Wednesday, February 29, 2012


About twenty minutes ago, I mailed my last letter for February. I did it! The challenge was to put something in the post every day in February that there was mail service. Somehow, I sent 25 pieces of mail, though with 29 days, four Sundays and one holiday, I think it ought to have been 24. I hope whoever got the bonus "my math is terrible" missive was extra pleased. So, 25 things mailed, 9 pieces of personal correspondence received. I liked it. The fact that I brought more dedication to this project than anything else I can think of (eating breakfast every day, going to the gym, keeping up the blog, doing any "real" writing, studying Italian, on and on and on) perhaps begs some kind of examination, but, with your kind permission, let's leave that until March and allow me this one bonus February day to bask in my accomplishment. Thank you.

Feeling rather pleased with myself for having written a six-page letter over breakfast (breakfast!) while the sun broke dramatically through the rain clouds (though, frankly, we need a great deal more rain), I drove to work quite smiley (a highly unusual occurrence, I'm sorry to say) and when "A Whisper to a Scream" came on the radio [which a quick Google search informs me is not even the title of the song. Apparently it's called "Birds Fly"], I turned it waayyy up. And that's how I came to discover--yet again, as I do every time it comes on the radio and I turn it waaayyyy up--that the only lyrics I know, or indeed can understand, in the entire song are "a whisper to a scream." The rest of the singing along is more like rhythmic mumbling, but I came in very solidly on the chorus. For those of you keeping score, I have a similar, though slightly less mumbly experience with "Shadows and Tall Trees."

Happy magical extra day of the year.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Broken news

I planned to say "breaking news" but I think we're about 6 hours too late for that.

1. I went to the gym BEFORE work this morning. There is no reason whatsoever that you should care about this, except that it is a MIRACLE. I also seemed to have pulled basically every muscle in my neck and shoulders because maybe I am a very bad swimmer? But I arrived there at a time when I am usually hitting the snooze alarm and therefore I am a Champion of Fitness.

2. Gas at what I think of as the cheap gas station is $4.21. And I don't own nor know how to ride a bike. This is concerning.

Nothing more to see around here. Carry on.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Half a double feature

I love double features. Two movies back-to-back on the big screen for which you pay one ticket price. Man. That's a great idea. I particularly like double features at the Castro Theatre because they have all the excellent qualities of double features everywhere [see above] and they are also at the Castro Theatre, my favorite place in San Francisco. However, things seem to have gone awry over there this month because one element of double features is that they ought to have some thematic link. Or actor link. Or director link. Or some damn link other than "they are both about couples." This week, Funny Face is playing (yay!) in a double bill with Love Streams (boo!). I was not previously familiar with Love Streams, but I watched the trailer and wanted to kill myself after about 70 seconds.

Here are some questions for you, Love Streams:
1. Do you have Audrey Hepburn? (no)
2. Do you make me wish to be kissed in a charming bookstore? (no) [To be fair I pretty much always want to be kissed in a charming bookstore, regardless of the movie I'm watching, so maybe I'll give you a pass on that one. Maybe.]
3. Do you make me want to glide down a marble staircase in Paris holding a chiffon scarf over my head and saying, "I don't want to stop. Take the picture!"? (no)
4. Does Fred Astaire ask for forgiveness by way of a dance in a Parisian courtyard? (no)
5. Do you make me wish to own at least 80% of the clothes worn by female characters? (Don't be ridiculous. You were made in 1984)
6. Just to be Audrey Hepburn? (still no)
7. Are you depressing beyond imagining? (apparently)

Right. So who the hell programmed you with Funny Face and ruined my Thursday evening?

Now, in the spirit of things that have nothing to do with other things: an anecdote.

This weekend I organized a meeting of some students at a student's house. The student's dog, Cinnamon, was terribly excited to have eight people in her living room, dropping snacks. She became a bit too, um, present for me at one point and I asked the student if he could rein her in. "Cinnamon!" he said, loudly and sharply. Then he looked at me and said, "Um, she's not actually trained." I laughed for about ten minutes.

