Friday, August 30, 2013

Site-specific haiku

Today is sunny
Even in this neighborhood
A near miracle

In class students shout
"Revolution!" also "Hats!"
The link eludes me

Try to ignore it
The pink box demands notice
So many donuts

Am I not sleepy?
Why should just children get naps
It seems so unjust

Wednesday, August 28, 2013


You remember way back when I couldn't open that bag of raisins? It only got worse from there. I ended up with a full-scale Nyquil-requiring cold. In August? Before the school year has even really begun? I mean, is there no end to the sniffly injustice of it all?

Prior to my indisposition, I had been trying to be so darn healthful too. I'd been trying to eat vegetables, well, okay fruit. But you have to start somewhere. And I'd been walking. One day I walked half way across the whole darn town and when I came upon a restaurant that serves "carnival food" and has one table with a Tilt-a-Whirl car as the seating and I DIDN'T EVEN EAT THERE because of the lack of healthfulness/insane caloric content of [delicious] carnival food. And was I rewarded for this virtue? Pshh.

A few days before the illness arrived, I was suddenly unable to turn my head due to a crazy painful muscle mishap in my neck. I went to get an emergency massage, which is always entertaining because every massage therapist is always gobsmacked by the seemingly impossible tension of which I am primarily comprised. This particular woman set to trying to unknot the most incapacitating knot--a thing that is invariably quite agonizing for me--but her accent morphed the word "pressure" to the word "pleasure." I thought she was saying "Is this pleasure all right?" A trick question of sorts.

All this to say, I think I may be suffering from some kind of deeply internalized end-of-summer denial. My body seems to want nothing to do with the 2013-14 school year. Concerning, in that there is a lot of it to come.

On the bright side, lying prone on the sofa for days gave me plenty of time to watch more "Alias." As the seasons continue, the kicks to the head do not diminish. I figure eventually she's going to run into someone who is a better head-kicker than she is. Then she'll go into a coma and the show will end. God only knows what magnificent things I will accomplish when that finally happens.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Feats of strength

Last night I was watching "Alias" about which: A) I know I'm watching far, far too much television. I have no defense to offer. I am duly ashamed. B) Why have I never watched "Alias?" Actually, I know the answer to that. It's because, like other shows before it (notably "Breaking Bad" which for some reason I thought was about race car drivers) it is not about what I thought it was about. I thought it was some futuristic drama. It isn't. Had I known it was about Jennifer Garner (of whom I'm a big fan) being a double agent rather than Jennifer Garner being some cyborg in the dystopian future, I would have watched it years ago.

Anyway, there she was with no surplus flesh on her body, engaging in vigorous hand-to-hand combat with scores of villains. I began to fantasize about working with a trainer to uncover muscles I must have in there somewhere. I thought, I wouldn't need to be that fit. I mean, after all, she was in her twenties in this, but, you know, kind of fit. And maybe I could take some kind of martial arts class. It would be cool to know how to administer a flying kick to someone's head, should the need arise. While real me continued to sit on the sofa, imaginary me was increasingly becoming a lean, sleek force to be reckoned with.

And then real me tried to open a bag of raisins. And couldn't do it. I had to resort to scissors.

So I guess if you have any villains who need neutralizing, or even snacks that need accessing, I'm probably not the one to call.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013


Recently, I saw Elysium, which I enjoyed very much, though I did look at the floor during the bloodier bits, of which there are many.
Of note:

1. In this film, Jodie Foster only sounds like a normal person when she is speaking French. It is unclear why she ever is speaking French, but it makes a nice change from the mystery accent she employs while speaking English.

2. Oh, Matt Damon, you are a hell of a charming fellow.

3. Diego Luna. Dear lord. Every time he appeared, I had to suppress the desire to stand up, gesture wildly toward the screen and say loudly to the assemble audience, "Are you people seeing this? Is there a more beautiful man in all the world?" So, apparently I'm deeply infatuated with Diego Luna. If he's a friend of yours, you can let him know.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Date night

On Friday evening, I took myself on the date that my ex-boyfriend of more than two years ago unaccountably suggested in April that we go on in June. After which, unsurprisingly, he never contacted me again. I know. It didn't make a lot of sense to me either, but there it is. Anyway, despite being elusive, eccentric, and erratic, he did take me to many lovely places, so I thought I'd see if he was still had the knack.

He does. It's a shame he wasn't there, really. He'd have liked it.

After bemoaning San Francisco on Friday, I feel I must recant. Noir Lounge is very appealing. In its favor, it does not look exactly like every other new bar in San Francisco. I am always excited when someone goes for warm and comfortable instead of stark and modern. They do play music incongruous with the atmosphere they are ostensibly trying to evoke, but that seems to be the norm; c'est la vie.

I got there early and so got a handsome wingback chair right by the window where there was plenty of light for me to forge ahead with Rebecca Solnit. I had a glass of wine, a very nice caprese salad (oh, ripe tomatoes, how I will miss you come winter), and, failing once more to stay on the culinary path of righteousness, some homemade tater tots. As a bonus, my waiter had very enviable posture. Hooray.

