here, where I believe I have, like, twenty readers, rather than retweeting to my now eleven Twitter followers, one of whom wrote the book in question. I will take it as given that all of you are going to buy this book immediately. When you do, I urge you to read the Table of Contents and the List of Illustrations. You'll be glad you did.

In fact, for your benefit, allow me to quote, entirely illegally, my favorite illustration title:
Eliza burst into tears. The world's largest parsnip--and it was ruined!
Go buy the book. Unless you are my closest friend, in which case, you'll probably be getting it for Christmas.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

I happened to have a paper napkin

I just returned from a three-hour movie. Arguably the most diverting, and certainly the most surprising, thing to happen in that time was that I got a nosebleed during the last ten minutes.

Bollywood, you have disappointed me.

Let's take a minute to remember the good old days before Cocktail came and ruined everything.
You know how many choreographed numbers on top of trains there are in Cocktail? None. That's how many.

That is also the number of long dance numbers featuring people inexplicably standing-fully clothed under showers, provocatively running their fingers through their own wet hair. I mean, I ask you. What good is Cocktail?

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Is there something before 101?

Somewhat reluctantly, I am taking a class called Social Media 101. It is basically a "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" move on my part. I guess that's kind of a goofy remark for someone with a blog, but it's pretty clear that technology is not my strong suit. I have many other charming qualities; I promise. [Note: If you are a potential employer, I am a highly competent professional, well versed in a variety of timely social media platforms.] There. I wouldn't want to shoot myself in the foot or anything.

I'll tell you what. If you have been opting out of each bright new thing, it's a little overwhelming to learn about everything all at once. Fortunately, a career counselor insisted that I join Facebook a year ago, so I think I've got next week's homework under control already, but Twitter has been a bit of a rocky start.

For my very first tweet, I linked to this article and wrote "Etiquette ninjas? That settles it. I'm moving to London."

And I got a reply! Yay. Only it turned out to be from some company (presumably in London) that said, "Great to hear you're moving to London! Why not follow us for some regular inspiration on things to do when you get here?"

Another day, I replied to a tweet by my friend Evany and, in closing (as much as anything that short justifies that phrase), I said, "Also, I'm on Twitter. Sign of the End Times?" This was instantly retweeted by this person? organization? whose Twitter bio reads:
Whatever it is your thinking realise this one thing. [sic] The heavens declare His glory, it would go well with you to take the time to look up. Peace be with you.

Twitter, I sometimes say things that aren't strictly true. It's called "joking." I'm sorry for any confusion this my cause. On the other hand, I also apologize if I have inadvertently brought on the Apocalypse by joining Twitter.

So, basically, I'm taking the internet by storm. Savvy as can be. If you would like to know when I say things as briefly as possible, I'm @Kari_SF. Currently, I have just ten (highly distinguished) followers, so, even if you have a bulky jacket or something, there's still plenty of room for you.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

A San Francisco sum

Racing out of the school after a late meeting
Finding a parking place immediately, just a block away
Seeing The Crème Brûlée Cart open
Ordering the one with cranberry champagne sauce and pecans
Making it to the Castro Theatre just in time
Discovering, when my eyes adjust to the dark, my favorite row empty
+ Moonrise Kingdom

Monday, September 17, 2012

And then...

You may recall that I went out to the distant land of Berkeley and told a story onstage. I am very sorry that you cannot see my shoes in this video because they very nearly hobbled me for life and I only wore them for vanity's sake.

The mysterious Evan Karp--poster of previous videos of me onstage--was on the program too. It was nice to actually meet him. He's swell. And handsome, not that you care about that sort of thing. We're all very high brow in the literary circle, don't you know. Evan curates a reading series called Quiet Lightening that sometimes takes place in the San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers, which is a very exciting place to be sneakily involved with non plant-related artistic endeavors. Next time, you should go.

This rather profile-y video was taken by a friend of Evan's. Thank you, friend of Evan's.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


What, this?
Oh, this is just a little something I whipped up last night. From scratch. On a Tuesday.

Granted, there was some confusion about the parchment paper, but there was no swearing that I remember. That's unusual for any significant culinary undertaking. I think I'm making progress.

I read this post on Oh Happy Day and I wanted to give it a try. Sadly, she's moved on to a second tutorial that seems far more complex (plus I can't be baking a cake every day. After all, I live alone and I'm gym-challenged), but, for now, I'm quite pleased with myself.

Tonight the blog bully's coming over to celebrate a recent victory over The Man (his, not mine. I don't spend much time fighting The Man, but the blog bully is all about fighting the power), so we can find out how it tastes. Fingers crossed.


It was good.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Reduce, reusue, and...

I should start an additional blog just to track the many esoteric things my neighbor mistakenly believes to be recyclable. It would be a sort of photo montage of things I remove from the communal bin: some towels, a large wooden box, a couple of free weights....