Are you a dog owner who likes to entertain? Is your dog sticking her nose in your guests' laps with too much gusto? Feel free to say your dog's name with a great deal of authority. You never know, maybe something useful will happen. Perhaps she's trained herself while you were at work one day. Always worth a try.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Cruel and unusual

I check my email compulsively all day long because You Just Never Know when someone might be thinking of you and send you some amusing note or declaration of love or party invitation or something. Also, I'm quite bored much of the time. It is hardly surprising then that I become quite excited when the little (1) shows up, indicating that I have a new message. Nor is it the least surprising that when the new message--the sole message I've received in the last five hours--proves to be an offer of a coupon for a 2.5 hour Segway ride through Golden Gate Park, I become just that much more embittered.

Thursday, February 23, 2012


When you are brainstorming about possible mascots or icons for your athletic team, you should bear in mind that at some point, probably quite soon, whatever you decide on will be bandied about versus whatever some other team has decided on. And, because it's sports, you will want to sound all bad-ass and threatening. That's why--although they are widely popular things and would probably make for great fan appreciation days--nobody chooses The Puppies or The Cupcakes. And yet today, when I was half listening to a litany of imminent matchups on NPR news, I heard "The Sharks take on the Maple Leaves."

It's true that if unexpectedly covered by a flurry of maple leaves, sharks would probably be baffled and thus bested, but one wonders if that is the kind of battle that hockey fans are really looking for? I'm looking at you, Canada.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


In brief.
1. I told a story at Previously Secret Information and it was good! Not as good as Joe's story about his unreliable temporarily cemented tooth, but good nevertheless. It's always a relief when people laugh. (I mean, when you're trying to be funny.) It's hard to tell when you're rehearsing alone in the living room.

2. I bid farewell to a really wonderful man. It sucked. Though I choose not to blather on too much about my romantic endeavors here, I am still out there on the epic quest, trying to do the right thing along the way. Frankly, it is exhausting. And confusing. I'll miss him. The woman smart enough to hang on to him will be very lucky indeed.

I hope to be amusing again soon.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

A sense of foreboding

Email subject heading from Yoshi's San Francisco.
Coming soon: The Music of the Grateful Dead & Pink Floyd.

I'm not sure they intended it as a threat, but that's certainly how I'm taking it.

Friday, February 17, 2012

A small collection

1. I've not listened to Sinead O'Connor since 1987, so learning she has a new album stirred some nostalgia. I'm listening to it on NPR, but the opening love song involves a buggy ride [seriously. "It's so warm inside when he takes me for a buggy ride," which I suppose might be intended as innuendo, but I'm not sure I ever want sex to be referred to as a buggy ride, so that doesn't help matters.] and the second song has the lyric, "for so long I've been a junkie; I ought to wrap it up and mind my monkeys." I think, like many people I knew in 1987, Sinead and I have grown apart.

3. I discovered today that someone rides their bike to work and then hangs their sweat-soaked garb to air out on the rack where we hang the tablecloths. This person perhaps never had a mother. Also? Ewwww.

2. If your dress no longer fits after you have had half a burrito, your dress really didn't fit to begin with. In case I forget this lesson in the future, maybe I should keep a caftan in my desk drawer.

3. Wait! A caftan you say? Well, you're in luck. When I went to purchase the aforementioned burrito, I passed the mystery store on the corner. (I have mentioned it before. It regularly goes out of business and then reopens under a different name with the exact same merchandise. It is currently called Things Lucky.) Displayed outside, they usually have several belly-dancing-type ensembles, but today they also had yellow caftan, the entire front of which features a life-like rendering of Bob Marley smoking a joint. I don't know if there is a more perfect "I'm in the Haight and I also accidentally ate too much" outfit. I should probably buy it right away.

Thursday, February 16, 2012


Were I to arrange my life as informed by the radio commercials I hear every morning, I would wake from a restful night's sleep on my new mattress; drive in my newly insured car (saving hundreds of dollars!) to the warm, supportive fertility clinic where the doctors sound like members of a cult. Ultimately, though, none of this would matter since I would soon thereafter die of carbon monoxide poisoning. Apparently, it can happen to anyone, anywhere, anytime--regardless of the quality of your mattress.

Monday, February 13, 2012


Standing in front of three possible receptacles, peering at a cup made of mystery material, it suddenly occurred to me that up until, say, the advent of metal being used for stuff, the question: "is this compostable?" was superfluous. Because--guess what--pretty much everything on the planet was compostable.