You might like it. You can wait for your ex to ask if you might have some free time in two months, or you could just go now. Whichever.

Friday, August 09, 2013


I miss New York today. The Haight in the fog seems small and shabby. A group of young men just passed loudly by, unaccountably clutching the famous red party cups. Is there yet another street festival of which I am unaware? Probably. There seems always to be one. I sort of feel like, "is this the best we can do, San Francisco?" Ah well. I am aware that this is the minority view. My fellow citizens are nothing if not enthusiastic about their chosen city. Me? I'm wearing a dress. It's not much, but I do what I can to raise the tone.

I watched the Ken Burn's documentary on prohibition entitled, not shockingly, "Prohibition." I learned many things. It was just like reading a book without having to put in all that effort of reading. (I'm joking. Mostly. Look, Rebecca Solnit isn't writing vacation fiction. It's taking some wherewithal to get through. Ow. All the thinking! It hurts.) I will not tell you all the things I learned about prohibition because that would take all the fun out of your learning things about prohibition. However, it was very satisfying to learn that "teetotaler" comes from the phrase "Capital 'T' Total abstinence." It was less satisfying to learn that "bootlegger" comes from early booze smugglers from whom you could buy a slug of hooch from the bottle which they kept stuck in their boots, secreted under their trouser legs. Well, fine. Why "bootlegger?" Surely the leg is the least relevant part of this scenario? Why not bootbottler or, if you are really committed to the leg, bottlelegger? Hoochlegger?

I've also learned that whatever the current age of the Upstairs Baby, it is my least favorite age of human. No words, a lot of screaming, plenty of running, and a hearty dose of floor beating. The current age of the Upstairs Baby is why I will never have children. So, in case you were ever going to ask if I'm pregnant, I'm not. I just really like spaghetti.

Generally, I try to keep the whole online dating thing to myself, largely because it is mostly dispiriting and kind of embarrassing. But things are occasionally too amusing to withhold. The way it works is that if someone sends me a message on the dating site (a rare occurrence, I am humbled to say), I receive an email notification containing a truncated bit of the message. Yesterday, someone sent a note the first line of which was "Maybe we should talk or enjoy a cocktail." However, in the email notification, the sentence was cut off right in the middle of the final word, rendering it a very unseemly proposition. I was briefly scandalized. But then, Oh! Tail. Cocktail. Better.

Thursday, August 08, 2013


Tuesday night I went to an event celebrating the release of Rebecca Solnit's new book, The Faraway Nearby. As I have previously mentioned, I was a bit of a poser, having read only half of one book by Rebecca Solnit (who has written a startling number of books), but I like the half of the book I've read and I did buy the new book, so I think I'm in the clear. I was motivated to attend largely because of the event's being held at the Elk's Club, a thing I didn't know existed. Well, I mean, I knew the Elk's Club existed in general, but I didn't know that there was a historic club site on the third floor of a downtown hotel (a hotel, I think it bears mentioning, that has a little settee in the elevator, in case you get tuckered out on your way twelve floors up to the top). The Elk's Club itself has a very high and rather ornate wooden ceiling, a bar, a chiming grandfather clock, and several mounted elk heads. I am told that, on another floor, it also has a salt-water pool and a steam room. I'm willing to believe it.

The woman at the door seemed a little harried. Perhaps they do not usually host events for so many non-members. She called out, "Are there any Elks? Are there any Elks in the line?" In any other circumstances, this query would have marked her as either crazy or possessed of a tediously zany sense of humor. She was decidedly neither zany nor crazy. She took her job very seriously indeed and it was clear that no legitimate Elk was going to be inconvenienced by a lot of literary riffraff on her watch. As it happened, there were no Elks in the line, so we shuffled forward and signed the register under her scowling supervision. "The ladies' room is across the lobby." she said. She said it several times, in fact. A woman behind me asked the question that was in my own mind, "Do we have to go there?" The doorkeeper looked at her like she was insane. "Well, if you have to use the restroom..." Oh. Well, sheesh. What do we know about the Elk's Club? It did not seem at all implausible that ladies were forbidden in the main bar. In case you were worried about that, I am here to tell you that women are allowed to roam free. Indeed, there are a goodly number of women Elks. Or is that Elk?

Under the (mistaken) impression that I was meant to dress up for the event, I brought shoes that I can barely walk in and changed into them in the lobby downstairs. I regretted it immediately. Not only was I overdressed, but it proved to be a milling-around sort of gathering, not a sit-in-your-seat sort of gathering. Ah well. At least it's fun to be briefly promoted from tall to very tall. When the author did at last read from the new book, she read a small piece about an artist who had painfully encased her feet in elaborate ice shoes, waiting for them to melt and liberate her. This feminist evocation of Cinderella is interesting to contemplate, particularly if, when you first hear about it, you are not wearing agonizing shoes because you thought they'd make you look better, even though few people look better when wincing. There's probably a moral there somewhere.

