Wednesday, December 31, 2008

when the ball falls

Thanks to the time difference we'll be able to watch the celebration
in NYC tonight. We are preparing a special dinner of expensive
roast beef for just the two of us, and if you play your cards right
I'll have a photo to share with you when 2009 dawns tomorrow.

Happy New Year and always thanks for reading and commenting
on da blog.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

overdue book report

This was a great bus book, almost causing me to miss one of
my stops the first week at the museum. Songs Without Words
is basically a story of two women's friendship, with lots of juicy
subplots and a satisfying ending. I tried (and failed) to read
Ms. Packer's The Dive From Clausen's Pier, but maybe I'll
give it another go now. I do believe that men (straight or gay)
will not appreciate this book, not that I'm sexist. Not me.

Monday, December 29, 2008

one brave lunatic

We watched Man on Wire before bed and I had to use my mental whisk
broom to keep this image out of my pathetic head during the night.
Back in 1974, the Frenchman Phillipe Petit walked between the two
World Trade Center Towers. This documentary shows the planning
involved (all secret, of course) and then the triumphant and exceedingly
dangerous walk itself with some stomach-turning views of the crowds
that gathered WAY below. Lordy. Fine interviews with his friends who
helped him and how they feel now with the wisdom of their years.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

little girl with big leg!

It's been too long since you've seen RR, our 5 year old beauty in
Pumpkinville. Here she is enjoying their Christmas feast in her
beautiful fur-trimmed red dress.

Yesterday I spent the day in the YSL shop and it was busy, but
not crazy like some retail establishments. One thing is crystal
clear to me, and I mean crystal. At the big box our payroll hours
are so tight that when the sickies call in/out it is a mess and every
person in the store suffers. At the museum they always have more
than enough people, so if someone is sick the boss just takes one
of the "restock" people and sends him/her to whichever shop
needs another body. No panic, no irritation, no problem. I love
built-in solutions, don't you?

Saturday, December 27, 2008

all questions answered

I sort of like this daily Round Robin write from the past. It refers
to the death of Christopher Reeves' wife ~ leaving their boy without a parent.

IN THE PALM OF MY HAND (the prompt)

I have the answer here, ladies and gentlemen. Give that man over there
your $20 and I'll tell you the purpose of life. Have you been wondering
how a just God can take away both parents of a 13 year old boy? Well,
now you'll know. I have been told and I will reveal the truth.

Step right up and ask me those difficult questions. Even the ones
that start with "how come?" Like how come the days/weeks/months
go by so fast as you get older? We need long quiet days of reflection
instead of getting up and going back to bed in about an hour. But
I now know this and much, much more.

Yes, I have the answers here in the palm of my hand. I know why some
people are born into a life of wealth and ease and others into total
and abject poverty. It will make perfect sense to you too, but first
I need you to talk to the tall man in the top hat in that ticket booth
to your left.

Of course I can explain mental illness and tragic accidents too. I wish I
had found these answers earlier in my life, but my purpose now is
to pass them on to you. You will never again wake up at 3am and
wonder what the fuck you are doing here. Those fears will vanish
and you will be as calm as that handsome man in the tuxedo
over there on your left.

Many people just like you have benefited from the answers which
I hold here in the palm of my hand. Step inside my golden tent
and you'll be amazed and delighted with all that I will tell you.
Money back guarantee if you aren't completely satisfied.

Friday, December 26, 2008

could we save this one, please?

Our Christmas was one of those that should be wrapped in a durable
see-through bubble to bring out, hold and spin around during the more
difficult times in life. But first someone will need to explain to me why
the hated canned holiday music in my two workplaces drives me up
the wall and why it was so glorious on the radio at home yesterday.

Husbando and I cooked and cleaned all day and we were "in sync" and
relaxed. Our middle son, John, and his wife, Kathy, arrived at 3pm and
we ate and ate, talked and talked. The four of us agree on everything,
especially politically, so it was exceedingly pleasant. Of course our
feast was magnificent, so I have a turkey sandwich to make now for
my day at the museum. With chunky cranberry sauce, of course.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

so much to celebrate

More candles and more crab last night at Neti and Frank's...and then~
The news that their daughter and her partner are expecting twins!
Double the excitement ~ a fun year awaits us all and we were asked
a few times if they are ALL still invited next year for Thanksgiving.
Yes, and yes again. Happy holidays everyone and be careful in this
less than perfect weather storm we all seem to be enduring. Stay warm.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

bouncing back and forth

Yesterday was my Best Day at de de Young because we were busy
and I worked with some fun women up in (ahem) the jewelry
store and I faked my way through that. I am using my 15
minute breaks to go and gaze at one piece in the museum.
"Good for the soul", as my friend Ginger (East Bay) says.

Today I'm back at the 6 to 3pm at the big box and what a huge
contrast these two work places are. From chaos to serenity
and back again. Oh, and the red tray has returned.

Yesterday the California Science Academy was packed and I
think that helped our business. I bought a yearly membership
for Husbando over there and that will help their business.
The day before Christmas is fun even at the big box because
even the most clueless of all customers realizes that perhaps
they could have shopped a bit earlier, and I won't even have to
raise an eyebrow when they are shocked that we are out of
something. Life is so much better this year for me!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

i could write a book

Well, I spent far too much time yesterday on the project of searching,
cutting and pasting for the boss gift. Sheeeeesh, I sure gave a lot
to that job, but I also benefited, so let's not start the day with a
whine, OK?

I have 15 single-spaced pages and that is only 2003, 2004 and 2005;
with a promise for the next 3 years. It will be fodder for Tiapos and
maybe for the eventual book. At least it will be somewhat organized.

A sample from the past: 12/15/03 ~ I work in a washing machine. I am whirled around inside this place of insanity and there is no escape until January. Customers complain about the bathrooms, the lines, the clerks, the prices and the selection. One day last week all 14 cash registers broke down at the same time and of course we all have colds or the flu. Our customers sneeze and cough too. Happy holidays.

