Monday, September 30, 2013

The true test

I walked into the restaurant bathroom just as a young woman exited one of its two stalls. As I entered it, the occupant of the adjacent stall said, in the high-pitched interrogative tones popular among young women today, "I can tell we're really good friends because I can still talk to you while I'm peeing." "I know!" said the other woman, now washing her hands. "Me too!"

"The other day," the pee-er continued, "I was at work and I went into the bathroom with my manager to get ready for yoga. It was so awkward. I couldn't pee. Finally, I said, 'I hope I don't have smelly feet' because, you know, my feet had been in my work shoes all day and now we were going to be at yoga. And she thought I said, 'I hope I don't have smelly pee.'"

"OH MY GOD!" exclaimed the hand washer.

The pee-er exited her stall and the two of them exclaimed further other the dreaded office-related pee incident. I very much wanted to say, midstream as it were, "Oh my god, you guys. I feel really close to both of you right now."

But I didn't.
Life is just full of these missed opportunities.

Saturday, September 28, 2013


A couple of weeks ago, not long after nightfall, I heard such piercing and prolonged screaming that I very nearly called 911, convinced that a woman was being attacked. I leaned out the window and peered down the street where the only people visible were a small group of adults gathered round a baby carriage amiably chatting. Perhaps inside the carriage the baby was being eaten by a raccoon and no one cared. I couldn't see that far. But no one was being raped at knife point. That's the main thing.

I am fairly routinely drawn to the window to investigate screaming. Just now, in fact, there was a great deal of male bellowing, which I feared may be the precursor to blows. Apparently not. Many dudes yelling, yes. Dudes yelling at each other in a menacing fashion, no.

Clearly, this is rich ground for a new reality/game show. Contestants will gather in my living room and try to determine whether what they are hearing outside is a violent crime, the mercurial moods of a baby, or men under the influence of sports. Massacre or toddler? Gang fight or game day? I live across the street from a pediatric practice, a block from a sports bar, and also mere blocks from a neighborhood rife with crime, so I think it would be a real nail biter of a competition. Tune in.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

As seen by others

Last night at a work event, a woman inquired whether or not I am pregnant. Weirdly, she then seemed disinclined to believe my reply. This seems a hot topic of debate of late. Apparently, I need to throw away several of my dresses immediately.

People of the world! Now hear this! I am not now, nor do I ever intend to be, pregnant. Also, please stop asking women if they are pregnant. No good can come of it. Are we good? Let's move on.

In better news, later, at the same event, someone else told me I look twenty-five.

So, let's just split the difference, shall we, and say I have a healthy glow.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Math and Science

One of the benefits offered at my job is a program through which you can set aside a sum to reimburse yourself for medical expenses using magical pre-tax dollars. The total amount is spread over the year and deducted monthly from your salary, but you can be reimbursed as the expenses come along, whenever that may be. At one point, this thing was referred to as "the cafeteria plan" which made no sense to me at all. There is some more sensible name for it now, but I can never remember what it is. You probably know, though, so if you want to back to the first sentence and just insert the name of the thing after the ninth word, it'll save you a whole paragraph's worth of time.

Generally, I've opted out, feeling that my comparatively small expenses did not merit the hassle of the reimbursement paperwork. Last year, on the contrary, I set aside $5000 for the dreaded gum surgery (which, sadly, was not the actual cost of the procedure, but the maximum allowable for the pre-tax program). There was just the one (enormous) receipt to submit, so there was no hassle per se, unless by "hassle" you mean having $5000 deducted slowly and painfully from your paycheck over the course of a year. Also, gum surgery. All this to say, it required very little in the way of organizational skills on my part.

This year, even without the specter of ruinously costly non-insured procedures on the horizon, I decided it would be an intelligent, grown-up thing to put a smallish sum into the program so that I might save money on my escalating co-pays and prescriptions and supplements and the like. Were I a different sort of person, I would have "done the math" or "crunched the numbers" and produced an actual dollar figure of the resulting savings. I regret to say that I don't even know how to determine the numbers that would be required to build that equation. I view taxes vaguely as a "thing that happens" and, except for the moment I read at my annual hire letter and briefly fantasize about my illusory wealth, I try not to ever look at or, really, contemplate in any way my gross salary. I think it's for the best. So, let's say that this whole pre-tax thing means I save an amount that I roughly estimate to be "some money."