Today's contestants, aside from the perpetual plastic wrap and piles of compostable miscellany (pizza boxes, used paper towels, milk cartons, etc.), were what appeared to be some unused diapers, a (mostly) empty toothpaste tube and--my newly elected all-time favorite--a deflated rubber cow of significant size.

Oh, neighbor, what a beautiful dream.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012


I find I have, at best, a tenuous grasp on the rudiments of being a grown-up. I would like to tell you that the apartment is spic and span, that vegetables are consumed as part of a balanced meal every evening, and that I am constantly deeply engrossed in literature. This is not the case. Indeed, the apartment looks as though it may be occupied by three or four phantom college students who can't be bothered to hang up their clothes. And last night I had Shredded Wheat for dinner. What's worse, perhaps, is that I was rather proud of myself for (finally) having gone to the grocery store. The night before, I would not have been able to have Shredded Wheat because there was simply no Shredded Wheat to be had. In the midst of the indifferent housekeeping and questionable nutrition, I watch a great deal of television.

This morning, I had vowed to go to the gym for the first time since (ahem) March. I tried to pave the way for success. I packed all the necessary items and put them near the bed last night. All that would be required of me would be to get up, put on quasi clothing, and leave the house. The rest would be dealt with post-swim. It turns out that the "get up" part is a significant obstacle. Or rather, that it is still a significant obstacle, as it has been since I was about 10 years old. Tomorrow, I will try again. Please stop laughing. I will so try.

To make up for all my shortcomings, though, today I did something almost mind-bogglingly adult. I took a deep breath and agreed to have the oral surgery my dentist has been talking about for the last five years. Not only will this involve having something that is referred to on the invoice as "Bio-material: human dermal product" sewn into my mouth, it will also cost several thousand dollars. Truly, I have never spent this much money on anything in my life with the exception of my car. When I think of the trips to Italy I could take with that money, or the fetching dresses I could purchase by the armful --really, the list of delightful things available to me that would not involve human dermal product or bleeding gums is almost endless--it makes me a little tearful. To be clear, I don't actually have these thousands of dollars, they will be squeezed from me slowly and painfully over the course of a year. Woo hoo.

But you know who makes an investment in gum health today to avoid false teeth tomorrow? A grown-up, that's who. Now I'm going to have some chocolate and maybe start watching "Breaking Bad" again from the beginning. Shut up. You're not the boss of me.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Arrivederci, Roma

Even under regular circumstances, I talk to myself far more than is normal (assuming that there is a "normal" amount of talking to oneself), but traveling alone for days on end maybe amped it up a bit?

On my way out of Rome, I had to first make my way through Trastevere, which is comprised almost entirely of cobbled streets. Clumpety-clumpety-clumpety, I wheeled my suitcase joltingly behind me and had this little conversation. Aloud.
I'm so sorry, suitcase. No American is ever really prepared for cobbled streets. [pause] Of course, you're from China, so it's possible that you don't understand a word I'm saying.

Ah, yes.

And then I went to Florence for another whole seven days, but I tried to keep the suitcase chatting to a minimum.

Arrivederci, Roma. Piacere.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Yes, but what if I too have thoughts?

First off, I know there should be commas around that "too" up there, but I feel it will just be too comma-y. Sorry, punctuation. I'll check in with you later.

I choose not to enable comments on this blog. As I have a very small (but charming and distinguished, obviously) readership, I don't think this is likely to bring the blogosphere (I continue to loathe the word "blogosphere" in case you wondered) to its virtual knees. However, very occasionally, people mention the fact, either with curiosity or displeasure. A student once inquired as part of a class project she was doing about my blog. Let's just think about that for a minute, shall we? A student once did a class project about my blog. This remains one of the most astonishing and flattering things that has ever happened to me. If you're still out there, Sarah, hi. I addressed the issue in an email to her, but today Lisa Congdon has addressed the same issue right out in public. My reasons vary a bit from hers, but, in general, it's nice to know I'm not alone.

If you ever find yourself brimming with unexpressed thoughts about something I write, you can always email me. I know it's old fashioned, but then, so am I.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Lifesaving kindness

I just came across this on Mighty Girl and wanted to share it with you.

You know I have mixed feelings about the ubiquity of "comments" on the internet, but in this case, well. It's another opportunity to do something great with almost no effort. When you comment on her post, it will equal $20 to vaccinate a child in a developing country against measles, pneumonia, diarrhea, and polio. I'm all for that.

The comment prompt is: what is the nicest thing anyone has ever done for you? I hope that you have as much trouble narrowing this down as I did.

Here'e what I settled on:
People who love me have collectively done an incalculable number of nice things for me, but when I think of the nicest, I find I think of things done by people who didn’t know me at all.

Once, many years ago, during the morning rush hour, I fell in the Powell Street subway station–a bad fall; I thought I may have actually broken my back. A young man whose face I never saw (I was facing the wall and afraid to move) knelt down next to me and held my hand until the paramedics came. He didn’t abandon me to the ineffectual MUNI personnel who were first on the scene. I know staying with me made him very late to work. He is my hero.

