Friday, December 31, 2010

Checking on the Innie

So, 2010, you're about to leave us.

I can't say I'm as pleased to see you go as I was about 2009 — that bastard, painful, disappointing year. Though frankly, that's only how 2009 ended; a large part of that year was filled with hope and positive change that lifted my spirits high only to have them crashing down in various places. Perhaps I give 2009 a bad rap ... and 2010, you, too, had your own moments (six months of them) of pain, sobbing, and deep dark places.

Two thousand ten is the year I turned 30 — and suffered the out-of-nowhere life crisis and mental anguish that comes with hitting a milestone and not seeing yourself where you expected to be. I end it still in San Francisco, still single, still renting and still living paycheck-to-paycheck.

However, 2010 is the year I've felt most comfortable with myself in a long time. It took nine months (and a road trip to Portland, Seattle and back), but now I'm ... well, "resigned" isn't the right word, sounds too negative; perhaps "happy" is better, almost accurate: I'm happy with where I am in life, in career, social life, even location. It's not New York — San Francisco can never be New York, and all it represents to me what with the memories and the mood and the amazing friends I have there — but San Francisco is certainly no longer a place I am unhappy to be "stuck" in. I have friends here that are amazing, a job here that is amazing, and family at a conveniently distant closeness that includes a nephew to spoil and play with, and siblings I can do things with, and drama enough to keep me entertained with relatively little frustration. There's really only one thing missing from my life here, and a move to New York doesn't even guarantee that I will get that ... plus, I lose out on the family part.

This doesn't mean, sir, that I will never move back east — I still want to — but it does mean that I'm no longer going to try to initiate that relocation on my own. If life throws something in my lap, or dangles an opportunity, then yes: I'm gone, City by the Bay. But until then ... My One True Love, we'll be together for visits. And we'll always have 2003/04. And really, all you have to do is lift a finger, and I'll be there ...

Back in January, I wrote down a few resolutions or goals for my 2010 year. I'd like to think that for the most part, I kept them. Not perfectly, of course: my second resolution, to fill those empty parts of my life, hasn't been fully accomplished ... but I do feel less empty than I did 12 months ago. I'm not the weight I was when I came back from NY, but I still feel healthier and more active than I have in ages. I don't have full financial stability, but enough confidence in myself that I'm looking forward to making my first major purchase next year (a new car: Baby's on her last legs, I think). So, I think these same goals are good ones to keep for the coming year, with a few adjustments:

1) Keep living for others; also, act on 2010's big lesson: friendships take work. I want to work harder at keeping in touch with the good people in my life, the ones I want to stick around. Facebook status updates aren't really enough, so I'll try harder to email or even call the friends I haven't talked to in a long time, the ones I actually miss.

2) Keep working on filling that hole in my life. You know who you are, emptiness.

3) Keep trying to live healthier: in body, mind, and money. I'm on my way there, sort of: opened an ING account to stash away some savings for emergencies/trips/etc., and just opened an account at a credit union so that I can escape the eviller one of the two banks that currently have my money.

Adding a couple more:

4) Get a web design certification. It's something I've been interested in for years, and my boss was able to ask around and get some input on classes/knowledge that would be helpful both for my current job and to satisfy my own curiosity/desire to know.

5) Start an Etsy shop. I just finished going through my yarn stash, and even with throwing out a few pounds of it, I still have a lot. It would be nice to have my hobby pay for itself a little bit. Even if it's just a few dollars here and there ... and I can use my new skills from the resolution above to better design my website.

Two thousand eleven, I think I'm ready for you, and I'm glad you're here. Two thousand ten, you'll be missed, but I'm not terribly sorry to see you go.

Happy New Year, friends, family, internet strangers. Thank you for being here.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Glaze Makes It Kosher for Christmas


The fortune cookie from today's dinner at the Green Elephant promises that "Your dearest wish will come true."

I take heart from that, even if it is just a slip of paper.

It's by now an annual occurrence, my mom announcing that we are "cutting back" on Christmas that year. And perhaps we did this year, in that we cut back on "junk" presents — useless tchotchkes — but with a nephew/grandson that needed spoiling, I don't think we really cut back on the amount of wrapped gifts under the tree.

Yes, his dad bought him a car for Christmas. Note the height of the pile of presents visible in the background. There was the stuff under the tree and in my parents' suitcases.

Since my parents flew in from Paris (I know, poor them) late night on Christmas Eve, we stayed in as an immediate family on Christmas Day instead of joining the extendeds at their various dinners and such. I made my glazed ham, Nicole made potatoes gratin, Jackie surprised us all with a more-than-edible corn bread souffle thing, and Mom got to nap all day long after the present-opening orgy while Dad watched basketball.

Hard at work, making pie.

I know a lot of people really hate this time of year: the crowds at the mall, the stress, the family (or lack thereof), the traveling, the spending, the weather, everything. But I kind of like Christmas, maybe more than any good Jewish girl should. I love the colder temperatures, the excuse to see people and have gatherings and share food. I almost even like the music, in small doses. (Which is why I completely avoid the local radio station that plays nothing but Christmas songs from November 1 through Christmas Day. Too much of a good thing.) To be honest, I even really like spending time with my family ... but shh! don't tell them that.


