Monday, February 26, 2007

the heart of the matter

I put lip gloss on after lunch, and Lola gazed at me with more approval than usual. "You have beautiful lips!"

"Thank you, Lola! You have beautiful everything!"

We beamed at each other for a moment, until my fears of raising a shallow, vain child rose up(these fears are exacerbated by Lola's habit of calling herself "a fashion girl" and making everyone clap as she struts about). I said, with plenty of preachiness and tortured syntax, "Do you know what is the most important thing to have be beautiful?"

Lola stopped to think. "No."

"A beautiful heart!"

Lola said instantly, "I don't have a beautiful heart! (lengthy pause) I have a weird heart!"

Sunday, February 25, 2007

helpful advice

Seven year-old Iris says urgently to her little sister, "Lucy, cover your neck!"

Lola responds in a whining tone, "But I never see a vampire!"

"Lucy, COVER YOUR NECK. If you do see a vampire, it will only bite you on the neck."

[Lucy = Lola. She prefers to be called "Lola", her chosen nickname, but Iris passive-aggressively calls her "Lucy"].

Saturday, February 24, 2007

One True Sanctuary---- defiled!! A shocking story.

Today, upon special request (from me), we have a guest appearance by our beloved commentator Hughman, presenting a true life story starring Hughman and his faithful canine sidekick, Polly:

True Sanctuary

Laurel Canyon Dog Park here in L.A.., right off the infamous Mulholland Drive, is where Polly and I go to see other dogs. It’s a large fenced in area and there’s also a smaller separate area marked for “small and timid dogs”. Down a grassy hill are some benches and trees and trash cans with pooper scoopers leaning against the fence.

We started going to the Dog Park soon after I got Polly 4 years ago. Frankly I think we do it now more for me than Polly. Polly doesn’t really “play” with other dogs. She pees and poops and sniffs around and lays in the sun. I love it though. It’s relaxing being surrounded by the hills of the canyon away from the urban sprawl and the weather is beautiful. I also have Dog Karma and the regular dogs and puppies run up to me and kiss me and jump in my lap.

Although I usually know all the dog names, there are other regulars like me who I’ve become close enough to that I know their names as well. Our little group will sit on a bench or on the hillside and watch the dogs run around while we gossip and notice the celebrities about. Wanda Sykes, Orlando Bloom, Allyson Jainie, Alan Ball, Pink, Katie Holmes, Famke Jenson, Dave Navarro. We’re all (of course) too cool for school to gush. We’d rather act nonchalant and talk about what they’re wearing. Some of my friendships have even expanded outside the DP and we’ll have dinners and talk on the phone. But the DP is our base, our clubhouse.

There are also the “Crazies” - people who obviously have boundary issues or are too loud or neurotic about their dogs or usually all three. They aren’t hard to spot and when we’re confronted with one, an eye roll or muted groan warns us all. I’ve noticed a lot of the Crazies are older women and my theory is living in a city filled with siliconed actresses and Trophy Wives could cause one to be a little angry and needy. Then there are those like the woman with her dog Daisy who showed up about five months after we started going.

Daisy supposedly was 10 months old when her “mom” started bringing her to the DP. I say supposedly because it became clear over time the lines of reality were blurry at best. Daisy’s mom said Daisy had been attacked the week before by a pit bull in the larger park and that’s why they were in the Small DP even though Daisy wasn’t particularly small and not timid. In fact Daisy was kind of crazy. Like Mother, like Daughter. She’d run around like a spazz and had a particular fondness for biting Polly on her hind leg to get her attention.

So Crazy Daisy’s Mom began sitting next to us on the hill. She had a habit of not just sitting with you but sitting practically on top of you. She said she was a writer (not unusual for L.A.) and claimed to have written movies for Lifetime. (No!) She stuck out from the rest of us with her crisp polo shirts, her Mom pants and her blindingly white Ked sneakers. She wore her straight blond hair pinned back with little barrettes.

She’d talk a lot. Unbidden, unending, uninteresting chatter about the “Industry” or her love of award shows. She handed out business cards she had made for free over the Internet that said her name and WRITER underneath. We just called her (not to her face) Crazy Daisy’s Mom.

Even worse was when she talked to the dogs. I know I sweet-talk Polly and mutter endearments to puppies but CD’s M would speak some weird baby accent that was like a cross between Elmer Fudd and Maggie Simpson. “DOES WITTLE DAISY WANT SOME WA-WA? AND POWEE TOO?” she’d scream at the dogs. Polly would look at her like she’d lost her mind while Daisy would spazz more and chase her tail and try to bite Polly’s legs. CD’sM would laugh gaily and start talking again about god knows what while the rest of us sat in silence and passive-aggressively smoked our cigarettes. Eventually, after a few months, we just clammed up when she arrived.