Hasten over there; reflect on kindness; protect a child. Not bad for a Tuesday.


If my perfect Roman apartment had a favorite restaurant, this would be it.
Caffè Propaganda, I am in love with you. Say you miss me.

Foolishly, I neglected to take a picture of the restaurant (though I did take a picture of my dinner), but other people were not so remiss.

You should click on this one to see all of it. In fact, I insist.
It's is from here.

See that high table by the door? I sat right there. Quite near the charming hostess and within easy ogling distance of the gorgeous bar.
This one is from here, which is a very useful website, indeed.

After a tiresome/worrying delay waiting for the #87 bus, I only just made it before they stopped serving dinner, but the hostess, who was extremely charming (and beautiful and wearing very tall shoes that seemed not to give her the slightest trouble), took pity on me. I had Prosecco, green salad, and pasta della Nona, followed by Marco Polo tea from Mariage Frères, which is my very favorite tea. They were puzzled why I would be ordering tea at 11pm, but they still served it with fetchingly mismatched china, including a tall, long-spouted pot painted with flowers and lovers of yesteryear.
On the whole, I was dizzy with happiness. Upon my departure, I thanked the hostess very effusively for being so kind and we clutched each other's hands and beamed at each other dazzlingly as though we had shared some experience rather more bonding than a dinner which only one of us ate.

I could look at pictures of Caffè Propaganda all day long. In fact, I sometimes do. If you think we may have this in common, prego; here are lots.

Monday, August 27, 2012

School days

The students are back.

I am happy to report that, after the long, arid days of summer, eavesdropping is once more a fruitful activity. Welcome back, you crazy kids. You amuse me.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Friday confessional

I expect that you got excited there for a minute, didn't you? Thinking that "Friday Confessional" was going to be some new feature. Well, first of all, it should be pretty clear by now that this is a platform devoid of "features." Unless "I actually wrote something!" counts as a feature, which, for me, it does. Besides, there's a whole bunch of stuff that I'll never admit to you, so no. No regular confessions, but I have to get this off my chest. If you are in San Francisco, you might want to take a deep breath; this is probably going to upset you.

I like "Call Me, Maybe". Yes. I said it. Would I want it to be the only song I was able to hear for the rest of my life? No. But, if it comes on, I will turn up the radio in the car and I will sing along in a spirited fashion, especially relishing the part about "all the other boys try to chase me" a phenomenon of which I have no personal experience whatsoever. Partially, those Olympic swimmers really sealed it for me. Is there a more adorable girl in all the land than Missy Franklin? I think not. But even without Missy lip syncing in my mind, it's awfully catchy. If it comes on when I'm on my way to work, I arrive more cheerful than if it does not. So there.

Furthermore, I like "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together." That's right. I am a grown woman and I like "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together." Indeed, I have more than one past relationship where I wish I would have arrived at that very conclusion much sooner. Was I in high school at the time?

You know what else? I have never heard of a great many of the bands who played Outside Lands this year. And, finally, I recently discovered that I don't like Yeasayer. I tried. I failed.

There. I feel better. Have a good weekend. I invite you to dance in your living room or sing along soulfully into your hairbrush to whatever secretly makes you smiley.

Thursday, August 23, 2012


I'm going to tell you a dark secret. Please keep it to yourself. I wish I had not even gone to the Vatican Museum. I know. Shhhh. Believe me, I feel quite guilty about this, but it was just way, way too crowded for me. And hot, of course. I think it is what Coachella must be like, only with sculpture instead of music and no freedom to just sort of give up on the whole thing. Why? Because you are penned in on all sides by tour groups from 18 countries. Seriously, no matter how magnificent the spectacle, at no point do I want to be so close to hundreds of strangers that the overriding odor is not sweat, which, of course, was in abundant supply, but halitosis.

I felt horrible that I wasn't filled with awe. I tried very hard to be filled with awe, but by the time I got to the Sistine Chapel I was almost desperate to get out. I find this in my journal, "Catholic treasures, I'm sorry I couldn't better admire you. The Lord made too many people."

Still, it is quite amazing to be at the site of so much history, even if your overriding emotion is not one that Jesus advocated.

Here are some things I had room to enjoy:
If I happen to be in Rome some February, I'll go back and try again.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Well, that was easy

Just this very minute, I took something that was half-done on my Life List and completed it. That feels good.

Number 95. Contribute annually to NPR and Planned Parenthood. These are both organizations that matter to me. They are not the only organizations that I contribute to, but they are two that I found I was giving to some years and not others. I wanted to commit to send something, no matter how small the amount, every year, to each of them. In the last year or so, KQED introduced a monthly contribution plan among their membership options and I was quick to jump on board. I don't even feel the impact of the monthly $5, but I do feel proud about honoring a commitment I made to myself.

