Wednesday, October 31, 2007

up, down, sideways, worse

OK, I've milked this pets-in-costumes enough for one season, haven't
I? But these are ghoulish days in our city, peculiar happenings.

It is not earthquake weather by any means, and yet there was that 5.6
rocker from Alum Rock. I noted to the Blogmaid this morning that such
an ugly named burb deserves an earthquake. We had just settled in last
night to have a late dinner and watch the news from the previous night's
Jon Stewart show and then the shake started ~ seemed like a very long
one, but not a big jolt like some. One does get used to earthquakes
here and we casually judge each one and then move on to the next crazy
what-the? occurrence.

For instance, the elevator in the big box broke 3 times yesterday.
As soon as I taped the "so sorry" signs on all 5 doors, the fix-it
guy would come, remove the signs and leave. Grrrrrrrrr. I called
again before I left and they said, "do you authorize overtime?"
"For your faulty work earlier?", I snarled. I don't think I mentioned
that I handle Operations (broken toilets, escalators, lights, etc.)
as well as PEOPLE in my job. Not fun. Time for two days off...

Husbando called to tell me that the BART station at Powell Street
was closed, so I sashayed down to Montgomery, squished myself on the
train and when we went through the Powell station I could see the
yellow tape and the body bag. Suicide. Poor soul. What a day. I need
my yoga class this morning.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

today's round robin write

THAT SOUND (the prompt)

San Francisco is one noisy city and getting more so. I don't know how
everyone is able to use their cell phones, but they do. I have started
using mine in a fake way, just to keep the homeless from spare changing
me to death. Since so many people talk to themselves in The City That
Knows How, I am right in step here.

The only loud sound I never get tired of is the clang/clang of the cable
cars going up and down Powell Street. Everyone seems happy on
our cable cars, despite the outrageous $5 charge. I keep trying to
remember to ride on them during our next Spare the Air day.

How many photos are taken of the cable cars every day? Thousands,
I would guess. The guys who drive the cable cars seem to love their
jobs and the tourists are in 7th heaven. I talk to them everyday at
work and believe me, the magic is still here. The cable cars and
hills are a big part of the draw, along with the spectacular views and
friendly natives.

Yesterday I chatted with some guys from Ireland. It was a grey and
misty day, but they said that they were used to this kind of weather and
they were having such a terrific time that it didn't matter one bit. This
October has been more touristy than in the past, I think, all building
up to the insane holiday season when the cable cars will be decorated
with red and green lights and wreaths. Powell Street will be so packed
with people and shopping bags that I'll have to dash out on the street
in order to get back to my soothingly quiet casa pequeña.

Monday, October 29, 2007

a simple story of faith, hope & reality

I got into my "I'm too sophisticated for this midwestern stuff"
kind of mood before the play last night, and I was wrong again. We
both really enjoyed The Rainmaker at ACT, even though there were
two intermissions (I hate that) and it was a little old fashioned
in some respects because it was introduced on Broadway back in 1954.
Remember the great fear of a woman becoming "an old maid" that was
so prevalent back then? Pul-eeeeeeeze.

Two especially fine actors: Jack Willis and René Augesen and a
delightfully authentic ranch house kitchen/living room set. Now
you have my "yes", so go already. ACT San Francisco.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

i'm driving, welcome aboard!

The bossman is on vacation for two weeks and I will be in charge
of the big box ~ a cumbersome bus if there ever was one. People
do have their nerve. Yesterday a customer had $40 worth of credit
that clearly stated it had expired in 1998. He bought $54 worth of
books. Did I let him use the coupons? Your guess...

My friend Dr. J will be going to Paris next week. Today I will
treat him to lunch at Tad's and we will negotiate how much of HIS
job I'll be doing while he is strolling on the Champs d' Elyse.
I just hope he finds an internet cafe quickly!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

a lifelong obsession

I can't really recommend the documentary Crazy Love, but I do like
seeing all the old scenes of NYC in the 50's and there is something
about peering into the intimate lives of others that appeals to me.
This is that wacko guy who blinded his girlfriend (lye throwing) when
she became engaged to someone else. The fact that he was married and
wouldn't get a divorce didn't seem to bother him, of course. He
went to prison for something like 14 years and when he got out they
got married! Yikes. It doesn't sound like True Love the way they
bicker and neither of them have much to offer society, in my opinion.

