Wednesday, November 30, 2005

you come first

I didn't post anything yesterday, so I will write to
commano first, with my coffee. I usually don't have
a fire on Wednesday, but it's so cold this morning
that I am splurging. Also, it's conducive to reflection,
don't you find?

Mostly I read emails,
The Lighthouse and the Chron.
yesterday. I burned some CDs, so that used up most
of my technical knowledge and produced just enough
frustration to remind me that the computer always
wins. I tried to take a short cut and that never works.

The highlight of the day was coffee with the Great
Plotnik and Mistress Jane at XO. We discussed many
things, but one in particular left me stewing on my
walk back home. Stewing in a good way.

To me, a book isn't really a book until it's between
two covers. Online is admirable, but it's just a step to
becoming an authentic book. One you can hold and
loan to friends, pick up and quote from, use as a
coffee coaster and eventually give to Goodwill for
others to enjoy. Savor, that's the word. We can't
do that with online books.

Today to yoga, lunch with my friend Evie and then
prepare for five more days in our retail wonderland.

Monday, November 28, 2005

can you hear the registers ringing?

union square sf
Originally uploaded by the omster.
Yes, this looks much like last year's disaster of a xmas card, but this photo was shot this morning a little before 6:00 and the tree and all the lights are truly something to behold.

"A perpetual holiday is a good working
definition of hell", according to George
Bernard Shaw. One of my co-workers said he started to get excited about the holidays what with the lights and the Christmas music and all. "I've been duped again", he snorted with disgust.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

did you say 85?

I've loved mystery stories since reading Nancy Drew
as a child. In my own personal and totally unbiased
opinion, I believe that women write the best mysteries,
maybe because we like to solve problems, or maybe
because we are just so damn smart.

My favorite mystery writer is Elizabeth George, but I also
love Amanda Cross and P.D. James. I just started
that arrived in store last Tuesday and is
written by Ms. James. I am amazed to learn that she
is 85 years old. Here ~ from the very first page:

He liked Conistone, who was one of the few eccentrics
remaining in an increasingly conformist and politicized
service. Conistone had acquired a reputation for crisis
management. This was partly founded on his belief that
there was no emergency that was not amenable to
precedent or departmental regulations but, when these
orthodoxies failed, he could reveal a dangerous capacity
for imaginative initiatives which, by any bureaucratic
logic, deserved to end in disaster but never did.

You can see that P.D. James is no lightweight here in
The Lighthouse. I'm in for a treat in front of the fireplace.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

just say no to cards & cats

My dear friend Kristin persuaded me not to send
Christmas cards this year because it stresses me out
too much and last year was the worst. If you were
lucky enough to get one from us, it featured a photo
of the tree in Union Square. Then most likely there
was a blob of glue somewhere on the red paper.
It was an awful experience and I agree that I need
a break from this tradition.

Of course I will feel some guilt when we receive xmas
cards, but I'm planning on writing individual notes to
everyone in January, when life is easier. Right.

My boss said that the SPCA has filled some windows
at Macy's with kittens who could be adopted. I will
avoid that side of the street this year because I
fall in love too easily.

Friday, November 25, 2005

black friday

after 11.24.05
Originally uploaded by the omster.
This is the first of many difficult days until Dec. 25th ~ be nice to all retail clerks everywhere, even the ones you want to hit. So far no major "issues" for me, but that won't last forever.

Here is the table after the v. successful turkey dinner. We did get the dishes done, but now I need to put things away and shrink the dining room table down to its normal size. We ran out of stuffing and the pie crusts were less than perfect, but the guests were delightful and witty and wise. Every year the turkey seems to taste better and do try Trader Joe's cranberry sauce.
I also recommend flowers from the Flower Mart on Brannan and candles from Big Lot's (tres chic) on Mission Street.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

setting the stage

Originally uploaded by the omster.
One of the things I learned long ago is that if the table is beautiful and the house smells good, one can make a few small mistakes when entertaining,and no one will remember. I am looking forward to this afternoon and know that everyone will have an excellent time. Memories of past Thanksgivings blend with today and I'm feeling nostalgic and (oh, okay) thankful.