Still, I hadn't gotten it together on the Planned Parenthood front. Willy-nilly is not a great philanthropic strategy, but it seemed to be the one I was sticking to. Just now, it occurred to me to check if they had a similar monthly option. Of course, they do. Well, sheesh. Why didn't you just say so instead of sending me so many darn solicitation letters? Done.

Is it a great deal of money? No. But I don't have a great deal of money, so that's fair enough. Besides, this works out to slightly more than I would be giving if I wrote a check once a year and it's painless to spread it over twelve months. Besides, I know from my long experience in nonprofits, when they say any amount makes a difference, they mean it. If you're faltering, know that giving something truly is better than giving nothing--assuming, of course, you have anything available to give.

I really recommend the automatic monthly contribution; if only doing the right thing were always so easy. If you have greater financial capacity, by all means, dole out larger monthly allotments, but let's all stand up for things we care about, shall we? Maybe we could save the world, five bucks at a time. It's worth a shot, right?


From my journal July 17, 2012

4pm. Galleria Borghese.
I am nearly dead. I feel that Rick Steves must be some kind of superhero that he thinks it is sensible to walk here from anywhere, really. It's just too hot. And too far. I intended to take a bus from Largo Argentia, but weirdly both sides of the street seemed to feature buses going the wrong way. I asked a guy where to get the bus to Tritone and he told me I should just walk.

So I did, mais ce n'est pas evident du tout since everything involves piazzas and it's very hard to figure out where streets actually go. Plus, I have one of those hotel-style maps which involve the bare minimum of streets. And then there's the sign thing they do here--for these major tourist sites, they will have a small sign with an arrow on a major street, after which I guess they figure you'll just intuit your way through the twisting cobbled streets to find it. Perhaps several signs? Just an idea. In any case, I did finally happen upon the Pantheon, which has an opening at the top through which sun streams in. It's quite impressive. Then, by some miracle, I found the Trevi Fountain. And there it was being famous. And there I was seeing it. I made a wish.

From there, it is a significant walk to get here. It's strange to walk up what is basically the Champs Elysees of Rome (complete with Harry's Bar) while sweating profusely and feeling like an almost-bursting tomato. I'm not quite as bella as I imagined I'd be. Meanwhile, actual Romans look sexy all the time. They appear not to sweat.


The Galleria Borghese proved to be filled with breathtaking pieces. That Bernini knew a thing or two about sculpture, as it turns out. Also, I'd say, a thing or two about human emotion. You know who else was no slouch? Caravaggio. Si. È vero.

God bless whoever came up with the reservation system so that only 350 people are allowed in for a two-hour period. This allows you the physical space to actually see things and (dare I be terribly Californian about the whole thing?) the psychic space to actually feel something about what you're seeing. Ahem. I'm looking at you, Vatican Museum.

Also, as a bonus for small-breasted, very white, round-stomached women such as myself, a trip to the Borghese leaves you feeling that it's not so much that you're out of shape, it's more that you're out of step with the current ideals of, say, fitness-obsessed San Francisco. You are classical in form. Indeed, you would have probably been quite the dream girl of the 1600's.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Telling it on Tuesday

Are you my secret admirer? Do you live in the Bay Area? Are you not planning to kill me or do anything at all creepy? Great!

In that case, I feel able to tell you that I'm doing this show next Tuesday, August 28. Come on out.


During the first two days of my stay in the magical apartment, the building's front door was being reinstalled, which is to say, there was no front door. In the evenings, the workmen would stretch a kind of plasticy mesh thing over the doorway, mostly nailed in place. This meant that there was not a very large opening through which to come and go. Going out, I was obliged to sort of crouch down and burst forth into the busy pedestrian street: ta da! It was dramatic. I'll give it that. Coming home at night, it was a stealthier maneuver. Walking down the street, walking down the street, lift corner of netting, and pow! disappear. It was like being on the lam. On the whole, I enjoyed it.

I mention this mostly to prove that I did actually go out from time to time. I went to the Colisseum, which was quite awe-inspiring and I had a very lovely guide and learned interesting ancient facts. Guess what? I'm not going to tell you anything about it. You can go there; it will be better that way. You're welcome. Several times during the tour, I was pretty sure I was going to faint, though, happily, I never did. Eat before you go. Take water. Wear a hat. (I did wear a hat, though I failed on the other two fronts. However, had I not been wearing the hat, I might currently be dead.)

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The shoes of my dreams

Do you have dreams in which you own or somehow have access to clothes that delight you and then you wake, only to discover that that dress/blouse/suit was woven of nothing but imagination? It's a little bit heartbreaking, so if you've not experienced it, don't be sorry. I have these dreams periodically and the disappointment upon waking does not lessen over the years.

Last night I dreamed that I was in New York and passed a large shoe store with a rack of shoes out on the sidewalk. I picked one up and tried it on and it it me perfectly. Perfectly. I think this may be a fairly routine experience for many people, but shoes do not ever fit me perfectly; it's a cause of considerable angst in my life, in fact.