Monday, December 22, 2008

the gift of words and memories

My boss is being transferred to another store ~ it's one of the reasons
that I resigned. Politics. Instead of lunch and tears I have decided to
gather some snippets from our lives over the past 5 plus years from
my daily writes. As you know by now, I keep hard copies of all my
writing in 3-ring binders. Here is an example from Nov. 2004:

Dear Mr. Customer:
You were completely out of line yesterday when you kept calling
Sarah a clerk who makes $5.00 an hour. By the time I finished
the transaction with you she was down in the break room crying.
How dare you talk to people that way?

You said I smirked when you threatened to contact your lawyer. Well,
I was more than smirking. I had trouble keeping my mouth shut and
really letting you have it. Fortunately or unfortunately, after years of
retail management I have learned not to engage with lunatics. All
I kept thinking was, "hurry, finish the sale and get him out of here".
I did quietly let you know that you are welcome to shop at other
bookstores, but then you interrupted and said, "don't tell me where
I can shop!" and I really, really hope you never darken our door again.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

it's been 50 years!

Ironically, I'm reading more since I left the big box as a big
deal manager and this is my current bus book. It's the special
50 year anniversary edition of Breakfast at Tiffany's (which we
are out of, of course, as we are most books) and I must say
I don't remember reading it before. For one thing, it's a love
song to NYC as well as to youth and hope. Then I'm blown
over by the writing and I'll give you a dollop this morning:
Here is Holly talking about why she goes to Tiffany's ~

"You know those days when you've got the mean reds?"
"Same as the blues?"
"No", she said slowly. "No, the blues are because you are
getting fat or maybe it's been raining too long. You're sad,
that's all. But the mean reds are horrible. You're afraid and
you sweat like hell, but you don't know what you're afraid
of. Except something bad is going to happen, only you don't
know what it is. You've had that feeling?"

Saturday, December 20, 2008

ginger and spice

I didn't have to start work yesterday until 11am, so I met our
other Ginger at the Glen Park BART station and we both hopped
on the now famous #44 and headed to the park. We had lattes
and a nice long chat at Cafe Muse (not great coffee, but it was
warm and welcoming) and then I was able to show her around the
de Young for a little while. The above photo is a sculpture by
Al Farrow ~ it's made out of guns and bullets and he also has
a synagogue on display using the same deadly materials. They
are fascinating in their design and message.

Yesterday for several hours I worked up in the gift shop on the
9th floor Tower. So very beautiful, but I'm going to have to
learn the names of a lot of SF buildings. Or make them up...
I'm going to enjoy being a part-time docent.

Friday, December 19, 2008

look, it's bright and shiny

I've never been a woman who is interested too much in jewelry ~ I have
some pretty rings and things left from my mother, and a couple that the
blogmaid has loaned me, but I'm not a drooler. Once in a while I'll
buy silver hoops, but I've never been known to tarry at any jewelry
counter for more than 10 seconds. My wedding ring was created by a
friend who worked for a dentist, a beautiful gold one-of-a-kind band,
made from people's cavities, or whatever. I love it.

The museum has five gift shops and yesterday I worked in the one with
the jewelry. I have a lot to learn. Not about human nature, that I learned
in Retail 101, but I don't know a tourmaline from a ruby. There is lots of
printed information for the customer and the sales person, but it can
be a scramble to find it when we are busy, as we were yesterday.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

ginger and garlic

Our Santa Barbara Ginger stopped by yesterday afternoon on her way
down from Eureka, and she brought us our first fresh crab of the
season. As you know, we serve it on newspapers so we can toss the
shells with abandon. I don't like the cold crab on a chilly day, so
Husbando cooks it this way. (Be sure to adjust to the number of
crabs, we only had the one and it was more than enough.) Lots of
sour dough bread, needless to say.


6 Tablespoons butter
6 Tablespoons olive oil
2 Tablespoons minced garlic
4 Dungeness crabs (cooked, cleaned and cracked)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
3 Tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup finely chopped parsely

Preheat oven to 500ยบ
Heat butter, olive oil and garlic in a v. large oven proof saute pan
over medium high heat until hot.

Add the crab and toss well.
Transfer to the oven and roast until the garlic turns light brown
and the crab is heated through ~ about 12 minutes.

Toss half way through.

Pour contents into a large warm serving bowl, add the lemon juice and
parsley and toss well. Serve immediately. (Try to find an old serving
bowl with at least 4 chips ~ it's an SF tradition.)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

drop this in your queue

Something the Lord Made is one of those special HBO movies
that I think you'll enjoy. Alan Rickman is an egotistical, brilliant
doctor and Mos Def is his lab technician. It is worthy of two
Kleenex® even though one wants to choke Dr. Rickman along
the way. Based on a true story.

I had Best Day Ever at my museum yesterday. It gets easier
and more enjoyable as I learn the little nuances and peculiarities
of cultural retail.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

i wasn't going to do it...

I dashed down to Floorcraft on Bayshore Blvd. for a door wreath
yesterday and ended up with the sweet little slanted tree too.
The smell of evergreen (or maybe evergreen spray) made me
want a tree, despite the fact that I said, "not this year, too much
going on!" The blogmaid has seen a children's story entitled The
Crooked Christmas Tree, so that makes me feel better. The
combination of less than perfect trees and wrestling with the
tree stand means we always seem to end up with an only-we-
could-love-it kind of tree. Thankfully I wasn't dog shopping.

Monday, December 15, 2008

a sweet little xmas movie

Well, finally we watched Tropic Thunder last night. Fun stuff
and a lot of acting talent in this film that makes fun of Hollywood.

I've been trying to learn to sleep in. After 8 years of waking
up at 4:15am (3:15 on the bad nights), my goal is to still
be in bed until 5:30am or so. It's going to take some time. It
does help if I go to bed a little later, but that isn't always so
easy to do. How wonderful on a Monday, however, not to worry
about closing the store at midnight tonight. Ick.

Today I'm off and I will try to put a little red and green around
the house because (eeeeeeeek) it's almost xmas!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

every 25 years or so...

The headline/title refers to the fact that yesterday morning I used
my Muni Pass and hopped on the overpriced cable car to ride 3
blocks up Powell Street from Market. I could not stop smiling.

OK, this When Did You Last See Your Father? is pretty good, but
a little sad as death tends to be from time to time. Jim Broadbent
is in every movie lately, but he does a fine job as does his son,
Collin Firth, and they actually look like they are related. The son
had issues with his father, now there's a family surprise for you...