I'm on board with this idea, but out of practice with the logistics. Last week, I bought some allergy medicine at the pharmacy and only at the last minute did I remember not to toss the receipt in the recycling bin. I was prouder of myself for this than I am comfortable admitting. Having rescued it, I did what one should always do with important receipts one does not wish to misplace: I put it on top of the toaster oven. Obviously. The idea was that I would pluck it from this highly visible spot on my way to work one morning and take it to the office, where I could put it in a sensible folder called "medical receipts." And I would have done just that. Eventually. Meanwhile, I made some toast.

Do you remember that project from kindergarten where you put bits of crayon between two pieces of wax paper and then the teacher ironed them, making a kind of melty abstract piece of art? Well, it turns out that placing a receipt on top of a toaster oven, and then turning that toaster oven on, produces much the same effect. A bit more somber in tone, perhaps, due to the monochromatic nature of the source media, but similar nonetheless. The top is still legible, so you can see where I spent the money, but neither on what nor how much. Instead, I now have what appears to be a very small rorschach test, enigmatically entitled "Pharmaca."

I suspect this will not be admissible for reimbursement, but, if I whip up a little artist's statement, maybe I can sell it to a gallery.

Thursday, September 19, 2013


Yesterday was very summery indeed. During lunch, I decided to walk up the the pharmacy. On my way, I passed the ice cream shop. Standing in front of it in the shade were three fully uniformed, physically imposing police officers eating ice cream cones.

Please instragram that using the power of your mind. It might make you happy.

Then, on my way to the market for the dreaded lunch salad, I walked past what I thought was a farmer's market. There were little pop-up canopies and what appeared to be stacks of produce. Plus, sometimes they have a farmer's market there. Honest. And sometimes, on a different day, they have food trucks. Presumably there is no salad food truck, but I thought it wouldn't hurt to look at more interesting bread-related items.

Imagine my confusion when I got near enough to see make out the broader details and discovered that it was a pop-up skate park. I have no idea what the things were piled on the tables. They looked like grapefruit. Maybe that's a new thing. Grapefruit and skateboarding. Fighting scurvy and eliminating fossil fuels simultaneously. I didn't stop to find out.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Market research

I like to check the stats of this blog even though they are largely meaningless to me, by which I don't mean to suggest, "I'm above all that" so much as, "I have no idea what this means." Generally, not a lot of people are reading this, but I knew that. Still, some people are and that's always kind of exciting (thanks, people). Some of this some are purportedly in Russia. Hmmm. I don't really think that's true. I'd be willing to accept that maybe one lone American ex-pat in Russia somehow stumbled upon this, but Russians plural? I doubt that very much.

I am amused to report that the stats for my last post were exponentially higher than for any other. The alleged Russians were particularly active. I do believe, my friends, that the sudden flurry of interest was because I used a word that means "free from all garments." I'd just use the word now, but I don't want to get everyone in Russia all excited again for nothing. People searching for that term hoping for some hot, hot action, were led to a long ramble about how a middle-aged woman needs to eat some salad.

Sorry about that.

But also...

Friday, September 13, 2013

Operation: Get It Together

It doesn't feel like anything too sinister is happening, despite the date. Mostly, I'm just happy it's Friday. That said, it is quite possible that I'm getting a(nother) cold. I blame my boss who, for several days, leaned over my desk sounding increasingly like a man with a five-pack-a-day habit, saying, "I don't think it's a cold." Um...don't you? Well, I do. Please get out of my office. He gave in and is now at home in bed, but last night I began to feel the sneaky symptoms in my own head and throat. I spent three bucks on a mere twelve ounces of healthful juice, so perhaps that will fend it off. C'mon virus. Three dollars is a lot for juice. Mind you, I was just sick three weeks ago. That's too much sick. I object.