I went into the store to ask for the mate of the miracle shoe--a modified brogue with laces and a smart little heel. A trim, elegant shoe. And that is when the lady revealed that the shoe was so comfortable and cushiony because she had put several individually-wrapped cookies inside the display model. I was sorry that had accidentally crushed the cookies, but also wondered where I could get more because they made shoes so much like slippers. She told me that they were imported from Italy and showed me a large box of them. She was having trouble finding the mate to the perfect shoe and held up numerous other, ugly options. "Questo?" she asked, "Questo?" because suddenly she was Italian American. "No. Dispiace." I said sheepishly. "Ci sono molte scarpe qui non mi piace." [No. Sorry. There are many shoes I don't like.]

Do you understand the significance of this, gentle reader? I now speak Italian in my dreams! This is terribly exciting. Sure, it should have been "piacciono" not "piace" but even in the dream I was proud of myself for remembering the word for "shoes," rendering it plural and creating proper adjective agreement. Last year at this time I could not have formed that Italian sentence waking or sleeping. My life officially shows signs of progress. This is very heartening.

On the other hand, flawless footwear and almost correct foreign sentences. Why wake up? Maybe the key to success is to stay asleep.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


The vacanza is slipping further and further into the distance and the coverage is getting ever spottier. Mi dispiace.

For me, Rome was really the apartment. I tried to be equally enthusiastic about the cobbled streets over which Caesar himself may have traveled, but the apartment won. If I ever go missing, you might look for me there.

I did occasionally go out and look at famous things, but we don't have to talk about that right now. C'è sempre domani. For now, let's just enjoy the bathtub.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


We keep hearing about how cars are a significant contributor to climate change and to simply generating heat on already too-hot streets. What if we completely eradicate all consumer options except one. This one.

I borrowed this from here.
And this one from here.
Having been caught behind such a vehicle in traffic today, I have had time to develop my hypothesis. Namely, that if this hideous creation were the only option, many fewer people would drive.

The Blog Bully takes issue.
Quoth he: I know you don't claim to be writing a scientific journal, but can I proffer a petty correction on a pet interest of the blog bully. Cars are a contributor but not a "significant" contributor to climate change. Cars are responsible for about 35% of the transportation sources of US greenhouse gas emissions. Transportation accounts for about 28 percent of total US GGE making cars responsible for a little less than 10% of US GGE or climate change as we say. Applied worldwide, the number decreases.

I kind of like that car.

Voila. The most actual useful knowledge you will ever get here. Can you imagine if I did claim to be writing a scientific journal? What a disaster that would be. In any case, the Blog Bully knows this kind of thing backwards and forwards (he reads a lot, whereas I watch Breaking Bad) and I totally trust him. Except, sadly, we've all just learned that he has appalling taste in cars. I can only assume he also looks favorably upon the monstrosity that is the PT Cruiser. How are the mighty fallen.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Thought at 3AM

You know..."sweater" is a pretty disgusting word, actually.

Friday, August 10, 2012


David Rakoff, I will miss you, a fact that would no doubt surprise you, in that we never met. When I sat in the audience at the Herbst Theatre when you came for City Arts & Lectures, I was pretty sure that we could have been friends, had anyone ever thought to introduce us. I can imagine you having a few sardonic things to say about that particular fantasy, and I like you all the more for them.

Wherever you are now, I hope the music is fantastic, the men beautiful, and the cocktails exactly how you like them. If you happen to see Spalding Gray, say hello for me.

Buongiorno Roma

Easy Jet is a cheap airline for inter-European travel and it is sort of like a flying Greyhound bus. Still, it is a great deal quicker (and actually cheaper) than the train, so I found myself leaving a rainy Geneva and arriving quite soon thereafter in a blistering hot Rome. Was it after sunset? Why, yes. Yes, it was. Did sweat nevertheless pour off me in rivulets as soon as I left the air conditioned airport and made my way to the train? Funny you should ask.

However, that would be getting ahead of ourselves. It took a long, long time for me to get to that train platform. First, I got off the plane and, as you do, followed the signs to baggage claim. When I got there, I went to one of the electronic signs that indicates which carousel your flight's baggage will appear on. Except that my flight did not appear anywhere on the sign. At first, I assumed I had just gotten there a bit ahead of the notification, but as time went on, it started to feel suspicious. I wandered around aimlessly, checked some other flight from Geneva in the unlikely event someone had put my suitcase on it just for fun, and finally recognized a couple of guys from my flight. I have no idea where these guys were from, but we didn't seem to have a language in common. Still, we had each other. And three people without luggage in a city you've never been to is less lonely and sad than--um--fewer than three people without luggage, etc.

