Sunday, September 30, 2007


I've been feeling a little sorry for myself and slightly annoyed at lots of people. It started with my birthday and hasn't really gone away yet.

And then I have the privilege of knowing some people through the food bank who make me realize that I'm being petty and the annoyance is stupid, reminding me to let whatever it is go. I know a couple who have been living in their Dodge Caravan for months, have no kitchen or real space, and which hasn't really run for two months. Recently security in the neighborhood where they've been parked has been stepped up and they have had to move twice since last Tuesday. My big fear is that their vehicle will be impounded, at which time they will be shelterless as well as carless and with no way to get it back. They have a little income from SSI, but that wouldn't be enough for them to get their car out of hock.

Yet, when I talk to them they say that "Things will work out, they always do" and that they will just trust in God. They are both almost always smiling and the man keeps himself busy with recycling for two hours every morning. Now that the food bank is within walking distance they've been coming over and offering me a hand with sorting or packing or loading, help I've been needing, due a coincidental drop in numbers of volunteers.

I'd been thinking about this couple when I went to bed, and I had a dream. I dreamt that Zirpu and I were living in an '85 Toyota Camry, and that we were breaking up because of the stress of having no money and no space. It is amazing that they stay so positive, living on little but love.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

My other favorite car

The Deux Cheaveaux, by Citroen.

I love the images in this paragraph from Wikipedia's entry on the Deux Cheveaux:

Pierre-Jules Boulanger's early 1930s design brief – said by some to be astonishingly radical for the time – was for a low-priced, rugged "umbrella on four wheels" that would enable two peasants to drive 100 kg of farm goods to market at 60 km/h, in clogs and across muddy unpaved roads if necessary. France at that time had a very large rural population, who had not yet adopted the automobile, due to its cost. The car would use no more than 3 liters of gasoline to travel 100 km. Most famously, it would be able to drive across a ploughed field without breaking the eggs it was carrying. Boulanger later also had the roof raised to allow him to drive while wearing a hat.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

A San Francisco Institution

Last night, because my cousin is in town from Rhode Island, Mom, KT, No, and another couple (for whom I have to make up nicknames) went to see Beach Blanket Babylon. This satirical musical revue centers on Snow White's search for her prince. She starts out in San Francisco and travels the world, only to find the prince back at home after all. We had the whole experience, eating at Capp's Corner before the show. Capp's, also a San Francisco institution and now closely associated with BBB, caters to the Club Fugazi crowd and the place suddenly emptied out at 730.

The first time I saw this show I was about eleven. We had a running gag in our family that comes from BBB. There used to be a part in the show when Snow White is crying about not finding her prince "anywhere" and the, well, sort of fairy godmother character looked at her and said, "Lighten up, Snow." Mom used to say this to me a lot since I tended to be rather serious about everything. It was years before I caught the pun, and I love puns.

All of the music is familiar, some of it rewritten, and there are sly and not so sly jokes in the references to pop culture and celebrities. Nancy Pelosi appears in leather pants singing "Leader of the House" with Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein singing backup. I'd expect that it woudln't be totally up to date, but Michael Jackson and N'Sync appear, and Elvis has been a constant in the show since the beginning and now he's been dead (or not) for thirty years. Barbara Streisand has again retreated to her hermitage, and the Village People are way in the past. Madonna appears, but in her late-80s pointy-breast pink Merry Widow outfit. Surprisingly, Gavin Newsom didn't show up... I was sure he would, up to the end. The most topical joke was about foot tapping in airport bathrooms, but some jokes went way back: Dick Cheney appears with a shotgun, Michael Jackson with a baby, and Tina Turner with a hugely tall wig.

And that's what I saw last night. I enjoyed the show but the references are getting way out of date. Maybe it's because of the Boomers that so many of the references are from the 1980s. I noticed that now a sign appears above each new celebrity spoof, and one of the things I used to like was recognizing everyone's BBB alter-ego (much harder when I was a kid and only read Herb Caen's column). The show's not as chauvinistic about San Francisco as it used to be, either, though

Seeing it over so many years it's interesting to notice how Snow White's character has changed. I remember reading an interview, years ago, with the woman who played SW at that time. She said that the hardest thing about playing the role wasn't doing so many shows a week, but having to speak in falsetto for 90 minutes in a row. Now Snow White busts out her Big Voice, and for me, it's like seeing someone all grown up. I imagine the change is surprising if you're seeing for the first time, but after so many years of hearing falsetto SW, I get an especial kick out of it.

Well, really, Beach Blanket Babylon is all about the hats.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

It's Okay To Change Your Mind

Though it's not always easy to say so, especially in a large public forum, like a press conference when you're the mayor of San Diego and it's a controversial topic.

I don't know anything else about this man or his politics, just that he is a Republican and that he changed his mind about civil unions being good enough for gays and lesbians (which I think implies that they are not good enough for "the institution of marriage"). Because he is a mayor of a city with a council that's asking him to sign an amicus brief in favor of marriage being open to all, he had to announce his change of mind, or change of heart, before signing the amicus specifically because he'd taken the stance for years that he would not sign such a thing.

