Monday, October 31, 2005

halloween in the city

Every year it gets more difficult to know who is in
costume and who is just expressing themself.
We are so accepting here in San Francisco, most
of us, that is. I am fascinated by the contact
lenses in different colors ~ today someone had
pale blue cat eye contacts. Scary. Of course
I should have brought my camera...and didn't.

Tonight we are going to a friend's home for dinner.
They live in Twin Peaks and to get from here
(Bernal Heights) to there entails much greater
planning than this so-called President gave to the
whole mess in Iraq. Many streets are closed for
the big celebration in the Castro, and that's the
way we normally go. So, over Clipper to Portola
and don't run over any children or crazies, or
combination thereof.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

a new book, a new blog!

Our writing group friend Karen has her own most
delightful blog now and again I will ask Michael
if he will link it over here on the right for me.
(After he finishes his homework.) I love hearing
about her life in NYC, even to the smallest detail
like how much the taxi cost. And I want to touch
and read her book and say "it's beautiful" while
I well up and fumble for my Kleenex®. So here,
check it out:
One Foot Out the Door

Kristin alerts me that I have coach and couch
confused in The Dead poem by Billy Collins and
I will fix that on my days off. It's not easy to
make corrections on my blog because I email
my posts in. I do this because it feels more like
I'm just writing to a friend and I don't fuss around
with commas and semicolons and sentence
construction. Or, perhaps you already noticed?

Ginger from Santa Barbara was here for a
wedding dinner and I was able to see her twice
and show her just a little bit of my city. She took the
muni, bought tons of soap at Lush and we had
lunch at John's Grill where she used to go with
her husband. I just loved having her visit me and
now I have to check to see if I said soap or soup.

Oh, hahahahaha, Ginger said her hotel was at
Sutter and Goo. Goo? She had to spell it for
me: G-O-U-G-H. "Good times" as we say in an
extremely sarcastic manner at work, but in this
case I mean it exactly as stated.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

isn't it just plain fun?

How nice to see the bad guys getting their
comeuppance this time. Good ol' Scooter Libby
had a little problem telling the truth and
now we can only hope that Rove and maybe
even Cheney will be judged and found
guilty too. And don't we love the very low
approval rating for Dubya lately? Seems
like people across America are wising up.

Friday, October 28, 2005

for my friend Jon G.

...whose mother died three days ago.
I always find this poem soothing, I hope
you do too.

The Dead

The dead are always looking down on us, they say,
while we are putting on our shoes or making a sandwich,
they are looking down through the glass-bottom boats of
as they row themselves slowly through eternity.

They watch the tops of our heads moving below on earth,
and when we lie down in a field or on a coach,
drugged perhaps by the hum of a warm afternoon,
they think we are looking back at them.

which makes them lift their oars and fall silent
and wait, like parents, for us to close our eyes.
Billy Collins

Thursday, October 27, 2005

look for the bright orange awning

We had a fabulous lunch at a new (for us) restaurant
yesterday. It's called
Windows and you'll find it on
Valencia right up there by Duboce. It's South East
Asian food with lots of interesting dishes (I had a
spicy duck with noodles and plump mushrooms).
One of the things we like best in any restaurant is
that the tables aren't too close together and the
service was fast and friendly. Of course it's very
reasonable or we wouldn't have been there.

Interesting that the restaurant was so busy despite
the fact that PG & E has some huge and messy
project going on and parking was nonexistent.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

those great P-genes

Happy Birthday today to the Great Plotnik who, on a bad
night, looks 40. On a good day, more like 36.

I first met the GP at Jane's at one of her delightfully
crowded writing salon parties. He played the accordion (an
instrument I used to hate) and we all had a group sing of
Watsonville, a song he wrote. I remember emailing several
friends the next day about this gorgeous man with his very
engaging manner and his clever, laugh-along song.

Then, imagine my surprise and delight when I attended my
first Tiapos writers' group and there he was!  I've come to
learn that there isn't much the GP can't do: song-writing
(music and words), writing, playing any musical instrument
(it seems) and being one of the best conversationalists
on this planet.

The GP and his G Ducknik travel all over the world and we
can't wait to hear about their amazing experiences. I love
the big world map in their dining room with all the colorful
push pins of the places they've traveled.