Friday, October 26, 2007

the KQED connection

I had trouble doing the link thing yesterday and a reader asked
me privately where she would find Mrs. Pritchard. That was some
faulty reporting on my part...she is on PBS, Masterpiece Theatre.
There were no breaks during the first episode and not one pledge
drive, amazing. Go get lost in England!

Here is a photo of a favorite lunch restaurant of ours. We went
here yesterday for the Great Plotnik's celebration. I know
it looks grey and dismal, but the food is terrific and the joint
is always jumping. Actually it's very near KQED, on Mariposa.
No reservations at The Slow Club.

I have a short work day today because I went in on Wednesday for
a VISIT. The problem is, I'll get started reading those emails and
playing catch-up and the time will fly by.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

british television ~ lovely & brilliant

Back in 2002 we rented a flat in London for two weeks. About the only
disappointing thing about the whole trip was the fact that Friends
was on the telly there. EVERYONE knows that the best TV is from BBC,
so why would this very average American program be on every night?

My point today is that we are engrossed in two terrific programs
currently. Five Days and The Amazing Mrs. Pritchard. Both feature
Janet McTeer, that tall blond from Tumbleweed. She's in the lower
picture here and she's not beautiful in the Hollywood way, but she
is fascinating to watch.

Jane Horrocks is Mrs. Pritchard who runs for Parliament and wins. At
one point she asks, "why can't men admit when they're wrong?" She
surrounds herself with talented women from both parties and you
can't help but love her.

Only one more episode of Five Days, about the wife and mother of 3
who goes missing. Not too late to catch up with either, however.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

daughter from alcatraz

Nancy wore a black and white striped turtleneck to the Costco
Party and since she had been sightseeing all day, it reminded
her of all the Fish Wharf merchandise, if I may use that term.
Schlock is a little too harsh, isn't it?

She emailed me this morning that they are safely back in Illinois
and it seems a little lonely and incomplete without her right
about now. You all know that feeling. The four of us had dinner
Monday night at Out the Door (previously reviewed in commano)
down in the basement of the now one year old Westfield Center.
I only had a quick hour, but it was a perfect choice and the
food/service/ambiance were outstanding.

I'm interviewing like a mad woman at work. We are hiring a huge
bunch of temps and I spend most of the interview telling the
prospect how very, very difficult it can be during the happy
holiday season in retail. I don't like surprises or breakdowns
when we should all be humming "Joy to the World" and explaining
to the customer why we don't carry every single book ever
published. Oh, and the phones. "Don't put me on hold!" is my
favorite greeting ~ what ever happened to "Hello"?

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

the enemy within

Our headquarters is in Michigan and often they think of California
as one happy little gathering spot of blonds and surfers. So we
are having this hard-to-swallow event in November:

I Live for This! Baseball's Last True Believer

Tommy Lasorda
Wednesday, Nov. 28
Borders Union Square
San Francisco!

Boo. Hiss.

Monday, October 22, 2007

quick, a shot of pumpkin!

It's been seven years since I managed the Spirit Halloween Superstore
down on 3rd Street. Today it's an Office Depot (or a Max?), but I always
think of my experience there (it was only a 3 month job) when I walk
past on my way to the museum. For some reason, the entire Asian
community waits for the bus right there and every five minutes fire
trucks and ambulances go roaring by with sirens screaming. Ouch.

I have had many jobs (few careers) in my life, but this was one of the
most intense and difficult things I have ever done. The fact that I
showed up every day and saw it through until the end makes me so proud
of myself. The store (MY store) was very successful and I did receive
a generous bonus, but, yikes the work and the mess. It might surprise
you to learn that people to not refold costumes after they try them
on, nor do sales clerks always show up for work when the going gets tough.