Mayor Sanders says that the main factor in changing his mind is knowing people who are gay or lesbians, and seeing that they are just as deserving of state recognition of their relationships as straight people (this is what can happen when people can't marry). Once again, this proves the studies that indicate that straight-identified people who know queer people tend to be more supportive of equal civil rights for the queer community. We seem to have grown past saying things like, "One of my closest friends is a lesbian and she's not like all the rest of those lesbians," though I don't think we can rely on the voters to vote in favor of social change because so many people don't think they know any queer people... but that's a different post.

I used to hate changing my mind. I craved certainty and the ease of acting in that, and as a result decisions were really hard for me to make. As a child, hell for me was Baskin-Robbins! I remember when I was a junior in college and was realizing that I didn't, after all, want to be a high school English/history teacher, my academic advisor told me that it was okay to change my mind - and that I rejected her advice. I changed my mind anyway but had I believed her it would have been much easier to do so.

Five years later I started to understand that the only constant is change, and the more I learn the more likely it is that I will change my mind about things. I can say "my thinking has evolved" but really that's a just a fancy way to say I've changed my mind. Mayor Sanders has my political gratitude for standing up for equality while being a member of a party that is famously not interested in equality, and my personal support for publicly changing his mind. He could have just signed it, but he's told us why and what changed his mind.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Five Flags A-Fluttering

Three national flags, one city flag, one state flag.

I learned by chance that this intersection is called "the Five Flags Intersection," which is easier than calling it by the names of the five streets, including two state highways, that meet here. It is very well-signed, except for its name.

Monday, September 24, 2007

The Year of Big Fun Scary Things

I received an email from the National Novel Writing Month guy, Chris Baty, following up on his invitation to all of us who had once signed into NaNoWriMo for "Trying Big, Fun, Scary Things Together." The Year of BFS Things is coming to a close with the start of the 2007 NaNoWriMo, so he's checking in.

When I received the invitation in January I took it as a sign to not go back to financial aid right away and to take the year off and do other things. TL pointed out to me at the time that even though many of my friends had been supporting me to go for joy, it was an email from a stranger that convinced me to do it. Well, I'm superstitious that way, I guess.

I'm fascinated by what people are reporting were their goals and on their completion or status of those goals. I think I got what I wanted out of participating, and that makes me happy. When I read Saipan Writer's blog I feel like I'm helping her meet her goal, too, which was to write a blog.

In response to Chris Baty's email I posted this response to the forum:

My goal was titled "Saying no to paid work."

Indeed, I did and I volunteered several places, including a small food pantry. When the program coordinator gave her notice at the beginning of May, the director asked me if I would be interested in taking over the position on an interim basis for several months while the food bank would be going through some major transitions. I said yes, and when the interim period ended, I was offered the position "for real." I said yes again.

Working at the food bank is hard physical work but oh so fulfilling, usually fun, and interesting. And if I hadn't started the Big Fun Scary thing of not working for pay I wouldn't have wound up with this great job that I love.

PS Unrelated to this, I resolved I would write every day in 2007 and on day 266 [yesterday] I think I'm having about a 95% - plus success rate so far.

The Universe works in strange ways.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Two Posts

Humble Pie

Saturday, September 23

We went to Salsa Under the Stars tonight, meeting some friends and friends of theirs for salsa with live bands at Jack London Square. Given the rain this morning, and the fact that Jack London Square is right on the water, I thought it would be cold but actually it was quite nice. The dance floor was pitifully small, even for salsa, especially at a free event, but the Square has a big flat concrete design in the center that a lot of people used for a dance floor.

It's been awhile since Zirpu and I danced and we were definitely out of practice. We didn't really remember steps that we used to know well. The dancing surface was a little sticky, and the shoes I was wearing (not dance shoes) have stretched out so they don't stick on my heels, making spins difficult.

Of course there were some good salseros there, and lots of different styles being danced, as well as some not-salsa being danced. I felt clumsy and uncertain most of the night, and though a woman commented to Zirpu that he was a good dancer, I didn't feel like I was dancing very well. Not that it matters when you're dancing for fun, and I did have fun.

Hot Dog!

Sunday, September 24

I stopped eating hot dogs when I was eight. I don't remember why, but it probably had something to do with hearing that hot dogs were made out of pig snouts and ears. I stopped eating baloney then too, which makes sense since baloney is really like a flattened hot dog (in fact, No used to eat baloney sandwiches with ketchup). I even refused a hot dog at a time when I knew I was being a pain in the butt by insisting on cheese for my bun instead.

The only exception to my no-hot dog rule involved grills. On the stovetop at home, we cooked hot dogs in boiling water rather than other ways. However, if someone was grilling hot dogs I would eat one if it was burnt black and crunchy and if there was was mustard. I like my marshmallows toasted golden but if the hot dog was red I would ask to have it put back on the grill. More often I would opt for a hamburger, if they were offered. I still like hamburgers better but now and then I crave that weird hot dog taste. I think it's the nitrates.