Trying to be less susceptible to every damn sneezy thing that makes its way through the building is on the agenda. There are quite a few things on the agenda, in fact.

The Outside
Lately, I am cutting a figure a bit more like a Renaissance nude than is currently fashionable. (I know, I know. Body image, etc.) Were I going to be spending most of my time reclining in the altogether in pastoral scenes, surrounded by cherubim or similar, it would be okay. Under those circumstances, I'd say I look pretty good. However, many of my clothes do not currently fit me. Since circumstances (and chilliness) dictate that I do have to wear something every day, that is problematic. So. Either invest in a new wardrobe of flowing Renaissance garb, or try to whittle myself back to my erstwhile silhouette. I chose B.

Theoretically, this plan should involve exercise. That is the hardest part for me, so it remains aspirational. Meanwhile, I am trying to go for oatmeal for breakfast (note that anything for breakfast is a novelty) and salad for lunch. Dinner is such a random affair already that no sensible guidelines are being applied other than "try not to eat pasta. Or pizza. Even though you totally want to."

So far, I'm pretty excited about the oatmeal. It turns out to be pleasant to have the first several hours of my day not marked by near starvation. I am not very enthusiastic about the salad, but that does not shock me. I am notoriously indifferent to salad, with the exception of the very plain one they used to have at Ti Couz, but that was due to magic dressing. Alas, Ti Couz has closed and taken its magic dressing with it. My feelings about salad are so lacklustre that I feel very virtuous for having had four so far (this is week one of this plan and I've not had lunch yet today). However, this attitude also makes me feel that having had four salads, my body should look entirely different. (In related news, this is also how I feel about walking for one hour or swimming for 20 minutes. "Wait. What? I look exactly the same. But I'm so tired. I'm confused.") To me, salad is the Food of Deprivation, but thanks to its pal oatmeal, at least I'm not a ravening wolverine when lunchtime rolls around so salad is at least possible. We'll see. I hope to be reunited with my pencil skirts by November.

The Inside
There are problems. There is, of course, the cold that I can feel settling in right this very moment, but there are other things too. Some pesky infections, some sleep-ruining allergies, some "I thought walking might be a good exercise option, but my whole right leg is a disaster" pain. I guess if I were a coat or something, I'd be discounted and sold "as is." Not tip top. Not shiny and new. I want to turn this around. Are you listening, salad? See what you can do.

Additionally, after being told by a surprising number of unrelated people that it has changed their lives, I made an acupuncture appointment. I am terrified of needles. I never get the flu shot despite yearly miserable illness. I don't even have pierced ears despite, you know, noticing that earrings are quite pretty. (I do have a full sleeve tattoo, but I was drunk at the time. No. I don't. That was a joke. I don't even have a very tiny butterfly inked onto my ankle. By the way, zero ink and piercings is about as alternative as you can get in San Francisco. I win.) A needly approach to health is pretty daunting for me, but Operation Get It Together demands I give it a try. It is not easy to get out of a rut, particularly if you have no upper body strength to speak of. It takes a lot of scrabbling around and falling back in a few times, but I'm working on it.

Among things that concerned me was the expense of acupuncture, but at lunch yesterday, a friend told me that he had had good results with sliding-scale community acupuncture centers in the East Bay. So I looked it up. There are several in San Francisco (unsurprisingly). What this seems to mean is that four people in one room receive simultaneous treatments. I am a little dubious about this; if I'm going to be full of needles I want it to be all about me and my special, special needs and problems. However, since I can't really afford to have it be all about me and my special, special needs and problems, I'll try it. Not the first time though. I'm paying the big money for the first time so I can blather on about all my fears and symptoms. I'm sure she'll enjoy that. Don't worry. I'll do it very quietly so as not to incommode the four porcu-people in the community room.

The Perimeter
In my high school, all girls took self-defense as part of the P.E. curriculum. Notably, during that section, the boys took wrestling. That strikes me as no less disquieting now as it did then. It always seemed like they were learning how to pin us to the ground while we were learning how to gouge out their eyes. Maybe slightly awry culturally and pedagogically. Anyway. I hated it. The scenarios we were given were scary and the actual physical combat stuff just embarrassed me. I was very shy, spindly, and not at all athletic. I don't actually remember any of the physical techniques we learned. For me, they didn't make me feel safer, but rather, doomed. If anyone ever laid a hand on me, it seemed obvious to me that I was going down.