This is really the first year that I can enjoy Halloween again! I
am loving the pumpkins and when the Blogmaid brought her decor from
MY Spirit store to the party Saturday night, I actually appreciated
the monster ("Who can it be now?"), the rat, cat and RIP gravestone.
I guess this proves once again that Time is usually the best cure-all.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

le soufflé en pate de veau chasseur

Very fancy party cuisine. All the food came from Costco, I've come
a long way here, that's for sure. We just plunked down the big plastic
trays filled with shrimp, chicken, roll-up and croissant sandwiches,
fruit, fresh veggies and then had Mitchell's pumpkin ice cream for
dessert, along with the famous Plotnik passover macaroons. Lots of
wine and beer for and from the guests and the happy time sped by and
before we knew it, I turned into the pumpkin and the guests flew off.
We liked showing off husbando's children and I'm sure our friends all
enjoyed each other. How could they not? Thanks to everyone, it was a
v. special party!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

day of the party

I am in my Mrs. Dalloway mood, fussing and fixing and looking forward
to our little party tonight. We used to do this all the time, but
I'm out of practice lately, and I'm glad to have Nancy and Scott in
town as an excuse to gather our closest friends and family. I know
it will be a wonderful evening and this is the perfect time to have
a party because I can fill the house with pumpkins and orange candles
and have the Boston Red Sox on in the back room. "I love Manny Ramirez",
is a great conversational opening line. (And I do, by the way.)

Alas I have to work today, but that's just how it is...

Friday, October 19, 2007

mind your cholesterol

We had a delightful dinner with Nancy and her husband, Scott.
Husbando's dish was perfect for the hungry travelers.


Can be made ahead of time.

.1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
.1/4 cup fresh oregano leaves
.1 lb. Italian fennel sausage
.1 cup fresh ricotta
.1 large white onion
.1 cup fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano
.1 garlic clove, finely chopped
.1/3 cup chopped Italian parsley
.Kosher salt and fresh pepper
.1 lb. ziti or penne
.1/3 cup dry red wine
.1/2 lb. mozzarella - preferably fresh, small pieces
.1 (35 oz.) can organic tomatoes
chopped with their juices

Preheat over to 425º. Bring large pot of salted water to a boil. Grease
a large 12x15” baking dish with about 1 tablespoon of the olive oil.

Remove sausage from casing and crumble. Set aside.

Heat the remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until it becomes translucent. Add
the sausage and saute for about 6 minutes, or until it begins to brown.
Add the garlic and cook for a few more minutes. Season with salt and
pepper. Pour off and discard most of the fat in the pan. Add the wine and
let it reduce for about 6 minutes, or until it is almost gone.

Add the tomatoes and their juices and cook over medium heat for about
10 minutes. When the sauce begins to thicken, add the oregano and stir
well. Season to taste again.

Combine the ricotta, half of the Parmigiano-Reggiano and the parsley in a
large bowl; season with salt and pepper.

Cook the pasta until al dente. Drain well, reserving about 1/4 cup of the
cooking water. Toss the pasta with the ricotta mixture and coat well.
Toss again with the tomato and sausage mixture. If the mixture appears
dry, add a splash of the reserved cooking water.

Pour it all into the prepared baking dish, sprinkle with the remaining
Parmigiano-Reggiano on top and dot with the mozzarella.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the top is nicely browned.

Serves 4 to 6.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

a pie shop in the mish?

"The best scones in the City", a friend at work told me.
Everyday walking home from BART I pass the Mission Pie Shop
and I like what I see. Unpretentious, cozy and usually busy.
Yesterday we stopped in, finally, and bought two apricot
scones for our breakfast today ~ yummy. Just as good as my
favorite scone place (name forgotten) in Ashland, Oregon ~
the one where you sit out on the front porch and watch the
natives going about their peaceful (we hope) lives.