I didn't eat hot dogs for eighteen years. I started eating them, and baloney, again when I was working at Harry's Mother. One night one of my fellow res counselors fried up hot dogs in butter on a pancake grill for dinner for the clients. The browned hot dogs looked promising so I tried one, and am back eating hot dogs from time to time. I prefer them grilled, but I don't require that they be burnt to a crisp. I still like lots of mustard on my dogs and my baloney sandwiches could be considered a mustard delivery system more than anything else.

I am into beef hot dogs, and not all those fancy-pants sausages: Chicken and apple sausage? Please! Those are for breakfast! The former Program Coordinator at the food bank loved hot dogs with lots and lots of ketchup, and she introduced me to some dogs from Trader Joe's (I could recognize the label but I don't remember the brand). On the occasions when I buy hot dogs, it's usually Hebrew National, but usually Nathan's and back east there's a brand called Kahn's which is also good but unfortunately unavailable out here.

At this time we have two bottles of interesting mustards in the fridge: A Jack Daniel's Southwestern mustard I found at Mom's and a (an?) habanero garlic mustard from a local firm. I'm planning to pick up some hot dogs for some mustard eating. Zirpu has the final word on hot dogs and baloney: "It's a random food to eat, once in a while."

Friday, September 21, 2007


When I'm at work, I often have a hard time sitting still. I work on my feet and there always seems to be a lot of things to do before we open for service. 1pm is the magic hour and honestly, some days I don't know how we are going to get it done. I have finally reached a point where I don't think we'll be ready for service and yet I know that somehow we always are, so I just trust my experience rather than my feeling in the moment.

Yet my boss wants me to take the time and chew the fat with the volunteers. He actually said that this isn't like a normal job where chatting is frowned upon. Shooting the breeze is almost in my job description. It builds community, and reinforces the community that already exists. Since they're not being paid, there are all kinds of reasons the volunteers show up week after week, and part of my job is to hang out with them.

Even if I have an unorganized meat freezer (or two).

Even if the produce from the farmer's market needs to be sorted.

Even if the service area is a mess.

Even if the bread table needs to be set up.

Even if I want to move the worm buckets around.

There are times when I have to quiet the list in my mind and just listen. This is something I am still practicing: I notice that when a volunteer is telling me about his trip or about a USDA report she read, that to-do list starts to chatter at me. For a moment I have this inner dialogue shutting down the list. Doing this actually makes me concentrate on the conversation even more.

Today a couple volunteers brought a cake to the food bank. I was training someone on one aspect of delivery when the FBD called a meeting at ten minutes to 1, which turned out to be in celebration of my birthday (last week) and the birthday of another volunteer (two weeks ago). They sang "Happy Birthday" and we each had a slice of cake, and then I grabbed my trainee and wandered off to continue training him. A few minutes later the FBD reappeared and pulled me back to where everyone was sitting and talking about the 50th HS reunion someone had just attended.

As I sat on the edge of a desk and listened, I thought to myself that this was one of those times that I just need4ed to sit still. I didn't know that the FBD had explained to the half-dozen clients sitting outside that we were going to open a little late. I just sat still. When I worked in an office it was so easy to jaw with a colleague, and at the food bank it's so hard most of the time.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Don't It Always Seem To Go...

When I was in middle school, two of the girls in the carpool were taking figure skating lessons. My neighbor DeeKay was one, and the girl who'd been our hook-up for the carpool in the first place was the other. Skating lessons were on Wednesdays, and I think DeeKay's mom may have been the Wednesday driver. We all went to what we called "Skates" on 48th Avenue.

DeeKay and the other girl owned their own ice skates, shiny white and with blade protectors. The rest of us rented ours, brown with the shoe size printed on the back of the heel. The ice rink smelled like the inside of a freezer, and the oval-shaped rink had a mural of people skating on a frozen pond with snow on the evergreens around it. There was a wooden fence along the high side to keep people from falling onto the rink when they walked into the building, and along the right side was the enclosed snack bar, which smelled like what a freezer would smell like if you'd left a few cups of hot chocolate in there. We bought Nestle Crunch candy bars and played Space Invaders there.

DeeKay's lesson was in the middle of the rink and I watched her skate backwards and try an axel or a camel spin. All I knew how to do was skate forward, and I did that, as fast as I could. As I sped, crouched, along the outside of the rink I imagined myself to be Eric Heiden, who won five gold medals and set Olympic and world records in all of the speed-skating events.

We didn't just go after school for DeeKay's lessons. I remember going there with the kids from the neighborhood (as opposed to the carpool kids), and DeeKay had one if not two birthday parties there. When he was eight or nine, No broke his thumb there when a man skating backwards crashed into him. After Ryebread moved to Washington State and then moved back, sometime during my senior year of high school, a group of us wound up ice skating. I remember feeling really happy because it was so simple and didn't involve trying to drink beer.