Back at the big box yesterday and today ~ busy and fun!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

tree topping angels

A Christmas Story for people having a bad day (thanks to
Dancing Jen for this):

When four of Santa's elves got sick, the trainee elves did not produce toys as fast as the regular ones, and Santa began to feel the Pre-Christmas pressure. Then Mrs Claus told Santa her Mother was coming to visit, which stressed Santa even more. When he went to harness the reindeer, he found that three of them were about to give birth and two others had jumped the fence and were out, Heaven knows where. Then when he began to load the sleigh, one of the floorboards cracked, the toy bag fell to the ground and all the toys were scattered. Frustrated, Santa went in the house for a cup of apple cider and a shot of rum. When he went to the cupboard, he discovered the elves had drank all the cider and hidden the liquor. In his frustration, he accidentally dropped the cider jug, and it broke into hundreds of little glass pieces all over the kitchen floor. He went to get the broom and found the mice had eaten all the straw off the end of the broom. Just then the doorbell rang, and irritated Santa marched to the door, yanked it open, and there stood a little angel with a great big Christmas tree. The angel said very cheerfully, "Merry Christmas, Santa. Isn't this a lovely day? I have a beautiful tree for you. Where would you like me to stick it?" And so began the tradition of the little angel on top of the Christmas tree.

Friday, December 12, 2008

love and friendship

I need to do a quick review of this movie which we rented solely
on the recommendation of The Fevered Brain. We both enjoyed
it, and I want to thank Susan, my old (in the best way) fellow-
copy writing friend from back in our Capwell's days. Feast of
Love is adapted from the Charles Baxter novel and demonstrates
once again that love is a strange creature filled with ambiguities
and a fair share of heart break. But perhaps you've noticed that...

Because of the internet and our e-world, Susan and I have re-
connected this past year. Her blog is always terrific, but now
that she and her husband are back in Mexico, it's extra colorful,
and I can feel the soft sea breezes now and send her a special
hola from a very cold San Francisco this morning. Take a nice
South-of-the-Border read in The Tonsil War.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

the end of an affair

OK, so much for the Muni-love bullshit. Yesterday the #44 was packed
and I had to stand on the way to work. Me, with a book to read! I do
feel sorry for the mothers with children and all the paraphernalia, but
lordy they do take up a lot of space. Maybe there should just be buses
for parents and children under 4. Another observance ~ people call
Muni all the time and ask where their bus is. The "next bus time" is
posted electronically in most of the little bus stands, but oddly enough,
it's usually about 40 minutes off. The callers do share their information
with all of us and that's pretty nice ~ nothing like a group grumble.

Yes, DAK, I did have to walk home from 29th and Mission, but last
night Husbando parked Ken the Toyota at the Goodwill on Valencia
and I could just hop in and drive on home. I saved a few minutes.
The #26 is problematic. Muni is problematic, but you anticipated that.

But wait, I worked too! Had another very pleasant day and this time I
did spend my afternoon break up with Yves and his glorious fashions.
I'm gradually getting to know my fellow employees and, like book
people, they are exceedingly bright, funny and helpful. Lucky me!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

a day in the park, day #1

Thank you everyone for your comments and emails of support. I
never do re-writes here in commano and I know already that this
post will need one (or many), but I'll just spew forth as the thoughts
come to me.

Photo above ~ the new Academy of Science, I had my lunch across
the way on a bench in front of MY museum. The #44 drops me off
right in front of the Academy. I have free admission there now and
will pop in soon to check it out.

Retail ~ so different from what I am used to. After B&N and Borders
and a quick stint at Spirit Halloween, I'm used to constant chaos,
never a moment to think or stand or gather my thoughts. Yesterday
was so mellow! Of course it's the quiet time of year and things
will change when Warhol and then King Tut come to town. I have
never understood why book customers are so demanding, but
they are. "How could you POSSIBLY be out of this specific book
that was published in 1933?" That kind of unreasonable annoyance.

The Hours ~ somehow I think that even if the stores are ultra
busy, the very idea of closing at 5:15 instead of 11pm or midnight
makes it all seem so very civilized.

How big? The de Young building is much larger than I thought
and I have been there quite often. Several hours were spent on a
tour yesterday (do you call this work?) and I saw so much more
than I have before. Plus I got to see the secret hallways and
offices and the employee break room that has two free computers
with internet access. What the?

YSL ~ the most popular exhibit now. Hundreds (?) of elegant
fashions from the Yves Saint Laurent collection. I will work in
that shop the Saturday after xmas. By then I will be more
comfortable on the cash registers which are just different
enough from the big box to cause me to fumble a bit.

The Buses ~ everything was smooth and everyone seemed
friendly and helpful. I took the 26 Valencia home after the
#44 dropped me off at Glen Park. Already I helped two
women tourists in GGPark who wanted out of the dark
park and were clueless about bus life. I'm an expert now.

Restrooms ~ fresh flowers. Clean. Not like the big box.

Schedule ~ this will change every week and the blogmaid
suggested that I post a calendar over here under the moon
with my life at de de Young and the big box. Good idea!

Today I'm 9:30 to 5:30 ~ off tomorrow. More tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

the 44 O'Shaughnessy

I know, this is the 38 Geary pictured, but yesterday Husbando and
I did a test run on the #44. I envy the people who move to the city
without cars and are forced to learn the bus system when they are
young and flexible. Everyone criticizes Muni, but try living in a small
town without public transportation, where everyone is car-dependent.

Huge success! It took 20 minutes from Bosworth and Diamond, in
the heart of Glen Park, a really delightful little community in SF,
to MY museum. Faster than car, at least it was yesterday. A pretty
trip too, over Woodside around the huge Laguna Honda Hospital.
Areas of SF that we don't really know or have traveled heretofore.

So I'm 10 to 5:30pm today. Probably lots of paperwork and questions
from me. I'm excited, as you can probably tell, and I want to see YSL
on my coffee break.

Monday, December 08, 2008

precious teen years

Wow, what a play! We were both overwhelmed by Evie's Waltz
down at the Magic last night. It's another tense one act drama
and the angry young woman (superbly acted by Marielle Heller)
in the combat pants, is either making us gasp or laugh. One of
those very funny/not-so-funny plays that builds so much tension
that I couldn't wait until it ended. Then I was really sorry it was
over because I wanted more.

