Thursday, December 31, 2009

the big picture




...from little Bisbee. Thanks, Mary ~ I need to remember the sky,
the birds and the fact that we are just small (and fortunate) cogs
in the big, wide, glorious world. These are from Christmas Day.

Be careful tonight, I need every reader I can get. Goodbye 2009,
you caused me some pain but great joy too.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

feeling reflective

I have two much-needed days off now. My ex-roomie Marcia is
on her way back to Denver and we already have plans for me to
go there in the summer for a Giants vs. Rockies game. Ours has
not been an easy friendship, but we have both mellowed out.
We had Girls-Night-Only at John's Grill last night and without
saying, "let's bury old, dead hatchets," we have done so. Of
course it helps that our memories are not only faded, they are
different. And the mutual hurts just don't seem to matter much
anymore. Ah, life ~ her ups and sheeeesh, her downs.

I like this quote from Leo Tolstoy. If only I had embraced it
when I was twenty.
As soon as a person asks the question, "How do I
live my life the best way?", then all other questions
are answered.

To Do before 2010: back-up MsBook. You too, dear readers!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

north beach restaurant

What's a celebration without a table photo?
Here we are, 40 years later. Blessed with wonderful, wonderful friends
and family. We had a fabulous time at our party last night and the
warmth remains this morning. We don't drink, but I feel like I have one
of those happy hangovers today. Thank you so much everyone, most
of all Husbando for being such fun (ahem) to live with.

Monday, December 28, 2009

luxury in a mall

Marcia treated us to a fabulous anniversary dinner at the Lark Creek
Steak House in the Westfield Shopping Center last night. We caught
up on our lives and the years melted away as we sorted through the
memories and the "gees, I don't remember THAT" and "what year
do you think?" and activities of children and grandchildren. We do
recommend this as a special occasion restaurant ~ expensive, but
worth it. Oh, yes, downtown and restaurant both crowded with
happy people spending their xmas money. I actually used a parking
lot (!) and Husbando actually approved. $15.00 for that, if you
must know. And you must...

Sunday, December 27, 2009

40 years ago today

We were married at the Highlands Inn in Carmel. Lordy, what a
journey it has been. Celebration is tomorrow night, today I work.
My college roommate (Marcia) arrives today from Denver and
the 3 of us will have dinner tonight and talk of many things. Looking
at the old wedding photos (something I just never do) I wonder how
many of the guests were thinking, "sheeeeesh, this will never work."
Many highs and lows throughout the decades, but what I treasure
now is the everyday (some would think mundane) chit chat, jokes
and plain old basic good friendship. Happy Anniversary, Husbando!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

what big crowded city?

Here is an amazing sight. Market Street (and 5th) at 9:30am on
Christmas Day. Easy and free street parking, no elbows from folks
in a hurry and very few homeless. We LOVED "Up in the Air" and
recommend it highly. What a treat to have overpriced popcorn
and see a movie on the very big screen.
Sometime in the distant past we had dinner in a restaurant on 12/25
and I remember it as a depressing event. But yesterday was such a
delight, that I think we'll do it again next year. This is a Sea Bass in
black bean sauce at the R&G Lounge (631 Kearny) right outside
Chinatown. They were packed with Jews, Chinese families and a
few tourists. The atmosphere was festive and the fish truly a melt-
in-mouth experience.
Then we walked around Chinatown. The above is Portsmouth Square
with a poor little orchestra playing music and fund-raising to help
the locals. Many, many people out and about because the weather
was sunny and cool ~ great walking weather. Oh, thank you, dear
San Francisco, for reminding me again of why we love you, despite
all your warts and irritating ways. Now, let's remove xmas tree!!!

Friday, December 25, 2009

it gets better every year!

Our traditional crab fest on xmas eve...
Lots of laughs last night with Neti and Frank and some of their other
friends. It is sooooooo nice not to be exhausted at the end of the work
day during the holidays. We stayed up until after 10pm, imagine that.
And today is wonderful, we'll talk about it tomorrow. Happy Holidays,
dear readers and friends.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

oooooooh, this is fun!

I just started this (thanks, SF Library!) and it's good. Twin girls
(young women) inherit a flat in London next to a cemetery. A
nice way to avoid all things holiday related. Nose in book, atta
girl. A Fearful Symmetry, my kind of novel.