They tore down the ice rink while I was in the Northwest and built townhouses or condos on the property. I'm still sad that the old rink, which was admittedly small and in an old rickety building, is gone. I have spent much more time on dance floors than on ice, but I would love to smell that ice-and-chocolate smell and wear those heavy boots again, and take another Eric Heiden spin around the rink.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Babies Coming

I had dinner with a friend who is six months pregnant. It was interesting to listen to all of the changes she's experiencing. Since it's not happening to me I can just be excited, and I've been asked to co-host a shower for her. Yay! Another party! This one is definitely going to be about mama - the baby will get plenty of attention when she or he shows up.

I can't think of another big event that happens in your life that you can plan around but not exactly when it's going to happen. Like, if the hospital's in San Francisco and the parents are in Oakland and the baby starts coming at 700am on a Tuesday, what's the alternate plan, in case the baby comes really fast?

On the other hand, some things being the way they are, you know when the baby's coming and can absolutely plan ahead. That happens too.

Here's a shout out to Bink and her family. I've been thinking about you all day!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

260 and 256

It is the 260th day of 2007. I've written 256 posts, which is more than I thought it would be, given the multiple days I didn't post due to vacations. Heck, I was in Mexico for a week! And in or on the road to and from Colorado for another week. Not to mention the shorter periods of no internet access. What a mystery.

I've been feeling low on steam for this project lately. The last week or so I have been having trouble sleeping, I think I may have been all wound up about the Food Bank moving on Saturday. You see, I had told the Food Bank Director that I wanted a triple-wide trailer for my birthday, and he made it happen. Unfortunately the move-out date was my birthday so I wound up working on my birthday for the first time in four years (which had been the first time in at least four years, but I had been "released to work" on that day so I had to go in).

Last night took advantage of feeling sleepy after dinner and got under the covers to read pretty much immediately. Being in bed for two hours before sleeping works much better when you get in bed at 830 than when you get in bed at 1030. And I actually woke up rested this morning for a change!

All that was part of my saying that being tired makes it hard to write. DaveO and I used to look at each other on Fridays, after a week of studying, and say, "My brain is full!" I don't know what it's full of now, but it feels like cotton and not much of anything to write about most of the time. I couldn't even plan a big birthday event for myself (like ice cream at Knudsen's) and as a result didn't have one, which bummed me out.

Here it is almost ten pm and I'm writing this post now. However, I'm also ending it so I can go to bed. G'night!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Lordy, Lordy

Look who's Forty!

I showed great restraint tonight when I took Zirpu out to dinner. I did not tell the host or the waitress that it was Zirpu's birthday. Later, when the waitress asked if we wanted dessert and Zirpu declined, I did not say, "It is someone's birthday today" to him, which obviously she would have heard.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

A Birthday Story

I come out looking bad in this. The only defense I have is that I was raised that birthdays are a big deal. When we were kids, there would be streamers hanging from the pot-hanger over the table, and all the cereals on the table. Often at school there were cupcakes. On your birthday you chose where the family went out to dinner that evening.

Phil turned 21 the day before I turned 20. At 1130 the night before (on the 13th), people arrived to take him on his "twenty-one run," so he could order his first legal beer at midnight on the 14th. Jujubi, whose 20th birthday had been a few days before, and I stayed home. The next day was my birthday. Phil insisted that we go to wash our cars that afternoon, which I thought a really strange thing to do, though it turned out the purpose was to get me out of the house so Jujubi could hang up a sign.

We often ate together, which is how I got through college without learning to cook. I had a padded envelope from my mom; Phil's gift from his mother had arrived a day late and was a 3'x2' box. As we finished dinner Phil put his box on the table and said something like, "Time to open presents." Jujubi reminded Phil that they had to sing "Happy Birthday" to me first, and as it was actually my birthday I should open my present first. They did, and I did, receiving two books by Rita Dove, with whom I had taken two writing workshops, books I still have. Mom had included a happy birthday note on a "While You Were Out" memo. Phil brought this big box onto the table and after opening it pulled out clothes, coffee, a new coffeemaker carafe, some art supplies, and several other things, plus a birthday card with "To My Son On His Birthday" written on the front in a cheesy font.

The next thing I remember Jujubi and Phil were heading off to the library to study (I always studied at home). I don't remember what specific thing triggered it but I remember standing on the walkway leading to the front door yelling at them for not celebrating my birthday with me. I remember very clearly that I was furious, even knowing that it wasn't their fault that his package arrived late, even knowing that Mom's gift was perfect and probably mailed on the fly while she was at work so it would arrive on time. After they left, I carefully chose books I didn't care about from the shelf and threw them at the wall. I yelled and cried.

I don't know why I threw such a temper tantrum that night. I was really embarrassed about it afterwards and apologized to Phil and Jujubi. I even apologized in my heart to Phil's mom for thinking that she had sabotaged my birthday.

The next year everyone and their brother came out for my "twenty-one run" (also, the next year, many more people were 21; only Bink had to wait for another week). The September Birthdays Party we had that year seemed like it had an especially large turnout and I received birthday cards from all kinds of people. I ruefully enjoyed all the birthday greetings, as I suspected that a lot of my friends had heard about the tantrum the year before.