One lucky wife and two fabulous children will be helping
the Great Plotnik celebrate today, and we join his many
friends with wishes and thanking him for adding
so much joy to our lives.

(I almost forgot to mention that the Plotniks appreciate
interesting food too, and baseball, movies, theater. LIFE.)

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

peel...don't polish

How thoughtful I was when I was young to clip and
save thoughts, ideas and articles that I can use
now when I need them most. Today I quote from
Sidney J. Harris, a columnist from Chicago who died
back in 1986:

The personality of  man is not an apple that has to
be polished, but a banana that has to be peeled. And
the reason we remain so far from one another, the
reason we neither communicate nor interact in any
real way, is that most of us spend our lives in polishing
rather than peeling.

Man's lifelong task is simply one, but it is not simple:
to remove the discrepancy between his outer self and
his inner self, to get rid of the "persona" that divides
his authentic self from the world.

Thank you Mr. Harris, and thank you young-self ~ I
can't tell you how much I appreciate these words today,
during this time of change and unrest.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

makes me proud

This morning about 6:45, the doctor and I watched ALL those
women line up for the Nike® marathon. We were on the 2nd
floor, directly over the starting point at Post and Powell. We
could feel the excitement and nervous energy and then at 7am
they all counted down and yelled and jumped up and down because
it was pretty cold and they had been waiting around for a while.

Later in the day I spoke with a pollice woman and I asked her
how many runners in the race.
15,000, was the figure she that's a lot of money for the leukemia society and
a whole bunch of tired, happy women. I love that one of the
results of the women's movement is that we are no longer
sedentary and weak. Imagine, 15,000 running women! I hope
this is a yearly event now in Union Square.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

jack gilbert

I had never heard of this poet until Will mentioned him in
the writing group last Thursday night.  There is a Jack Gilbert
poem entitled
A Brief For The Defense that caused Will
and his fellow students to weep in their poetry class. I did
a little research and I discovered that excellent poem and a
short one that I'll type out here tonight. They are both to
be found in a new hardcover book
Refusing Heaven -
poems by Jack Gilbert.


Poem, you sonofabitch, it's bad enough
that I embarrass myself working so hard
to get it right even a little,
and that little grudging and awkward.
But it's afterwards I resent, when
the sweet sure should hold me like
a trout in the bright summer stream.
There should be at least briefly
access to your glamour and tenderness.
But there's always this same old
dissatisfaction instead.

Jack Gilbert

Friday, October 21, 2005

in praise of doing our best

I have been managing people (not dogs, not cats) for maybe
20 years or so. One of the constant "issues" is that employees
don't feel appreciated. I think I used to feel this way until we
owned our very own business ~ the Great American Dream.
During this venture there was no time for praise, we were usually
just so happy to make it through another day. Soon I learned
to say "good job" to myself and once in awhile to my husband.

My friend Michael has this quotation neatly typed and taped
to his back door so he can see it when he leaves his home:

It's a simple formula; do your best and somebody might like it.

Now isn't that great? No promises of reward, no karma-talk, no
someday-in-heaven ~ no nothing. Somebody MIGHT like it.

I try to approach writing the same way. I just do my best.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

herding writers

I come home to about 15 emails from my dear writing group
friends because we are not meeting at Jane's tonight due
to the fact that the photographers from Architectural Digest
are there at her cottage preparing the article for the February
issue. So we are not welcome.

Just in case you think there are lots of people in the writing
group, the 15 emails are from 5 people. So we will meet at
the Great Plotnik's...I think. I'll wait for more emails.

Anyway, the stringing of old writes didn't go so well because I
started reading them, but at least I did make some notes. So
I decided on a couple of old ones from 2002, when we (Giants)
were in the playoffs and then (is it possible?) the World
Series. Those were heady days and nights. Great tension.
Tremendous joy and sorrow. "Dang" as Jeff Kent would say,
that sure was fun. Sort of.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

the stringing business

Today I'm going to skip yoga and work on creating a conglomeration
of daily writes from the past 3 years to see how that works. When
Jane and Karen (NYC) do this they produce perfect little masterpieces,
but somehow I don't think mine will be much to brag about.