Back to the 2009 NY Times List ~ I've only read the Lorrie
Moore novel, so I can't recommend. But they shoud all be out
in trade paperback in 2010, and I will scoop many up at that
time at my favorite Books, Inc. on Market near Castro.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

our trip to pumpkinville

I was a bit nonplussed to see these welcoming us yesterday (December!)
when we walked up the drive. Thankfully it was a blogmaid joke. I had
spent about 1/2 hour driving Linda around showing her pumpkins on
porches and trying to explain why I didn't care for them, even in Half
Moon Bay, the home of all things pumpkin.
Here is the talented RR, working on her Graffiti for Facebook. She is
the sweetest girl in America and maybe the world!
I had the great pleasure of bringing my e-friend Linda with me. There is
the blogmaid next to her. I did not enhance nor straighten any photos,
although both of these friends would like me too, I'm sure. Linda loves
lime green, as you can see. She is a talented artist, check out her blog
over there on the right. We had a delightful time and we did get a
very short walk in. It was quite windy, but Polly the Parrot kite got
a little work out. Sorry, no crooked photo of him/her.
Linda and RR are doing their art projects. The house is alive with
trees (3) and excitement for the holidays. It was wonderful seeing
Claire again, also Bill our host who provided lunch and clean-up.
No photos due to me forgetting to snap everyone. Dorf and Josie
were present throughout, and that's always a good thing!

Monday, December 21, 2009

snip and save

Fiction and Poetry - best of 2009 from the NY Times

'Amateur Barbarians'

By ROBERT COHEN
Cohen’s middle-aged protagonist heads to Africa, leaving his wife back home in New England with a younger rival. (Scribner, $27.)

'American Rust'

By PHILIPP MEYER
Meyer’s crime novel/road novel hybrid also manages to chronicle life in a dying mill town. (Spiegel & Grau, $24.95.)

'The Anthologist'

By NICHOLSON BAKER
Baker’s ardent novel about poetry — with its hero trying, and mostly failing, to write an anthology introduction — actually does justice to poetry. (Simon & Schuster, $25.)

'The Art Student’s War'

By BRAD LEITHAUSER
In midcentury Detroit, a young woman searches for authenticity and passion in art and in love. (Knopf, $28.95.)

'Asterios Polyp'

Written and illustrated by DAVID MAZZUCCHELLI
A graphic novel 10 years in the making combines a modernist style, a formalist structure and a story about a bristly academic. (Pantheon, $29.95.)

'Await Your Reply'

By DAN CHAON
Three essentially separate story lines, with morbidly alienated main characters, link up at the end of Chaon’s unremittingly dark and provocative novel. (Ballantine, $25.)

'Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It'

By MAILE MELOY
Meloy’s calm, intelligent prose renders her stories’ self-sabotaging characters — lawyers, unfaithful spouses, eccentric older women, Montanans — eminently understandable. (Riverhead, $25.95.

'The Casebook of Victor Frankenstein'

By PETER ACKROYD
This clever novel’s Frankenstein hobnobs with the Shelleys. (Nan A. Talese/Doubleday, $26.95.

'Chronic City'

By JONATHAN LETHEM
Beneath the gaudy makeup of this dancing showgirl of a novel, set in an alternate-reality Manhattan, is the girl next door: a traditional bildungsroman with a strong moral compass. (Doubleday, $27.95.)

'The Confessions of Edward Day'

By VALERIE MARTIN
An actor, saved from drowning by an unsavory rival, learns that gratitude never follows humiliation. (Nan A. Talese/Doubleday, $25.)

'Dearest Creature'

By AMY GERSTLER
Gerstler’s poems — skillful in every kind of comedy, yet deeply serious — show a fondness for animals without sentimentalizing them. (Penguin Poets, paper, $18.)

'Do Not Deny Me: Stories'

By JEAN THOMPSON
The woes dramatized here are no less painful for being unexceptional. (Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, $14.)

'Don’t Cry: Stories'

By MARY GAITSKILL
Gaitskill implicates the reader in what feels like a violation of her own characters, whose lives are more often broken than in any way admirable. (Pantheon, $23.95.)

'Every Man Dies Alone'

By HANS FALLADA; translated by MICHAEL HOFMANN
This is the first English version of Fallada’s 1947 novel, based on a real-life German couple who mounted modest but suicidal resistance against Hitler. (Melville House, $27.)

'Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned'

By WELLS TOWER
This polished story collection takes its sustenance from class conflict, rough men and strong women, and the intersection between hotheads and cool customers. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $24.)

'Family Album'

By PENELOPE LIVELY
It’s the slow, inexorable way everyone comes to acknowledge the suppressed event at the heart of this domestic novel that makes it quietly devastating. (Viking, $25.95.)

'Follow Me'

By JOANNA SCOTT
A heroine bent on reinvention is at the center of this densely stitched crazy quilt of a novel, which spans six decades and a wealth of genres while evoking a quintessential American mythology. (Little, Brown, $24.99.)

'A Gate at the Stairs'

By LORRIE MOORE
Moore’s latest novel, about a Midwestern college student who hires on as a nanny for a brainy couple on the eve of adoption, brandishes some big material — war, racism — in a resolutely insouciant key. (Knopf, $25.95.)

'Generosity: An Enhancement'

By RICHARD POWERS
This novel’s central figure is a woman ostensibly afflicted with hyperthymia — an excess of happiness. (Frances Coady/Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $25.)

