Friday, March 29, 2013


Richard Griffiths has died, which makes me sad. Even sadder is the fact that I learned this from an internet headline "Harry Potter Actor Griffiths Dies." This is not unlike referring to Marlon Brando as "Superman Actor"--not untrue, but rather missing the point. When the black day comes that we say farewell to Maggie Smith, I will not be responsible for my actions if she's blithely referred to as "Harry Potter Actress." You are forewarned.

I had the enormous good fortune to see Mr. Griffiths in Alan Bennett's The History Boys on Broadway some years ago. I would have liked very much to see it again almost immediately after the curtain call. He was a great actor. I'm sorry he's gone.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Falling in love again

You may recall my fantasizing about being Marlene Dietrich (you may also recall fantasizing about yourself being Marlene Dietrich, but I wouldn't know about that). Well, as it happens, I basically am Marlene Dietrich. I offer this evidence.

On one hand, it is comforting (however hollowly) to know that I am not alone in pitiful behavior, that even Marlene Dietrich has wandered around ridiculously pining for men who ignore her. On the other hand: Men, what gives? This pattern of behavior that spans the decades and leads you to ignore not only me, but also Marlene Frickin' Dietrich really must stop.

Have you seen Marlene Dietrich?


So, while I need no longer envy Marlene Dietrich her love life, I do keenly envy her being a close personal friend of Noel Coward. It is a thing to which I have long, and alas, fruitlessly, aspired.

When you are selecting friends from among famous people whom you do not know, your slim odds of success greatly improve if you first narrow the candidates to those among the living. A tiresome restriction, but there it is.

Also, how much do you love that Yul Brenner was called Curly?

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

One fewer

I got an email today with the subject heading "Top 5 Deathbed Regrets of Writers." It's likely that I will suffer from all five of them, but just in case one of them was "Failed to update my blog after being totally on a roll," I am here. Maybe this simple act of showing up means I'll only suffer four deathbed regrets--as a writer, anyway. I hate to contemplate the number of non-writing related deathbed regrets there may be. I may require a long, wasting sort of illness in order to get though them.

One of the downsides of being cowardly is that regrets are easy to come by. Perhaps you would like to cross-stitch that onto a throw pillow as a warning to yourself. Granted, it will have to be a pretty big pillow to fit such a long phrase, but that's okay. When you get home from all those brave, self-actualizing activities, you're probably going to be pretty tuckered out. A large, cautionary pillow may come in handy.

You're welcome.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Heaven, briefly

It will not shock you learn that I never played Spin the Bottle. This is just as well, because had I been obliged to kiss anyone publicly at any point within the years that one would typically be playing Spin the Bottle, I would have died instantly. You scoff, but I'm convinced that in certain quantities there is a lethal combination of inexperience and mortification; I suspect it manifests in spontaneous combustion on an impressive scale. For the record, I could probably play it now, but it hasn't come up. Most people I know are married, so I guess it would make for an awkward dinner-party entertainment.

Ahem. Anyway.

Apparently there is a thing in Spin the Bottle called "Seven Minutes in Heaven" which requires two bottle-selected people to retire to another room or a closet or something for seven minutes, presumably to get it on in a grope-ier/tongue-ier way than they would on a regular turn. I'm shaky on the details.

This morning, the phrase popped into my mind as I reached, eyes still closed, for the familiar button on the clock. This is exactly what the snooze alarm grants every time: seven minutes in heaven. No bottle required.

Monday, March 25, 2013


Of late there is a bird just outside my window who hails the dawning of each new day with:
CHEEP! cheep!
CHEEP! cheep!
CHEEP! cheep!
A song every bit as bewitching and melodious as a malfunctioning Casio watch alarm.

Ah, springtime.

Friday, March 22, 2013

There will be blood

The nail salon that I, well, I was going to say "frequent" but I think that's inaccurate. It suggests a greater commitment to nail care than I seem to have. Largely this is because, though I enjoy the result of pedicures, I do not enjoy pedicures themselves. My strategy is: have a pedicure, wait for nails to become dangerously long such that my socks are in peril, then have another. I might slightly alter this routine if there were any danger of accidentally sleep-slicing someone else's leg open, but that, alas, is not a current concern.