I will choose the topic "holidays in retail" because I must have 20
little pieces written about this most distressing time of year. The
most amazing things happen to customers ~ anger, frustration, fear,
loathing and constant consternation. I am empathetic, up to a
point, but even I lose it around the 23rd of December when we
are out of product and patience.  One of my coworkers suggested
that just as everyone has to serve in the Israeli army at some point
in their life, we Americans should force every citizen to do a stint
in retail in December, so they know how it feels.

Besides, when I dig up these pieces, maybe it will prepare me for
the battle ahead.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

how to waste a morning

A friend at work sent me this damn web site and it has more
than 2000 photos of cats resting/sleeping/curling up in sinks.
I particularly like the orange guys because they remind me of
our dear Uncle Junior who was such a lovable old cat thing.
Cats in Sinks - for all your cat and bathroom needs

Then Baseball Allen tells us that we can Google to find
out about the Red Sox players hitting the Jack Daniels during
the World Series last year.  How come I didn't know that?
So that's next on my list of important chores for my day off.

Monday, October 17, 2005

credit where credit is due

I need to ask my tech friend Michael to put El Greco's blog
in the right hand column over here on my blog. When I emailed
the borrowed walrus photo yesterday Flickr® wouldn't let me
do the link thing, so here it is. A very SF blog and well-written.
I laughed when he got the two Dalys confused during the golf
tournament. That could happen to anyone.
Critical Cloud
At first I didn't like the new museum, but now I do and I love
the top of the tower because you can walk right up to the
glass and see parts of Golden Gate Park and beyond that
have never been seen before, to my knowledge.
It's my Friday night and I'm ready for baseball and more
baseball. Go Cards, so we can extend this series.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

thanks walruswong

Originally uploaded by walruswong.
For this photo from Flickr® because I
didn't get to poke around the new De Young inasmuch as I had to work as usual this weekend. You can read about it in the Critical Cloud and a bunch of other blogs, I'm sure.

What I love is that it was FREE and open all night, but I hear that the lines were never less than 3 hours, even at 2am. Maybe folks exaggerate? We'll go see it when things calm down a bit.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

we suffer in paradise

My friend Mary reminds me of that when we get into
these mild depressions. We have so much and too
many have nothing. But sleep was elusive last night
and I dread a full day of work (our busiest day, ugh)
and suddenly there seems to be a lot going on in my
life right now. I like Jane's quote about a writer doesn't
really know what she is thinking until she writes it down.

I try to leave work stuff at work when I walk from BART
to Bernal Heights, but I didn't succeed yesterday.
Change is in the air and I notice that it rained last
night while I was not sleeping. Our sidewalks in SF have
become odoriferous and this weather will help.

My absentee ballot arrived yesterday. Is it right that
I vote against all these propositions simply because I
hate Arnold? Should I maybe at least read them?

I love coming home to the baseball games and I remember
a few years ago when I would request vacation for the
last week in October to watch the world series. We would
rent a cabin in Mendocino or Sea Ranch and wait for the
games to start. One year in Sea Ranch we were fogged in
and then one afternoon the sun came out about 5pm and we
complained that it was ruining the TV viewing. Priorities.

Time is passing too quickly. My friend Jeanmarie's baby
girl is 3 next week. Yesterday (it seems) we worried through
her pregnancy. Next month Kristin's baby girl will be 2 and
that doesn't seem possible either. My friends keep having
these dramatic birthdays, as do my husband and step
children.  When my youngest step child turned completely
grey I was shocked, but didn't present him with a bottle of
Clairol®, which was thoughtful of me.

OK, I feel better here in paradise. Writing always helps.
Today I will act as if I slept last night and when I come home
there will be two exciting baseball games. Everything is
as it should be ~ I think.

Friday, October 14, 2005

as predicted...

Remember when I posted the photo of those long stemmed, bright
pink flowers called Naked Ladies? Back in August, I think. Yes, August
24th. (One of the things I love about this blog business is how fast
and easy it is to look things up here!). Anyway, at the time I mentioned
that a lot of folks will be disappointed when they do a search on
Flickr®, the fabulous multipurpose free photo site when they want
to see some naked ladies.