So head for 25th and Mission and buy a pie, read the history.
It's a success, I'm thinking, because they're expanding to
that big corner space in front of them. Sometimes growth can
hurt a new business, but I have a feeling that this won't.
Next we'll try a pie, now that the scones have passed the test.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

walking and remembering

It rained heavily this morning while I was in yoga ~ the new teacher
and I are getting used to each other. He's one of those pretzel guys,
but I'm determined to stick with this Wednesday morning ritual because
it refreshes my body and calms my nerves. I sure miss my old teacher,
but change happens.

Speaking of which, I took a long walk in The Mish this afternoon, in
the sun. Beautiful. The Blogmaid, who has not a drop of Mexican blood
in her system, has influenced me to appreciate the Day of the Dead, so
I browsed in a craft store and bought a few items for our Saturday night
gathering. During the walk I thought about all the people I know who
have died ~ not in a sad way, just thinking about them. Only last week
I could count them on my left hand, but now if I were to list all the
friends and family who are no longer in my life it would take a whole
new blog. But I'm not depressed, really, it's all part of life.

I think I would (for the first time) like to join the Day of the Dead
walk on Friday night, November 2nd. I could take one of the glass "saint's
candles" that I bought today and a photo or two for the altar.

On a much brighter note, my very alive step dot Nancy arrives tomorrow
and this will be a glorious weekend indeed. Husbando is cooking zito
(just like Carm Soprano makes) for our dinner tomorrow night.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

an amazing true big city story

Tuck this little story into your memory file for those times when
you lose faith in the goodness of people ~ or when someone says that
big cities are cold and heartless.

A woman called for the MOD (Manager on Duty) yesterday afternoon.
She said that she had lost a good deal of cash in our big box,
down by the cash registers. I took all the information: transaction
number, cashier number, time of transaction, name and phone number,
etc. and I was prepared to have Loss Prevention do a search using our
video camera system. I thought we would see another customer casually
pick-up this woman's money.

Well, thanks to some honest customer, our wonderful cashiers and one
of our supervisors who was service manager at the time, the money was
locked away in our safe. I called the customer and asked her to tell
me what the note said on the money and she said, "Emergency Cash".

The young mother came in about 1/2 hour later in disbelief, and I
handed her the $500. Smiles all around.

Monday, October 15, 2007

the dozen faceless deities

I've had this picture of 580 California Street up here in the upper
left hand corner of my desktop since May. Muriel Castanis created
these eerie corporate goddesses and you'll see them on the 23rd
floor of this Phillip Johnson-designed high rise in our financial
district, right across from the BofA. (I took this photo from the
event we worked at the bank.) These ghostly figures have been here
for 25 years and I had never known about them. There is a lot of urban
lore and people who have to work and look at these 12 foot high hollow
figures find them incredibly disturbing. There are 3 on each side of
the building.

The faceless twelve are back lit at night. I'd like to see that. The
article I read (in the L.A. Times, of all places) said that each
figure was dropped in place by helicopter. That had to be quite a
scene. Ms. Castanis is dead now, taking her creative secrets with her,
but I like to think that these women are warning us about corporate
greed and how easy it is to lose our souls when chasing big bucks.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

it took courage

We finally watched Away from Her tonight. Not an easy film, but
certainly worth seeing. Alzheimer's at its worst, from both
sides of the situation. Julie Christie's character has it, her
husband of 44 years does his best to help her. Scary stuff, and
yet it is an excellent film with some unexpected twists and turns.
I didn't realize that it was from an Alice Munro short story.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

remember the movie?

It was back in '93 with Stockard Channing, Will Smith, Donald
Sutherland and I loved it then, but always suspected it would
be even better in the theatre, since this is how Six Degrees of
first came into being.

Right again. This is a stunning play ~ taut and profound. The
acting is powerful too, and we were both moved by these
wealthy Upper East Side New Yorkers and the young black man
who visits them and changes their lives so dramatically.
Congrats once again to the tiny SF Playhouse up on Sutter!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

call me a foodie, go ahead...