What were we talking about? Right. The nail salon that I patronize is small and inexpensive (perhaps, in part, because they have not bought a new nail color in at least the past three years, helping keep their overhead low). There are four ladies who work there: the owner who mostly does waxing and is kind of lousy at nails, though don't tell her I said so; the older, very gentle lady who I always pray will be there, but who does not work every day; the quite gentle lady; and the woman who embraces a tough-love approach to foot care, the thoroughness and vigor of which might be better practiced upon cadavers. (Do morticians do any nail work? I think she'd be ideal.)

The last four times I've been, I've gotten the tough-love woman. The whole experience is agonizing (perhaps I have freakishly sensitive feet? I don't know. They're the only ones I've ever had, so I have nothing to compare them to), but she does not alter her style based on the flinching and writhing and embarrassing kicky reflexes it engenders. I hate everything about it, yet I am too much of a wimp to refuse service from her and wait for the very gentle lady or the reasonably gentle lady.

Yesterday, I thought I was a shoo-in for the reasonably gentle lady (the very gentle lady wasn't there) who greeted me with smiles of genuine recognition, filled the basin with water for me, and draped the "you're wearing a skirt" modesty towel over my knees. We were at last reunited! My relief was palpable. Meanwhile the tough-love lady was busy with someone else's manicure. Ha! But then, having gotten me settled, [cue ominous organ music] the reasonably gentle lady called another patron into the waxing room. It was a race against the clock. For ten tense minutes my eyes darted between the closed waxing room door and the manicure station. Please let it just be eyebrows, please let it just be eyebrows.... But no. The manicure was finished while the waxing door long remained firmly shut. (I assume the only hair left on that woman is on top of her head. Also, I hate her.) With her usual sturdy resignation, the tough-love lady rolled her little stool of misery over to my station and pulled my right foot firmly toward her as my hands tightened on the armrests and my knuckles whitened.

Fade to black.

Lights up on tidy toes, no longer posing a danger to myself or others, but polished in what proves to be a disappointing, rather banal shade of red. A color that, naturally, I was too cowardly to ask her to change.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Let there be light

Halogen bulbs last for years and years so, when the bulb in my reading light burns out, I experience shock and denial. That light always works! How can it not be working? WHAT IS HAPPENING? I then forget to go to the hardware store to replace it. I forget for many days in a row. This perhaps wouldn't matter at your house, but my living room walls are punctuated by little sconce lights on a dimmer switch. They are charming, in the same way that candles are charming. And, also like candles, they will make you go blind if you use them for reading. (I'm pretty sure all of our ancestors went blind from reading by candlelight. Right? Didn't I hear that on NPR?)

Before you get all concerned about whether John Irving's latest novel + sconce lights = blindness, let me reassure you that I finally remembered to replace the necessary bulb and last night's reading was eyestrain-free.

I asked the hardware man to direct me.

Me: Can you tell me where to find a halogen bulb?
Him: A what?
Me: A halogen light bulb.
He steps in front of me and leads me to the appropriate aisle.

Him (a bit dubiously): There are a lot of kinds of halogen bulbs. (He begins listing various shapes and sizes of halogen bulbs)
Me (interrupting): Of course. I just needed to get to the right neighborhood.
Him: Oh. Well, all the lightbulbs are here.
Me: Yes. Thanks. I need one of these tiny two-prong ones.
Him: Ah. [more dubiousness] Those come in different watts and volts.
Me: Yes. I need a 20 watt, 12 volt. Ah. Here. This is the one.
Him: Yippie Skippy!

I think he meant it from the heart.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Dastardly scheming

I have a friend who has only recently moved here (seemingly on a whim) and is living in one temporary set-up after another while he looks for a job. Meanwhile, most of his belongings are in storage on the other side of the country. He has expressed to me particular dismay at the pitifully equipped kitchens that have been made available to him during his California experiment. He misses his knives and pots and steamers. He misses cooking.

My kitchen is quite well-stocked. I have excellent stainless steel cookware, a variety of ceramic baking dishes, a pastry brush, a meat-tenderizing mallet. I even have a cherry pitter. Last night for dinner I had a peanut butter and honey sandwich. And some Kalua. What? It was raining. It seemed appropriate. Plus, I didn't even know I had Kalua.