I asked an airport employee and he told us that Easy Jet bags did not come there and that we needed to exit and go to Terminal 3. While I did understand everything he said, it just seemed so completely implausible that we still wandered around a bit more, afraid to exit for fear of never being allowed back in. I approached an Alitalia agent who repeated in perfectly clear English that we must exit and go to Terminal 3. She then said something about a green door and the staff entrance, which I mostly ignored. I gathered up my silent friends and we walked out.

It is a considerable distance to Terminal 3 and my confidence did falter a few times. When we got there, of course, we found ourselves on the "let's wait here for our friends to arrive from a foreign country" side of the door, rather than the "let's get our bags from our foreign flight and then walk out into Rome" side of the door. We just sort of stood there staring at it. There was an information booth right in front of us, but the lady staffing it looked so blatantly exasperated and hostile that I was afraid to even begin to explain our situation. Still, I got in line in a noncommittal sort of way, so that, if necessary, I might be able to say "What? Oh is this a line? I had no idea. I was just idly passing the time in this general area." When I glanced around, I saw a family from our flight standing right next to us. They spoke French, so we were able to share our complete frustration/confusion, which made me feel better. Better still, I was able to assign the dad the task of talking to the scary lady. Which he did. Merci. Sure enough, just as the Alitalia lady had said, we had to go to the staff entrance and rescan our carry-on bags to be let into the Terminal 3 baggage claim. Huh. Nothing like this has ever happened to me. How is it even possible to end up in a different terminal than your suitcase? And what's did only seven people from a full flight have this experience? We found our bags by seeing our fellow passengers (all of whom may have been psychic?) gathered round the carousel. Really? Easy Jet, I have a few things to discuss with you.

Reunited with my stalwart suitcase, I made my way toward the station. There were additional delays in finding an ATM that wanted to deal with my card and then in finding a ticket machine that actually felt ready and able to dispense tickets, but eventually, I made it into town to the Termini Station. From there, it was only two metro stops to my hotel, which I assumed would take about 15 minutes. This is before I discovered that you have to walk about three miles underground before you even get to the right train (of which, incidentally, there are only two options). Truly, I walked such a distance that it began to be almost comical, and no doubt would have been, had I been sweating slightly less.

I wouldn't want this ramble to be devoid of public service, so let me give you this hot tip. When you are buying a metro ticket, you need to rest your coin in the slightly indented round spot on the ticket machine. You'll be pretty sure that it will fall on the floor, but it won't. And then, you put your thumb under the little lever and push it up, dumping your coin head over heels into the machine. If this seems too efficient for you, you can spend several minutes pushing things (your coin, the lever, the general area around your coin and the lever), or you can try pulling the lever down for quite a while. I mean, that's what I did, until the guy behind me intervened, but you might be in a hurry or something and want to skip all that. You're welcome.

I finally boarded the appropriate train and arrived at my station, at which point I wandered up and down the street trying to make sense of the English directions I had printed from their website. "Walk and follow, about 100 m, long Via Emanuele Filiberto up to No. 130 (in front of the No. 259)." Hmmm. What does it mean if 130 is in front of 259? Some kind of courtyard, perhaps? I got to 259, but the only thing in front of it was me, so I wandered back down the road feeling rather helpless. Some kind people at a little hotel next to the metro stop looked it up online for me and sent me back on my way. It turns out I had been looking on the wrong side of the street. Later I looked at the Italian version of the directions which state that you should "fino al n°130 (di fronte al n° 259)." I'm sorry to be the one to tell them this, but guess what "di fronte" translates to? "Across from." Ah. That would have been helpful.

I did at last find 130, which turns out to be a huge building which houses all manner of things. I was standing there [sweating] trying to make sense of the many signs outside the door, when a young man approached from further up the street and said pretty much the last thing I expected to hear: "Kari?"

It seemed like something out of a fairy tale. "Yes, magical creature? I am Kari. Have you come to rescue me?" But it was not so very odd, after all. The young man was Gianluca, the proprietor of Coliseum Rooms, and, as far as I could tell, the nicest person in Italy. Poor Gianluca had been waiting for me to arrive all that time that I had been wandering around the Rome airport, the Rome train station, the Rome metro, the immediate Rome neighborhood. He must have despaired that I would ever arrive (by that point, it was around 11pm). I felt terrible that I hadn't called to explain my delay, but I had no idea that he would be there just for me. He showed me to my spotless room, provided me with a towel, gave me a great many glasses of water, and pointed out many useful things on a map. Almost everything he mentioned, he described as "beautiful"-- everything from famous sites to having a profession where one meets people from all over the world-- beautiful. He asked me if I was visiting anyone in Rome and I told him that he was at that point officially the only person I knew in Italy. He said he was honored.(He probably also said that it was beautiful, but I don't remember.) I was so grateful for his kindness and hospitality that I wanted to hug him, but that seemed a trifle inappropriate, so I just said "thank you" a lot instead. He gave me my key, and went home. He let me keep the key for several hours past check-out the next day, and let me store my luggage there until the afternoon. When I was ready to head to the apartment I'd rented, he called a taxi for me, carried my bag down to the street and waited with me until the car arrived. He also gave me his card and told me that if I needed help with anything, I should call him. Mind you, I had stayed there for a total of one night.