Happy holidays, everyone. I hope your Christmas/Giftmas/Yuletide celebration (or uncelebration) was full of happiness.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Down to the Silver Bells

Watching a lot of Netflix lately, I've just had an epiphany: Nickelodeon's Aaahh! Real Monsters = the inspiration for J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series? Think about the parallels:
  1. The main character set for each consists of three youngsters — two males and a female — at a boarding school to learn the craft of their bloodline/secret community.
  2. Of the three characters: one is from a poor family with a father that has a little-respected job; one is from a more well-off family, female, and studies hard to be at the top of the class; and one is the son of a famous member of the community who is well-known for his exploits against the common enemy (humans/Death Eaters), and has great things expected of him despite often not being the best student.
  3. This last character often suffers from the pressure of his legacy/heritage. There are also indications that this student is chosen or marked for something greater.
  4. The headmaster for each world's school, even though he's male, tends towards some effeminate/ambiguous empathies, behaviors and tastes.
  5. The main punishment figure (Real Monsters: the Snorch; Harry Potter: Argus Filch) has a pet/companion that acts as spy and communicates back to him when it catches students doing wrong.
  6. The students are often confused by normal human/"Muggle" items that they come across.
  7. The plot often revolves around the students getting into trouble/exploring places they shouldn't be, and/or saving the day unexpectedly via their combined talents.

Or perhaps I'm thinking about this too much. Still ... it's suspicious.

It's almost the end of December. Part of me is blown away, wondering how it can already be on the cusp of Christmas. I've been knitting like mad, frustrated at an attempt at a gift that fell through at the last minute, trying hard to avoid too much overeating ... but despite all this, I've been happy.

The year is suddenly almost over, yes. But even with six months spent in perhaps the darkest place I've been to in over a decade, I can't say I'm disappointed by it. I should probably save the review for another post — one where I have more time to compose and talk and analyze a bit. There are still things I want fixed, gaps that need filling or bridging. I'd like to think, however, that I'm doing better. Just a little.

Time now for sleep. I have a long day tomorrow: 8 a.m. dental appointment, followed by a late day at the office (working until 7 p.m.) and then dinner with Amber of Holiday Party fame.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Killer Fluffy Bitch: A Chlode

This has not been a good year for dogs in my family.

It's been four days since Chloe, our Killer Fluffy Bitch, died, and I'm still having problems saying something about it. Perhaps what disturbs me the most is the lack of feeling: I have hardly cried, but I also can hardly believe she is gone.


Chloe was an impulse purchase by my mother and youngest sister. She was just a little ball of fluff at first, but had no qualms about showing everyone that she was the boss. She nipped at ankles, attacked my hair, and charmed all of us in an instant. (Except for maybe Luke.) Only two people could never do any wrong in her eyes: my dad (the pack alpha), and my brother.

My brother was still practically a baby back when we adopted Chloe — only just five years old — and they grew up together, she gradually becoming both his (fourth) surrogate mother and his best friend. She was the only one that could wake him up on school mornings, and I'm pretty sure she was the only member of the family that he really missed when he went away to college.

Her long hairs shed constantly, leaving the entire house buried under a thin film of fur at all times, starting two minutes after any cleaning. I often came home from visiting the family with traces of her covering my legs.

The straight woman to our goofy chocolate lab, Chloe was the dignified member of the family — not a lady, not at all, but a gentlewoman full of the need for dignity, and willing to be violent to get it.

She defended house and home with a mighty bark, kept Luke in line with tooth and claw, but otherwise she tried her best to be dainty, crossing her front paws delicately to lie down, the quiet dog in the room. Watching our antics with a tolerant air, sometimes forgetting herself if the play seemed to fun or if there was good food involved. She would only just deign to do any tricks to earn her daily pig's ear, but from time to time you could coax a free "bisou" out of her if she was in the mood.

While Luke, who was a year older than she was, died slowly, lingering on for months and months, Chloe was here and then suddenly gone. The last time I saw her, I knew she was starting to go downhill, but I never expected it to be now. I thought I had at least a few more weekends, a few more bisous left out of that bitch.

Wherever you are, pretty girl, I hope it suits you royally.

Chloe. Sept. 24, 1995 - Dec. 11, 2010.

Ah. There are the tears.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Childhood Disease

So it seems that the punishment for having a good time is the common cold — it can't be (had damned well better not be) the flu, since I got my shot for that a couple of weeks ago.

I was so out of it yesterday when I came home early from the office, in the middle of the afternoon, that all I wanted to do was watch cartoons and drink tea. Meaning that my brand new TV got a great workout, as did my Netflix Watch Instantly account. I curled into bed, waved my controller and went straight to the Children/Family section.

The movie I settled on? The Care Bears Movie II. Go ahead. Laugh. But — and perhaps this is the disease or the DayQuil talking — I'll be damned if it wasn't actually a coherent — nay, decent — work of cinema.

Seriously. Sure, the animation was cheap, and it did have several cheesy synthy songs (hey, it was the 80s). But there was a semi-sophisticated deal-with-the-Devil plotline, with a lesson that even the most evil of evildoers has a spark of good within them. There was actual character development, of a sort. And the cheesy songs managed to veer away from becoming an annoying detraction from the plotline, and instead were more of a good opportunity to refill my cup of tea while a plot point was moved forward.

