Monday, March 10, 2008

Sniff, sniff

And so we come to the end. After a whirlwind few months—we went to Paraguay! We saw Iguazu Falls! We bought tickets home to New Zealand!—we leave the city by the bay just when spring appears to have arrived, durnit. The packing guys are here, wrapping up our memories in layers of fish and chip paper. The sleek neighborhood dogs are passing below our windows with their sleek owners and the women at the nail salon across the road are sitting in the big cushy pedicure chairs waiting for customers. I will miss this city.

A few final San Frantastic moments:
* I went and ate sushi with a couple of the interns at this funky no-name sushi place that is somewhere between the Mission and Noe Valley—more Mission than Noe I think. I got there before they arrived and when a typically hip SF guy asked to look at my teapot, I shrugged and passed it over. This set off a stream-of-consciousness prattle that did not end when the rest of my party arrived. I was told about some amazing dance event in the middle of nowhere in the middle of Portugal and told to get in before all the tickets sold out, man. I was advised to write a story about Mayor Hunky’s (Gavin Newsom’s) recent treatment of the homeless in the Tenderloin (according to Mr Hip, one young drunk homeless guy hassled Hunky for money and Hunky has had the police on patrol down there ever since). And I learned that Mr Hip likes to refer to himself as “a sassy little bitch” which I found quite endearing.
* Our friend Megan from London came to stay and we did all kinds of fun SF stuff. The capper was a cocktail at the dear old Carnelian Room, where we watched the sun set and pointed happily at Alcatraz and Coit Tower and Fisherman’s Wharf and the seals on their platforms bobbing in the oily water. Both M and I had a funny experience when we used the restroom. A small Chinese woman was stationed by the door. She welcomed each of us to her restroom, showed us to a stall and when we were seated began to sing and whistle. I wondered if this was to make the situation less awkward—we were peeing in her office, after all—or to help us conquer potential stage fright.
* After dinner at Tommy’s Mexican restaurant where I had the best-ever margarita, Tim gave me a wooden sign reading ‘San Francisco’. He announced that every day until our departure I would receive a San Francisco present. After the sign came a baseball cap, some old-style postcards, kiddies books about the city, a map of wine country, and today my favourite of all, a reproduction of a map of the city drawn in 1909, three years after the earthquake.

Monday, December 31, 2007

New Year, oh dear

Actually, I'm looking forward to 2008. We have some big plans and I am all about action, so that's good. Besides, 2007 has been a herky-jerky ride at the fair--I have spent much of it feeling nauseous and wondering when I can get off. Even now, having reached the end of the ride, I am clutching my stomach and staring at the ground trying not to chuck.
So to make myself feel better, I have been thinking about what I want to accomplish in the next 12 months, besides the big ones like figure out career, find new home, make some kind of difference in this world etc. They are too stressy for my current state of mind. Plus, I don't really like New Year's resolutions because they tend to be all about guilt and self-loathing, neither of which I am willing to play host to for very long. So I have some spiffy new goals instead. Such as:
1. Get a pound puppy. Finally.
2. Learn how to cook three decent meals. Just three. I will find the Nigella inside and I will enjoy her company.
3. Eat more vegetables. Refer to #2.
4. Make a new friend. It would be very easy as we are slipping back into the lives we left in Auckland in 2005, to just hang out with the same people all the time. While I am very excited to be close to my lovely friends again, one of the cool things about 2007 has been new friendships.
5. Wear heels more often. My bung knee is almost up to the job and heels just look better with jeans.
6. Read more worthy books. I have read some great stuff this past year (and some utter pap) but I have refused to read any of Tim's books about democracy, the Middle East, the global economy, or Christianity. I can't expect him to delve into Joan Didion if I won't do Thomas Friedman.
7. Cut down on the reality TV. It is making me stupid. I have had two guilty pleasures this year: Tori and Dean: Inn Love and Bridezillas. And lately there has been a new one called My big, fat fabulous wedding about people for whom there is no budget when it comes to wedding planning. They will spend, for example, $2,500 on seashells to decorate their tables, or $240,000 on jewels for the wedding day, or $50,000 for flowers. It makes me feel like a better person.
8. Stay on top of the housework. Tim's dropsy tendencies (he'll drop his junk on any flat surface) have squelched my will to tidy, but in 2008 I will fight back.
9. Take more and better photographs.
10. Make albums of the photographs, so I can appreciate all the wonderful adventures we've had and will continue to have.
Happy New Year!!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Best of times, worst of times

Top 5 books
* The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion. I had been avoiding it for fear of getting too upset, but I found her descriptions of the grief of losing someone essential to be comfortingly familiar.
* No one belongs here more than you, Miranda July. July is so hot right now! And now I see why. Loved it.
* Lucky, Alice Sebold. I have been avoiding this one for years although I adored The Lovely Bones. But after hearing Sebold speak as part of the City Lights and Lectures series I decided to dive in, and it was actually oddly funny and life-affirming.
* Hibiscus Coast, Paula Morris. She is so clever. Made me miss NZ.
* Plan B, Anne Lamott. Another of Lamott's books that I will read over and over.