I opted not to share any of my shoe-related foot and/or existential difficulties with Rebecca Solnit herself, whose vast intelligence and somewhat regal demeanor make her quite intimidating. Additionally, she is very enthusiastic about absinthe, which she had requested be served by the distillery sponsor, thereby creating an uncrossable chasm between us. Unable to bond with her on over spirits or footwear, I never spoke to her at all. But I did admire her and her impressive brain from a distance.

After the reading, when the absinthe tasting was ramping up and someone inquired whether I was expecting (a question to which I nearly responded "Expecting what?" before it dawned on me what that question means when asked of a woman. The answer is no. But thanks. Women who aren't pregnant LOVE to be asked that question. Cue: body image crisis.) I thought it was time to go. I hobbled to the elevator where I valiantly declined to use the settee for the three-story journey. Arriving safely at the lobby, I lurched toward one of is many sofas, stashed the heels in my bag, slipped into my flats, and walked back out into real life.

Monday, August 05, 2013

Staying alive

When we went out on Thursday night my friend and I were discussing our lack of exercise and he said, "It seems like sitting is the new smoking." Meaning that studies now suggest that a sedentary life chips away at our longevity in the way we were previously led to believe required some kind of active participation in poisoning ourselves. Dammit. I am far too much of a procrastinator to part with any years that might be coming my way. Who knows what I might accomplish (finally) in my nineties. But as much as I would like to say that my primary motivation is that of health and happiness, really it's that there was that whole potato sack incident and generally I'm oozing unappealingly over the top of my jeans whereas I would prefer to be sveltely inserted into them. To achieve that, however, I'm going to have to swim a whole lot more aggressively than I did today.

Did you catch that? That last little bit?

I did it. I went to the gym this morning and A) it didn't precipitate the End Times; B) the card reading machine didn't burst into flames when they scanned mine though I have been there only twice in the past year and a half; C) I didn't drown; D) even though my hands still smell like chlorine it hasn't actually been making me sneeze. (Have you ever been allergic to your own hands? It's very vexing.)

I mean, it wasn't great. I was plodding. I had to be in the lane with the old ladies who are jogging up and down the lane wielding pool weights. I stopped two lengths shy of the self-approved number, but I did it. Now I only have to do it for the rest of my life. Tra la la. Also, it would be helpful if I developed a sudden deep love of salad. For now, yes. I would love a slice of that cake, but it would help me out if you didn't offer me any. Thanks.

The aforementioned Thursday night outing was to hear the lovely, young Gabrielle Walter-Clay sing her heart out. Damn. That girl is good. She is also just 19 years old. I wonder what it would have been like to have that much self-confidence at 19. I still don't have that much self-confidence. It looks like fun, though. You should try it.

Keep an eye on that girl. She's going places.
(Places way more interesting than the gym.)

Thursday, August 01, 2013


Do you ever find that as you are struggling to do something or to reconcile something, suddenly you stumble upon, if not answers, then at least relevant information, everywhere you turn? It is not unlike the sensation that a word you only recently learned the meaning of is all it once employed in every text you read. Well, today has been chockablock with revelations. I do not say that these will magically compel me to do what needs doing or to soothe my skittering mind, but it's nice that strangers contributed to the dialogue.

First, I was listening to an NPR segment about seniors competing in some kind of large scale competition. I don't remember what it was called. There was focus on a women's basketball league for players 70-79 years old. Team members were interviewed about the various benefits of their involvement in team play. One woman said, "Everyone I know is dead or in a wheelchair. In my opinion, they're dead because they didn't move."

Well, shit. It doesn't get much clearer than that, does it?

The second is rather more nuanced. Next week, I am going to an event to hear Rebecca Solnit read from her new book, but, shamefully, I have never read anything by Rebecca Solnit. That seemed, well, rude. So, I went to the library and settled on A Field Guide to Getting Lost, which is a very lovely book. As someone who has been watching television for weeks on end and who, in general, reads far more fiction than nonfiction, I appreciate the nearly physical sensation of reading it. It is as though my mind, having been narrowly confined, is allowed not only to roam at will, but also to lie still and stretch itself. Oh, hey. This must be why people are so excited about Rebecca Solnit. I sure am glad I'm going to her reading.

She addresses the way in which we perceive distant things as blue--a faraway mountain range, the horizon, etc.-- and describes seeing a view of San Francisco (where she lives) from far enough away that it is blue-tinted and unreal, like the perfect city of a dream, and she is filled, irrationally, with longing to live there. She goes on to examine the human experience of desire.
We treat desire as a problem to be solved, address what desire is for and focus on that something and how to acquire it rather than on the nature of desire and sensation of desire, though often it is the space between us and the object of desire that fills that space with the blue of longing. I wonder sometimes whether with a slight adjustment of perspective it could be cherished as a sensation in its own terms, since it is as inherent to the human condition as the blue of distance. [...] For something of this longing will, like the blue of distance, only be relocated, not assuaged, by acquisition and arrival, just as the mountains cease to be blue when you arrive among them and the blue instead tints the next beyond.

Less prescriptive certainly than "go to the damn gym or you will die" but no less worth pondering for that.