I was out walking at 8am and it was so still and peaceful. Only a few people out with their dogs and then, BANG (!) a gun shot less than a block away. And outside, so I dashed home to safety and will probably try to walk after lunch.
There is some sort of lesson here, but I don't want to think about it right now.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

the grateful heart

general heart
Originally uploaded by the omster.
I try to walk every day and it's easier if I have a destination. Once a month I gather all our magazines (we get a lot of freebies here...long story, boring story) and drag them to the Rehabilitation Office of the Psych. Ward on the 7th Floor of SF General. You can see this heart out in front. This, by the way, is where my friend Mary works and sometimes we'll have
coffee at the St. Francis Ice Cream Shoppe on 24th Street.

It breaks my heart to see the people in wheel chairs in their hospital gowns with tubes coming out of their arms. Usually they are smoking outside the main entrance, but today they were basking in the sun.(Bruce Almighty is one of the few people who knows the word Tropism, by the way. You might want to look it up.) How awful to be at SF General on Thanksgiving.

This morning I listened to poetry and baked a pumpkin pie. NOT a good idea as I kept turning off the mixer so I could hear the words. Words come first, everyone knows that.

One day I will write about Potrero Hill, but I need to think about it. We have a history. But, for NYC Karen, we always have a cesar salad and pasta at Aperto at "our" table in the back left hand corner. If it is occupied, we go elsewhere. Privacy comes first, everyone knows that.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

steinbeck's advice

I'm starting to believe that all writers love giving advice
on how to write because it's so much easier than actually
sitting down and writing. Here is what John Steinbeck
told Fred Allen when the latter was stuck trying to write
his autobiography:

Don't start by trying to make the book chronological.
Just take a period. Then try to remember it so clearly
that you can see things: what colors and how warm or
cold and how you got there. Then try to remember
people. And then just tell what happened. It is important
to tell what people looked like, how they walked, what
they wore, what they ate. Put it all in. Don't try to
organize it. And put in all the details you can remember.
You will find that in a very short time things will begin
coming back to you, things you thought you had forgotten.
Do it for very short periods at first, but kind of think of it
when you aren't doing it. Don't think back over what you
have done. Don't think of literary form. Let it get out as
it wants to. Over tell it in the matter of detail - cutting
comes later. The form will develop in the telling.

That's my post for today ~ ever so much easier than
writing about my 8am walk at Ocean Beach in this
glorious sunny summer weather. Or lunch at Aperto
on Potrero Hill and walking to Farley's, which happens
to be Karen NYC's favorite coffee shop and hangout.

Monday, November 21, 2005

thankful indeed

Monday of Thanksgiving Week and I will have 3 days off
in a row.  I really love this holiday because we have a
few friends (and friendly family members) over for a
luscious dinner at 4pm on Thursday. There will be 7 or
8 of us and by now we have the preparation work down
to an almost-exact science.  Rita will bring her cauliflower
and rice dish, Neti "something green" and John and
Kathy the red wine. We soak the Willie Bird in brine
a day before we stuff, serve and photograph him. I
will bake a couple of pies and splurge on flowers for the
occasion. I'll be relaxed and ready to face the rough
5 retail weeks before Dec. 25th. (Of course, I'll be
tense as a tick by 9am on Black Friday, but so it goes.)

Sunday, November 20, 2005

writers and substance-abusers

This is a daily write of mine from April of 2003.


I recommend Stephen King’s book entitled On Writing. It is really a memoir, and he is very honest in this book. I don’t like all of his writing, but once in a while a gem will appear - a short story in the New Yorker, the Shawshank Redemption or the Green Mile series, come to mind. Some of King’s horror stories are too far out for me. However he does say that the character Annie, who holds him captive in Misery, is really alcohol, and he really was in misery.


Stephen King’s wife had to arrange an intervention to get him to stop drinking. She cleaned out his office that was filled with bottles. cans and cocaine paraphernalia. He drank Scope mouthwash after consuming a case of 16 oz. tallboys every night. She told him that if he didn’t go into rehab, he would have to leave the house. That she and the children did not want to watch while he committed suicide.