I remember the feeling. I've carried it with me long past the moment where it would have been sensible to shake it off and learn a few physical defense responses. So far, I've been employing the other things I learned at 16: 1. Pay attention 2. Walk with authority. I do believe that these two things are half the battle. (I worry for all those earphone-wearing, Twitter-scrolling ladies I see everywhere.) However, it would be nice to stop carrying "doomed" as the inevitable next step if glaring doesn't work. And, as you know, I did recently watch ALL of Alias, aka Women Kicking Ass.

The Blog Bully had recently encouraged his wife to take a free safety class offered by Impact at Sports Basement (thanks, Sports Basement). She had been reluctant for many of the same reasons I have been reluctant, but had gone and been glad. So, when by the sheerest chance I happened upon a notice that the same class was being offered this week, I went. I'll be honest; my knee to the groin skills are only so-so, but just showing up felt important. Just showing up felt like claiming some sovereignty. Just showing up felt like taking one step away from doomed. There is a much, much longer more hands-on class offered by Impact. That'll be the next frontier.

For now, I think I need some more vitamin C. And maybe a nap.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

A total blank

Last night I managed to finally transform my bed from the Platform of Misery to the Bower of Rest after many nights of itchy fitfulness. It is possible that atmospheric conditions aligned in my favor or it's possible that newly laundered sheets really are the answer to all our problems. (Were my pillowcases previously covered with a fine layer of pollen? Possibly.) Then, as an extra special bonus treat, the neighbors did not wake me up. (Possibly because of the passive aggressive remarks I made to the baby when I encountered him and his nanny yesterday. What? Like you've never made passive aggressive remarks to a baby. Yeah, right.) Sheets, neighbors, meteorological conditions, pollen counts, I salute you. I was really very tired and appreciate your help in this matter.

Last night I went to see Neko Case in concert. To quote the woman who screamed this from the other side of the balcony, "I love you Neko!" I'm not the sort of person who yells things in a theatre, but that doesn't mean I don't have feelings. I really do love Neko Case. Her voice is serious business, but her personality is pretty darn goofy. It's a pretty delightful combination. In fact, I would say that I love Neko Case every bit as much as I detested her opening band, and that, my friends, is saying a lot. Wow, those boys were shouty. Why all the shouting, boys? My friend and I took refuge in the lobby until the opening act was over--a thing I have never before been compelled to do. Mind you, the lobby was not really far enough away, but it was the best we could do.

While we were out there, I ran into various people I knew: a couple of people from high school, a local musician, and uh....someone else.

I saw this woman and felt a little internal leap of the "Oh! I'm so happy to see you!" kind. It had been so long. She came over to me and we hugged each other and then she went downstairs with her friends. I have no idea who she is. None. Not just, wow I can't remember that woman's name, but I haven't the slightest idea where we met each other or when. It is worth noting that she is a very lovely girl and she also has more body art than anyone I know. Full-color tattoos over her chest and down her arms. A distinctive person, in other words. A person you would not forget. (Unless everyone you know is covered with tattoos, of course, which is certainly possible in this town.)

We have all had the experience of someone coming up to us to say hello whom we do not remember. In that case, you just smile and nod and hope for some kind of conversational clue. This was nothing like that. My happiness at seeing her was instant and genuine. It came sooner than the realization that I could not place her. At some point (when?) we must have known each other quite well (where? how? Was she a waitress? A dental assistant? A singer? A classmate? An actress? An ex-boyfriend's best friend?). I am vexed by the whole thing, but am happy to learn that, troubling though it is, senility is at least suffused with good will toward others. It was good to see her after all this time.