'Half Broke Horses: A True-Life Novel'

By JEANNETTE WALLS
Assuming her maternal grandmother’s voice, Walls, the author of “The Glass Castle,” recreates an adrenaline-charged existence on the rough-and-tumble Southwest frontier. (Scribner, $26.)

'How it Ended: New and Collected Stories'

By JAY McINERNEY
This collection, from a career now reaching nearly three decades, reminds us how broad McInerney’s scope has been and how confidently he has ranged across our national experience. (Knopf, $25.95.)

'In Other Rooms, Other Wonders'

By DANIYAL MUEENUDDIN
The eight linked stories here follow the scheming of a rich and powerful Pakistani family and their employees. (Norton, $23.95.)

'Invisible'

By PAUL AUSTER
The student-hero of Auster’s masterly novel learns about love from several characters, but an affair with his sister permanently defines his personality. (Frances Coady/Holt, $25.

'Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi'

By GEOFF DYER
This haunting novel is like a rough guide to transformation: moving from scenes of erotic decadence to scenes of squalor, the death it describes is that of craving, of intention, even of self. (Pantheon, $24.

'The Lacuna'

By BARBARA KINGSOLVER
This novel, about a boy’s memorable bonds with Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo and Leon Trotsky, is a call to conscience and connection. (Harper/HarperCollins, $26.99.

'Lark and Termite'

By JAYNE ANNE PHILLIPS
Phillips’s inspired novel, with its Faulknerian echoes, revolves around a loyal sister and her impaired brother, who sees what others don’t. (Knopf, $24.)

'Let the Great World Spin'

By COLUM McCANN
Philippe Petit’s 1974 high-wire walk between the twin towers is pivotal to all the lives in this deeply affecting New York novel. (Random House, $25.)

'The Little Stranger'

By SARAH WATERS
In Waters’s novel of postwar anxiety, members of a decaying upper-crust English family start to come to sticky ends in their creepy mansion. (Riverhead, $26.95.)

'Love and Obstacles: Stories'

By ALEKSANDAR HEMON
The worldly eccentric who narrates these tales declares a specialty in “those brainy postmodern setups” somehow tied to identity. (Riverhead, $25.95.)

'Love and Summer'

By WILLIAM TREVOR
A heartbreaking and satisfying novel about the relationship between a restless amateur photographer and a shy young Irish farm wife. (Viking, $25.95

'The Museum of Innocence'

By ORHAN PAMUK; translated by MAUREEN FREELY
The city of Istanbul is on exhibit in Pamuk’s novel of first love painfully sustained over a lifetime. (Knopf, $28.95.)

'My Father’s Tears: And Other Stories'

By JOHN UPDIKE
In his final collection of new fiction, Updike relives the matter of a lifetime and grapples with the effects of aging, disease and death. (Knopf, $25.95.)

'Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall'

By KAZUO ISHIGURO
First-person tales of human emotion in the waning hours of light. (Knopf, $25.

'Nothing Right: Short Stories'

By ANTONYA NELSON
Nelson is drawn to the damage that results when strong women foolishly trust weak men. (Bloomsbury, $25.)

'Once the Shore: Stories'

By PAUL YOON
Elemental tales of lives on a South Korean island, in spare and beautiful prose. (Sarabande, paper, $15.95.)

'One D.O.A., One on the Way'

By MARY ROBISON
An angry heroine is thrust into the volatile world of her dying husband’s family, which includes his “utterly identical” twin. (Counterpoint, $23.

'Sag Harbor'

By COLSON WHITEHEAD
Benji, the well-off 15-year-old black hero of Whitehead’s memoiristic fourth novel, lives in a world where life doesn’t assault him but rather affords him the time to figure out who he wants to be. (Doubleday, $24.95.)

'A Short History of Women'

By KATE WALBERT
Improbably, this spare and wrenching novel lives up to its name, hopscotching through time and alternating among the lives of a British suffragist and her descendants. (Scribner, $2

'The Sky Below'

By STACEY D’ERASMO
It’s hard not to be seduced by D’Erasmo’s selfish hero, an artist whose hunger for expression, for a father and for a home embodies a sense of entrapment that could make anyone behave badly. (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $24.)

'The Song Is You'

By ARTHUR PHILLIPS
Phillips turns the notion of the artistic muse on its head and gives it a spin, delineating a pas de deux between a young singer-songwriter and the older man who actively, obsessively inspires her. (Random House, $25.)

'Too Much Happiness'

By ALICE MUNRO
Munro’s stories take on pulp fiction’s sensational subjects. But episodes of murder, suicide and adultery turn out to be just anterooms to an echo chamber filled with subtle and far-reaching thematic reverberations. (Knopf, $25.95.)

'Typhoon'

By CHARLES CUMMING
British and American spies clash in the buildup to the Beijing Olympics. (St. Martin’s, $25.99.)

'A Village Life'

By LOUISE GLÜCK
In a stylistic departure, Glück’s poems use the village as a lens to examine the lives within, which counterpoint the memories of her life without. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $23.