Granted, it's no Beauty and the Beast. But it certainly beat out The Swan Princess, which is a thorough piece of crap; I only made it through the first 40 minutes before having to turn that shit off.

Another movie that I recommend after this current bout of sickness: Penelope. Trust me, this one beats out even Care Bears II.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Kosher Ham for Hanukkah

Can it be considered a house-warming party, if it happens four years after you move in?

Probably not. But while I have had a couple of smaller evening events at my place before (last New Year's Eve, and a fondue party in 2008), this is the first time I've invited and had a large crowd of people coming in and out of my tiny studio apartment.

And from all appearances, it was successful. At least, that's how I feel — I hope my guests feel the same way, too. Because this means I'm probably going to have another one next year: be warned.

In true, typical Jewish-(grand)mother-in-training style, I had a lot of food. I mean, a lot. There were even things I didn't bring out of the fridge due to lack of space, or just plain ol' forgetfulness. Seriously. For instance, I don't know what I'm going to do with a CostCo-sized box of crackers.

Some highlights:
  • Being asked a couple times where I got my ham ... and then getting to tell people I glazed it myself.
  • Getting to see Amber, a friend from high school that I haven't seen in over a decade, again.
  • Realizing that I had so much beer I wouldn't be able to put any new arrivals into the fridge with the rest ... resulting in my leaving six packs scattered around the apartment.
  • Having Laura and Jeremy under my roof at the same time, which hasn't happened in almost a year. (I haven't seen either of them in almost that long, too.)
  • Watching friends who haven't been to my place before get amused by others using the window as an entrance instead of the door.
  • During my explanation of Hanukkah for the gentiles just before we lit the Menorah, I realized I was turning into my father with his welcoming speeches.
  • Recognizing that I have a lot more friends than I give myself credit for.

Some pictures:
Holiday Open House
Trying to find room in the fridge for more beer

Holiday Open House
General action shot, early on in the party

Holiday Open House
My friends appearing to think too hard, later in the party

Holiday Open House
Magnet poetry, randomly left on the fridge

Everyone who came: thank you so much! It wouldn't have been the same without you, and I'm glad everyone seemed to enjoy mingling with each other. To those of you who couldn't make it this year: you were missed, and I hope you can make it next time.

Though, looking at how much alcohol I have leftover from this event, I might have to have another party soon just to get rid of it. Darn, how unfortunate.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Open (Holiday) Season

I was about to go grocery shopping — the jacket was on, I was writing up my list — when I thought about it, and realized that I'm going to be spending probably four of the next seven days down in San Jose being fed by family.

So screw it. Empty larder be damned, I'm ordering Indian food for dinner.

After a crazy November heat wave (it was in the mid- to upper-70s here), we're finally getting winter weather. The temperature dropped practically overnight. It started misting my last hour at work this evening, and went into full-on rain as I was walking home along Market Street.

Last night I had a "date" with a new friend (he's gay, Mom, so don't get your hopes up); we joined a couple friends of his for the Henri Cartier-Bresson exhibit at the SFMOMA, and then dinner and drinks at Farmer Brown.

The exhibit: fantastic. Go see it if you can; Cartier-Bresson's got a crazy-extensive body of work, and SFMOMA's done a good job with it, a lot of places including the photographer's original captions with the photo. The man had an amazing eye and interesting take on the history he was able to witness and capture.

The dinner: if you're on a diet, any kind of diet, you have to plan a date to cheat on it for this place's fried chicken. Now, I ordered the fried catfish — which was damn good — but I snagged a bite of my friend's chicken and it melted in my mouth. It was all I could do to resist swapping plates with him when he wasn't looking. We also got an appetizer of fried (sense a theme here?) okra, and I frickin' loved it. Just skip the apple turnover on the dessert menu — it sounded good, but ended up pretty mediocre, considering the bliss-of-palate that had come before. We also could have done without the crappy wannabe-clubbin' music — I mean, seriously, the concept of the restaurant was fucking hipster (organic, local southern-style food), so why pretend to be otherwise with the house music? Still, worth dealing with that and the waiting list for a table* to get to that chicken. I hear that they have a weekend brunch that also features fried chicken ... and waffles. Holy crap sounds good.

* Note: we only waited about 20 minutes or so, but we got lucky since the party before us on the list decided to cut out instead of waiting all that time. So it was supposed to be a 45-minute wait on a Thursday night; not horrible for SF, but still kind of long.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Squash and Bacon

The special guest for tonight's dinner: spaghetti squash. I can't recall that I've ever had this, but I'm looking forward to a new adventure in gourd-dom. Best part thus far: the damn thing smells exactly like a roasted marshmallow. Crazy.

My mother and sister are in the habit, I'm sure, of referring to cook books for a recipe when they're getting ready to work in the kitchen. I, however, lacking a wide range of cooking books to choose from and having not gone to culinary school, have the internet. It's been a good companion in my rise from culinary novice (Nicole, you can stop laughing now about the raspberry pork chops incident) to maker-of-things-that-taste-good. Maybe that should be title-cased: Maker-of-Things-That-Taste-Good. Yes. Much better.