Monday, September 09, 2013

Movie musings

You probably don't know this because I am one of five people who is ever there, but the quietest place in San Francisco is the Sundance Kabuki cinema just prior to a matinee screening. Sundance cinemas play no advertisements (and, indeed, no music) before the previews begin. They are able to make up that revenue by charging you more for a ticket than you can believe you're paying and then, they also sell wine. So, basically, they are millionaires and you are poor in a very short time. I am willing to pay for the barrage-free environment, though. Boy, am I. I do not enjoy people yelling at me about food I don't want to eat, television I don't want to watch, music I don't want to hear, and various products I don't want to buy. So rarely do I go to any other movie theaters, in fact, that, every time I do, I am shocked anew by the yelling about all these things. Blah. Thanks, Robert Redford, for the lovely quiet.

Matinees are often sparsely attended and more often attended by solo movie-goers than are evening screenings. This means that the pre-show hush is not just the comparative quiet of an advertising-free zone, but actual silence. Dimly lit silence. Ahhh. It is like going to a meditation center, but not needing to change out of your street clothes. And, even better, after your fifteen minutes of peace, you get to see a movie. That is my idea of a fine afternoon.

Yesterday I saw Afternoon Delight which I thought was excellent (hey, Kathryn Hahn, you won't get an Oscar for that, but you should totally get an Oscar for that). I also saw previews for at least four other movies that I will see immediately upon their release. Watching previews for me is often like watching money flying out of my bank account. I wonder if there could be some kind of flexible spending account set up for the Sundance Kabuki. I mean, just sitting there, I saw sixty future dollars go out the window. It would be less painful if I could just pay in advance and not think about it.

My only criticism is the bizarre copyediting on the slide about turning off your cell phone. There's a picture of an illuminated smart phone half submerged in a container of popcorn. At the top it reads:
Cell phones and movies don't 'go' together
Can we agree that there's no need to put quotes around that go? And if you feel truly compelled for some reason, why not just go for regular ol' double quotes?

I want answers. Let's have Robert look into that.

Friday, September 06, 2013

It's on

Tonight! I am teaming up with Ken Grobe (whose website is very fancy and makes me wonder what the hell I'm doing with my life and how do I become Ken Grobe) and Simone Chavoor (who also has an elaborate website, but because interior design is not my dream, she can go on being her with no competition from me for the role) for Word/Play at Booksmith.

I do not know Simone or Ken, but they are clearly very impressive individuals and they are in it for the gold, so I vacillate between hoping I don't let them down and being pretty sure we will totally win this game with no help from me. It's already a cliffhanger and it hasn't even started. The one thing I know is that I will not be wearing my red shoes. I know. I'm also disappointed, but frankly they looked dumb with my dress and no one wants to see shoes that look dumb with someone's dress. Or, I suppose, dresses that look dumb with someone's shoes, depending on whether you identify more Team Dress or Team Shoe.

Since not only have I never participated in this game, I have never even seen it played by others, Ken provided me with this helpful description: "It's like FAMILY FEUD with authors. Sort of. The two teams face off over trivia games ("Name six books with a color in the title"), quick write-offs ("Write the first line of this book I'm holding up that no one has ever heard of"), and a lot of trash-talk between teams. And drinking. Points are awarded kind of arbitrarily and it's just a lot of fun."

Simone told me I should brush up on Taboo and Scattegories.

Mind you, I can't actually think of six books with a color in the title and I've never played Scattegories, but I'm sure I will be totally fantastic at this and we will win like the big winners we are! Right? And it will totally be worth the ten bucks the event-goers are spending to drink wine and watch us be clever on demand. Yep! Because, even if it all goes to hell, there is wine. Everyone likes wine.

You should come.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Good news / bad news

Happy new year, Jews. I humbly thank you for the day off with which I was happily presented on your behalf. We're heading into the season that San Francisco does best (read: sunshine that lasts throughout the day) and it was very pleasant to be out in it, rather than theorizing what it might be like from within my windowless office. Knowing I had all this liberty, I scheduled an appointment for today. I chose a leisurely late-morning hour because a day that requires you to participate in real morning does not count as a day off. Obviously.

Extra time in the morning means an extra-functional brain, which is how I had the laudable foresight to stop by the nearby laundromat (that I no longer frequent. Ha! Let us have a moment of silent gratitude for the life-changing washer and dryer that I now own) to avail myself of its change machine. Take that, parking meters. You want quarters? I got quarters.