'Wolf Hall'

By HILARY MANTEL
Tolerant, passionate and humane, Thomas Cromwell is cast as the picaresque hero of this Man Booker Prize-winning novel of Henry VIII’s turbulent court. (John Macrae/Holt, $27.

'The Year of the Flood'

By MARGARET ATWOOD
Through other mouths, Atwood has brilliantly retold her 2003 novel “Oryx and Crake,” showing how the kids Glenn and Jimmy became Crake and the Snowman. (Nan A. Talese/Doubleday, $26.95.

not that I've read it


...but the 60/40 vote in favor of Health Care Reform in the Senate
early this morning (or late last night?) is a v. big deal. Of course
it is an imperfect piece of legislation, but it is a step in the right
(left) direction and it had to be done now while the Democrats
are still in the majority.

I love the visual of the camel's nose inside the tent. That's the
GOP argument of why we don't want to expand health care
coverage, because it will lead to socialized medicine. Get movin',
Mr. Camel!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

when all else fails...

It's not easy finding something to write about everyday. Some
bloggers resort to their musical tooth brush, but I tend to return
to the tried and true cat photo and comment. Here we have the
adorable Dorf ~ he belongs to the blogmaid and family. He has
that pensive, intelligent look that one misses during the Muni
experience. Not that I take the bus anymore, that was a short
lived yet admirable attempt not to leave my carbon footprint.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

three pinks, two blues

RR is the one on the left, with the pink snood in her hair. (Snood
is a great word.) I love this photo because you can see/feel the pre-
performance excitement, mixed with a little tension. RR, of course
is totally cool and confident with the whole thing, as she should be.

Friday, December 18, 2009

but were they wearing Levi's®?

Pioneers! O Pioneers!

COME my tan-faced children,
Follow well in order, get your weapons ready,
Have you your pistols? have you your sharp-edged axes?
Pioneers! O pioneers!

For we cannot tarry here,
We must march my darlings, we must bear the brunt of danger,
We the youthful sinewy races, all the rest on us depend,
Pioneers! O pioneers!

O you youths, Western youths,
So impatient, full of action, full of manly pride and friendship,
Plain I see you Western youths, see you tramping with the foremost,
Pioneers! O pioneers!

Have the elder races halted?
Do they droop and end their lesson, wearied over there beyond the
seas?
We take up the task eternal, and the burden and the lesson,
Pioneers! O pioneers!

All the past we leave behind,
We debouch upon a newer mightier world, varied world,
Fresh and strong the world we seize, world of labor and the march,
Pioneers! O pioneers!

We detachments steady throwing,
Down the edges, through the passes, up the mountains steep,
Conquering, holding, daring, venturing as we go the unknown ways,
Pioneers! O pioneers!

We primeval forests felling,
We the rivers stemming, vexing we and piercing deep the mines
within,
We the surface broad surveying, we the virgin soil upheaving,
Pioneers! O pioneers!

Colorado men are we,
From the peaks gigantic, from the great sierras and the high
plateaus,
From the mine and from the gully, from the hunting trail we come,
Pioneers! O pioneers!

From Nebraska, from Arkansas,
Central inland race are we, from Missouri, with the continental
blood intervein'd,
All the hands of comrades clasping, all the Southern, all the
Northern,
Pioneers! O pioneers!

O resistless restless race!
O beloved race in all! O my breast aches with tender love for all!
O I mourn and yet exult, I am rapt with love for all,
Pioneers! O pioneers!

Raise the mighty mother mistress,
Waving high the delicate mistress, over all the starry mistress,
(bend your heads all,)
Raise the fang'd and warlike mistress, stern, impassive, weapon'd
mistress,
Pioneers! O pioneers!

See my children, resolute children,
By those swarms upon our rear we must never yield or falter,
Ages back in ghostly millions frowning there behind us urging,
Pioneers! O pioneers!

On and on the compact ranks,
With accessions ever waiting, with the places of the dead quickly
fill'd,
Through the battle, through defeat, moving yet and never stopping,
Pioneers! O pioneers!

O to die advancing on!
Are there some of us to droop and die? has the hour come?
Then upon the march we fittest die, soon and sure the gap is fill'd.
Pioneers! O pioneers!

All the pulses of the world,
Falling in they beat for us, with the Western movement beat,
Holding single or together, steady moving to the front, all for us,
Pioneers! O pioneers!

Life's involv'd and varied pageants,
All the forms and shows, all the workmen at their work,
All the seamen and the landsmen, all the masters with their slaves,
Pioneers! O pioneers!

All the hapless silent lovers,
All the prisoners in the prisons, all the righteous and the wicked,
All the joyous, all the sorrowing, all the living, all the dying,
Pioneers! O pioneers!

I too with my soul and body,
We, a curious trio, picking, wandering on our way,
Through these shores amid the shadows, with the apparitions
pressing,
Pioneers! O pioneers!