Are you having a brilliant idea right now? Because I had one last night.

On Saturday, I am doing my friend the great and generous favor of allowing him to cook dinner in my kitchen. After which I'm pretty sure the rules of etiquette dictate that I join him in eating it.

Lest you think that I am nothing but a conniver, I will have you know that, this very morning in honor of this meal, I finally replaced my horrible pepper grinder (which required cranking gusto more appropriate to starting a Model T, only to result in pepper bits only slightly smaller than the original peppercorn) with an excellent pepper grinder. A pepper grinder worthy of someone who misses grinding pepper.

Everybody wins.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Drumming in French

Yesterday you probably were thinking, "Yes. This is all very tragic about your car, but did you humiliate yourself at the French thing? I need to know." To be honest, I can't tell whether your fervor in this regard is born of sympathy or mockery, but I am willing to extend to you the benefit of the doubt. This time.

This past weekend was one primarily characterized by inertia. Normally, this is an affliction I suffer from on Sundays, but this time around I had what felt like two Sundays. This, if you are me, is not good. There was: "I need to wash my hair, so I might as well go swim and then I will go to the grocery store, which is not far from the gym and then all will be well." Followed by this: "But I don't want to go swimming. Plus, if I don't leave the house, it won't matter if I don't wash my hair and I think I still have two eggs in the refrigerator, so I don't need groceries THAT badly." And this went on and on and on. (It is often quite tiresome to be me. I mention this in case you are suffering from some sort of bizarre, misplaced envy.) This endless loop then extended to the French thing. Am I really going to go to the French thing? I don't really want to go to the French thing. Is this a dumb dress to wear to the French thing? Et cetera.

Ultimately, I brushed my still dirty hair, put on the possibly dumb dress and left the house. Triumph! However, since I had failed to go to the grocery store, I was, in fact, ravenous. So, while ostensibly on my way to the French thing, I turned the wrong direction, spent about twenty minutes looking for parking in the Mission and took myself out to dinner at Range. It was delicious.

Fortified by pork and conversations with other human beings (in English), I did then go to the soirée, where I said three French things, screwed up one verb, watched some Haitians drum and dance, watched some West Africans drum and dance, and left. I believe I was there for 37 minutes of a four-hour program. However, I did spend at least five hours tortured by event-related indecision, so I think it all evens out.

For the record:
1. My dress seemed ok.
2. French men wear a lot more cologne than American men.
3. It's especially difficult to hear questions posed to you in a foreign language in a room where there is a lot of drumming going on.
4. I really love Range, though it's possible that my favorite bartender no longer works there, which is disappointing for me, though hopefully good for him.
5. I washed the bird shit off my car.
6. I finally washed my hair.
7. I still haven't been to the gym. Shut up.

Monday, March 18, 2013

A mataphor? A message?

Yesterday, for the first time in many months, I had my car washed. The passive voice should alert you to the fact that I spent my own personal dollars for this to be done. The car was thereupon shiny and, I like to think, relieved.

Not 24 hours later, this very same vehicle has been liberally shat upon by some [gluttonous? diseased?] bird.

That is all.

Friday, March 15, 2013


Tomorrow I am going to an event called "Soirée Francophone" and I'm a little bit nervous. I feel like if it were Soirée Francophile I would have it in the bag--we could all just eat baguettes and be enthusiastic about the Eiffel Tower in a general sort of way. It's the "phone" part that has me worried. My French is in pretty serious disuse, such that if I am called upon to form any verbs other than in the present tense I risque making an idiote of moi-meme. So please to wish me bonne chance and cross your fingers that I miraculously happen to wear the right thing and that--if things go très, très well--someone might even think I'm charmante. I quite miss being thought charmante.

Speaking of charmante, regardez! Here is a very tiny door. In a tree! In Golden Gate Park. I am very delighted by this. I would approximate my delight to be about 287 times greater than it would be if someone took it upon themselves to knit around this tree. People seem to enjoy this trend (indeed, there are two street signs across from my house that have been sheathed in knitting), but I am not really a fan. Tiny doors in trees, however? Behind which gnomes and/or fairies clearly reside? Yes, please.

via The Bold Italic

Thursday, March 14, 2013


Last night I had a dream in which Sean Penn met Madonna for the first time. (Lest you wonder, they were quite taken with each other.)