Aside from the fear, ignorance, pestilence, war and relentless labor, it must have been quite a carefree, restful time.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Treading carefully

A young woman with long hair, wearing an ankle-length skirt and somewhat eccentric combination of patterns, and carrying a sunflower is walking toward me in the company of a neatly coiffed young man, all in black, walking a bicycle. As I pass them I hear:

"Why don't you like Honey-Boo?" she asks plaintively. "What's wrong with Honey-Boo?"
He smiles diplomatically, "Well..."

Let us hope for the sake of the man--to say nothing of the currently nameless creature--that it is a pet and not a child.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Wednesday miscellany

1. According to an email in my spam folder, nir tsalach wants to be my friend on Windows Live. Poor nir. He probably doesn't have a lot of friends, not least because who even knew Windows was a place to be friends? Despite my sadness at his plight, he will have to carry on without me.

2. I keep hearing a radio announcement about a concert in which the band is described as "one of Philadelphia’s funkiest performers of laid back, alternative hip-hop blues." Are we therefore to understand that there are numerous performers of laid back, alternative hip-hop blues? Perhaps all of whom are in Philadelphia? This surprises me.

3. God bless the very young checker at Trader Joe's who scanned my wine, glanced at me, glanced at me again and asked to see my ID. As I've said before, they must be instructed to card people who look younger than 60, but, I admit it, being carded by people who could be my children thrills me a bit.

4. In honor of imminent Valentine's Day, a student group has festooned the school with paper hearts upon which are written affirmative statements. "You're a great friend." "I love having you around." "I love the way your mind works." "You just GET it." "I love your eyes and that messed-up tooth MAKES your smile." "I would totally kiss you." The one at eye-level on the faculty room door says, "You look nice today." Aww. I walk around all smiley. Grazie studenti.

5. I am on board with the month of letters project. It is more satisfying than I even imagined. True, I am sending far briefer correspondence than is my usual wont, but on the bright side, more people are hearing from me. If you sit down and write seven letters right now, you can catch up and join us. Hot tip: buy more stamps.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012


I'll bet you thought I was kidding about the hoses. Ha! Joke's on you. Why would I hold back when I have no doubt that you are enthralled by my detailed accounts of outdoor chores? Truthfully, I am positively assailed by doubts that you care about this du tout, but isn't blogging really just the author talking to herself? (a thing I do in actuality with increasing/alarming frequency. I find that I cannot make it through a grocery store visit without accompanying myself with persistent, audible narration. Surely this is worrisome?) And I find the sidewalk outside my house to be terribly compelling, so it is a hot topic of conversation with myself. I'm not even kidding. You have no idea how much time I spend thinking and muttering about my corner of the urban landscape. Shall I tell you why?

Peeing. That's why. And no. It's not dogs. It's dudes.

There is an absolutely unbelievable amount of urine that is dispensed by passing men in the corner by my garage door. Sometimes, after particularly copious amounts of beer have been consumed, one imagines, the quantity is sufficient to create seepage into the garage proper. The degree to which this disgusts and infuriates me cannot be overstated. I have lived on fairly significant urban thoroughfares since 1992 and never before have any of my dwellings been mistaken for a more than usually commodious urinal. The pee is always in the same corner and it happens with baffling frequency. Would you pee on a house? Of course you wouldn't.

I have spent a lot of time trying to figure this out and the best theory I can come up with is that between the bar two blocks away and my garage, there is no other deep-set corner. There are a great many doorways (but peeing in a doorway is even worse and maybe the urinators have standards? Once someone opened our front gate and came in to pee in the [nicely swept] entryway. I exploded with fiery indignation and have only recently been pieced back together.) and numerous garages. However, those garages are flush with the wall of their building and even with the sidewalk. Meanwhile, my garage is set back from the sidewalk by about three feet (which makes backing out without killing people a special challenge, but that's another story altogether) creating: Pee Corner.