He has not had a drink or any drugs for more than twelve years. It was hard for him to learn to write sober, but he kept working on his craft and after a while the joy of writing took over. His natural talent returned, but he was prepared to stop writing entirely if he couldn’t write without his mind-altering substances. Stephen King does not mince any words when writing about his problems with alcohol and drugs.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

direct from cooperstown

baseball as america
Originally uploaded by the omster.
Yesterday we took BART to the Oakland Museum to see the Baseball as America exhibit. We stood in a short line for tickets and the people in front of us gave us some guest passes, so that was a fine start! The exhibition is quite professional and easier to view and enjoy than Cooperstown (in my opinion). My favorite part was seeing Jackie Robinson's #42 uniform along side a letter from then Senator John F. Kennedy wishing him the best. There was also a small poorly written hate letter and we know Jackie received many of those.

Then we walked a few short blocks to the bustling Chinatown that has grown tremendously since we were last there 5 or 6 years ago. We had lunch some place where we were the only non-Asians and as result had something different than we thought we ordered. But that's OK, it's all good.

It's in Oakland through Jan. 22nd - then on to nine more cities on this four year tour.

Friday, November 18, 2005

cutting, pasting = amazing

I spent my productive morning hours yesterday going
through all my daily writes from the end of 2002 to
currently. I keep them in three 3-ring notebooks and
also (of course) on my computer. I'm still someone
who likes to read words on paper, despite my blog
addiction. One of the main themes in my writing is
the whole work situation and for some reason, people
love the inside scoop of the retail world.

Imagine my surprise to discover that I have more than
70 pieces! I decided to divide them up by years, so
last night I took 27 pages to Tiapos ~ mostly from
2003, with a couple from 2002.  I asked the generous
writers to read and help me and gave them each a
fat stack of this hodge podge of scribbling. I do not
want them to feel pressured or obligated, however.

I already see some topics emerging for the end product:
   1) the customer
   2) the staff
   3) the joys and sorrows of managing people and
        change in the workplace

My dear Dancing Jen also offered to help me with this
big mess of a clump of writing.

One of the benefits of daily writing is being able to go
back to an incident after a few years and remember
exactly how I felt at the time. For instance, I forgot
about Dr. J and the football pool ~ that was fun.
Some staff members have moved on and I was able
to recall a few of their (ahem) qualities.

For your information, 27 pages equals 11,000 plus words.

Thanks to Jane and her Writing Salon for making all
of this possible for me. 
Writing Salon Mistress Muses

Thursday, November 17, 2005

apples abound

apples at de young
Originally uploaded by the omster.
Isn't this a lovely group of apples in the
sculpture garden at the de Young?

elizabeth bishop

Karen in NYC One Foot Out the Door writes about this
fine poet and it is as good a time as any to blog
this poem of hers that I have saved forever. The
interesting thing is that every time I read this, it
means more to me. Perhaps because I keep losing
people and now I too have lost a city (New Orleans).


The art of losing isn't hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something everyday. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

Then practice losing farther; losing faster:
places and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother's watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster.

--Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan't have lied. It's evident
the art of losing's not too hard to master
though it may look like (
Write it!) like disaster.

Elizabeth Bishop (1911 - 1979)

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

our food centered life

In San Francisco, new restaurants and old favorites are
always on our minds. I sometimes wonder about people who
live in these desolate small towns with only one "good"
restaurant and a grimy little coffee shop to choose from.
When we travel, we remark on how unprofessional the
service is outside of big cities, not to mention the limited
food choices. We keep restaurant lists and clip out
reviews and talk/think food. Doesn't everyone?