More beautiful fall weather here in Frisco. Last night
Husbando said, "we need to remember how lucky we are to
live here", and I had almost been thinking the same thing.
We were walking down Pacific Ave. after dinner with a good
friend at Ristorante Milano, a small neighborhood place
with (I swear) better food than most places in Italy.
We had never heard of it, and yet this restaurant has
existed for maybe 15 years. Crowded, not noisy and so
warm and inviting. And yes, I found a good/free parking
place a few blocks away, so there.

Our Italian dinner followed a tasty Thai lunch in our very
own nabe, Manivanh, up on 24th Street in the Mish. Another
busy spot filled mostly with workers wearing lanyards from
General Hospital.

And today? Costco! What more could a woman ask for?

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

marbles, postcards and shadow boxes

Hop on the bus, Gus, and visit the SFMOMA for Joseph Cornell's quirky
collection of delicate yet bizarre boxes and collages. A fascinating
look into this New York artist's time (he died in 1972 at the age of 69)
and life. He was a recluse, yet did achieve success and recognition
with his strange surrealistic work. I didn't spend nearly enough time
there yesterday on my lunch hour, so I'll be back again and again. The
exhibit lasts through Jan. 6.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

pumpkin pride & prejudice

Right now, right this morning, you can add People Who Grow Giant
Pumpkins to my long list of folks whom I never want to talk to, even
for a few minutes. ("whom" is used correctly?) The stupid monster
(pumpkin, not man, maybe) yesterday weighed 1500 lbs.

The big box was a mess last night. There was a customer wandering
around the store for an hour before we closed. I made MANY closing
announcements, and at 11pm he decides to inquire about his two
special orders, which of course were hidden in some remote place and
I will admit to getting just a little snippy. I had a GREAT closing
crew, so they found his books, cleaned the store and we were all
home before midnight. But truly, women do get weary.

Today I'm 10 to 7 and I think I need a trip to the museum to restore
my soul. No pumpkin exhibits at SFMOMA, to my knowledge.

Monday, October 08, 2007

who needs fiction?

We watched 51 Birch Street last night after the Yankees win.
The filmmaker wanted to record his parents for posterity and
during this his mother dies. Difficult and shocking. But then,
3 months later, his father happily marries his secretary. You can
see where this is going. Things are never quite what they seem,
are they? Take a look, you'll be hooked.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

the event in photos

There were a TON of people, dogs, cats, birds (in cages) and one
lovely snake. But the highlight was, of course, Jane Goodall ~ she
is too beautiful to describe. I didn't get to hear her speak, but I
was told that it was mostly Q&A and of course, in this city, some of
those Qs were "odd". It was a glorious Fall day and we were outside,
so it was a treat. I didn't work v. hard, if truth be known.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

just be yourself, Livan

I'm home in time to watch the Cubs and Snakes. I always root for
Chicago unless the Giants are practicing their own brand of bad
luck. Perhaps this photo will help, but at the moment Arizona
is leading two-zip. Not good., except that Livan Hernandez is pitching
and we remember him all too well.

Jane will be blessing animals tomorrow at Grace Cathedral. I'd
better warm all the batteries now for my camera.

Friday, October 05, 2007

i'm part of the chimp team!

Yes, not only do I get to work this event, but my
dear friend Dancing Jen (ex-big box manager) will
be helping us! Shall I wear a lemur in my hair?
John Cleese would approve.

sunday with jane?

Today I find out if I get to work the Sunday off-site at Grace
Cathedral. We will be selling books for Jane Goodall, who will be
speaking to a crowd of 500 or so fans. It will be an honor for us.
We are notoriously short staffed on Sundays, so I won't know for
sure until I check the schedule at approximately 6:05am.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

analyzing blogs & bloggers

I knew yesterday's post would elicit lots of great comments.
And thanks for that. When I took my first writing class back
in 2001, the Salon Mistress spent a good deal of time pushing
me to write about my deepest feelings and to let the readers
really know what's going on. I used to whimper as I read stuff
aloud, but I knew she was right and my best writing is always
very personal, and really pretty basically human. Never truly
shocking or exciting (drat), just heartfelt.