I admit, in my most inexperienced days I've had to look up how to hard-boil an egg (though cut me some slack: I just needed to know how long to boil it for, not how to heat up the water and add the ovum to it), but I will say with some pride that I've never needed Rachel Ray to tell me how to do this: Late Night Bacon Recipe.

Just the fact that Food Network isn't embarrassed to have that recipe up on their site alone is funny enough, but read the comments. It pleases me to see that all common sense is not yet lost.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Orange and Black

The SF Giants Win the World Series

In case you had not heard, the San Francisco Giants won the World Series this week.

Now, from my understanding, it's been a long time since SF last had any sort of championship sports title. And the Giants themselves (correct me if I'm wrong) haven't won a World Series as long as they've been in SF, well over 50 years.

So the city went a little nuts, you could say. Today, there was a ticker tape parade to celebrate, and as luck would have it the route started along the street on which I work. We weren't allowed to shut the office down completely for a couple hours — it's earnings period still, and we're a big office so it would be hard to forward to anyone for a major period of time — but we were allowed a little extra strictly-scheduled break to slip down and watch the festivities.

The SF Giants Win the World Series
The players got to ride by in their own cable car vehicles.

I'm not a sports fan myself, but it was hard not to get caught up in the excitement. From where I was sitting 39 stories up I could hear the screaming and cheering and blowing of vuvuzelas (the darned South Africans have infected the world now). It was kind of hard to concentrate on work when the rest of the immediate vicinity was busy taking the day off, and I dashed downstairs the minute it was time for my break — call me a bumpkin, but I do kind of like a parade.

The SF Giants Win the World Series
Confetti being blown out of cannons

The SF Giants Win the World Series
People walking in the aftermath

This is as close as I got. Right outside my building. The crowd was intense:

Not sure how well you can hear it, but they're playing (and people are singing along with) "Lights" by Journey. This and the smattering of other songs selected to play with the floats highlights one big fact: San Francisco is seriously lacking in the well-known contemporary ballads. Does it say that we're past our peak, when the bulk of the songs still played about the city are from the 1980s? I'm thinking it's time for an SF-Song Renaissance. Who's with me?

Saturday, October 30, 2010

These Things Do Happen

Dear Anonymous Driver on the Bridge,

I just wanted you to know that when you paid for my toll on the Bay Bridge today, it was exactly what I needed. Not sure if you could tell that I was having to scrounge for that fifth dollar, but your unexpected gift to a stranger came at exactly the right moment in my life.

Thank you — it's nice to know that people can still be pretty awesome.

Love and blessings,


Saturday, October 23, 2010

Over the Moon and Under the Influence

Dear Friends Ken and Elsie, if you read this:

20101023_TCS Acoustic_18

You totally missed out on awesome.

I woke up this morning with a terrible hangover. Had gone out to an art gallery opening last night with the Ceramics Crew, and then joined Leonie and Gabe for drinks at 83 Proof. I blame Leonie: she kept encouraging refills on my bourbon, and before I knew it I was three sheets to the wind and four drinks down in a two-hour period. (I also thank Leonie, since she was nice enough to foot the bill on my drunkenness. I owe you a few, girl — and it's good to see you again.) Cabbed it home and could barely see straight when I walked in the door.

The rainy gray day I (eventually) woke up to was perfect; I ended up just staying in bed until past noon, emerging every once in a while to down another glass of water. By the time I rolled out of my apartment, say around 5:30 or so, the rain had reduced down to a heavy mist, and the Giants-Phillies game was well under way. Stopped at the local Toast Eatery, watched a few innings over a BLTA and almost felt like a real San Franciscan (in a good way, Geof ... not in a douche way). It was a good night for Bay Area sports.

The Trashcan Sinatras played tonight at Cafe du Nord's upstairs venue, the Swedish American Hall. I'd never been there, didn't know what to expect, but it was a nice experience. No drinks, but it's a quaint interior, and the sound was fantastic from my second-row-back seat. Was chatting with a few of the TCS-regulars (the band has a small, but fairly rabid following ... so you go to enough shows, you start to see the same people over and over again, which is awesome), and realized that I'd been a fan of these guys full on half my life. I suppose that's not such a big achievement, except for the fact that they're still around, still making music, and I'm still able to see them live. Also, they are still fucking awesome; every time I go see them in concert, it reminds me once more why they are my favorite band of all time.

20101023_TCS Acoustic_24

20101023_TCS Acoustic_23

Pure bliss.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Exploding Comedy

Of late, I've been drinking a lot of seltzer water, slowly using it to replace the Diet Coke in my life. It's additive-free, calorie-free, and somewhat cheap. Kind of like water ... but bubbly. (Wait ... isn't that exactly what it is?)

I buy the two-liter bottles from Safeway. Today I finished an old one and went to open a new bottle. I twisted the top off, and was suddenly drenched in an explosion of fizzing wetness as the contents, under pressure, exploded out from under the cap.

After a three-second pause to assess my soaked shirt and the puddles on my counter top and cutting board, I burst out laughing.

Seltzer water is fucking funny. Whether that's because it's such a pervading feature of old slapstick comedy, or if it's just really funny on its own, I'm not completely sure. But it is. Funny.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Backing Up

Chiropractors are like mechanics.