Monday night the Plotniks treated us to the thinnest and
probably best pizza we've ever eaten. Yes, I did have
pizza as an appetizer and an entree. Yes, I'm glad I did
that. My husband did the same. A warm and friendly
little restaurant called
Pazzia over on 3rd Street. (We
parked right in front, free, by the way at 7pm) It was
a very SF kind of evening, even though it felt like the
heart of Italy inside. ***** (5 stars)

Last night was The Big Splurge down at the Cliff House.
We could see the bright orange sunset as we drove
down Geary with our close friends from forever: Neti
and Frank. White tablecloth dining, but not stuffy or
pretentious. When Frank asked for a menu, the waiter
gave him mine, which amused us all. Truly superb
food which is often not the case (I'm preaching to the
choir here, I realize) in a restaurant with such an
amazing ocean view. Lovely evening and topped off
by about the best full moon ever in the almost-tropical
and unusually warm and clear SF night. ***** (5 again)

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

a poem to start the day

This is from my Tiapos writing friend:

            --for Andy Goldsworthy

To find hidden things you have to rap at the right doors,
get up at four and pace the frozen shore, stick
pieces of icicle to each other in a little meandering
xylophone of crystal that accidentally catches
the cold rays of the rising sun and turns them gold–

a miracle to share with your frozen breath, a few gulls,
intrepid mussels, and a gallery of imperturbable rocks
soon to be immersed in the winter tides.

Or walk the land for days listening to the trees, letting
your boot soles talk to the dirt, weighing the wisdom
of stones, then envision a wall to snake like a river
old as time through trees standing still as stone.

Let the wall eddy and pirouette up hill, then dive
into the pond by the road, let it emerge on the
other side like a new thought after a deep sleep.

Will Walker

Monday, November 14, 2005

bank deposits needed

My sleep bank is overdrawn and I'm taking two extra
days this week to make some zzzzzzzz deposits
before the happy holidays crush me. That means I
can stay up and play after Tiapos Thursday night
and I can see Kristin and her 2 year old RR, get my
flu shot, finally do the retail compilation piece (and
thank you dear Jen for reminding me about that)
and read all the daily writes that I said I was going
to keep up with from Jane's Round Robin class. I
didn't keep up ~ I'll pay the price.

But mostly I want to sleep in past 4am and get some
cat naps in the afternoons. On Thursday I do have to
go to a manager lunch at work and since I'm there I
myswell check my e-mails, but nothing too strenuous.
No customer contact.

Tonight is dinner with the Great Plotnik and his Lovely
Ducknik and I'll report on that tomorrow. But now,
a little pre-dinner snooze.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

no intermission

Tonight we saw The Hopper Collection at the Magic
Theatre out at Fort Mason. The curtain time was 7pm
(which I love) and we were on our way home shortly
after 8:30. But the play? Extremely interesting with
only 4 characters, some biting dialog and an unusual
plot. Yes, I recommend it ~ I'm a huge fan of small
theatre and complicated emotional relationships.
On the stage that is, not in my own life. Too exhausting.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

one fine graph

I like this paragraph from Veronica by Mary Gaitskill.
This takes place when the heroine (Alison) is a
teenager living in San Francisco back in the 70's. friend Lilet and I would meet in a coffee shop
to count our money and have pie or fries. Then
we'd take a late bus to Golden Gate Park and get
high. At night, the park was thick with the smell
of flowers and pot, wrapped in darkness and smells,
hidden, so you could find it only if you knew the
right way in. People sat in clumps or flitted in and
out of the trees with night joy in their faces,
sporting hot-colored hair dye and wearing zebra
prints and pointy-toed boots. Sometimes I'd meet
a boy and we'd  walk so far up in the hills, we could
see the ocean. We'd look up and see the fog race
in across in the sky, then look down and see the
trees, houses, knots of electric lights. I'd feel like
an animal on a pinnacle, ready to leap. We'd kiss
and put our hands down each other's pants.

Friday, November 11, 2005

veteran's day today

It was crowded downtown today ~ lots of people walking
with big stuffed bags and the traffic was horrible. I
took BART, of course, even though it was free parking
in SF. I like my 5:35am BART train with all the young
Hispanic guys in black and white chef pants and a few
workers in overalls carrying their canvas tool bags.
There aren't many executives on this train. I gave $1
to one of the homeless men who says "good morning"
every day and he was surprised and it is easy to feel
better in this city, just by making someone's day a
little easier. Maybe. I followed a young man up Powell
Street and he was smoking a joint, I inhaled deeply and
wondered if I couldn't get a little high...but I didn't.