My first bookselling day? Surprise, I loved it! So nice to be able
to concentrate on books and customers and not care one whit
about broken toilets, escalators, staff members, charity gift
wrappers or God knows what else. The day flew by. Yeah!!!

Sunday, December 07, 2008

a bouquet of best wishes

These gorgeous flowers were delivered to me at the big box yesterday,
thank you so much, Dancing Jen! It was a busy day and I didn't have
time to think or feel much sorrow. I cleaned out my desk completely
and wondered again why I saved things like "how to handle the Harry
Potter party, 2005" and worse. Phone lists with names that are no
longer familiar to me, emails from Corporate with their usual sense
of urgency, lacking logical thinking in some cases. Most cases...

Saturday, December 06, 2008

retiring the red tray

This is my last official day as a manager of the big box. When the alarm
went off at 4:15am, that was my first thought. For 8 years I have put
this tray out in the kitchen, along with my very fashionable clothes-
of-the-day, so I don't bother Husbando who gets up about 7am. If
you know me, you realize that being a Good Wife is my Number #1
priority. (If you know me, you know that's a joke.)

As bad as the 6am openings were, the midnight closes are worse.
I find that without that dread of Monday night, my whole mood has
changed lately. Tomorrow I'm just a bookseller, going in at 7:45am.

Friday, December 05, 2008

italy by the bay

I hope you can see that it was another gorgeous December day and we
went to the small Italian museum down at Fort Mason to see the
exhibit about the Jews in Italy. Some exceedingly interesting photos
and artwork, including many of the ghettos in Rome and Venice during
the 1930's. I learned (for one thing) that in ancient times, Jews were
assigned the role of money changing, it wasn't a God-given talent or
anything. Sometimes one wonders about the Christians, even though
I was raised as one. And yes, I want to return to Italy, maybe after
the Depression '09 is over.
The exhibit is only open from Noon to 4pm. Free parking, naturally.

Last night Tiapos met at our house. Here is your recap:
  • Karen ~ helping disabled kids and herself at the same time.
  • Will ~ Day Two on the road home from the East Coast
  • TGP ~ actual CDs from his musical, "The Perfect Pitch"!
  • Eric ~ the automakers destroy the earth and want money too
  • Me ~ memories of my youth ~ not glowing
A very fine day and evening for this almost ex-manager.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

of trains, buses and gourds

You can avoid this bleak and unrealistic movie, Transsiberian,
with Woody Harrelson and some other people covered most of
the time with snow and ice. Blood is so dramatic in winter.

Yesterday I used my new Muni pass and took the J Car to 18th
and Sanchez for lunch (again) at Samovar with my friend Gini.
The last time it was packed, yesterday it was empty. Weird.

What's a gourd? Is that squash? Is it seasonal? I think it is
art, pure and simple. The clever housewife might want to
paint eyes on it and Crazy Glu® some precious ruffles and
lace around its non-existent little legs. I should move to the
burbs where my talent would be appreciated...

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

wednesday catch-up

We had to wait a l-o-n-g time for The Promotion from Flix®.
I think every person who ever worked retail had it out on a
loan. It's very true-to-life with all the experiences (including
strange customers, the employee break room, etc.) in a busy
grocery store as these two guys vie for a newly posted manager
position. John C. Reilly can do no wrong, right?

And here, especially for our blogmaid, is a cut-and-paste from
the blog of our food critic (of all people) Michael Bauer:
To me, pumpkins are like white shoes after Labor Day: they are a symbol of a season and should be banished from counters and doorsteps the day after Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

what I will miss least...

The big box is now open until midnight ~ too early in the season,
in my opinion, but they want to entice the late night shoppers.
(Even the ones who have been drinking and will return the item
the next day when they sober up and say, "WTF?")

My final close last night and the only problem was a young
man with orange hair and 3 huge back packs. He had a big teddy
bear stuffed in one and he talked loudly to himself. But, guess
what? He bought some CDs! Only after I trekked up and down
the escalators (miraculously none were broken last night) from
the 4th floor to the cash registers on the first floor. Up and down
for four hours, stopping only to pick up books and magazines
and grumble about how messy people are.

I'm an early morning person and the only redeeming quality of
the Monday night closings was that I always had 3 or 4 hours of
office time before I became Service Manager. That was my
catch-up time, no interruptions except for the occasional little
emergency. The closing crews are terrific and need no guidance
from me or the other managers. But it takes its toll and I was
and am VERY glad to put those crazy late hours behind me forever.

Monday, December 01, 2008

what I will miss most...

We are so lucky to live in a city that's healthy and prosperous, even
during bad economic times. When I compare SF to dead cities that
we have visited (Memphis, for example) I rejoice once again that
we chose to live here. When I first started at the big box, I vowed
to get to Union Square everyday, as soon as the re-mo was over
and the ropes were removed. The square is a huge success ~ always
filled with people, well-guarded at night. A wonderful oasis, which
of course I now take for granted.

Yesterday I went out with my camera right after sunrise to take
these photos. Only a few tourists were with me, appreciating the
lovely quiet moments in the square. The tree is extra beautiful
this year and when I went back during my lunch hour, the ice rink
was filled with laughing people falling down, grabbing the rail
and smiling as they skated. SF is more than livable, it borders
on perfection. But perhaps I'm just a little prejudiced...

Sunday, November 30, 2008

coconut's the key

With thanks to Jayne (Kansas City), the beautiful daughter of our
friend Ginger.

Sweet Potato Casserole

5 or 6 sweet potatoes
1/2 to 1 stick of butter
1/2 C sugar
2 eggs
1 C Coconut
1 tsp vanilla

Boil potatoes till tender, drain, peel and cut into chunks, mash with butter then add all other ingredients.

Place into casserole dish.

1/2 stick butter
1 C brown sugar
1 C chopped pecans
Melt butter and stir in brown sugar. When it comes to a boil add nuts and pour over sweet potato mixture.

Bake for 1/2 hour at 350

Serves 6 (maybe 8)

Saturday, November 29, 2008

lame duck on black friday

It wasn't too bad yesterday inside the store, but Powell Street
was horrible and I was longing for the green trees and peace
of Golden Gate Park. I so hope this is my last year in real
downtown retail.