Friday, September 14, 2007


One set of my parents-in-law sent Zirpu and me a couple t-shirts for our birthdays. They live in the mountains in New Mexico, near the kind of town that's so small that you wonder what the people there do for a living (they're retired; they run the post office/store/cafe; they're pastors; or they're ranchers).

One t-shirt has a picture of a dinosaur wearing winged sandals, advertising Bones Gasoline. The other shirt has a stylized picture of mountains that says "Weed, New Mexico" on the front and "High in the Sacramento Mountains" on the back.

I wonder if my mother-in-law gets the joke.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Our Friends!

Mom gave me this clipping today. It's from the college newspaper, in a little blurb about Anzanga, a marimba ensemble, playing on campus. I sent it to her almost (gasp!) eighteen years ago. Anzanga played on campus often, and I still have the cassette ("Anzanga") I purchased at this show, though I haven't listened to it since I've been without a tape player for some time.

It's a very weird picture of me, and I'm sure the friend in the photo with me would think it was a strange one of her too.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007


I go many years without thinkong much about ukuleles and suddenly I'm hearing or seeing them everywhere.

First of all, Saipan Writer posts a video of uke master Jake Shimabukuru playing "The Star Spangled Banner" for the Fourth of July and Liberation Day. It's worthy of Jimi Hendrix. Then Shimabukuru appears on KFOG's Morning Show on the 7th and plays "While My Guitar Gently Weeps." I know who he is because of a blog! And on Saturday, the Killer Lady, Mah, and I go to the British Invasion Hoot and Ukulele Ray is there selling his boxaleles.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Seeing It

I walk on the elliptical trainer at the gym because I know I should do some aerobic exercise, but it's the weight training that I really like. Not only do I feel strong, but I feel like I'm doing something unladylike. It's a feeling like "No one who sees these shoulders is going to call me 'girl'." I am woman, see my bicep curls!

I'm pretty good about not lifting things that I know will challenge my back too much. I bend from my knees, tighten my abdominal muscles, try to avoid lift-and-twist and bend-and-reach, and ask for help. However, I've noticed that working at the food bank is making me stronger. It's quantifiable because the weights are specific, so I know that I am lifting or pulling or pushing ten pounds or thirty pounds or 110 pounds. I go to work five days a week, and the gym two or three, so I think the two are reinforcing the effect each has.

In the past, I've always asked someone else to put the fifty pound boxes of apples or oranges in the refrigerator for me, or asked someone to help me pick them up. It's not just the weight that's been the challenge, but the shape, and the fact that these boxes do not have handles. I have to get my hands under them and lift them up, and with my short arms that has always been hard, with the weight pulling on my shoulders.

This evening there wasn't anyone around to help me with the boxes, so I thought I would try picking one of them up and seeing how it went. After all, each weights machine has a sign on it saying "Do not exceed your known weight level" or something like that, and I've always wondered how one would know what her weight level was if she's never tried that machine before, or tried a heavier weight? So I knew what I was doing.

So I wrapped my arms around an apple box, stuck my fingers under, tightened my core muscles, bent my knees slightly, and lifted up. Not only could I get the apple box off the table, but it didn't feel as heavy as they always have. I walked over to the fridge and shoved the box in, and did the same with the other apple box and the box of oranges.


Monday, September 10, 2007

Beatles, yay!

When Mah, The Killer Lady, and I went out Saturday night it was really fun to learn that Mah is also a big Beatles fan! We sang all the songs the Hoot performers played, ans compared the songs we don't like. Neither of us like Run For Your Life and believe that Girl and This Boy are two of the most boring songs in the book. I must admit that I've never warmed up to Come Together, either, though the KL and Mah both like it. I like the lyrics, but not the song.

I used to be a real Beatles geek: In tenth grade, I wrote a fifteen page paper on the Beatles for my English class, titled "It Was Twenty Years Ago Today." Because it was the 20th anniversary of the Beatles' first trip to the US, there were tons of reference materials available, and my paper was seven pages longer than the assignment required. When I was a sophomore in college, I listened to the Beatles so often that my housemates stopped asking me to choose the records. I still know a lot about the Beatles, so it must be true that the stuff you learned while you were writing papers sticks in your head (I still know how chlorophyll works, too). I probably still am a real Beatles geek, it just doesn't show so much now that I'm addicted to NPR.

When we were kids, we learned how to use a record player with three records: A song about Muhammad Ali, Rhinestone Cowboy, and Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band. I remember most of the words from the first two records, which were singles, and every word, in order, on Sgt. Pepper's. Why is it so much easier to memorize a song, not to mention an album, than a poem?

I thought I would be a John, but it seems I am a Paul. I always liked George best, anyway. His songs are so strange, and he was so handsome in the photos on Sgt. Pepper's.

When you've seen beyond yourself
Then you may find
Peace of mind
Is waiting there

And the time will come
When you see we're all one
And life flows on
Within you and without you

Sunday, September 9, 2007

A Summer Evening

I learned that Jerry Garcia died while I was at work one morning at Coffee People in Portland. One of my customers came in with the newspaper and over the whine of the milk steamer read the relevant paragraph to me. I didn't know much about Garcia's personal life at the time, though I knew he'd been ill - I saw him play in Golden Gate Park shortly after he came out of the diabetic coma in 1986. When you don't know much about someone famous, he or she can be larger than life, and that's how I felt about Jerry, like he was the heart of a band that had supplied some of my life's soundtrack (and no, I wasn't a Deadhead; given a choice, I'd take the Beatles anytime).