Lo, the darting bowling orb!
Lo, the brother orbs around, all the clustering suns and planets,
All the dazzling days, all the mystic nights with dreams,
Pioneers! O pioneers!

These are of us, they are with us,
All for primal needed work, while the followers there in embryo wait
behind,
We to-day's procession heading, we the route for travel clearing,
Pioneers! O pioneers!

O you daughters of the West!
O you young and elder daughters! O you mothers and you wives!
Never must you be divided, in our ranks you move united,
Pioneers! O pioneers!

Minstrels latent on the prairies!
(Shrouded bards of other lands, you may rest, you have done your
work,)
Soon I hear you coming warbling, soon you rise and tramp amid us,
Pioneers! O pioneers!

Not for delectations sweet,
Not the cushion and the slipper, not the peaceful and the studious,
Not the riches safe and palling, not for us the tame enjoyment,
Pioneers! O pioneers!

Do the feasters gluttonous feast?
Do the corpulent sleepers sleep? have they lock'd and bolted doors?
Still be ours the diet hard, and the blanket on the ground,
Pioneers! O pioneers!

Has the night descended?
Was the road of late so toilsome? did we stop discouraged nodding
on our way?
Yet a passing hour I yield you in your tracks to pause oblivious,
Pioneers! O pioneers!

Till with sound of trumpet,
Far, far off the daybreak call-hark! how loud and clear I hear it
wind,
Swift! to the head of the army!-swift! spring to your places,
Pioneers! O pioneers!

Walt Whitman


We both had vague High Schoolish memories of this poem they
are using for the Levi's® TV commercials. They at least should
credit Mr. Whitman, I think, who wrote this during the Civil
War to rally the troops and generate youthful enthusiasm. (If
memory serves me correctly, which it often does not.)

Thursday, December 17, 2009

eccentric oasis

When I came home last night there was an article waiting for me on
top of my MsBook. Sometimes this is how Husbando and I communicate,
the whole world revolves around my laptop on the sofa. Post-its, news,
and various notes. In any event, this was an article from the National
Geographic Traveler and it was all about Bisbee, Az, where my friend
Mary lives. I will put it in the mail to her today, but I wanted to catch
everyone up on her life. They didn't mention the weather in the article.
Here is a snippet from a recent email from Mary:
I was planning to write you this morning all about my wonderful thanksgiving in Maine, but this storm came blowing in yesterday and took over my life momentarily. Let's see - part of the fence separating my back drive from the neighbors back yard blew to pieces last night or early this morning. Lots of loose chain link and steel rods blowing around. I just called my neighbor Snoody to come over so we can try and put it back together - in a 40 mph wind with gusts up to 60mph.
Sami cat - moody little bastard - bit my wrist out of frustration and Black Jack ran outside into the blowing gale to get away from him. They have both now gloomily settled down back inside to escape-sleep.
It's dark and bleak with promises of rain and snow - but all I've seen so far is icy blowing dust. (If you haven't experienced frozen dust, you haven't experienced the full potential of winter in the high desert.)
I just heard a big crash and saw that the dumpster out front has blown over. Great - garbage blowing down the road.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

why so many revisions?

Our writing teacher (Karen) compared the first draft of a novel to
getting the marble block into the studio, before the sculptor even
touches it with a tool. One must be prepared to cut, chop, form, fill
and go through endless revisions before the finished product is
ready for an agent to try to sell to a publisher. Lots of work ahead,
I need some coffee and peppermint bark ~ now!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

last class ~ I did it!

Last night was the 10th class I attended and it was a push for me
to go every single Monday night. Only fellow slugs will appreciate
how much I wanted to stay home in my attractive Costco sweat
suit while watching the Vizio and saying, "there's never anything
on TV, why do we have so many channels?"

Of course once I get to class I'm very pleased and happy that
I did this monumental thing and last night was no exception.
I have learned soooooo much, plus I have an actual plot that
I wrote up and presented to Tiapos last week. The blogmaid
has given me her Seal of Approval too, so now all I have to do is
write it, revise it 355 times and I'll be that famous author you
want to invite to every party and gathering. You know, the
one who arrives in the powder blue sweat suit, pink socks
and beige slippers that don't match anything.

Monday, December 14, 2009

small town USA

This is a fabulous book that I had reserved from the Noe Valley
Library. Remember Ms. Moore's Birds of America? Anyway, I'm
lost and happily so with Tassie, a 20 year old college student
who begins working as a part-time nanny for a mysterious family.
A Gate At The Stairs is beautifully written. Example:
We passed the Vanmares' old farmhouse, where they had
decorated the front yard again in a completely random holiday
fashion: silhouettes of penguins, palm trees, geese, and candy
canes all lit up as if they were long-lost friends at a gathering.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

walking in the rain (and sun)