We did have someone faint and one of the odd things in our
big box is that customers always try to be helpful during
these all-too frequent occurrences. One guy was telling the
poor woman about all the seizures he has and I told him
to go away. One of my work friends and I discuss this
phenomena ~ hovering customers. Sometimes I have to
say, "unless you have a medical degree, please back-off".
The other thing I have learned is just to call the paramedics,
don't even ask the faller/fainter/seizure-ist.

Last Monday night during my close a woman was sick to
her stomach. Of course she never made it to the bathroom.
The closing supe said, "people come to Borders to puke,
I've seen it before". And he gave some examples. In fact,
the woman's male companion had an empty bag all prepared
for her. I guess the street wasn't good enough. I got the
woman to the bathroom and she was feeling faint ~ more
paramedics, bless them.

So, sweet potato casserole tomorrow, to settle your stomach.

Friday, November 28, 2008

shut-in on Thanksgiving

I didn't leave the house until 4:45 yesterday, when we went over
to Neti and Frank's for dinner. Another couple too, so six of
us ate too much. It was pleasant and I must say I was relieved
not to be doing the BIG DEAL Thanksgiving this year. I think
we just needed a break, so here is how I spent my day:
  • wrote emails, the blog and Round Robin piece
  • cleaned the bathroom and bitched about it, as usual
  • prepared sweet potato casserole for last night
  • ate croissants with Husbando at 10am (the ones from Costco are almost as good as Paris!)
  • phone calls with friends and family
  • espresso, pecan pie and whipped cream for lunch
  • I did the dishes (usually He does)
  • afternoon spent with Sex And The City movie with derision from Himself, but I think those women are fun and I love the NYC scenes
  • prepared for today at work, Black Friday ~ busy, maybe
The kind of day I really needed ~ quiet, yet productive.
Tomorrow the potato casserole recipe, if you are all exceedingly well behaved and especially loving today to all the retail clerks everywhere.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving 2008

One of my favorite poems, despite the many commas and semis.
It seems even more meaningful this year. Happy Thanksgiving!


Sometimes things don't go, after all,
from bad to worse. Some years, muscadel
faces down frost, green thrives; the crops don't fail,
sometimes a man aims high, and all goes well.

A people sometimes will step back from war;
elect an honest man, decide they care
enough, that they can't leave some stranger poor.
Some men become what they were born for.

Sometimes our best efforts do not go
amiss; sometimes we do as we meant to.
The sun will sometimes melt a field of sorrow
that seemed hard frozen: may it happen for you.

Sheenagh Pugh

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

black panther follow-up

One of the odd things about writing a daily thought in this
blog is that I never know what will appeal to readers. Of course
I knew that changing jobs would be a fun little surprise, but
the panther-in-local parks seemed to be a dud as there were
no comments from anyone. Then this wonderful email!
(As an aside, Mary has sent me several photos of Jack,
none of which I can see. Either they won't open, or he is
black against the black sky. Enjoy...)

M.A. - I keep meaning to write you about your panther blog. There are panthers in the backwoods of the south. When I was a little girl growing up in the Obion Creek bottom lands of Western Kentucky, one of my earliest night time memories was the cry of the panther from what we called 'The Bottom". Sometimes it sounded like a baby wailing and other times it sounded like a woman screaming. When I wandered down there alone (forbidden - but I did it all the time) I always tried to be quiet so that I could see one - but I never did. I always imagined it's presence there and felt that there was a particular one that was aware of me. As small girls will do, I felt I had a special tie with this unseen panther and felt it was both a guardian and a threat. Gradually at night when I heard it's call, I felt it was talking to me. My night panther. It became a comfort to me. Later when I learned about totems, I knew in my child's heart that the panther was my totem.
Now I have my small black 'panther' cat that just showed up at my house from down off the mountain in Old Bisbee. The next door neighbors, thinking he was bad luck and an evil spirit (the woman professed to being a white witch), would shoot at him with an air rifle to drive him away. But he kept coming back. I gradually got him to come to me and let me pet him. When I moved from there I realized I couldn't leave him - so on my last trip there I brought a cat carrier and grabbed him up and dumped him in and brought him here.
I named him a simple name - Jack. For some reason he dislikes the camera, and no matter how I try I have only been able to get one decent shot of him. It is attached - along with one of my little desert rescued tabby, Sami.
Now, I'm packing up both him and Sami, and taking them to a cat boarding place down in the Hereford Valley called, Goin' to Grandma's, because neither of them are the kind of cats I can lock up in the house for a week and have somebody come by once a day and feed them - I'd come back to a totally wreck domicile. They will have a little cat 'condo' - with a balcony, no less, that looks out over a large bird enclosure. But I'll still come back to two majorly pissed off cats.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

30 years and it still hurts

We saw Mayor Moscone at the opera the Sunday before he was killed.
What a happy man he was that day, up in his box ~ greeting his
friends, smiling and laughing. I think of him every time we go into
the Opera House.

I was sitting in the dentist chair over in Oakland when the assassinations
occurred. No cell phones then, but Husbando was home and I drove
too quickly back across the bridge, tears flowing. Two great men gone.
Whatever plans we had for that day were canceled. We sat in front of
the TV and I drank too much and continued crying for several days.
One of the worst days of my life and when I hear them playing the
tapes this week, when I see the young Di Fi making her poignant (yet
strong, "I'm in charge") announcements, I well up all over again.

There were so many rumors about the police protecting Dan White and
of course I hated him. But now when I hear his confession, I want to
weep for him too. Three men destroyed. My City, still in mourning...