So last week I checked my "photo stream" and it is pretty funny.
Most of my photos (San Francisco sunrise, Kansas cowboy, the new
museum, etc.) have 4 to 6 hits. But these female flowers have more
than 220. It's nice that there are so many nature lovers out there.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

688 San Jose

Originally uploaded by bkusler.
Hurry, the pumpkin ice cream is only available here at Mitchell's for a very short time, two months max, I think. Of course all their ice cream is so rich and creamy and indescribably delicious. We like to sit on the bench outside and eat our ice cream and watch all the people with huge smiles of anticipation as they enter this little old fashioned ice cream store in San Francisco.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

pho' is our friend

On my days off, when the sun is somewhere in Concord or
Walnut Creek, and the fog feels more like a mist or light
rain, we like to go out to Clement Street and have a big bowl
of noodle soup at the Tu' Do restaurant on the corner there
at 11th Avenue. What a bargain for $6.25! You add your own
fresh cilantro and bean sprouts, a squeeze of fresh lime and
slurp away until you're full. For the un-Pho'd few, this is a
Vietnamese soup, usually with slices of rare roast beef, but
of course other meat and sea food is also available. Somehow
they know how to cook the noodles'll see.

So this was our yesterday lunch, followed by a walk up and down
Clement Street with a stop at the chic Goodwill where I had an
open to buy of $6.00, but nothing caught my eye. On to the
Bargain Bank for Halloween candles (2 for $1), keep on truckin'
to comment on the number of new bargain stores out here,
including a restaurant supply store and 20 gazillion plastic items
on both sides of the street. Baskets, boxes, dishes - all priced
even lower than our city's overwhelming fog layer.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

aunt rebecca & the snow flower

I didn't post here yesterday and am feeling some of that
writer-type guilt, so I will cover two topics today and hope
I can relax on the rest of my precious day off.

Many years ago, my husband had a most wonderful and
inspirational Aunt Rebecca who was way into her 80's when I
first met her. Last week, when the water heater bid farewell
to this earth, I was forced to de-clutter my office because it
is oh-so conveniently located right next to my desk. Some
papers were water soaked, but the important personal stuff
is fine. Anyway, I came across this small note that I had
jotted down after a conversation with dear Aunt Rebecca.
How to survive a crisis:
1) Be still
2) Have confidence
3) Ask for courage

I am reading
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See.
I almost picked up the new Joan Didion book and/or Spalding
Gray's new memorial essays, but even though they are touted
as "life affirming", I just don't feel like doing suicide and double
deaths this week.

My choice was a good one. As is often the case, a customer
recommended this novel to me. In a small village in 19th century
China, women had their own secret language which they painted
on fans and embroidered on handkerchiefs. Female friendship,
history, love, tragedy and joy - I can hardly wait.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

which wolf will win?

Originally uploaded by HAL9000v2.
(Thanks to my friend Ginger in Kansas for sending me this post.)

An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life.

"A fight is going on inside me," he said to the boy. "It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves.

One is dreadful -- he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and selfishness."

He continued. "The other is good -- he is peace, joy, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, faith, compassion, and trust."

He paused for a moment. "The same fight is going on inside you, my grandson -- inside every other person, too."

The boy thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather. "Which wolf will win?"

The old Cherokee simply replied...

"The one you feed."

Saturday, October 08, 2005


We are going OUT to a birthday celebration at our friends'
homes (they live next door to each other) tonight. I am
too mature to worry about what I should wear, but what in
God's name shall I wear? I have nothing that even looks
remotely attractive, so I think I'll flop down on my bed and
cry like I did when I was a teenager. No, that's too much
work - maybe something will appear when I start searching
in the closet. Maybe I'll forget about these superficial things
and think about how much fun we'll have seeing everyone.

Friday, October 07, 2005

geena & kyle

I'm liking the new Commander In Chief program on
Tuesday nights with Geena Davis as the President and
Kyle Secor (our old friend from
Homicide) as her
husband. It reminds us of
West Wing when it was
new and exceptional for a non-HBO program. As
we all know, the best TV shows owe everything to
the writing, and I suppose good acting does help some.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

don't call them angels!