That evening, or maybe the next one, a radio station hosted a memorial on the plaza outside the Rose Garden Arena, which was new at the time. I didn't know anyone who would be interested in attending with me and I was getting used to doing things alone. I was carrying a sweater, but the plaza was warm, filled with bodies and burning candles, on that summer night. The radio station was playing on big speakers at the front of the crowd, but due to noise ordinances, couldn't really pour on the volume, so the deejays asked folks to bring their boom boxes and there were small stereos (and not so small) all over the place. Signs and drawings were propped up all over, against walls, trash bins, and posts. The age range was, unsurprisingly, very wide.

At one point toward the end, Ripple was playing:
Reach out your hand if your cup be empty,
If your cup is full may it be again.
Let it be known there is a fountain
That was not made by the hands of men.

There is a road, no simple highway,
Between the dawn and the dark of night.
And if you go, no one may follow,
That path is for your steps alone.

I looked over my shoulder and saw a boy who looked to be about fifteen years old, his hands cupped and held forward and up from his body. He had long straight blond hair, was wearing a dirty white t-shirt. His eyes were closed and he looked sad, prayerful, as if he was both holding his cup to be refilled and also as if he had just let a bird fly from him.

(After hearing Ken Kesey give four different interpretations for Sometimes A Great Notion, I tend to be skeptical about annotations and literary interpretation, but this annotated "Ripple" is interesting.)

When the memorial was over and people were starting to disperse, I wasn't ready to go home, but as I was alone, I didn't know where I could go, either. I was walking as slowly as possible back to my car when I bumped into someone I had worked with when I was subbing around various Coffee People shops, before I became a regular at my shop. He looked like I felt, and he invited me to his house.

He had a large backyard that was bigger than the house. We sat outside, each with a bottle of beer, and he had his guitar. Together we sang "Sweet Melissa," a song I didn't know I knew until that evening. Night had come, but it was still as warm as the daytime. The stars shone through the city's light, and the crickets chirped. It seemed that time was slowed down, and this man I didn't know very well and I were connected by the death of someone neither of us knew but with whom we also felt connected.

The Night of Pockets

The Killer Lady, Mah, and I went to Cafe International in SF this evening to attend a Hootenanny Night; this month the songs were all British Invasion, with a heavy rotation of Beatles tunes. The KL has moved to the East Bay, and we decided to take BART, which worked pretty well though the long wait for the Muni made us much later than we would have liked.

The Hoot was really fun, with people taking turns singing and lots of audience participation. Going by BART is like having a curfew, so we chose to leave the cafe at 1045 (right after "Lady Madonna") to make sure we wouldn't miss the last train back. Going home, we didn't have to wait long for a bus, which was pretty full even though it was an extra-long articulated one, including some other people who had been at the Hoot as well.

A couple stops after we got on, a young man in sagging pants and a drunken angry face got on the bus. We were closer to the front than the back and could see some drama going on. He checked all his pockets, though his pants were sagging so low that it took him several tries each time to get his hands into his back pockets. When he shoved his hands into the pocket of his hoodie his phone clattered to the floor and down the steps of the bus. I don't know why the driver didn't kick him off when he threw a couple of coins into the coin box. When he walked past us he was on his phone: "I lost my m---f--- transfer, n---, can you believe that s--?"

A few stops after that he ran up to the front of the bus again. The KL pointed out that it may have been because of the police car driving alongside the bus, that perhaps he was afraid that they were going to take him off the bus. The same thing happened again, including dropping the phone into the stairwell. This time on the way back he was purposefully bumping people; the KL said that he hit her on the butt and Mah said that he tried to hit her but she dodged it, and that he was hitting people all the way to the back of the bus.

There was a man sitting in the back of the bus who had been at the Hoot. He had been easy to see because he was easily six and a half feet tall. This guy stuck his foot out to trip Transfer Boy, so of course Transfer Boy started a "You want a piece of me?" thing, even after the guy from the Hoot stood up to tower over him. I didn't see this, but the KL said the man sitting next to the tall guy took off his belt and wrapped it around his fist.

Suddenly the doors opened and I saw we were at our stop. The KL said that when I said, "This is our stop" she wasn't sure whether it really was or if I was just saying it was. A lot of people left the bus when he did, including both the tall guy and the man with the belt on his fist, but not including Transfer Boy who was still posturing and shouting as the bus pulled away.

We jumped onto our train and were laughing about Transfer Boy as we sat in the seats behind the three young women sitting in the quad (two sets of seats that face each other). At the next stop a man who was intoxicated or tweaking got on the car. Very shortly afterwards he focused on the girls in the quad and sat in the empty seat with them. He was talking to the woman across from him and showing her his wallet and his cell phone. She ignored him.