Previously, my upstairs neighbor used to occasionally take it upon himself to hose down the sidewalk, the front stairs,and the gritty garage doors. But he moved (with his relentlessly noisy children. Goodbye, relentlessly noisy children) and took his hose with him. There is a hose in the back, but it must be about 300 feet long; I once tried to follow it from the faucet to the other end, but it is buried very deeply in the wilds of the thorny spider farm that we call the back yard, so I gave up. This means that in every pee incident (or in one extra special occasion on Christmas Eve eve, vomit) I am obliged to employ the bucket and broom method (actually, I don't have a bucket, so I go up to the kitchen, empty out my recycling bin, fill it with water from the back stair spigot and return to the grisly sidewalk and makeshift my way to a cleaner tomorrow). I should note that there is a mystery broom in the alley that I use for these bio-hazard jobs; my blue-handled broom undertakes the more dignified sweeping tasks for which it was raised.

All this has changed. "Why?: you ask, "Have the men of San Francisco suddenly decided to comport themselves in a civilized manner?" Well, no. Would that it were so. Instead, I have been presented with a hose by my thoughtful Home-Depot-frequenting friend. And it works too. I happen to know because, returning home very drowsily about midnight on Sunday, I pulled into the driveway only to have the beam of my headlights illuminate a glistening fresh swath of newly voided urine. I'll bet the hose would work on the actual pee-perpetrator too, but I've never caught one in the act.

I suppose that people's homes are peed upon in the country, as well, but presumably by woodland creatures or livestock, which seems, if not actually appealing, at least more forgivable. I think that when I opted for city life, I was hoping for urbane more than merely urban. Alas, what a difference an e makes.

Monday, February 06, 2012


At my old apartment building, my landlord was around all the time. He liked to keep busy. He may have been a bit overly present, in fact, seeing as how he didn't live in the building. However,as a result of his constant puttering, things were tidy without my thinking much about it. Not so, the new building. For one thing, it is run by a management company who didn't even come back to take their "For Rent" sign down after the available unit had long since been occupied. Clearly, they couldn't care less about the state of our front stairs (or the terrifying back yard, which is another story). For another thing, the exterior bits of the property are basically filthy. The back stairs are covered year-round by various plant matter from the neighboring yard, which is at a higher elevation--the better for showering leaves down upon us in every gust of wind (of which there are a great many). The sidewalk in front of the building, the entryway, and front stairs, are blasted daily with dirt and detritus that, once it has blown into the corner by the garage or into the gated passageway, is trapped there forever. In short (as though it were not far, far too late for that), there is a lot of sweeping required. There were two options: A) ignore the need for sweeping (because it is not, technically, MY responsibility) and live in squalor or B) be my father's daughter and, if sweeping is clearly required, just do the damn sweeping.

I chose B. I have found that it is surprisingly satisfying to sweep. It is fairly easy and yet makes a marked and immediate difference (unlike vacuuming for instance, which I know makes a difference, but one that I can not easily detect without crouching on the floor to admire up-close its post-vacuuming hairlessness [I shed like mad]). Besides, with the sweeping, I get to feel all Civic Minded and Neighborly. Once, in a particularly leafy, windy time, I even swept the sidewalk in front of the neighboring building. I expect to get a cookie in the afterlife.

I keep my broom just inside my garage door for easy sidewalk access. One day, upon returning from work, I found that the broom had been moved to a far less convenient corner and, perhaps even more mysteriously, that about two inches of its previously relatively pristine bristles had been stained black. I was very puzzled, since the garage is locked and I am the only one who has access to it, but I thought maybe I had done some sleep-sweeping or something. Who knows? Better not to dwell. Fast forward a few weeks. I was home sick and I heard someone open my garage. When I went to investigate, I found that the plumbers were working to deal with some kind of back-up in the drain in my neighbor's garage. I left them to it.

During the time of my fairly lengthy indisposition, the trash/dirt collection in the walkway became very condemned-building-esque, such that entering the building became a rather hopeless, depressing affair. Pulling the car into the driveway after work one night, I told myself that the gritty urban despair vibe had gone on long enough and that I might as well just sweep the entryway while I was already down there. And [cue ominous organ music]...the broom was gone! Gone, I tell you! The plumbers were clearly the culprits. They must have come on more than one occasion--the first time they used my poor broom to sweep drain sludge (egads!) and then put it in the Wrong Place. The second time, they either utterly destroyed it with further drain sludge and took it away for disposal OR they had grown so fond of it, they simply couldn't bear to part with it. In either case: vexing.