They overwhelm you with information, explain what's wrong in words that you think you remember from high school biology class, do a little adjusting, and you still walk out of there wondering if that was worth the $100, or if you just got taken for a ride.

I'm not saying my chiropractor is a bad one — from what I understand, the fact that she's only recommending three sessions total, instead of 10 or more on top of X-rays and other thingies, is a good thing. She also seemed really confident that my back pain is fixable, so long as I take care not to sit so much, and to have proper posture when I do.

Only problem: I sit in front of a computer for a living, and most of my hobbies (knitting, ceramics) involve being hunched over in an improper position. Oops.

Admittedly, the back feels better, even though it still hurts from time to time. And on a positive note, trying not to sit in front of the computer for long periods of time has forced me to do some good things, like sleeping enough at night and cleaning the apartment a little. Downside: no Krav for at least another week or so (I've already missed the last two or three weeks), and my Hulu viewing is down to bare minimum. Life is totally hard.

My second appointment is tomorrow evening. Because I know how to spend my Friday nights in style.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Day of 42

I know that summer is over when my shoulders actually start tanning again. But that's because I live in San Francisco. Most other towns I'd be dragging out the sweaters again, instead of just leaving them at home like I have been lately.

The last two weekends have been glorious in their packed Saturdays. The first weekend in October, I convinced my friend Elk to come with me to Dixon's Lambtown USA. I've been intending to make the trip out to this fair for years, ever since I was dating Sweetness and driving by the billboard for it on the way to Woodland. Never was able to make it — either I'd forget the weekend and miss it, or have something else planned for that time — but this year I made a resolution to go, wrote it into my calendar, tried to talk my knitting sister into joining me. (She did not, alas.) Totally worth it: it's a small festival, something completely unlike the overcrowded chaos of fairs and festivals that you come across in the Bay Area. The entry fee was dirt cheap ($2), there was easy parking ($5, across the street, and it only took two minutes to walk from my parked car to the main entrance), and the food was actually well-priced:
Lambtown '10
This plate was $6 for the whole thing. In SF, it would have been $12, easy.

This year was the second one in which the lamb festival had joined up with a regional alpaca festival ... which meant that the whole place was heaven for a meat-eating animal-fiber-loving knitter.
Lambtown '10
They look deliciously soft and mellow.

Lambtown '10
Sheep-shearing competition. Seriously.

Lambtown '10
Holy crap a lot of sheeps.

Lambtown '10
Part of the petting zoo someone had set up in the middle of the festival. There were also ducks, and bunnies, and puppies, and kittens, and crazy chickens.

I also picked up a cheap incredible sheep skin, something I've wanted for a long time. It's kind of like this one from Ikea, but thicker and brown and so much softer than anything the Swedes can pump out of their clean lines of design. I have it draped over the back of my desk chair at the moment, and it makes me so incredibly happy, you'd probably be sick if you saw it.

I'm definitely going again next year, if at all possible.

After Lambtown I had to head down to Mountain View for my sister's birthday party, which was interesting, and slightly reminiscent of the parties I used to have at my place in high school: lots of food out for munching, people hanging around, doing their thing with music in the background. Funny.

This Saturday, my ceramics friends got together with some others for a BBQ in Golden Gate Park, oysters featured as the main dish. We got there just as a kid's party was finishing up, and they left us their awesome bounce house to jump around in for a couple hours until the rental company came by to pick it up.
20101009_Packed Saturday_08
I haven't been in one of these for years. Chuck and Norma had a great time.

20101009_Packed Saturday_12
Meat and oysters

It's Fleet Week in SF this weekend, so every once in a while there would be some awesome aerial work overhead. I'd been watching the practice runs for a couple days already from my 39th floor view at work, but it was still great to see them from the point of view of below.

20101009_Packed Saturday_20
Doing a loop. Hard to see the plane.

20101009_Packed Saturday_19
The crowd watching the Blue Angels.

After the barbecue I headed to a party at Claire's house, where about 90% of the attendees were French or fluent French speakers. Most of the time when I was part of the conversation they were polite and spoke in English, but I really had my work cut out for me when they lapsed and started going on in le français. There was a point where I was just drunk enough to be able to speak in decent sentences and participate fully in a conversation, but it's pretty obvious that my foreign-language skills are utterly un-keen. Definitely time to start practicing again, maybe take a couple refresher courses to re-instill some vocabulary in my wee brain.

On an unrelated note, I think I threw out my back, but not sure how. All I know is that I have problems picking things up off the floor, and even rolling over in bed hurts like hell. My primary care physician recommended a chiropractor that's local to me, so I may have an appointment for a session soon. Question: when the hell did I get so old? My body has betrayed me. Sob.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The (mis)Adventure Part 2: Seattle; or, I Hate Arachnids

I have been telling people that this trip was both the most stressful and the most relaxing trip I've been on in a long time. That's probably a lie: I'm pretty sure my most stressful trip in recent memory was the one where I ended up in a hotel in Paris, caught in the middle of a fight between my pregnant sister and our mother. But this one had its fair share of stress, some (most) of which I could very easily have dealt with before leaving town, if I had just been brave enough to deal with it instead of a procrastinating mouse.