When I arrived at my destination, not only did I find a parking place within a block, but the parking meter already had over an hour of time on it. Not five minutes, people, an hour. This is unheard of. A happy omen if ever there was one. I added a quarter just to be on the safe side--twenty-five cents worth of paranoia--bringing the time to a hour and fifteen minutes.

And that is why I am so sorry to report that the meeting went for an hour and twenty-three minutes.

A miscalculation that cost me seventy-four dollars.

Of course, this is all the more infuriating since I had two dollars worth of ticket-preventing quarters at the ready all along. Also, word to the wise, DPT, you're not fooling anyone. Just call it $75 and be done with it. Saving me the dollar isn't doing anything to improve my attitude. Indeed, personally, I feel that this is maybe, at most, a $35 infraction. Unsurprisingly, my opinion on this matter was not solicited. I regret that the rest of my thoughts on this subject are just a jumble of incoherent profanity, which I will spare you, though, in the interest of interactive fun, feel free to create your own.

Later, despite my new poverty, I allowed myself some sunny, no-work Thursday treats. First I went out to lunch, during which I had a very enjoyable conversation with the SF Opera's lead set-painter (who happened to be sitting next to me) about the old days of San Francisco theatre. Then, while looking for something else, I came across some promising sunglasses. After soliciting feedback from two strangers who assured me they looked good, I bought them. The sunglasses. Not the strangers. The strangers were not for sale. I promptly put the glasses on and about a half an hour later while I was waiting to cross the street, a lady came up to me and said I looked beautiful. (Thank you, lady! My new sunglasses and I are very flattered that you think so. Thank you original strangers! You were right about the sunglasses.) As a finale, I bought some flowers and now have some very congenial dahlias keeping me company.

It is always good to discover that the loveliness of your life greatly outweighs the seeming endless injustices of the Department of Parking and Traffic.

Update: It turns out that to pay your citation by phone, online, or even in person, you have to pay a fee. The DPT thinks it is Ticketmaster, apparently. In addition to the original $74, I had to pay $2.50 for the convenience of paying a parking ticket. Just when I had talked myself down from the rage. But they aren't happy without the rage. They thrive on the rage. Fine. They've got it. Bastards.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Choose your own title

If I make you choose your own title, that's interactive, right? I know I fail to engage in many of the exciting "interactive" elements of the online experience, but now you can't say I never did anything for you.

It's now Wednesday which means I took a bit of liberty with the concept of a long weekend. Sorry about that. I had to recover from all the out and abouting I did. There was a birthday lunch for my niece who is newly a teenager. There was bocce ball in the Presidio during which the fog burned off, incrementally revealing the magnificent view of the Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge that had been entirely obscured when we arrived. It was a pretty good trick.

There was Vertigo at the Castro and the Mime Troupe in the park. There was soda and pop rocks with a friend and even though we had them at the same time, we didn't die. (Maybe that's only if you drink Coke, whereas we were drinking some kind of fancy pants cucumber soda. What? It pairs nicely with grape pop rocks. Also, please let the record show that even though it was my friend who chose and bought the soda, he gave me the first sip. Chivalry lives.)

There was a house concert with Foxtails Brigade whom I greatly admire and puzzle over in that the singer seems to derive no pleasure from performing; she seems simultaneously fierce and terrified. Though she seems to be there in spite of herself, she's very good. They've got a show at the Hemlock on the 13th. You should go.

Not bad, weekend. Not bad.

Really this ought to be its own post, but here we are already in the middle of this one. NOW HEAR THIS. I'm doing this event at the Booksmith on Friday. This very Friday. September 6.

Do I totally understand what it is? No! Do I hope I don't totally fail to be witty and clever? Yes!

It has been described to me as Family Feud for authors. It has also been suggested that I brush up on Scattegories (a game, incidentally, that I have never played. Ominous indeed). I have been reassured that there will be wine. When everything else fails, apply wine. It should be a good time. 7pm. Ten bucks. Come on out for it.