The woman who wrote
Reading Lolita in Tehran was in
and we had a nice chat and liked each other immediately.
She signed 15 of her 500 books. Then ex-Mayor Willie
Brown bought a few books and when he left he waved
and loudly said, "good-bye everyone", almost like from
the back of a train.  He surely dresses beautifully, but
we already knew that. All in all, an OK Veteran's Day.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

22 a day

This week I am doing the Round Robin compilation
for Jane's class. That means every day I get 22
emails ~ all 10 minute daily writes and mostly
surprisingly good. Better than good, in most cases.
Some are worthy of publication just as they are.

Since I did this once before, I started out on the
right foot by setting up files and reading each piece
on the same day it comes in. Doing the cutting and
pasting on a daily basis, not at the end of the week
when the whole thing becomes tsunami-like.

There are quite a few gems. The best prompt was the
first one:
YOU ARE COMMITTED. Some funny guy
was talking to himself about being committed to the
whole writing process and admonishing himself for
procrastinating. He ended by saying something like,
"get to work, you malingering fuck".

Wednesday, November 09, 2005


...please make that bronze-colored COPPER in the
post below. We culture vultures get overwhelmed.

serenity at the de young

de young garden
Originally uploaded by the omster.
I should have cropped this photo, but if you click on it, you can check out the de Young as you first walk outside. That top thing is part of the bronze overhang from the building. There are a few really fine sculpture pieces out doors here, and I'm always surprised to see trees changing color here in SF. I did NOT hear the mechanical bird screeching used to scare away pigeons. Squab.

The new museum is misleading because it looks small and squat from the outside, but inside it is very open and spacious. Check out the Piazzoni Mural Room and the photography upstairs. There is an aerial photo dated May, 1906 ~ called the Ruination of San Francisco. And,as with our Modern, it has that "drop in and see a few things" feel that I love.

I have a co-worker who also works at the de Young and I discovered him having his coffee break in the beautiful garden. That was an add-on that I didn't expect.
Oh, it's not crowded anymore...go visit!

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

tuesdays with fireplace

Last winter I discovered a secret to sanity and happiness
for me. My days off on Tuesdays used to be spent doing all
those necessary errands and not getting enough "me time"
in ~ not sitting, not thinking nor reading, seldom writing.

Now it's almost 6am and the fire in our tiny fireplace is
semi-roaring and it smells delightful. It is cold, rainy and
grey outside and my husband is still sleeping. I have read
and answered 3 e-mails and have a few more to write.

Then I will read. I brought home
Veronica by Mary Gaitskill
and of course the
Chronicle is here. Also two New Yorkers
and the
Costco Connection. At some point I will bring in
my mostly-fruit breakfast to eat by the fire. I will stay in
my ugly sweats until my husband suggests we go out to
lunch and then my divine fireplace morning is over until
next week. I am such a lucky woman.

Monday, November 07, 2005

now here's a good idea...

Thanks to my friend Joan (aka Hoan) in Santa Barbara
for giving me the blog post this evening...

Best of the reported protest signs seen at the recent
anti- war demonstration in Washington, D.C.:


Sunday, November 06, 2005

walking, talking, helping

Today we started using walkie talkies at work for the first
time. I was afraid it would be difficult, since there was
some resistance and because I'm not so good with gadgets
that feature wires and knobs, but it worked out just fine.
In fact, I really like them. The biggest benefit is that we don't
page each other anymore, so the store seems quieter.
Also it helps when looking for something ~ just ask and some
kind person will probably say, "I have it here, over in the
corner of the 3rd floor, next to the elevator."

My friend Jane is learning to ask for help because this week she
heads into chemo land. I am sending my agnostic prayers
(thanks Kristin for that always-perfect phrase) her way.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

not TOO cute, thank goodness

I usually try to avoid movies with cute children in them,
but we just saw two in a row which I enthusiastically
Dear Frankie
2) Millions
Available now at Netflix®. Bring Kleenex®.