I called the management company to tell them my sad story and ask for restitution. They asked me to put it in writing and specify the amount of the reimbursement. This meant I had to purchase a new broom before I could send the letter and last week I found that I had no time to purchase a broom. I did try on Friday, but the brooms available at the hardware store I visited were strangely enormous and unless they came with Fantasia-style enchantments, seemed that they would quickly exhaust the sweeper. Particularly if the sweeper had no upper-body strength to speak of. Finally, finally on Saturday afternoon I went to a different hardware store, bought a broom of reasonable size, and returned home to address the now entirely deplorable entryway (seriously. The Blog Bully told me that he had noticed it in passing one day and considered going home to fetch his own broom to deal with it). As I was sweeping, my neighbors came downstairs and were quite surprised and grateful to find me cleaning a common area. I said that I was happy to do it and, indeed, would have done it sooner had it not been for the rascally plumbers who had stolen my broom from my own garage. "Who stole it?" asked the neighbor. "The plumbers, I think." I said. "Well, that's weird because there's a broom in our garage and we have no idea where it came from." "Does it have a blue handle?" "It has a blue handle."

And that, readers, is how I came to own two brooms, the more recent of which I can neither return nor can I, ethically, request reimbursement for it now that the other has been found.

On the bright side, the walkway is looking good.

Tomorrow: hoses!

Friday, February 03, 2012

Message from the past

I noticed today that I have eight unpublished drafts languishing around here, so I took a look at them to see if they were worth publishing now. It is now my rather unfortunate duty to report that on May 5, 2005, I titled a post "Vive les bivalves!" and then wrote nothing else. This is a great mystery to me.

Nevertheless, even having no idea what prompted this rallying cry, I would not want to leave anyone out. Therefore, if you are, say, a clam, I belatedly congratulate you and enthusiastically wish you well.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

On correspondence

Earlier in my life I was a very committed letter-writer. Partially this is because I am old and my need to correspond predated email; partially it is because I like to write and it's nice to have an audience (to wit: this blog); and partially, even now when I feverishly check my email all day (just in case, just in case, just in case),I still believe that there is something truly joyful about receiving personal correspondence by post. I am notoriously (and only very slightly apologetically) sentimental. It means something to me to see my friend's handwriting and to know that the paper now in my hands was previously in his hands. Even that the paper had to make a physical journey to link the two of us strikes me as poetic. I have mentioned this before--here and here, for instance, always a bit wistfully.

Imagine then, my surprise and pleasure in finding I am not alone. This week I have been pointed in the direction of Letters of Note, a curated collection of correspondence by persons of some celebrity. It is terribly diverting. Albert Einstein writes admiringly to Mahatma Gandhi; Babe Ruth encourages an ill child; David O. Selznick defends "damn"; Mark Twain addresses burglars; E.B. White discusses his dachshund; William Saroyan advises his young son about love. There are hundreds of letters. I think you should read some; you'll be the better for it. As for me, I can only read a few at a time because so many of them make me cry--no great feat really, as it seems rather more remarkable when things do not make me cry. Still. Proceed with caution.

Then, as though that were not enough, I came across the Letter Writers Alliance. The very small fee required for membership seems well worth spending in exchange for the warm glow of fellowship which, frankly, upon learning that such an association even exists has already begun to spread through my letter-loving heart.

Mostly though, I'm struck by how comparatively few letters I write these days and what a pity it is. I will send away for my membership card and begin to mend my ways. Perhaps you would like to do the same. I'm sure that someone you love lives elsewhere. She'd very much like to hear from you.

Having read this, my friend Amanda let me know about the letter a day challenge for the month of February. We're three days behind, but I'll bet we can catch up.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012


On February 19, I will be telling a story at Previously Secret Information. If you are a real devotee of this blog, you will have already seen me tell this story though the magic of video, but you should probably come anyway. I'll wear something different to make it worth your while.

Interestingly, I had an anxiety dream about it last night. I showed up at the theatre all ready to recount my tale and it turned out that they had cast actors to perform it instead. So I had to stand in the wings--all dressed up--while two actors interpreted my personal mishaps. I was approximately 2% flattered and 98% really annoyed.