I noticed that everyone but one person in our end of the car was watching this interaction. One man who was sitting about fifteen feet away stood up. The man in the seats in front of the girls pulled his cap around and started watching, and the man across from him was watching out of the corner of his eyes. The man sitting across from the tweaker kept his nose in his newspaper. Mah and the KL were watching by looking at the reflection in the window across from them, and I was watching the tweaker directly - I had a good look at him as he was blocking them in the quad.

He started pulling things out of his pockets: First he pulled out a hair pick and a pair of haircutting scissors. Then he threw at least ten Sharpies, some other pens, mints, some Starburst candies, and another pair of scissors on the floor. That was when everyone became alarmed. I got up and pressed the button to talk to the train operator. The first guy to get up stepped forward, covered the scissors with his foot, and pulled them away. I made my report to the operator and requested BART police to escort the tweaker off the train; when he asked if he had a weapon, I said that he had scissors that had been secured but he was threatening some teenaged girls.

We got to West Oakland and the tweaker got off the train by himself. I thanked everyone who had been part of this little drama because I felt really supported when I saw everyone's eyes go to this man. Usually people on BART don't get involved in stupid stuff, so I wanted to thank them so if it happens again they'll do it again, and I had felt really supported, and I knew that the girls in the quad would have been as well, had they seen what was going on with the rest of us because they kept their eyes down the whole time.

We transferred at 12th Street, talking about who saw what and what Mah - who has excellent hearing - had heard. We were laughing about how pockets had played such a big part in both dramas. The young women who'd been with us on the first train got on at the next stop, and we told them that we had vetted this car and no one had any pockets. They thanked me for calling for the BART cops.

As soon as they got off the train, a man who was obviously under the influence of something got on. As he went by, Mah heard him say, "The gummint's what's wrong with them," but he apparently didn't stay on the train very long and didn't cause a scene. All of us noticed that his pants had pockets, but he was wearing jeans that fit more tightly and wouldn't have held more than a small cell phone. Mah, the KL, and I started laughing as soon as he got on.

Friday, September 7, 2007

The Orkin Man

Zirpu and I came back from Las Vegas to find ants in the freezer. They are terribly strong, but not terribly smart - the half dozen that had gotten in (I don't even want to think about how) had frozen themselves to death. Other ants were climbing up and down the outside of the refrigerator.

Zirpu goes into vinegar battle with the ants just about every morning and evening these days. We have been told that they are in search of water in this hot and dry summer weather. Zirpu is getting sick of fighting the ants and our half gallon jug of vinegar is missing a couple inches already.

This evening Zirpu announced he's going to work from home on Monday so he can meet the Orkin Man. I guess they don't have any women working for them... It seems pretty old-fashioned, when most companies have moved away from gender-specific titles (like Orkin Man). Whoever comes, I am thinking that they will stop those ants from coming in the house.

Las Vegas Photos

I was going to post these yesterday but I was having trouble uploading photos.

In the "O" in Revolution, the "Beatles interactive bar," at the Mirage, into which we didn't actually go.

Interior design shopping at the Bellagio.

Flair show from the bartenders at Kahunaville at Treasure Island.

Motorcycle viewing at Treasure Island.

A mini Warp Core Breach at Quark's in the Hilton (which has a very lemon-lime flavor to it).

At MGM, the King of the Jungle.

After sandwiches at Mon Ami Gabi in the Paris: Psycopat, KT, No, Zirpu, me, Paulo, and Dre.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

These Days in Las Vegas

Sunday, Sept. 2

As usual Zirpu and I got to the airport two hours early. No, KT, Paulo, and Dre were on the same flight and they appeared shortly before we got on the plane. When we arrived in Las Vegas, a friend of No's picked us up in his limousine, and after checking in at TI Zirpu and I had our inaugural games of video poker and comped drinks. No's friend came back to take us to Del Frisco's for dinner, during which we had a good syrah and a fabulous GMS blend, both from Australia, plus wonderful steaks and we all shared a lobster tail and sides of macaroni and cheese, creamed spinach, and creamed corn. At the end of the meal, the waiter brought us slices of a good lemon cake with candles in them in honor of my and Zirpu's birthdays.

A conversation about free agency and athletes vs. team owners started. I didn't follow it that closely, but I observed the dynamics of the conversation. No's friend Psycopat, who I mentioned in the wedding post, is someone who likes an argument. No asked Psycopat if Psycopat was trying to have a conversation with him, or if Psycopat was just trying to push his buttons. I admire that in No... when someone pushes my buttons, I just get annoyed. Instead, No was sort of laughing at his friend. I drank my wine and huddled with Macho, talking weight-training.

The dinner was expensive, but delicious and the restaurant's reputation is well-deserved. Of course it helped knowing that what we were going to spend. The company was wonderful - Dre had organized the dinner for us, and Psycopat's posturing was more amusing than anything else. One thing I learned in Mexico: I really dig vacationing with a group of people.