It's disappointing to discover that my subconscious is so woefully out of date.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The scared is SCARED

This is a video via my friend Cindy on Facebook, via Eat My Heart Out Storytelling, via who knows what. It's the internet. There's a lot of clicking going on.

I would urge you to watch the whole thing or you risk missing the moral. And that would be a pity.
Happy Wednesday.

the Scared is scared from Bianca Giaever on Vimeo.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Idle hands, etc.

There are times I write to entertain you and there are times I write to entertain myself. This, I am sorry to say, is the latter. Lacking any kind of narrative through-line, we shall resort--once more!--to a numbered list of miscellany.

1. Just now, in conversation with a friend, I uttered this sentence, "It will abut the Spiritual Life Center." My friend laughed. It was not my intention to make her laugh, but her point is taken.

2. Rather than going to the gym after work yesterday (as was Plan, oh I don't know, let's say Plan D, vis à vis gym-going), I got a deep dish pizza from Little Star, half of which I ate, very rapidly, while watching hour after hour of television. So fitness is going well.

3. I find that even if I am nearly hysterically tired, I will not go to bed at 10pm because, in my mind, 10pm is too early to go to bed. Instead, I will do something like watch a show about a Norwegian crime reporter (possibly Danish?) until I fall asleep in a chair. Wait. I take it back. There is a narrative through-line from #2 to #3, after all. Perhaps #4 will provide a conclusion.

4. While at the market during my lunch hour, I purchased a charmingly small bottle of fancy tonic water which I am eager to take home and introduce to my fancy gin. It seems to be that sort of day. Perhaps if I had not allowed myself to fall asleep in a chair last night, I would have met the day with greater joie to say nothing of de vivre.

Yes. That will do. Don't worry, I'm sure there will be more sloth and lack of will power to celebrate another day. Carry on.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Gold star

On my way to work every morning, I drive past Davies Medical Center. Today, I stopped midblock to create a little traffic opening so an ambulance could get out of the parking lot.

When I checked my email later there was a message from a friend whom I'd not seen in several months.
Subject heading: Hi!
Message: Hey, thanks for letting that ambulance out of Davies! That was me :-)

There's a moral here somewhere. Particularly (though I hope not solely) if you're personally acquainted with any paramedics.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Springing forward

Disclaimer: I am not noticeably springing forward in any way other than setting my clocks ahead an hour. I'd like to tell you that I have been propelled into some kind of frenzy of self-improvement, but that would be a lie. Thank you.

From observing the moderate outerwear of passersby, it is my belief that it is warm outside, but here in the north-facing apartment, I just keep adding layer upon layer of clothing and wondering if it would be de trop to put on gloves. I made a plan to meet someone at 2pm, with some notion that I would want to have the morning and early afternoon to--I don't know--sleep very late and then swan about gracefully? Read a book? Write a poem? I have no idea. What has happened instead is that I stayed up far too late watching some kind of murder mystery and then, thanks to raging Allergy Head, slept for what felt like about 37 minutes. All in all, 2pm turns out to be a uniquely inconvenient time to do anything. Not far enough away to really commit to anything else, but distant enough to necessitate a great deal of time-killing. I've been ricocheting around like an air hockey puck (or possibly a real hockey puck. I wouldn't know. I prefer air hockey and miniature golf to their grown-people equivalents). I'm listening to RadioLab! No! I'm reading an article about Burning Man! No! I'm listening to "Kill the Director" by the Wombats! No! I'm updating my blog with my up-to-the-minute thoughts and feelings! On and on it goes with little pauses to put on more sweaters and rotisserie myself in front of the heating vent.

1. I spoke to my neighbor about the construction-site-worthy racket that comes my way every time they feed their kid. He's made some adjustments to the high chair and the noise has gone from unbearable to really, really annoying. So that's improvement.