At any rate, what did I do in Seattle? Absolutely nothing. Nothing of any intrinsic touristy value, that is. I arrived Friday evening, and we pretty much just spent the weekend eating
20100911_Pac NW Trip_87
and drinking
20100911_Pac NW Trip_92
around the table, playing Sorry and a slew of other board games that they'd accumulated over the years.
20100911_Pac NW Trip_85
(By the way: Sorry when you're drunk = teh AWESUM. I love being mean.)

I'd brought a bag full of (slowly fermenting) blackberries up from the Portland area (Steph and I had gone stabbing our hands into the bushes along the Willamette River), and my friends' property in Kirkland was surrounded by more berry bushes. On Saturday Uck and I decided to pick some more and experiment with jam. Thirty minutes or so of picking, another hour or so of boiling down, and we had these:

20100911_Pac NW Trip_74

Eight jars of preserved goodness. Yes, on the right that does say Blackberry and Black Pepper — it was my idea to throw some ground pepper into the jam, and it came out surprisingly good. I'll have to try that again sometime.

When I arrived in Kirkland, after being ritually greeted by Windy ("TITS! Get in here now, young lady."), and presenting my gift cases of Anchor Steam (apparently Puget Sound is lacking in the good microbrews), I was asked the most important question of the weekend: "How do you feel about spiders?"

Later, I found out why that question was so important:

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Now, this is not the largest uncaged spider I have ever come face-to-face with in the wild, but ugh! My sleeping pallet — for lack of a better term — was pretty much on the floor, in a room with lots of great hiding places for many-legged creatures to creep. After seeing this lovely palm-sized octoped, I spent a lot of insomniac hours jumping at every tickle before I finally gave up and just went with it.

Beyond a breaking point on around Tuesday (poor Emily had to deal with a grumpy, weepy me), the rest of the week was pretty smooth sailing. I saw Emily, of course
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and spent that week working out of my company's Seattle office.

One of my favorite perks in working at this company is the fact that we have an office in nearly every major U.S. city, and a few offices overseas. And the nature of my current position means that I can pretty much work out of almost any one of them. Not everyone is fond of a working vacation, but I've (ab)used this privilege to my own advantage: I get to visit friends, spend some time on vacation, without using paid time off. Plus, I get to meet coworkers from around the country. It's ... well, it's really swell.

In this case, our Seattle office is the one my direct supervisor actually works out of, and it was fantastic to actually get some real face time with her. That, and the truly beautiful commute over Lake Washington every day, even with traffic, made me sorely tempted to just stay another week (or so) up in Seattle. Stupid duty calling in San Francisco.

The one touristy thing I did end up doing while in Seattle was visiting Pike's Place Market. Three times. (One of which was a mission! to buy salmon! That's not really being a tourist, right?)

And I did take pictures of this, which was parked in a lot between 2nd and 3rd Ave.:
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Really great pulled pork, by the way. I went there twice for lunch in the week, it was that delicious. And by the way, the license plate? "SOMEPIG".

On Friday, my boss and some coworkers took me out for happy hour, and I ended up staying out until around 12:30 or so drinking and BSing. (Another great thing about working out of other offices on your vacation: you get to talk with people who actually understand what you're bitching excited about!)

The trip home was uneventful, except for the fact that I came thisclose to unknowingly transporting guns across state lines. Glad I didn't have to worry about that. I stopped over in Eugene, OR, to spend the night with my cousin and his girlfriend — thank you, Ryan! I had a great time, even if it was brief. I owe you ice cream — and then drove eight-plus hours straight in the rain on Sunday to make it home. Trust me, no matter how much you love your vacation, there's nothing to make you want to get home more than a workday's worth of driving in the pouring rain.

Monday, September 20, 2010

The (mis)Adventure Part 1: Oregon; or, How I Didn't Die of Dysentery on the Oregon Trail

I am home. And I survived, despite the actions of that darned Higher Being who is out to get me.

Have to wonder what I did to deserve that.

We left off last entry with the smashed toe. It was still hurting the next day, Labor Day, when I left for my trip, and by the time I'd been on the road several hours (and made it to Crater Lake), had turned a lovely shade of blackened-blue.

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That picture isn't even the most colorful it got. Another 24 hours gave it even a wider palette of hue, but by then I was too busy with Not Dying of Dysentery on the Oregon Trail to take a picture.

(It wasn't really dysentery, but I did end up getting that stomach flu from my nephew. I made it all the way to Portland, and promptly threw up upon arriving at Steph's place. She must really love me.
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Then again, maybe not so much.)

The drive up was beautiful, at least, and before my abdomen started feeling queasy, I spent some time at Crater Lake taking a bunch of pictures:

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Basically reestablishing that Crater Lake is the most beautiful place in Creation.

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There was a forest fire burning up the woods to the north of the Lake. Fortunately, not near enough to the route I had to take that it would delay my drive to Portland.

The roads to and from Crater Lake are beautiful, but the northern route — taking OR-138 through the Umpqua National Forest — feels like a drive into forever. Beautiful forever, to be sure, but forever. I didn't get a chance to take pictures (I was on a mission to get to Portland before it got too late), but if you do it, I highly recommend taking the time to meander through, and maybe spend the night at some lodge along the way.