Monday, November 24, 2008

robins & turkeys

Mistress Jane asked me to write as a Round Robin this week and
it was just what I needed to cleanse my system of all this work
stuff. My partner said it would be OK to use this daily write of
his. For all of you who missed Gov. Palin on TV last week, here
is the talented Dan Heffernan:

Saw something strange and disturbing on the news Thursday night.
It was an interview with Sarah Palin.
(WAIT...there's more!)
It was an interview immediately following her pardon of the Thanksgiving Turkey (who knew that governors do that too? Hopefully, that's the closest she'll ever come to the Presidency) at a turkey farm/death camp somewhere in Alaska.
What was strange and disturbing, in addition to just seeing and listening to the horrendous woman in question, was the backdrop of the interview, not more than twenty feet behind her - some kind of Turkey "processing machine", which, unfortunately for all, was being actively used while she answered the interviewer's questions, all smiling and laughing and full of "goshes" and "oh, you betchas".
(Warning: grisly details follow)
"Processing Machine", of course, is the kinder and gentler translation of, as far as I could discern, a turkey decapitation device, and "actively being used" the light glossing over of some guy with bloody pants shoving full-grown turkeys head first into the thing, while occasionally pausing, in between wrestling with the death throes of 50 pound birds and loading them up, to watch the interview with this unnerving simpleton smile on his face.
Good lord, the humanity, the obliviousness of someone who nearly became our vice president (and one hip replacement surgery gone wrong away from the Presidency itself), the utter lack of empathy in treatment of our food stock...
Will I be able to sit with a smile while my parents serve Thanksgiving dinner this year?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

our 5 year girl

Happy Birthday and congratulations to RR who is five years old.
She had a BIG party in Pumpkinville yesterday and there were
almost as many people as there were dinosaurs. I have a desktop
full of photos here from the Blogmaid and I feel like I was there
celebrating this monumental event with everyone.

Thanks to Mr. and Ms. TGP for my dinner party last
night ~ BBQ steaks, noodles, etc. But the best part is being with
people whom we can talk to about all sorts of things. A wonderful
evening with lovely and loving people. Lucky us!

Work ~ amazingly worry-free at the big box yesterday. Knowing
I'm going PT there as a bookseller takes a whole huge 10 ton
weight off of my shoulders.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

this leap of faith

This is not my eye, nor have I ever believed that this Man Ray photo
features real tears. I know real tears.

Thanks for the responses yesterday. It was an emotional day at the
big box. I have been there 8 years and before this I was at B&N for
8 years. There's something going on eight-wise with me.

Isn't it funny? The moment I headed into lame duck status I started
cleaning out my desk (mentally) and counting how many more 6am
Saturdays like today I have left. There are things coming up in
future weeks that I don't have to worry about, and I'm not. My
boss was great, we've worked together for about 6 years and of
course I kept him advised of my plans so as not to surprise him.
"No one can replace you", he keeps saying. Very sweet.

De new boss is not a stranger and that explains why it was so
easy to attach myself to the de Young. Our "interview" consisted
of, "whatever happened to so-and-so?" and "when can you start?"

Funny, I had a good night's sleep last night ~ first time in many
weeks. That says something, doesn't it?

Friday, November 21, 2008

de new big box

Yesterday I accepted a job working in the retail world at the
gorgeous de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park. I start in two
weeks and am nervous and excited. My current boss has been
aware that I will be stepping down from my management position
and I hope to be able to still work there as a bookseller a couple of
days a week. My goal is to snag a rare full-time position at the
de Young, but that is going to take awhile, I fear.

In these turbulent times I feel fortunate to have found this job,
even if it's less money and more standing on my feet. I love the
atmosphere in the museum and that is so important to me.
Even if we can all do what we have to do, it makes a huge
difference to work in pleasant surroundings.

So this morning I am studying the Muni map and composing
my letter of resignation. I'm in full-fret mode currently, but I
somehow know that everything will work out. Husbando is
100% behind this move and that helps immensely.

There, a bit of a shocker, no?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

the air she be spared

(this is a generic empty fireplace, not ours)
The fog rolled back in on Tuesday afternoon, much to my relief.
Finally, winter in Frisco. Yesterday morning I suggested to Husbando
that we have our first fire of the season last night and he agreed
that it was time, especially since we had our chimney cleaned during
the 7 year casa re-mo project.

When I returned from my yoga around noon there was email from
my good friends at Spare the Air that we would be breaking the new
law if we were to have a fire before noon today. I had signed up for
this service because we don't want a fine, but I was hoping that their
schedule would somehow work around ours. No such luck. I'm all
for clean air, but really, I need a fireplace to soothe my jangled
nerves and warm my icey toes. OK, I got to vent, I'm on board with
the new fireplace rule, really.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

but it is rocket science!

Oxford Scholars Name Top Ten Irritating Phrases

What are some of the most annoying phrases in the English language? In a new forthcoming book, A Damp Squid: The English Language Laid Bare, Oxford researchers list the common phrases that we use incorrectly or just all too excessively:

1 - At the end of the day
2 - Fairly unique
3 - I personally
4 - At this moment in time
5 - With all due respect
6 - Absolutely
7 - It’s a nightmare
8 - Shouldn’t of
9 - 24/7
10 - It’s not rocket science

Thanks to Mr. Z in the Blue State of Ohio for this list
and of course he included "going forward" in his
subject line because we hear/read that one without
surcease in the big boxes of all sizes.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

from inside retail

Everything you've been reading is true ~ there will be no Christmas
this year. The big box has a ton of customers, but they mostly join
us to read books and magazines and spend time on their cell
phones, searching for jobs, I presume. The store looks and feels
busy, but people are not buying. Totals are way down, pressure
is way up. We only hired half as many PT temps (and I think I'm
being generous) as we have in the past. It's discouraging to post
the totals on the grease board at night before leaving the store.
But what the heck, the weather is sunny and beautiful and we
have a big gorgeous tree and an ice skating rink in Union Square.
Hope springs eternal...

Monday, November 17, 2008

the kindness of strangers

Below is a work e-mail that demonstrates to me once again that
big city folk get a bad reputation for not having those "small
town family values" that Ms. Palin (may she RIP) was carrying on about.

Apparently Jessica dropped her wallet on Muni tonight and some kind stranger retrieved it, figured out that she worked here, and even went out of their way to bring it in. I called her and left a voice mail letting her know that it's here. It is in the top safe in the basement. You can't miss it.

One time Husbando fainted going down some BART stairs.
I was with him, thankfully, but about 35 people of all ages and
races rushed to help us ~ cell phones out and 911 already called.
All the doctors could find to say was "it happens", but after that
experience I never feel alone in the crowds of my city.