The rain was really pounding down yesterday, but we bundled up in
raincoats, grabbed our little-used umbrellas and headed to Union Street
for lunch at Nettie's Crab Shack. There was not a lot of parking (are
you surprised?) in that busy area, so we walked further than planned
and built up impressive appetites. Started with the delicious white
clam chowder to warm us up, then Husbando had the mussels and
you can see he cleaned every shell. I loved my fish tacos! The sun
came out and we walked some more, even though our pant leg cuffs
and shoes were soggy and cold. The outing reminded us both of those
Decembers when we used to go to Europe to avoid the holiday insanity
here in The States. Great memories all. Home to fireplace and candles.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

one ornament at a time

I'm having a lovely day off today ~ finishing trimming the tree,
sending out holiday cards ("let's get together in 2010!") and now
for a long winter's nap after lunch and a good walk that I'll tell
you about tomorrow. Oh, and some real winter rain.

Friday, December 11, 2009

some chains are acceptable

Our friend Ginger came over on BART yesterday and we had a
lovely lunch at the new La Boulange cafe and bakery at 24th St.
and Sanchez in Noe Valley. These are springing up all over and
even though it's our Frisco habit to bash all chain stores and
restaurants, this one was accepted quickly and was v. busy
yesterday. Great coffee, pastries, sandwiches, salad ~ but really
the BEST part was the bread. Yum is the word.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

may I have a week off?

We pre-ordered this big, fat, wonderful publication and it arrived
yesterday with our thin little chronny. My lord ~ is the printed word
back in style? I heard on the news that it sold out yesterday. It is a
McSweeney (Dave Eggers) production filled with words and photos
and graphic novel style comics. Maybe 14 sections. Here is a lovely
poem I found in the Panorama Book Review section:

DOVE IN VENICE

In this city, sinkng like the old ark,
a dove sits on one egg on the windowsill.
No nest, no olive branch, only one egg rolling
on a stone still shile she flutters off to St. Mark's.

Jean Janzen

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

trader joseph (mary & baby?)

OK, got the wreath from TJ's on the front door and earlier this morning
we struggled with the tiny tree-in-the-stand business. At one point I
snapped, "this is supposed to be joyful," and we both decided to wait
and work on the tree later, bit by bit.

Ours is a mixed marriage and Husbando has never really gotten used
to the "mess" that the holidays create for those of us who were brought
up as Christians. He tolerates it all for me, bless his little Jewish heart.
However on Dec. 26th, the tree is lying on the sidewalk, waiting for
the Sunset Scavengers. We're always the first on the block in this
one instance.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

quickie book review

I'm on page 90 of Beyond Black by Ms. Mantel, the Booker
prize winner. Building up to her novel that won the award. I
am so enjoying this story of a psychic (Allison) and her woman
friend who travel around the small towns in England giving
performances and readings. About 6 pages in I said, "oh, the
blogmaid will love this one," and so it will soon be in her bag of
goodies in the foyer of Casa Verde. Happy reading, everyone!

Monday, December 07, 2009

thinking, reading and not writing

Oh, well. I do at least have some thoughts in my journal for
future use. For instance, the man who called the store and
wanted to know if the artwork he found in an old frame was
someone famous. I, of course, suggested Google, and he
said that she wasn't listed there. That's sort of telling, isn't it?

Here, the very first graph from my newest How To Write
book by Carolyn Wheat. Feel free to use it for inspiring us
would-be writers, Mistress J:

The best advice on writing I've even seen came from a fictional character. Seymour Glass, J.D. Salinger's cryptic antihero, tells his brother, Buddy, an aspiring writer: "You think of the book you'd most like to be reading, and then you sit down and shamelessly write it."

Sunday, December 06, 2009

amazing telly

Here we have the two main characters from Collision, another British
TV drama that was on PBS recently. Husbando taped it for us. It
is complicated and detailed in the beginning and of course I had to
hide my eyes every time the cars crashed, but there are many fine
people stories and intricate subplots. More tonight. Oh, and some
wonderful acting. Not unlike Crash, the American film, but different.
You guessed that, didn't you?

Saturday, December 05, 2009

a sadistic little craft

The Ellen Novel isn't really going anywhere (fast), but if it ever
gets written, it will be a mystery. We know I do love a mystery
in books, plays and film, but writing one is a whole different
can o' poisons and cover-ups. My teacher suggested this How
To Write Killer Fiction book by Carolyn Wheat and I bought
it last Thursday before coffee with Ken (the person, not the
car). There won't be a lot of blood or bullets in this maybe-
book, just some suspense, humor and l-u-v. Or not...

Friday, December 04, 2009

let's talk cookin'

We've been trying to get to this fabulous store for about a year, but
the hours are limited (noon to 6pm or so) and parking is always
a challenge in our fair city. But we lucked out yesterday and had
a fine time here at Cookin' at 339 Divisadero. I couldn't find a web
site and I'm not sure they even have a cash register, but they stock
everything else you might need. Copper pots and pan, Cuisinart®
accessories, delightful dishes, old utensils and shelves of butter
dishes. Do not bring children or animals into this store ~ it is
packed with pre-owned merchandise. Great fun indeed.
This was my big purchase. $10.00. Elegant, no?