At any rate. I didn't realize that all this time my body was busy incubating the most horrible 24-hour virus known to Sarahkind; the effects didn't start to be felt until about an hour outside of Milwaukie, where my friend lives, though I guess I should be thankful that everything stayed in until I actually got to a toilet. To be crude: I spent about 18 hours purging my digestive tract of every foreign substance. From both ends. (Fortunately not at the same time.) To be even cruder: by hour 12 or so, when there wasn't much of substance left to eject, it started to have the color and texture of baby poop.

Steph spent a lot of time laughing at the sounds I was making. I had to laugh, too, between the crying and the cursing of that Higher Being.

It took a few days to fully recover (my appetite), but I did manage to venture out for decent food, wandering around the Hawthorne area and, of course, a required pilgrimage to Powell's Books. Sadly another pictureless adventure, but it was also a short trip, since I think Steph got a little bored by hour two, whereas I could have probably lasted until closing the next day. I made it out with a paper-bagful of books, and a total cost to me of about $34 (thanks to Lauren for the $30 gift certificate he gave me last year!).

Most of the time with Steph was necessarily laid-back. My stomach couldn't take much food or drink, and I tired easily what with still recuperating. We did do one Big Night Out(tm) to Pok Pok and had a drink at the Gold Dust Meridian, and I was very pleased with myself for actually being able to enjoy the entire thing.

And I think that's it for now. Next time I'll cover the Washington portion of my trip, which involved less bodily suffering, and more dangerous close encounters. Stay tuned.

Monday, September 6, 2010

For the Un-Win

From time to time, I have my suspicions that there is some higher being, watching us all and making his/her presence felt.

Today, I am sure of the existence of that higher being. And I am also sure that said higher being really doesn't want me to go on my road trip.

First, it was my poor, beloved car, slowly dying and forcing me to admit that she was no longer road trip-worthy. Fortunately, my family was able to provide me with another car — my brother's — which was expected at any time to have a new stereo installed (it came without, being the cheapest thing on the lot when it was purchased). One attempt to ruin my trip thwarted.

Then, my entire family came down with the stomach flu, right in time for the weekend that my brother was supposed to get a stereo held for him by a friend installed for free. Again, that obstacle was overcome (and again with parental assistance) by the simple expedient of my going down to San Jose and getting the damn thing bought and installed myself. (Lesson learned: if you want/need anything to be ready by a certain time, never trust anyone else to get around to it. Hercules helps those who help themselves.)

But finally, tonight, as everything was falling into place — offerings of beer purchased, laundry in the process of being done, bags being packed — that higher being made one more try to keep me here in San Francisco. The metal leg of my desk chair may have won the battle between itself and my right fourth toe, really. That toe may well be broken (it hurts enough for that). But by the Belt of Orion, I am not going to cancel this trip because of a small digit of pain. I don't care if I end up limping around the entire Pacific Northwest; I'm leaving in the morning, and that's that.

So, higher being, here is a big old middle finger salute to you. You will not ruin my vacation. You will not, you will not, you will not.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Immaculate Conception

This was the view of Twin Peaks last night, as seen from Market Street:

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I promise you, it's completely unedited. No fog was removed from this picture ... because it wasn't there. Beautifully amazing, I know.

My vacation is just a taste away, and to begin the festivities early I ended up going for a drink and dinner with my friend Claire from Krav.

We went to Contigo, a relatively new restaurant in Noe Valley that I've often walked by, but never tried. We were lucky: walked in without a reservation, and just as we'd decided a 20-minute wait for a table wasn't worth it, two seats opened up in the front bar area just for us.




We ordered appetizers of squid (yum!) and tripe (the most tender and melty tripe I've ever had). I got the halibut so that my friend could have the very last order of skirt steak. I'm thinking I got the better end of the deal (though trust me, the steak was awesome ... the halibut was just better, and more of it).

In other words: highly recommend this restaurant.

And sorry — I had to show off a little gratuitous bruising from this week of Krav:


I'm liking September already.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

15 in 15 - A Meme From teh Facebooks

Memes are funny. By the way, for the uneducated English speaker, the term comes from the French word même, pronounced [mehm] not [meem], which means "same". You talk about a meme, and I immediately think of my college days, living in Isla Vista surrounded by sororities. Every Friday and Saturday night, it was like a live-action meme in process — dozens of bleached blonde, bulimic bleating girls all dressed in the same outfit but different colors, on their way to the party of the evening.

Not that I'm bitter about them or anything. Not at all.

That said, I've been "tagged" twice on Facebook for the following meme, and I suppose I might as well participate. Let's see if I can make something memorable. You make take it to your own blog as you like.

The rules: Don't take too long to think about it - choose fifteen albums you've heard that will always stick with you. List the first fifteen you can recall in no more than fifteen minutes. Tag fifteen friends, including me, because I'm interested in seeing what albums my friends choose. (To do this, go to your Notes tab on your profile page, paste rules in a new note, make your fifteen picks, and tag those friends you want to hear back from.)