Top 5 San Francisco
* Hearing Anne Lamott speak at the Jewish Community Center. One of my absolute favourite authors and she is so funny and wise.
* Sailing on the Bay on a gorgeous sunny autumn day. Magic.
* Sipping a margarita while watching darnkess fall on the city from a cozy table at the Carnelian Room.
* Watching the Blue Angels streak across the city from our roof.
* Riding the cable car up California St on a wet and windy night.

5 Most ridiculous
* Winchester Mystery House, San Jose. Is it really so mysterious that this disturbed woman (heiress of the Winchester rifle fortune) would incorporate the number 13 into her home? Or spider web patterns? What is truly mysterious is why people would buy any of the crap they sell in the gift shop.
* Paying $9 to motor down 17-Mile Drive in Carmel. Puh-lease.
* Paxton Gate, Mission St. I go to visit the taxidermied mice dressed like punks and popes.
* Adults dressed like sexy nurses and sexy superheroes and sexy vampires going to the office on Halloween.
* The guy who disguises himself as a bush (he holds branches in both hands and fixes branches to his back and head) and scares people at Fisherman's Wharf. Then they give him money.

I can think of other highlights and lowlights but that's enough for now.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Happy Holidays!

Good will towards men, etc. The holiday season has had the desired effect--I've lost track of the days and have a seemingly endless supply of chocolate and jellybeans to hand. Lovely. I felt only vaguely guilty when I went to the gym yesterday and spent 50 minutes squeezing a weird spiky ball between my thighs (it was Hello Kitty pink, folks, which made it almost palatable) and realised I would instantly undo all of my good work with the gobbling of just two chocolate coins.
We spent Christmas with my brother and family after catching a Christmas Eve performance of the Nutcracker. Love that ballet, and I don't care how ubiquitous/cheesy it may be. The music is beautiful, the costumes are beautiful, and I have been watching the SF Ballet do it since I was 5. So there.
Other Christmas season highlights:
* Admiring the giant swan in the window of Marc Jacobs on Fillmore St. Bizarre fun.
* A quick burger and bloody Mary at Harry's after picking up some fabu gifts. I love giving good gift.
* My third-ever manicure. I finally broke down and went to the little nail studio across the road that I have been spying on for the past year. I picked a pale pink polish called Bubble Bath.
* The twinkly snowflake lights on the side of the Sak's building. So pretty.
* A verrrry strong Margarita in the Carnelian Room, at the top of the Bank of America building. The view is gorgeous--the bay and city laid out for you as if you were a despot. I felt teary, jubilant, nostalgic, and slightly giddy all at once.
After bidding adieu to the family the day after Christmad we headed to Carmel, a cutesy little seaside village that has turned into a caricature of itself. Dad lived there and practiced medicine when he first moved to the US. Every shop smells like vanilla cupcakes. And it costs $9 to do the 17-Mile Drive made famous by the Pebble Beach golf course and US Open. And if that weren't enough to turn you off, the first ever Thomas Kincaid gallery opened in Carmel 15 years ago. If you're not familar with him, he's the most collected living artist today. He depicts ideal chocolate box-style cottages and village scenes and is known for his technique with light--everything looks all twinkly and elf-like. He designed a whole housing sub-division in my birth city, Vallejo. He makes me feel nauseous but I couldn't stop myself from diving into his gallery and having a giggle. If Santa had known about that, I'm pretty sure I would have been left off the sleigh route. Ah well.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Sentimentality alert