P.S. Jessica's money and Muni pass? Intact.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

a night in east germany

Husbando treated a few of us to dinner here last night at this restaurant
with the name that no one can pronounce. We had a gala time, even
though it was still HOT in the city and at the last moment I had to change
outfits and drag out something in bright summer colors and you know
how that can throw a woman into a tizzy. Walzwerk is on South Van
Ness between 14th and 15th Streets, right across from where Neti and
I both had tires replaced at various times in our lives. Easy parking.

It is a tiny place and feels like Europe with ultra casual decor and mis-
matched china. The food is reasonable and abundant, however. Oh, and
excellent, if you like pork, sausage, herring in sour cream, spitzel and
snictchel and pardon my spelling. Amazing that there were people
waiting for tables during this recession, but we all need a few treats
from time to time, no? Wonderful friendly service, too.

I took a photo of Husbando's plate with sausage and sauerkraut, but
it looked disgusting this morning. Sorry about that...

Saturday, November 15, 2008

gentle needlepoint statement

Today is my and Dancing Jen made this loving piece for me. I also
have some wonderful cards, and the camera missed the one from Ginger
in Santa Barbara with the dachshund in pearls. This is, of course, a nasty
numbered year, but it does not end in zero or five, so I'll slide through.
I will say, without sounding too philosophical, that I never thought I'd
be this age and still going through all this work worry and nonsense.
Nor that I'd lose so much money in my 401(k), nor that I'd be so damn
happy and content. Who knew?
This is from Husbando. It had a red ribbon on it. I will be sanding the
back deck after the rainy season, it appears. We will NEVER have a
work person around our casa verde again. Ever.

Tonight dinner with friends. I will say it again ~ I am indeed blessed
and I thank you all from the bottom of my little black heart.

Friday, November 14, 2008

out of africa?

From yesterday's Chronny ~ we love stuff like this:

The sudden rash of "black panther sightings" this fall at Bay Area parks has given new spark to the region's greatest wildlife mystery:

Are the sightings cases of mistaken identity, as wildlife scientists believe?

Or is there another explanation?

Scientists say they have no proof of black panthers in the region.

"I really think that most of the black cat sightings are either house cats or occasionally where someone saw a mountain lion in bad lighting," said Steve Bobzian, a wildlife biologist for 14 years with the East Bay Regional Park District, where most of the reported sightings have occurred.

"I've had people send photos of what people thought were mountain lions, and they ended up being bobcats, house cats, and one time a fox, another time a coyote," Bobzian said.

One thing for certain is that hikers are seeing something out there that is unexplained. From the perspective of a scientist, here are the different rationales for the sightings:

-- Black panther: The definition of a black panther is that it is a melanistic leopard, that is, a condition that could cause it to be born with black hair. This occurs very rarely in Africa and China. There's no explanation for how a family of them could end up in the East Bay foothills.

-- Black mountain lion: According to the reports, the size and appearance of "black panthers" look exactly like black mountain lions. But according to mountain lion specialists at the Department of Fish and Game, scientists have never encountered such a thing in more than 12,000 cases in North America. "If you look at all the pelts that are out there, nobody has even one mountain lion pelt that looks black," Bobzian said.

-- Black bobcat: There are many verifiable cases of jet black bobcats in the wild, including in the East Bay foothills. The problem with this, however, is size. Recent reports describe the animals as typically about 4 1/2 feet long, 100 to 150 pounds, with long, swaying tails, consistent with the appearance of a mountain lion. Most bobcats are only about 2 to 3 feet long, 20 pounds, with short "bobbed" tails. "You do have black bobcats out there," Bobzian said. "About 30 to 40 percent of people reporting mountain lions turn out to be seeing bobcats. We know this from images we're provided where we can pick out characteristics. We just had one on Monday at Las Trampas, where a person thought they'd seen 'The Missing Lynx.' Turned out to be a bobcat."

-- Black jaguar: Photos of a black jaguar look like an exact match to the descriptions of eye-witness accounts of black panthers. The problem is that jaguars live primarily in Central America. One theory is that a wealthy eccentric imported a black jaguar for a personal exotic game farm, and then the animal escaped. But the jaguar would have to be registered and have a state permit. An escape would make big news. And it would not account for multiple sightings in different regions.

-- Black house cats: This past summer, The Chronicle received a photo of a "black panther," which was forwarded to the Department of Fish and Game for expert analysis. After studying it, scientists responded with a clear verdict: "This is a black house cat." Bobzian agreed: "I really think people are seeing house cats most of the time." According to Shelly Lewis of East Bay parks, the rash of sightings of black panthers at Las Trampas Regional Wilderness was "a story that someone let loose several black cats" about 10 years ago.

Sightings of mountain lions have become far more common than at any time in the past 100 years, Bobzian noted, but even then, are a rare event.

"Just the idea of seeing one, a mountain lion, is a very special event," Bobzian said. "I know wildlife biologists who have spent their entire career outdoors and have never seen a mountain lion. They are people right here in this park district who are out all the time and who have never seen one. A big shift in the outdoors is that a lot of people are very happy to see a mountain lion and they want to tell somebody about it."

Bobzian said he has seen eight mountain lions in his career, most recently at the Sunol-Ohlone Wilderness and Brushy Peak Regional Preserve near Livermore.

Seeing is believing

Accounts of recent sightings:

Once fooled, twice right: "People seem to think I'm 'crazy' when I told them today, that I've seen this big black cat that was not a housecat: approximately four feet long or so without the tail, jet black, very beautiful and sleek. I have this big ridge, part of Miller-Knox Park, right in front of my house. Every morning I hike it up to Point Richmond and walk back on the middle-level ridge trails. The first time I saw it I only got a glimpse of it from the side. I saw something black run past me. When I turned my head I just saw the back. I immediately had the thought 'mountain lion' and then immediately thought 'Nah, they don't have mountain lions here' and 'mountain lions are brown.' I thought that it's maybe a dog or maybe a deer that looked very dark. Talked myself into thinking that it must have been some kind of black deer. This morning around 8.30 a.m. or so, when I was walking in a little canyon I saw it again. No questions, a big black cat, no housecat, but a large cat. Jet black, no other colors."