The albums:

1. Trashcan Sinatras - Cake. The album that changed my music taste forever. Truly.
2. Kent - Hagnesta Hill. With songs that have lines like "Now I've found a way to make you smile / Pretending I am someone else / 'Cause I really missed your smile / More than I miss myself", how could I resist?
3. Mew - And the Glass-Handed Kites. There's a four-song set in the middle of this album that I could just listen to on repeat for hours.
4. R.E.M. - Automatic for the People. Songs that make me dance, and make me cry (in a good way).
5. The Smiths - Singles. The album/compilation that got me through my first real break-up.
6. Fauré - Requiem. I swiped this album from my favorite friend. Listening to it makes me forget ... most bad things.
7. Queen - Jazz. I actually am not sure if this the the album that was on repeat during the bike-riding portion of my youth, but it is the one with the defining song, "Bicycle Race". This album is here to represent pretty much the entirety of Queen's discography. If you don't like Queen, you don't like music.
8. Trashcan Sinatras - "Weightlifting". My favorite band makes a second appearance on this list. This album ... well, let's just say it helped me through a rough time, and kept me upbeat during a better time.
9. Turin Brakes - Ether Song. Wistful, moody. Plus a song about oral sex.
10. Jellyfish - Spilt Milk. High school, the Crustmobile, and everything that went with it. Steph knows what I'm talking about.
11. Dubstar - Goodbye.
12. Idlewild - The Remote Part.
13. The Cure - Show. There was a time when this album and the two above were on repeat constantly. I haven't listened to them for a long, long while. Maybe it's time to dust them back off, now that I'm thinking on 'em.
14. Paul Simon - Graceland. Pure pop perfection.
15. Radiohead - Kid A.

Hey, how convenient: now I know which CDs I have to take with me on my road trip in a week. Awesome.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Feeling Heated

My cell phone rang this morning just as my alarm was due to go off; it was my parents' number, and I had a moment of panic where I wondered who was going to the hospital today. I hate it when I get calls at odd or off hours — too early, or too late, or when I'm supposed to be sleeping. It leaves me shaky and takes a while to calm back down.

At any rate, this phone call was more excitingly newsworthy than horrible — the neighbor's house burned down, and all humans were safe.

So okay: yes, that was horrible for the neighbor (she's 80 years old and has lived in that house with about a million animals for over 30 years ... the only animal that survived the fire was one of her three dogs, unfortunately). And it could have been horrible for us: there's a fence between our houses, and some yard, but her side of the fence has (had) a lot of foliage and trees and a bunch of other pretty flammable stuff. But we all survived (I guess there was little chance of me not surviving), and three of my family members ended up on the news. True, my dad's clip had him labeled as "Kahled Labib", which is our neighbor's name, but still: family famous. Even my mom's damned hamster/dog was on there.

In other news:

Living in this city as long as I have, I've forgotten how to be hot. Hot as in 90 degrees hot, which is just about what the temperatures got to this Tuesday afternoon. It was sweating hot. I wore a skirt. My legs blinded people. No one wanted to move, but we all wanted to be outside. It was a minor miracle and now, two days later, we're back to humdrum fog city and already the memories of warmth fade away. Thirty-six hours of summer, that's all you get, San Francisco.

To celebrate (the weather going back to cold normal, and the failed plans for my evening), I ordered Chinese food and put on my Scottie Dog pajama pants. I love you, crab rangoon, sweet-n-sour pork, and chow mein. Love love boof.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Things Brighten

It's been a while since the last update.

The sun came out last week, burning away the fog for whole hours during the day and bringing Vitamin D back to the bodies of San Francisco's denizens. The window near my desk at work faces west, so every day I watched with joy as blue slowly appeared in the morning until it dominated the sky, and then with depression as the fog came back, long fingers shooting between the tall buildings of downtown covering the city once again in its gray shadow. It was a windy week, too.

Today, however, I woke up (granted, at 11 a.m.) to a cloudless blue sky, and plans to spend some time at Sunday Streets, which was going to be out along the Great Highway. Since I don't own a bike (and neither of us decided to rent one), I guess I didn't enjoy the experience to its fullest, but it was nice to walk along hand-in-hand and soak in the sunlight. The weather also afforded a rare spectacular fog-free view of Market Street and downtown from an apartment on Twin Peaks ... which, unfortunately, I neglected to photograph.

I did manage to photograph some of yesterday's shenanigans, which added up into a frickin' awesome day, all said and told. Despite the fact that it was oppressively dark for most of the morning, with a gradual burnoff into the evening. It started with brunch with Claire and her friends at Dottie's True Blue Café:

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Unfortunately, I didn't get any food shots until we were pretty much finished. I'm a bad food blogger. But the food was delicious, and just barely worth the 1 hour wait:

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Next I joined the Ceramics Crew for some goofing around at Leonie's place and exploring the Indie Mart. I bought a couple jars of buttons, and a gift for my nephew's birthday.

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The End is Nigh. Next year.

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Josh is wiggin'.

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Chuck is sexy.

My baby brother happened to be in the city, and joined us for a while.

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Daniel is excited to be in front of the Full House house.

Finally, I headed off to a coffee date, which turned into a movie date to see Inception at the Marina Theater. What a head trip ... it's probably a movie I should see more than once. A little predictable for the end, and while it's not getting me to question my own reality, it does provide some interesting food for mulling over, as far as the film's story goes. Hmm. I kind of also like the side focus, that future actions can be and are controlled by ideas seeded in the depths of experience.