2. Often I "wash" my face with nothing more than water and a washcloth. This seemed perfectly adequate; it's not as though I work in a coal mine or on the Vaudeville stage. Recently, just for the heck of it, I used some make-up remover and a cotton um...disk (What are those things called?) which I generally use only on the rare occasion I've got to contend with mascara. And that is how I came to learn that I've been employing an Elizabethan style of hygiene. Oh. Hi, makeup. What are you doing on this cotton disk? Did you not notice the water I liberally applied a few minutes ago? Apparently not. Good to know. Sorry about that, pores.

3. I've been to a few lately and, secretly, I'm not sure movies are radically improved by being in 3D. This may be partially because I have exactly the wrong nose for wearing those glasses for two hours. Ow. But, really, why the sudden fervor for another dimension? Surely, that is what going outside is for?

4. The Blog Bully and I went to the theatre on Friday and he took issue with my insinuation that it's his fault I've been such a lousy blogger. He said he'd certainly noticed, but was trying to be kind under the circumstances of my lengthy indisposition. He's having no more of it. We're all on notice.

Oh, hooray. In ten minutes, it'll be time to leave the house. Enjoy your evening of lingering sunlight.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Out-of-work showgirls galore

Well, hello there you few, you happy few. How the heck are you? Since last we spoke, I've been doing my best to Participate in Life, which is not to say that I'm not also watching a great deal of television. Today is apparently National Book Day, so this evening I will endeavor to keep forging ahead with Zadie Smith's NW, with which I was making excellent progress after a rocky start (I'll be honest, the first section very nearly compelled me to abandon the whole thing, but the advent of the second section hailed a different prose style and my hope was renewed), until I happened upon some AMC series on Netflix called "Hell on Wheels," which I have subsequently been watching in back-to-back episodes. It is about laying the railroad across the country post-Civil War. Racial tensions! Frontier prostitutes! Backroom deals! [Understandably] Hostile Indians! There's a lot going on, but mostly what's going on is a--can I just say this? Sullying my refined reputation?--a ridiculously hot actor. I'd never heard of him, but Anson Mount, you are making me rethink my stance on beards. (Apparently, I'm not the only one to swoon, as evidenced by the fact that this even exists.)

Ahem. What was I saying?

Right. Participating in Life. I've had some cocktails. I had a dinner guest for whom I produced an actual balanced meal. I went to a lecture on climate change, the most encouraging aspect of which was that the scientist presenting was very visibly pregnant, leading me to believe she must see some cause for optimism that I somehow missed.

I've also been to quite a lot of movies at the Roxie because my very clever friend Elliot Lavine has programmed the hell out of this year's Pre-Code Festival. My favorites were Shanghai Express and Lady Killer. In the first, Marlene Dietrich spends a lot of time leaning in the doorways of railway cars smoldering silently while being perfectly lit. In no way do I resemble Marlene Dietrich, but I couldn't help feeling that if I could spend my life in black and white being perfectly lit, I too might be rather beautiful. I do need to work on my posture, admittedly, and learn to hold a silence for a long, long time. And maybe smoke. But I do think there's something to this theory. In the second film, I discovered that James Cagney circa 1933 was quite appealing in a wise-cracking upstart kind of way. Among many, many snappy comebacks this was my favorite:
Former criminal associate: So you're rubbing noses with movie stars now?
Our hero, now a big Hollywood success: Well, call it noses if you like.


All the movies are lousy with that kind of banter. I swoon. Here's a bit from Night World:
Woman: Why you all fall for that broad is beyond me.
Man: Not beyond you, baby. Behind you. By about ten years.


In other press-stopping news, I've been back to the gym. And--lo--I did swim. I know. We've been here before, but this time maybe I'll stick to it? Maybe? When I showed up and handed my card to the check-in guy, I told him to be careful, that the scanner might explode or something since I had not actually been there in A YEAR. Let's just not talk about the money. In any case, I have now been twice. Twice in one week, mind you. I plan to go tomorrow too. Look out, world. The hallmarks of "fitness" including sore shoulders and "I can't stop sneezing because chlorine makes me allergic to my own arm" are almost back!

In that I have never met Anson Mount, there has also been a small flurry of internet strangers, about which I haven't a great deal to say except this. There is a period before you go out with someone the first time when you wonder if this is a person who will come to matter to you. Whether, unbeknownst to you now, this first meeting will be something you'll look back on as a moment when your whole life changed. And mostly, that's not what happens, but it could. It could.