Feeling nostalgic today. And sick. I have been sick all week--nasty flu-ey congestion and fuzzy head--and nostalgic for about three weeks. We finally made a firm decision about our future--we're heading back to New Zealand next year. I resigned from my job yesterday and that's all folks. I'm glad we have a plan of sorts because I am the original girl with a plan. If I'm not heading somewhere with some objective in mind I am pretty miserable. So that's good. But I love living in San Francisco. It's a childhood dream come true and while I always knew it was temporary I guess I figured it would be a more longterm move than it's turned out to be. We have been here a year. We flew into New York on September 1, 2006 and we moved into our chilly wee apartment last December. So we've experienced all the seasons here and watched our neighbors gorgeously OTT decorations change from St Patrick's elves to Easter bunnies and eggs, to summer flowers, to Halloween ghouls, to Thanksgiving cones of plenty, to Christmas wreaths--and all of it wonderfully American in scale.
Today is cold but sunny. I had to drop Tim off for his Saturday business class and then drove home along California St, past the Bank of America building (tallest in the city, home to our money manager), past two cable cars, past the Fairmont Hotel and Tonga Bar where we have yet to go, past Grace Cathedral where we attended an ANZAC service, past Fillmore St where I do so much of my window shopping and we do our laundry, past the Jewish Community Center where I work out, and finally past our block with its Edwardian apartment buildings and fancy home shops. It is all so pretty.
* * * *
Enough bellyaching--we went to the Dickens Fair last weekend. The Cow Palace, a huge South SF venue for bullriding competitions and monster truck shows, was transformed into ye olde London. Or, I should say, the area where they keep the cattle and such for the big shows was transformed into ye olde London. The big domed Palace itself was a happy place for me as a child. My family used to go for the bullriding and equestrian shows thanks to Dad's country boy roots. My favorite part was intermission when we would eat Mom's egg salad sandwiches while the rodeo clown entertained us. He had huge overalls and tiny dogs would emerge from his pant legs to jump through hoops. I think there may have been a tiny spider monkey too, or that could be a 7-year-old's embellishment. In any case, it was cool fun.
So last Sunday we went to the animal area, where 25 years ago I admired blueblood horses, and it was packed with costumed folks and jewellery stalls and food places, and more costumed folk doing skits and singing bawdy songs. We watched the Irish and Scottish dancers for a while and ate some fried oysters and tried on some hats (a Robin Hood cap for T and a floral wreath for me) and headed home.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Me and the young fogey

John Denver’s nana is on television. Umm-hmm. Tim was flicking around the channels and stumbled on a 90-minute John Denver special and I said, “No!” and he said, “Rock on!” My husband is a young fogey.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

We had a moment

So I’m seriously starting to wonder if I have an executive-style ulcer cos my stomach has been misbehaving for a couple months now. It seems so 80s and unoriginal. I don’t even have a briefcase, and I don’t feel that stressed. But I have always been good at compartmentalizing and I think that’s my problem now. Nothing in our lives is feeling settled and stable and rather than meet this interesting challenge head on in an adult manner, I choose to deal with it on a sub-conscious level as I sit on the express bus and watch that one lady who applies her eye makeup as we skid down the hills towards the city—eyeliner, mascara, shadow, highlighter the works—and suffer the physical consequences of a burny tum and a bedtime that crawls ever forward. Soon I’ll be going nigh-nighs at 7.30pm.
Anyway, none of this means we’re not having a good time. We finally went to the Fillmore last week. It was tres funky—dark red walls with gold trim, chandeliers, opera boxes, and lots of pissed people in their 40s acting in the irresponsible way they hope their children won’t. There was one woman who fell on the floor and had to be helped up before the main act even bounced onto stage in their ruffled shirts and brocade jackets. It was the Waterboys, who Tim adores. I love Whole of the Moon and Fisherman’s Blues, so I was happy when they played those, and was deeply impressed with the brocade jacketed one’s fiddle playing, but I could have done without the dirty, skunky drunks.
I think that when you get to a certain age, and it varies from person to person, you simply can’t get away with public displays of drunkenness and general out-of-it-ness. Everyone around just resents you.
Oh-bama! Mayor Hunky was re-elected, which was no great surprise given his opponents were like cartoon characters, but he’s old hat now. I have a new crush—Senator Hunky from Illinois. We waited in line for an hour and half to see Obama at his SF rally on Wednesday. It seemed for a while that we weren’t going to get in at all because there were just two doors to the auditorium set up with metal detectors and there were over 6,000 people trying to squeeze in there. Just before 9pm everything stopped—the line halted, more police turned up, everything went quiet, and then whoop, whoop, the motorcade burst onto Polk St. We could see Obama sitting in the back of his Cherokee, waving, and then it stopped and he got out and I had my first-ever moment of celebrity worship. He conducted his own energy. As if he’d just jumped out of God’s pocket. It was extremely exciting. He’d been told we were the tail-end folks who might be foiled by the metal detectors and made an impromptu speech about closing Guantanamo and ending the war and other stuff that didn’t sink in because I was jumping up and down and trying to keep my eyes on him at all moments. He was just 10 feet away from us, and some of his energy clearly leapt across the crowd and into the tops of our heads because after he got back in his SUV and the secret service guys folded themselves back into shape (they did not seem happy about the unexpected pit stop) we joined the crowd who surged for the doors. The line unraveled like yarn—that someone had thrown acid on—and although some people tried to stay in formation, it was futile. We ended up getting ushered in a side door with no metal detector and no-one to check our tickets. We could have been very dangerous, I suppose, but like everyone else there that night we felt like Barack-stars.