In commano I play it safe. Mostly because I'm a rather private
person, but also because god knows who is reading this. Just the
facts, Ma'm. On the other hand, my favorite blog reading IS the
pesonal: Ms. K grieving for Tom, Jane crying with her LivvyBDog,
Mr. Black going to hospital with the fake heart attack, TGP missing
his children, notthat's marital discussions with Mrs. notthat,
Loren (Lenore's Diary) missing her brother who died way too young,
Susan watching her husband vacuum before every trip and Mr. Z's
wonderful piece wherein he recommends "music to die by" for a
customer whose father is not long for this world. Oh, let's not
forget Linda, who used to HATE her home by Ocean Beach and now
loves it. Powerful stuff, as transformation often is.

So now people know I have actual insecurities, how bad is that?

The dinner party was a success, 577 candles will do that.

Photo courtesy of Brian who loves our SF sidewalk slogans...

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

don't call it yugoslavia

We are having a casual (key word) dinner party for Frank and Neti
and her cousins from Croatia. I know you missed the table, didn't
you? Note no place fuss.

"We need to talk." Strikes fear in the heart of anyone in a relation-
ship, doesn't it? Well, last week Husbando and I had a heart-to-heart
(instigated by the male!) about my tendency to go bonkers when we
entertain. "People like us for who we are", he maintained, "not whether
the old red plaid baseball blanket is still on a chair (and visible,
horrors!) or some dust still sits on the coffee table". Hmmmmm.

October is a busy one and I am already work-stressed, so I needed to
hear this from the man who inevitably will be reading the newspaper
two minutes before the guests arrive. This used to drive me up the
wall, but several decades later I realize that he enjoys the guests
more than I do, and I have vowed to not be such a perfectionist and
tonight is the first attempt.

Simple salad, pasta and Mitchell's pumpkin ice cream will be served.
That blanket, is, however, already in the garage.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

from tadich's to tad's

I had dinner here last night. Me and my New Yorker. Tad's has
been closed for about 8 months and of course I thought they
were o.o. biz, but no, they really were doing a remo. It does
look better and it was packed! Tad's has been here in downtown
SF forever and I've only eaten there maybe twice before, but as
soon as they closed their doors I missed them and so when I
walked by during my dinner hour I popped in and had a salad and
a baked potato. Next time I'll try the steak ($13.49), when I
feel flush. It sort of looks like horrid Las Vegas in this photo,
doesn't it?

The big box almost closed itself last night. Not one visible scam
artist, no lunatics screaming at other customers or the staff, and
not one employee walked off the job. A bookseller did tell me that
there were more than 5,000 books in our database with the word
"stress" in the tile. "That's America for you", I said wisely.

What I'd really like to do is watch baseball games from now until
the end of October. I don't care who is playing, winning or losing,
I just love the excitement of post season baseball ~ those silly
fans take it way too seriously, don't they?

Monday, October 01, 2007

appreciating richard russo

Not everyone is a Richard Russo fan, but if you liked Empire
, you will certainly enjoy the smooth writing and gentle
tension-building plots and sub-plots of Bridge of Sighs.

One of the main characters lives in Venice, hence the title. Our hero
lives in fictional Thomaston which I picture as being like Ithaca or
Utica, I can't tell those two towns apart, nor do I care particularly,
even though a grand dot lives in one of them. Anyway, Louis hates to
travel, yet he and his wife are going to Rome, Florence and Venice ~
sound familiar? And so he writes...
I have but one month to prepare for this momentous change and mentally
adjust to the loss of my precious routines ~ my rounds, I call them ~
that take me to every part of town on an almost daily basis.

I'm excited to travel with Louis and Sarah to Italy, but I'm enjoying
so many of the secrets of the citizens of Thomaston right now.

Tonight I close the big box, back to that silliness. But in the mean-
time, I have this morning and I already enjoyed my brisk walk in the
very light rain (heavy mist?) down and around Precita Park.