All this to say, if you want an inexpensive, basic, spotless place to rest your head in Rome and you would like to have access to the nicest man in town: Coliseum Rooms. It's at 130 Via Emanuele Filiberto ACROSS THE STREET FROM #259.

Thursday, August 09, 2012


Upon my return to Lausanne (and French), Jules met me at the station which, despite the rush hour crowds, seemed entirely devoid of teenagers who wished to make me their personal nemesis. It made for a pleasant change.

We made our way up in the subway (the subway in Lausanne basically goes straight uphill or, obviously, downhill depending on your direction. As my subway experiences in all other towns involves level ground, it is quite notable. Clinging to poles is required so as not to topple over backwards) to meet Jules' boyfriend, Filippo, and a friend of theirs at the roof bar in L'Hotel. If you have the opportunity, do go to the roof bar at L'Hotel and enjoy the wide view over the city. If possible, go with some delightful people who will pretend that you speak perfect French. It will make you feel like one of the cool kids. Guaranteed.

Over the weekend, we went to Filippo's house a few towns away which made me feel like Switzerland might be showing off just a little bit. See what I mean?
That's just Filippo's garden. You know. No big deal.

Lunch at Filippo's looked like it came directly from my imagination. That's a cherry tree. I didn't even know cherry trees got that big.

Luckily for Filippo, I was quite allergic to his cats, otherwise I probably would have stayed there forever. He is so hospitable, he probably would have just let me, rather than risking rudeness in asking me to please move out of his guestroom. It was a perfect Swiss ending.

The following day, Jules and I went back to Lausanne, packed our bags, and headed to the Geneva airport, where we said farewell and headed off to two different countries. But not before we got really excited about the blooming honeysuckle on the balcony.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

La Suisse--Deux

"Yes, yes." you say. "That's all very well about the expensive muffins, but didn't you promise to say more about Switzerland?" Gold star to you, faithful reader. That shows real attentiveness on your part. I did say that. Donc, voila.

My cousin and her husband (let's just call them my cousins for simplicity's sake. Rest assured they are related to each other only by marriage) have been living in Switzerland for twenty years and though I have been kind of/sort of in the neighborhood many times, I have never managed to actually see them there. And so, I put it on the famous Life List and ta da! It happened. There was no magical teleporting or anything. Life Lists are good, but not that good. In this case, it helped that I was already in Lausanne and they live in Meiringen, which, from Lausanne, is quite nearby. I bought a (rather expensive*) train ticket from a Swiss Rail agent who was regretful that I didn't qualify for any discounts, but was otherwise positively bubbling over with happiness. While I have had no unpleasant experiences with Swiss Rail employees, they are not usually quite so cheerful, so I inquired. She told me that she had just gotten her exam results for her tourism degree and she'd passed, so we had a small festival of congratulations and smiling at guichet #7 and it took the sting out of the ticket price. I was all set to see my cousins the next day.

*Why something in Switzerland being expensive should come as a surprise to me, I couldn't tell you. Just the day before, I had had an extended conversation with a saleswoman at the pharmacy about the relative merits of having aluminum in deodorant. Ultimately, we agreed that it wasn't all that good for your health. Then she revealed that the aluminum-free deodorant was the equivalent of $20. If I suddenly drop dead, but still smell okay, you can assume it was the work of the aluminum in the $6 deodorant I bought instead.

I like trains. I particularly like trains in Switzerland because they have a highly reliable schedule, sure, but mostly because:

I mean, seriously? This is a fairly arbitrary photograph. You'll just have to trust me that things like this are just casually strewn about outside train windows all over Switzerland. I often tell people that Switzerland looks to me as though it were comprised entirely of illustrations from a children's book of fairy tales. It is truly breathtakingly beautiful.

Nevertheless, being a enthusiastic train passenger does not make me some kind of expert. Though the total journey was just an hour and a half, I had to take three different trains to get to Meiringen. Many train tickets have no assigned seats; you just do what you will. On the first train--the longest leg of the journey--I got in the very last car, as it was the least crowded. I did see a reserved sign over some seats, so, sensibly, I didn't sit in them. For about an hour, it was perfect. I sat in a nearly empty car next to a window watching the lake and vineyards and villages slip by (beautiful, beautiful, beautiful). Then, about twenty minutes from the station of my first transfer, the train stopped and my car flooded with about forty teenagers. Excited teenagers with significant luggage and loud American hip-hop. You know what's curious about Switzerland? One minute you are quite happily speaking French to all and sundry and the next, imperious teenage boys are speaking to you sternly and at length in German. It is not altogether pleasant. I came to understand that the reservation sign was not for the seats, but for the car. It is indicated on the sign that this car will be occupied by a school group from X station to Y station. Oh.