This is Fleet Week. I hate Fleet Week. Here is what
Lawrence Ferlinghetti has to say about this noisy
and difficult weekend:

And for another destroyer of  poetry and peace, how
about those killing machines, the Navy's Blue Angels, who
have just carried out their annual attack on the City? But
the poetic life requires Peace not War. The poetic life of
the City, our subjective life, the subjective life of the
individual is constantly under attack  by all the forces of
materialist civilization, by all the forces of our military-
industrial perplex, and we don't need these warplanes
designed to kill and ludicrously misnamed the Blue Angels.
They dive upon our city every year, in a frightening
militaristic and nationalist display of pure male testosterone.
I've seen old Vietnam ladies in Washington Square diving
under the benches! Do we really need to be reminded yearly
how our planes have bombed Third World countries back to
the Stone Age? In San Francisco, of all places, do we really
need "bombs bursting in air to prove our flag is still there"?
What would Saint Francis say?

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

a small poetic gift


A day so happy.
Fog lifted early, I worked in the garden,
Hummingbirds were stopping over honeysuckle flowers.
There was no thing on earth I wanted to possess.
I knew no one worth my envying him,
Whatever evil I had suffered, I forgot.
To think that once I was the same man did not embarrass me.
In my body I felt no pain,
When straightening up, I saw the blue sea and sails.

Czeslaw Milosz

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

who needs words?

san francisco sunrise
Originally uploaded by the omster.
Well, I do, it seems. We give up so much, those of us who live right in San Francisco. Our friends move to more livable places where they can buy a mansion on 6 acres of land for $500. It takes 1/2 hour to drive 1/2 mile here and then there is no parking. This past summer was one of the worst because the fog settled in about May 15th and didn't leave until the end of September. We tire of the weather experts calling it marine layer - we all know better. The Giants break our hearts year after year and those 49er fans live in the past.

But then, October. Reward time. This is the view from our tiny overpriced home in Bernal Heights this morning as the sun came up over Potrero Hill. I have a million photos like this and I'll take a million more. We have a big picture window in our little back room and we'll spend the day here feeling everso smug and pleased with ourselves while we admire this sparkling wonder of a city.

Monday, October 03, 2005

where's the fire?

Today San Francisco fire chief Joanne Hayes-White was in our store
to buy a book from our guest author, Dennis Smith, and she had
it autographed for Mayor Newsom. The book,
San Francisco is
Burning: The Untold Story of the 1906 Earthquake and Fires
selling well and Chief Hayes-White gave me a friendly wave -
maybe because my husband and I saw her at lunch a few months
ago. I have not mentioned in this blog how very proud I am to live
in a city with a woman fire chief AND our chief of police is Heather
Fong. I wonder if any other major city has two prominent women
in these powerful positions...

Sunday, October 02, 2005

writing and friendship

Funny, isn't it? I'm reading a series of questions that my friend
(and teacher) Jane has to ask her doctors about the recently
discovered breast cancer. Smooth and beautifully crafted. I'm
convinced that her writing is helping her through this terrible
time - to organize her thoughts and to keep all of us informed.
And of course her writing friends are right here for her, lined
up and begging to help in any way we can.

My 3 SoCal friends are writers too. Joan is the bird expert in
Santa Barbara and has just published a book. She loaned me the
New Yorker Jonathan Frazen article on bird watching and I read
it on the train home. Excellent, and he deserves the fan letter
she sent him and nice of him to write her back.

Michael is a gifted writer who should be writing to publish. He
is currently taking a typography class and creating an alphabet
using his camera. For instance, a droopy palm tree makes a
perfect "r" get the picture, right? I'm hoping he'll take
a writing course as well, to push him a little here.

Now Ginger is my Project. She has volumes of notes from a long
(21 day) Sierra hiking trip that she and her husband took back in
1991. Just the two of them and one donkey named Jennie. After
Ern died, Ginger put the journal, maps and photos away, but this
story needs to be told. Ern wanted her to write about their
arduous trip and she will. So she now has Jane's "just write for 10
minutes every day" rule and my relentless reminders and she
will get all of this on her computer and we'll take it from there.

Four more word birds who have enriched my lucky life.

Saturday, October 01, 2005


My beautiful city, nice to be home even though I had to work today.
Sleepy, small Santa Barbara has traffic jams and people don't seem
to walk there the way we do here. Here is what our own Poet Laureate
has to say about cars:

What destroys the poetry of a city?
Automobiles destroy it and they destroy more than the
poetry. All over America, all over Europe in fact, cities and
towns are under assault by the automobile, are being literally
destroyed by the car culture. But cities are gradually learning
that they don't have to let it happen to them. Witness
our beautiful new Embarcadero!

Lawrence Ferlinghetti