Thursday, December 03, 2009

stim money in SF

We went walking on Divisadero today and admired the relatively
quick repavement work that was done with the help of the Feds.
This is an interesting street with lots of shops and coffee shops.
Don't miss Cookin' which is packed to the gills with used kitchen
and dining merchandise.
There is always something to admire in our city. Today it was
this house which we've never noticed before.
Of course the real purpose of our walk was lunch and we ended up at
Nopalito right near the DMV on Fell. This is a gourmet Mexican
restaurant and the food is excellent ~ I had Huevos de Caja and
Husbando enjoyed the Quesadilla Roja con Chicharron. Yummy. To
those readers not currently living in Mexico, the Nopal is one of
those big (ugly) cactus leaves. This is the little sister restaurant to
Nopa (North Panhandle) on Divisdadero, closed for lunch.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

she grows arm hair!

What fun we had last night at the SF Playhouse where the one
act play She Stoops to Comedy is playing. See this gender-
bending/crossing farce if you can, it's terrific! One of my
favorite-ever plays was Dead Mother or Shirley Not All in Vain
written by David Greenspan who wrote this romp. That man
loves words and word-play, my kind of guy. Liam Vincent,
a great actor, was in both plays too. Amy Resnick is so
talented, she really is spectacular here and I agree with the
SF Theaterblog ~ how do they remember all those lines?
We had dinner before hand at the Persimmon and parked
for free right across the street from the theater. Karma reward
after a long day at the Legion of Honor.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

there's bite in this bark (sorry)

The blogmaid encouraged me to buy a little bucket ($9.99) of this
at Costco, so of course I bought two. I took some to class last
night and I actually came home with enough to take to my
fellow museum workers, unless it somehow disappears here in
Bernal Heights. Man, it's so good ~ must be the salt sprinkles
on top. It's best with a small cup of STRONG black coffee.

Monday, November 30, 2009

hey, Santa, are you taking notes?

(from today's SF Chronicle)

Mentors, Muses & Monsters

30 Writers on the People Who Changed Their Lives

Edited by Elizabeth Benedict

(Free Press; 278 pages; $24.99)

Rumors of literature's death have been greatly (OK, slightly) exaggerated. Ditto recent proclamations that the anthology is even more rigorously mortis than the endangered lone-authored book.

The heyday of the anthology (that literary umbrella under which a group of writers huddle, reflecting on the same subject at the same time) began with a big bang in 2002, when the post-feminist group-rant "The Bitch in the House" became a surprise runaway hit. The literary-industrial complex - formerly known as publishing houses, some of which were actually housed in houses, back when their purpose was actually publishing books, not pumping profits into insatiable multinationals' maws - did what every successful corporation does. They found the thing that was making money for someone else, and copied it. A slew of "Bitch" copycats followed. As often happens with books (as well as cola drinks), the imitators were less popular than the original. "R.I.P. Anthology," the Molochs of Moneymaking declared.

Luckily for us, the publisher of "Mentors, Muses & Monsters" didn't get the memo. This anthology is that rare gem, a collection whose whole is greater, even, than the sum of its parts. Where else could you read musings-about-muses, accompanied by juicy tales from deep inside the writing life, by 30 of the best minds of our generation, all between the covers of one book?

Novelist Elizabeth Benedict (the collection's collector) writes a moving paean to her mentor, Elizabeth Hardwick: "On my own with Miss Hardwick, as I called her, I handed over four or five pages every time we met. I'd watch her read them in her wooden swivel chair, her auburn curls brushing her cheeks, lipstick always freshly applied. She liked but did not love what I wrote."

Jonathan Safran Foer, author of "Everything Is Illuminated," writes, "I was sixteen when I first met the poet Yehuda Amichai. It was the summer after my junior year of high school. I was still the star of the film of my life ... If I'd met Amichai at another moment ... it's unlikely that I'd be writing about him now. Or writing at all."

Julia Glass shares a delicious behind-the-scenes confessional of her terrifyingly intimate relationship with the unidentified "Deb," who edited Glass' best-seller, "Three Junes." In a particularly poignant interchange, Glass worries to Deb that she'll lose control at a book reading and start crying. "If you cry," Deb reassures her, "you'll sell ten more books."

The socially engaged, poetic novelist Sigrid Nunez writes about living with Susan Sontag's son - and with Sontag. That famously lazy slouch Joyce Carol Oates, who apparently found time to knock out her essay in the 45 seconds between finishing her last book and starting the next, writes about the absence of mentors in her writing life. Even her husband, she says with a mysterious lack of rancor, declined to read her fiction before or after its publication.

Pulitzer Prize-winner Jane Smiley dishes the vaunted Iowa Writers' Workshop. "I lamented that I wasn't a genius, would never be a genius, the years of genius were long past (I was twenty-seven). Barbara (twenty-four) kept reading our workshop stories for the day. She knew I would get over it ... Because of the parties. We had parties for everything."