Friday, November 04, 2005

born to blog

(this is the little piece I took to my writing group last
writer friends suggested that I post it and that works for me as
I can not think of one interesting thing to talk about today.)

Such an ugly word for such a magnificent phenomenon. Blog, blogger,
blogged ~ no way to make that sound enticing. Maybe, like everything
else in the computer world, this process will transform and mutate and
we'll look back and say, "remember when we used to think it was
so cool to BLOG?" And we'll laugh, the way we do now when we
remember how fun and confusing those first emails were.

My blog is already 6 months old. I try to write everyday because I
learned in my writing classes that there is no choice.  A writer writes even
when her ass is falling off. What the blog does for me, is to keep me
always focused on writing. It might be a line or two, it might be
four really long poorly written paragraphs. Or maybe it's just a photo
and two sentences. But I  can say before I fall asleep, "well, I
blogged today". My working life is so hectic and intense that I am
now able to tune out the insanity and switch my mind over to my
interior life and consider what I might post next. Maybe I can even
nab a small thought or observation from my work day and use it
in the blog.

There is great fulfillment in seeing my words "in print". Of course I'm
never really thrilled with what I write, but I did it and it's out there and
people are reading it. "I love your blog", people say to me. Who knew
that those four words could keep me smiling for an entire day?

When I started blogging, I never considered the organizational, record-keeping
part of the whole thing. It's an online diary and I can easily search to find
which restaurant we liked so much back in July. And as our friend Karen
in NYC says, the blog is an online community of writers. We support
each other and make loving comments on each others' blogs.  Of course
I'm hooked on blog-reading too and there are about five that I must read every
day, without fail.

And did I mention that it's F-R-E-E ?

Thursday, November 03, 2005

we gather together

Tonight is Tiapos, our writing group. We are meeting
at Jane's and promptly at 7pm I will herd everyone
together and remind them for the 18 billionth time
that I have to get up at 4am for work. I think we will
be complete tonight, except for Karen, who has that
one foot out the door in NYC.

We know I love the writing group ~ I will never forget
when Jane asked me to join. I couldn't believe it.
Did I cry? Oh, yes, probably. Since then I have
laughed hysterically and cried uncontrollably ~ all
in the same 3 hour time period.

Tonight I'm taking coconut ice cream from Mitchell's.
We all need a treat, especially dear Jane who heads
into chemo a week from today.

I will be tired tomorrow, but it will be worth it.
Kristin calls it my Tiapos Hangover.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

the love affair continues

golden gate
Originally uploaded by the omster.
This photo was actually taken by my oldest stepson last February, so I need to give credit where it is due. The
first time I crossed this bridge I was a little girl and we were on a family trip. Did I fall in love then? I know I wrote about the bridge in that tortured 6 year old child printing.

The next time I visited I was in my last year of college and a friend had moved
to Berkeley. We had drinks at the Claremont Hotel one very clear night and I lost my heart forever. The lights. The hills of this beautiful city and the endless possibilites...I didn't know then that I could never and would never want to live anywhere else.

On Monday night, driving over Portola to Twin Peaks, the view was so spectacular that I felt like I was seeing my city for the first time ever. All those jewel cliches came to mind, but I'll spare you here. I've made a ton of mistakes in my life, but choosing this city was NOT one of them.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

highly technical tuesday

OK, this is especially for the Great Plotnik and NYC Karen
who has one foot out the door:


1) go to the Blogger dashboard and select your blog
2) click the settings tab
3) click email
4) add a secret code to your user name in order to
    create the special email address to which you will
    mail your blog entries
5) if you want entries to be published at once, click
    the publish box. If you want them saved, leave
    it blank.
6) click save settings to record your new mail-to-blog
7) when you send an email to the address you created
    the subject line becomes the title (no shit!)
8) the body of the email becomes the blog entry.
TRY IT, you can always delete it from the dashboard.
(I really should be working in Silicon Valley)