One fateful day, we were all sitting on the hill as usual when I heard CD’s M behind me. “OH DAISY WAS ATTACKED BY A PIT BULL LAST WEEK.” I looked down to the dogs and there was Polly once again being pestered by Daisy. I felt a huge swell of sympathy for Pit Bulls everywhere and turned and said pointedly “Will you please try and control your dog from biting Polly?”

CD’s M laughed shrilly. “OH SHE’S JUST PLAYING!”

“She’s driving Polly crazy. Please.”

CD’s M bolted upright on the hill and stood. “FUCK YOU! FUCK YOU AND YOUR LITTLE CLIQUE! ME AND DAISY WILL DO WHATEVER WE WANT! FUCK ALL OF YOU!” She took Daisy and then stormed out of the park leaving all of us, including the dogs, sitting agape on the grass. We never saw her at the park again.

It was probably the single coolest thing she’d ever done.

A week later we’re at the park and one of my friends left before returning a few minutes later all wild eyed with a huge grin on her face. “You won’t BELIEVE what I found thumbtacked to the bulletin board in the parking lot!” She handed me a sealed envelope with HUGH written in huge caps on the front. I opened it up and found this typed letter (The italics are my comments).


If you were having a problem with me or with Daisy. all you had to do was speak to me about it as an adult and I’m sure we could have worked something out. You certainly had ample opportunity to take me aside and talk to me calmly and civilly any number of times.

Instead you passively-aggressively [sic] froze me out, as if expecting me to read your mind. You then chose to childishly lose your temper at me and worse, at a defenseless Daisy , who after all, is still a puppy and was just playing. [Daisy was around 2 at this time]. As a result, Daisy was up the entire night with an upset stomach - her reaction to the stress you caused.

I’m sorry if Daisy and I make you uncomfortable but you’re obviously free to go elsewhere. After all, you and your clique don’t own this park or that area. As I mentioned several times, Daisy was attacked early on in the big park and feels safer in the smaller area. Daisy has never injured another dog, nor would I let her, as I taught her bite inhibition which means that she doesn’t bite hard enough to break the skin. Furthermore, Daisy does happen to be, in comparison to most, a small dog, as I’m sure the park rangers would agree.[None of us have ever seen a park ranger. Ever.]

Also, if you sit on the ground, you take the chance of having a dog run into you. Isn’t running around and playing what dogs are supposed to do at the dog park?

People often don’t realize the consequences of their actions. I just want you to know this has been a particularly difficult year for me, what with my first dog dying a horrible death from cancer [huh?] and a close family member committing suicide not two months ago. [huh?]. Thank you to adding to my burden by making so stressful the one true sanctuary Daisy and I enjoyed.


I’m waiting for the Lifetime Movie, "One True Sanctuary." If they can afford it, I’ll probably be played by Christoper Walken.

Friday, February 23, 2007

I don't get it.

Can anyone explain this to me?

Why would a fantasy blog trading league exist? How can you pick the winners? (And will my value plunge now that I've questioned the purpose of it all?). I used to be in fantasy Survivor leagues, and we could easily pick the winners, but in blogs? Nonetheless, my sincere thanks go out to Jean Luc Picard for buying the Drunken Housewife, a vote of confidence, I'm sure (unless he's planning on shortselling or something).

juices of the world

So I am reading "The Princess of Burundi" by Kjell Eriksson, yet another talented crime writer out of Sweden (is it the long, dark winters or is there a huge amount of crime there? Why does Sweden produce such a disproportionate number of amazing police procedural writers? And how many of them are not in translation and are lost to me?), and one of the characters "quickly made up a pitcher of rhubarb juice." Rhubarb juice? Rhubarb juice?? I have had a lot of rhubarb in my day (Iris Uber Alles's favorite thing I make is a rhubarb crumble, which she is continually haranguing me to bake), but I have never, never heard of anyone consuming rhubarb juice. Rhubarb is so stringy and fibrous that it wouldn't seem to yield much juice (although, of course, in its baked forms, including the dearly beloved crumble, it does become yielding and succulent).

Someday I will go to Sweden, and I will drink rhubarb juice. I should indeed visit sometime in the summer, as I have become fascinated with the idea (gained largely through the works of Henning Mankell) that it's idyllic there in the summer, with the almost unending days and a perpetual party atmosphere, interrupted only by the occasional ritualistic serial killing. I have a feeling (perhaps false) of being familiar with the rural south of Sweden, thanks to all the works of Mr. Mankell, which I think is not completely false as a Swedish person first placed this thought in my mind, remarking that after all the Mankells and Sjowalls I've read, I'd be right at home in Sweden (I note that although I have no Swedish heritage myself that I know of, I did once have a one night stand with a Swedish investment banker).