- Michaela Graham, Richmond

Like a jaguar in the jungle: "I was curious about EBMUD's protected watershed off Redwood Road in Castro Valley, so I obtained a permit and checked it out . . . I decided to navigate into the gully, walked maybe 30 or 40 feet to the east and suddenly found myself locked eyes with this big black cat. It was roughly 50 feet from me, through several barriers of logs and overgrowth. The first thought is that it looked like a panther, but the weird thing is that sort of animal should be in Africa, not the East Bay. It was so out of place.

- Larz Sherer, Berkeley

Point Reyes surprise: "We came up a short rise through a grassy swale (near Tomales Point), and then, looking up, saw a large, jet-black mountain lion calmly sitting, eyes half asleep looking out at us from about 30 yards away. This lion was not darkish, not a brownish-tawny like some I've seen since, but jet black. My friend (Burke Richardson) and I stood there, stunned. It then started to slink away from us in a large semi-circle, attempting to hide in the grass. We were sadly without a camera, which was not like us at all, but, oh well."

- John Balawejder, Santa Cruz

Best-chance parks

Animals resembling "black panthers" or black mountain lions have been reported at these parks and watershed lands in the Bay Area:

Las Trampas Regional Wilderness, San Ramon: Black panther sightings are higher at Las Trampas than any other park in the Bay Area; shocked hikers occasionally show up at the adjacent Las Trampas Stables and tell their tale. The park has ideal habitat for mountain lions, with water (Bollinger Creek), space (5,430 acres plus miles of adjoining EBMUD land) and food (lots of deer and squirrels).

Info: (888) 327-2757, option 3, ext. 4537;

Pierce Ranch, Point Reyes National Seashore: The swath of land from Pierce Ranch to Tomales Point provides the best wildlife viewing in California, home for more than 500 elk, along with deer, foxes, bobcats and mountain lions. Wildlife thrives across the park's 71,000 acres, with plenty of food, water and protection. The best of it is at Pierce Ranch. From the ridgeline, you also get sweeping views of Tomales Bay to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west.

Note: In one two-hour sequence near the water hole at Pierce Ranch, I counted 13 elk, six deer, three rabbits and a fox, and a week later on a return trip, saw a mountain lion and 200 elk.

Info: (415)464-5100;

Sunol Regional Wilderness, Sunol: Sunol is at the center of an extensive stretch of hilly wild lands. The park covers 6,800 acres, but is surrounded by other parks and watershed lands that encompass more than 50,000 acres. A high density of ground squirrels provides food for the large numbers of golden eagles that spend the winter here. Mountain lions are occasionally spotted above the rim of Little Yosemite by hikers heading out to see the waterfalls on the headwaters of Alameda Creek.

Info: (888) 327-2757, option 3, ext. 4559;

Chabot Regional Park/EBMUD watershed, Alameda County: These adjoining parcels, split by Redwood Road, provide ideal mountain lion habitat and lots of deer. Chabot spans more than 5,000 acres and features gorgeous Grass Valley, eucalyptus forest and adjacent Lake Chabot. East Bay MUD lands here are stunning, with pristine Redwood Creek feeding into huge Upper San Leandro Reservoir.

Note: When the sloped meadow in Grass Valley sprouts fresh growth from winter rains, you can often spot deer browsing in the early morning. Where you find deer, you have a chance to find the critters that eat them.

Info: (888) 327-2757, option 3, ext. 4502;; trail use permits required for EBMUD watershed at (925) 254-3778; form available online at - click on services/recreation.

Carquinez Strait Regional Shoreline, Martinez: This park covers 1,415 acres of hills, bluffs and waterfront along Carquinez Strait. There's a great shoreline bike ride here, but better yet is the trek up to Franklin Ridge; at an elevation of 750 feet it provides sweeping views of the lower delta.

Note: On one exploration here I came across a herd of goats, including some that looked like unicorns with horns sticking out of their foreheads. You couldn't ask for better bait for mountain lions.

Info: (888) 327-2757, option 3, ext. 4514;

Miller-Knox Regional Shoreline, Richmond: Some might be surprised that this park is on the list. That is because it's best known for its gorgeous swimming cove, Keller Beach, located in a protected area at the north end of the shoreline. From here, the wildlands extend north to Point Pinole, an area where mountain lions have been verified multiple times. The park also extends into the Richmond hills, with a ridge connecting to excellent wildlife habitat.

Info: (888) 327-2757, option 3, ext. 4544;

- Tom Stienstra

Tom Stienstra's Outdoors Report can be heard Saturdays on KCBS (740 AM) and FM 106.9 at 7:35 a.m., 9:35 a.m. and 12:35 p.m. E-mail Tom Stienstra at

Thursday, November 13, 2008

from paul madonna

click to enlarge
I missed this election special earlier, but he was kind enough to send
it to me in an email this morning. His All Over Coffee continues to
be one of our top-selling books and he reports that the response to
the above has been overwhelming and Paul now has it for sale.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

meet aravind adiga

He recently won The Man Booker Prize for his debut (!) novel
The White Tiger. You will remember that I have suggested
many times that you can't go wrong with any Booker award
winner. This is an outstanding book and already in paperback,
so grab it and learn all about India today. "Blazingly savage
and brilliant", a reviewer even more qualified than I said. And,
of yes, it is funny indeed. My sofa day off is set...

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

ladder-free living

Our house painter and 3rd roommate removed all the ladders yesterday,
right before I called the sanitarium to book a room. Here is a before
look ~ back in ought 2 as I recall...
This is the side of the house, "next to Walt's". Walt died a few years
ago, but that's another story. (Back of the house, but you knew that.)
Here we are next to Walt's this morning. Lovely, no?
And here is the back of the house, right above the deck. The City that
we love is reflected in the background. It is gorgeous and our long
local nightmare is almost over. We only have the front porch left ~
new slate that we purchased yesterday. A day long job for some, but
errrrr, uhhhhh, I'll get back to you on that. Oh, drat, I didn't get the
new steps in this photo ~ but they are there and you'll see them
later. I don't want to spoil you.

The back deck needs to be sanded. In a state of lunacy we had it
painted and it is peeling and ugly. But after the rains, I am going to
buy or rent a sander and get it back to its nice plain wood look.
That should be worth a blog post or 23.

Now, I know you have a few questions:
1) did this take longer than was planned?
2) did it cost more than we thought?

I'll leave you hanging on those...