Still, I do not object to teenagers as a general concept, there were plenty of seats to spare, and, while I might have been in the way had I crashed their party for their entire journey, I was disembarking in just a few minutes, so I saw no reason to move. I endeavored to explain this to the girl sitting beside me and she seemed slightly alarmed that A) I was there and B) was speaking to her, but on the whole she seemed to think it was fine. I sat there smiling in my little corner while they all sang along with the English chorus of some song I'd never heard and felt quite inoffensive. Two boys did not agree. There was a great deal of glaring, which I ignored and some more angry German, which I also ignored. That was when they started wadding up bits of paper and throwing them at my head. Wha? Am I an adult? An adult who works at a high school? And are children actually throwing things at me? I ignored that too, but my heart rate increased; I'll admit it.

It took me a while to realize that the ringleader boy had seated himself behind me and was speaking English directed at me, while not being exactly addressed to me. He was speaking in a weird low voice with exaggerated slowness. I'll imitate it for you sometime. "Ma-dum" he said, pronouncing "madam" in the British manner, rather than the French. "Maaa-duumm. Come on. Pleeease move now, maadummm. Come on, maduumm. Come on. Pleeeeeassseee. Please go away now. Go to another seat now, maduummm." This went on and on and on. It is very strange to be harassed by an unknown teen who is calling you "madam." It was perhaps the most polite incivility I have ever experienced. Finally, I turned around and said, "Look. There are plenty of seats. I'm not in your way. And I'm getting off at Bern in ten minutes. Calm down. There's no problem." To which he said, "There is a problem. There is a big problem. It is reserved." So I punched him in his smug little show-off face. No, I didn't. But I wanted to. Most of all, I wanted one of the damn chaperones to come rescue me, but they didn't. I endured further paper balls and "maduming" until, praise God, we pulled into Bern.

And you know what happened then? ALL of us disembarked. I had assumed they were going to be in that train car for hours to come. My adversary said "bon voyage" as he passed. The little fu....Sorry. The chaperones were not far behind him and I told them how terribly charmant that boy was. I also apologized to them because I still didn't actually know the rules of reserved cars. Maybe I really was obliged to move. They waved away my apologies. The woman said, "I can only say I am very, very sorry." I told them I work at a high school and it was fine. They laughed. "There's always one," I said. She looked at me dolefully. "Oh. There's more than one." "In that case," I said, "I'm very sorry." "Thank you," she said. And then went off to have a truly terrible time for several days.

When I recounted this story to my cousin she told me that no one is obliged to move for these groups, if they have enough room. "It's not a requirement; it's more like a warning."

I finished the journey unmolested and arrived in the very small town of Meiringen, to find my cousin waiting for me on the platform with her groceries. It was moving in a way I can't quite articulate to see a member of my family in such a far-off place in such a dramatic landscape. We walked about a block to their flat where the Swiss Alps are framed in each window. This was the view from mine:

It looks like this everywhere. Everywhere. The building in the background to the left of the tree is the elegant Hotel du Suavage where Sherlock Holmes stayed before his fatal scuffle with Moriarty at Reichenbach Falls in 1891. Where is Reichenbach Falls, you ask? Why, it's that little white line in the mountains. Toward the right, about three quarters of the way up the picture.

There is a little Sherlock Holmes museum in that church. Kath tells me that people come on little Sherlock pilgrimages, clad in period costume. Sadly, there weren't any there that day.

What? Still no? How about now?

We had a drink at a restaurant and the Alps were nearby. Then we had dinner at home and the Alps were nearby. They were pretty much always right there. After dinner,we went to a graceful wooden church at the very foot of the mountain for a concert. Several very charming and enthusiastic musicians said many things in German and then played some Schubert very beautifully. When we walked home (about two blocks), it turned out the village fest was in full swing right outside the flat.

In addition to the alpine horns, the fest was comprised of some restaurants serving beer outside and some other musical groups. It was quite chilly out, so we didn't stick around, but I could hear plenty of accordion from the living room. Sadly, there wasn't any yodeling, which I was given to understand was quite a surprise, as pretty much every self-respecting Swiss fest has some yodeling. A concert and a fest all in one day was pretty major for Meiringen, so I'm glad I was able to make it that day. On my way back to Lausanne, I spent a few hours in Interlaken, which, for the record, is also not ugly. Additionally, I had some shockingly delicious ice cream at some snack bar near the train station. Bi-Rite Creamery? You've got nothing on Interlaken Snack Bar. I'm not kidding.

On the train back, I was in the last car. There was a reserved sign. I read it very carefully and got the hell out of there when we reached the appointed "reserved from X" station. A few stops later, from my new seat, I saw the group disembark. It was comprised entirely of girls and they were chaperoned by two nuns in full ankle-length habits.

I think I would have been safe.