I put the book down, distracted by wondering about the juices of the world. In the Philippines, we drank kalamansi juice, the juice of a small citrus somewhat like a lime, but delightfully different, which was believed to cure the common cold. When I went to Malaysia, I recognized kalamansi fruit and happily squeezed my own juice. In Rome, our hotel had pitchers of fresh blood orange juice every morning, which was the best juice I'd ever had.

In Germany, I ran across something particularly loathsome, which I shunned: banana juice. For some reason, Germans seemed obsessed with bananas. When I was there, the wall had just come down (although at that time, most of the wall was still physically intact), and in that moment before it fell but after suddenly the intoxicating possibility was there, West Germans climbed the wall and threw bananas to the East Germans. "They weren't insulted?" I inquired of the Germans rhapsodizing about this to me. "It's treating them like monkeys, throwing bananas to them." The worst, though, was that I went to a vegetarian cafe in Kreuzberg and ordered a casserole which looked toothsome enough. It ended up having a top layer consisting of a loathsome puree of bananas. I ask you: what maniac would top a vegetable casserole with banana puree? Germans, Germans, Germans.

I have higher hopes for the Swedes. Give me a ticket to Sweden and a pitcher of rhubarb juice, please!

Addendum: I just finished the book, and towards the end, a character enjoys "hawthorn juice from the Finnish archipelago." Hawthorn juice: who'd have thought of that?

Thursday, February 22, 2007

scary chip off the elderly block

Seven year-old Iris Uber Alles to her little sister: "Do you know there is a such thing as gross negligence?"

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

so much for that relationship

After a carefully composed summary of their arguments and differences over the past few days, Lola told her big sister Iris Uber Alles today, "It's just I think we should spend more time apart" in exactly the same intonation I used dumping boyfriends back in the day.

an ongoing case study: hypochondria in the four year-old

Yesterday Lola mentioned a number of interesting symptoms, but, getting distracted, she didn't develop any of them into a major malady.

First, "there is a green thing here (gesturing towards left side of abdomen) and there is a red thing here (gesturing towards right side of abdomen) and when they meet, they make blue." This was followed by a pained face and a brief hobble to illustrate the horrors of "making blue."

Later we had a resurgence of the bad blood previously observed to have hindered walking activities, but it was described as "all over" and "I am full of blood." This blood was described as "blue and red." Once, a long time ago, I explained to Lola that blood is blue inside our bodies and becomes red when it hits the air, and I think that I should have kept my mouth shut that day.

Finally, we had an assertion that Lola was too sick to go to preschool, but at that point in time, the only symptom claimed was the all-too-believable "I am lazy all over my body." She did go to preschool and had a lovely time. I needed to perform some of my duties as a member of the parent cooperative of the preschool, so lazy-bodied Lola was out of luck.

I'm expecting a lot more hypochondria this week, because Iris Uber Alles has the week off from school. (Iris Uber Alles's school has the shortest schedule of any school I know of, plus more free time, recess, art, music, and P.E. than most children ever get. However, they manage to learn an impressive amount of math and science. I think this is accomplished by (a) amazing student-teacher ratios, (b) breaking the children up into small groups by ability, and let's not forget (c) cherry-picking the applicants). Lola's been really enjoying preschool lately, which she attends four afternoons a week for just three hours a day, but she's hyper-alert to missing out on any mischief Iris Uber Alles and I might get up to without her.

Monday, February 19, 2007

how dry I was

I have just wrapped up one month of teetotalling in the interests of a healthy liver, and it was not easy. Actually, the first two weeks were incredibly easy, but the last week and a half or so were rough. But here we are, goal met, liver all rested up, and I'm celebrating with a bottle of Blanc de Noirs the helpful husband picked up on the way home.

Cheers, everyone! Now I can get back to my Eric Felten-inspired goal of creating my personal cocktail, "the Drunken Housewife"! I've been brainstorming these last few dry days, and I have some good ideas.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

a case study of hypochondria in the four year-old

In what promises (threatens?) to become yet another Occasional Feature in this blog, I hereby present to you another instance of Hypochondria in a Four Year-Old:

On Friday, Lola complained that "my bone is twisted." She wriggled about like a contortionist to demonstrate this.

"Because my bones are twisted, I have to WALK SLOW. When my bones are not twisted, I have to run fast." She sprinted for a while to demonstrate, then returned to a dawdle. "My bones are twisted! WALK SLOW!"