Monday, Sept. 3

Zirpu and I came here for our first anniversary. Because it was a three day weekend the year that we got married, our anniversary always falls around Valentine's Day, and the casinos were swarming with wedding parties. At one point, Zirpu and I were sitting a (relatively) quiet part of one of the casinos, playing video poker and drinking comps, when a couple came and sat at the end of the bar. I guessed they were in their late 50s, he a freckled African American with freckles in a tuxedo and she a dark-skinned woman in an embroidered white dress. They ordered champagne and fruit juice and when the bartender came back to our end of the bar I told him that I wanted to pick up their tab, as a wedding gift.

This couple had run away from the Bronx to Las Vegas to get married because when they announced their engagement to the adult children from their first marriages, the children went crazy with planning "suggestions": A church wedding with all the daughters and sons participating followed by a big reception, with invitations for this cousin and that co-worker and these people from the old neighborhood... They just wanted to get married so they ran to Vegas. The bride told me she'd already had a wedding like that and one was enough. The groom said he hadn't had a hand in planning his first wedding and he didn't want to do that again.

Tuesday, Sept. 4

Someday I would like to come back to Vegas and do some old-school Vegas stuff, like attend a headdress-and-feathers show, go to the sign graveyard (though it's so hot in Vegas that doing anything outside doesn't sound like very much fun), see The Fremont Street Experience, and even catch an impersonator show (I'd prefer the Rat Pack but if Desi insisted on Elvis, I would do that too). I could never get Zirpu to do any of those things - he doesn't have the fine appreciation for cheesiness that I do.

Of course I really really want to see Cirque du Soleil's new show Love (the CD is great, with Beatles mash-ups!), and someday I will get to O.

Wednesday, Sept. 5

Speaking of Cirque, Dre, Paulo, No, KT, Zirpu and I went to see Ka last night. I've seen Mystere a couple times, Alegria and Quidam on TV, and Zumanity so I know that Cirque shows' storylines are hard to follow. In Ka, it seemed like the storyline was more important than it is in the others, so the show was pretty confusing. Afterwards, we figured out that each of us had picked up on a different element of the story, but none of us totally understood what it was about. Also, there was less of what I think of as more typical Cirque activities, like acrobatics, dance, rope swinging, and trapeze art, as the first portion of the show is all about martial arts display. Zirpu and I were both distracted by the mammoth set: One of the two stages moves in all three dimensions, and it's disappointing that the Cirque site has no images of how this works because I just can't describe it. For much of the show one of the stages is at an angle (often 90 degrees) to the floor, and most of the time the artists are wearing harnesses because they are forty feet (or more) in the air. When they weren't, I was terrified one of them would fall.

In the airport waiting to go through Security, there was a young woman in the line next to us whose blue hair was shaved in streaks for her head. She wore heavy blue, silver, and black eye makeup and a big smile on her face. Even for Vegas, her presentation was kind of out there. I told Zirpu that I thought she might be a Cirque artist going home for a visit. Even the fearless have families.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Love Synchronicity

It's hot! I had a headache so I went to the gym, and when I came home I took a cool shower and laid on the ballroom floor to listen to Prairie Home Companion. My favorites on PHC are "Guy Noir, Private Eye," and the Ketchup Board ads, and I always enjoy the music. Of course I like the Lake Wobegon stories, but my favorite part about them is the way Garrison Keillor speaks... A quiet lull, smooth rhythm, evocative of what I imagine Minnesota looks like, regardless of the season.

Side story: I once knew a man who was from a small Minnesota town who had married a woman from northern Italy years before. He said that she told him that she had learned to understand him and his culture by listening to Keillor's Lake Wobegon stories.

One of the skits this evening (which hasn't been posted in the archive yet; it was performed at the Minnesota State Fair) was about a woman (played by Sue Scott) from Minneapolis who approaches a man from Wilmar. The man (played by Garrison Keillor) is showing a chicken at the Fair, and she invites him for Pronto Pups and a ride in the Tunnel of Love after the judging. Twice, she sings an inner monologue of four lines to the tune of "You Are My Sunshine" about showing him Minneapolis and introducing him to yoga and soy lattes. At the end, the man sings about how "I kissed her then and there... And that's what I remember from the Minnesota State Fair" to the same tune.

Zirpu walked in at the end of the skit, and when the new lyrics morphed into the original lyrics, he laid on the floor with me to kiss me. When we were first dating, I sang the song to him whenever we were in the car, and Boegle rewrote the lyrics so it would be an appropriate wedding song, which she and Appa Jooz sang at our wedding.

You are my sunshine, my only sunshine
You make me happy when skies are grey
You'll never know dear how much I love you
Please don't take my sunshine away

The other night dear as I lay sleeping
I dreamt I held you in my arms
When I awoke dear I was mistaken
So thought I'd tempt you with some of my charms.

I'll always love you and make you happy
If you would only say the same
I'd show you pleasures beyond all measure
And deepest love and kindness the same.

You told me once dear you really loved me
And no one else could come between
I am so happy you chose to stay with me
You are the life come to all of my dreams.

You are my sunshine, my only sunshine
You make me happy when skies are grey
You'll always know dear how much I love you
For with me, the sunshine always stays.