In "Mad Hope and Mavericks" local heroine ZZ Packer offers a painfully personal homage to her guru, James Alan McPherson. "Before reading McPherson's work," she writes, "I hadn't realized how much I tensed up at reading any depictions of blacks, whether by white or black authors."

Before books, anthologies and I die, I'd love to share a raucous, hilarious, uplifting last supper with all 30 of these incisive, funny, candid writers. Barring that eventuality, reading "Mentors, Muses & Monsters" satisfies the craving for candid, high-minded literary conversation - and with half the calories.

Meredith Maran is the Oakland author of "Class Dismissed." Her next book, "My Lie," will be published in 2010. E-mail her at books@sfchronicle.com.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

warm, fuzzy, confused

Driving home last night I was amazed at the number of Christmas
trees and strings of lights I saw on homes and even the Firehouse
on Stanyan. It isn't even December. I expect the commercial holiday
bling, of course, but this was different. What was odd, however,
was that my reaction wasn't the usual "oh no, say it isn't so" ~ but
"hey, that's pretty!" I believe this attitude change has everything
to do with retail-light instead of the horror of the big box in years
past. Getting sentimental, Bunkie?

Saturday, November 28, 2009

a good friday in november

Even though the deYoung was packed and that tiresome Boy King
sold out, it was a pretty easy retail Black Friday for us. It's just
so wonderful when the customers are so easy to please and no
one is in the attack mode, as they used to be at the big box. God,
did I hate retail Black Friday in the past. Even closing wasn't a
big deal and we didn't have any call-outs, so I had lots of help
with all the details of counting and bringing down all the cash
register drawers (and cash). Again, how nice to have a host of
security guards who take care of the rare visitor who might be
out of line. And really, that is RARE.

Down at the Legion we are gearing up for the Cartier Exhibit
which opens December 19. There are some previews beforehand
though, and I'll be working a couple of those. I will be in
sparkle mode, you can count on that.

Friday, November 27, 2009

thanksgiving joy


Gwen, Nicole, Sam and Ben ~ during a quiet moment yesterday.
Neti and Frank's table. The mamas sat at the end here so they
could jump up when one of the two monitors made a noise. We
had a lovely day and the turkey, stuffing, Rita's cauliflower,
creamed spinach, yams, cranberry sauce ~ all perfect. It was
so nice being with everyone again this year. Happy day indeed.

Tonight I close at the deYoung. The final Friday night event
until 2010. Loud music will be the only problem because it is
College Night and they don't do Beethoven.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

the turkey goes to twin peaks

Husbando and I are roasting and trotting (ahem) the turkey
up to Neti and Frank's today about 3pm. I can see a new twin
word play game here because the reason we are going to Twin
Peaks is because of the grandbaby twins, Ben and Sam. It is
their first real outing and yes, there will be some excitement
and, I hope, some good photos for tomorrow. Our middle
son and his wife will also be there, as will our friend Rita.
All in all, a very wonderful holiday and as always, I am one
grateful woman. Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

blissful days off (2)

Last year I wrote that I sincerely hoped it would be my last
holiday season in downtown retail. Hooray! Husbando and
I ventured there on Monday and I echoed my '08 thoughts
as we dodged the people and packages. We probably won't
be back, except for the occasional play, until January.

Today and tomorrow I'm off. Oh joy. We were busy at the de
Young yesterday, but never crazy, even with the traditional
holiday call-outs. The customers are so pleasant and easy
to please, what a huge difference from the big box.

I need to write a dramatic scene for fiction class next week.
Amazingly, an actual plot has emerged, just like the
teacher said it would if I really got to know my two or
three main characters. Of course I know Ellen, but Keith
and Aaron need some filling out. Men. So difficult.

But now ~ off to yoga. Om shanti.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

our little world

There have been four unmarked white trucks here in our nabe the
past few days. Of course they block the garages and take up what
few parking places might exist. Yesterday I asked one of the taciturn
workers what they were doing and who they were working for.
"We're making a communication center here for T-Mobile." But
why did he have a PG&E sticker on his white hard hat and what
are they really up to? Conspiracy theory time here in Bernal Heights.

Monday, November 23, 2009

a very special day!


RR is six years old today! It doesn't seem possible. Blogmaid
and family hosted a few parties this past week or two and that's
how it should be for such a wonderful girl. Really, all she needs
now is a palomino pony ~ let's keep our fingers crossed. Happy
birthday, dear RR!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

big and little edie

Here we see Jessica Lange and Drew Barrymore listening to JFK's
funeral from their Grey Gardens home. This is on HBO all week,
don't miss it! Grey Gardens is faithful to the 1975 documentary about
Jackie O's aunt and cousin and we both thought the acting was
terrific. The blogmaid loved it too ~ and not just because of the cats.