Saturday, February 17, 2007


Once a week, I take Lola to a fabulous nonprofit urban circus school, where she takes gymnastics for four and five year-olds. She has the most delightful teacher in the world: a handsome, pocket-sized Latino man with a whimsical personality. (Here Lola follows in Iris Uber Alles's footsteps: Iris U.A. had a giant crush on this gymnastics teacher at age five, and now Lola worships him, but in a more sensible, age-appropriate way).

Meanwhile, in the bleachers, I get to hang out with two very personable and bright mommies, and our hour-long conversation is a bright point in my week. Usually, that is. Now here comes the mean part: there are a lot of other people present, some parents, some grandparents, some nannies, and they either have their own conversational groups or have their own thing going (newspaper, newborn infant, knitting). There is also one other mother who sometimes joins our triad and clearly would like to each week, and perhaps she should... BUT... she is quite problematic.

The first time I talked to her at length, she told me that although she and her husband have a household income of about $300,000, she would not consider sending her child to a private school because it is much more important to her to remodel her house. She can't afford private school tuition on top of what she is spending on her remodeling. This caused me to not want to be friendly with her, first because it's crass to tell people you have $300,000 a year (we-- and the other two families in this story --- get by on a hell of a lot less than that). Second, those priorities appear so blatantly, crassly wrong to me. My house needs this, that, and the other thing done to it, but our children come before remodeling. (Indeed, one of the other mothers in the conversation lives in a modest apartment, so bragging about the remodeling was a bit tactless). As we discussed later, it would have been one thing if she'd said, "I'm committed to public schools and looking forward to becoming involved in the school community." It was another to say that remodelling was a higher financial priority and to brag about how fabulous her home would become.

On another occasion, this other mother told us all about her hideously painful childhood. I have a lot of compassion for anyone who endured such a traumatic upbringing, and I'm willing to cut her some slack as her poor social skills are undoubtedly tied to that hellish upbringing, BUT.... I still have to put that but in there. This week at class, I made what I meant to be a brief reference to Dr. Laura (I had somewhere I was going with it, and that destination was not homophobic), but the tactless outsider mother overheard this and jumped into the conversation with both feet. She started ranting on and on about how she listens to Dr. Laura every day and how she agrees with her so totally and how children should be raised by one woman, one man, blahblahblah... One of my two gymnastics mommy companions is a lesbian, and she got up and excused herself at this point, making a bitter quip about how Dr. Laura would never approve of her. I felt like a jerk, like I had been a party to offensive homophobia. (Indeed, it is my guilty pleasure to listen to Dr. Laura, but I turn the radio off if it veers into homophobia or right wing politics. I just like to hear her lay into poor parents and fools, and it makes me feel better about my own uneventful life to hear about others' strum und drang). The butting-in mommy continued to lecture the remaining friend and me about how every single day she calls her husband on the phone to tell him what the menu is and how every day when he comes home, there is a delicious, warm meal waiting for him and we should do the same. "Fuck that," was my viewpoint. "I make a fabulous meal several times a week, and that's enough. He can live off ramen noodles now and then."

I felt terrible all afternoon until I called the gay mommy that night to apologize and explain that the fourth mommy had not let me get the conversation back on track. (Indeed, everytime I tried to end the conversation, this other mother would lean forward and poke me painfully in the upper arm). This brought everyone to admit that yes, this other mother is driving us crazy and we feel sorry for her given her rough childhood, but she's hard to take.

However, we are just her neighbors in the bleachers once a week. Her real neighbors have more of her. One week, she did not join our conversation, but instead sat nearby making a series of long phone calls. The purpose of her calls was to nark on her neighbors, who are receiving a senior citizen discount on their power bills which they are not entitled to, because they have an adult child living with them who is NOT a senior citizen. This was disturbing to us: who is so petty to interfere with her neighbors like that?

I am so blessed right now with delightful neighbors. One one side, we have my favoritest neighbors, a pair of gay architects who have been a couple for over 25 years. They have dry senses of humor, a pair of aged French boxers, and a fond tolerance for Iris and Lola. On the other side, we have a single female lawyer, who is rarely seen given her immense workload, but who is fun to talk to when she is about. Across the street is another gay couple, very pleasant and quiet, given to petting my cat Rachel when she is taking the air on the sidewalk. Down the street a few houses is a family with three glamorous teenaged daughters, two of whom are twins who sometimes babysit our daughters, who worship the ground those four twin feet tread.

It hasn't always been that pleasant. On our last street, we had the Parking Nazis. It was a gay couple, very seventies looking with thick mustaches and gym-rat builds, who were very emotionally invested in the nuances of parking on our street. They had the city put up red zones at the corners of their driveway, and they regularly called the city not just to ticket anyone slightly intruding on their red zone, but also if a car were parked over 72 hours on the street. They made up some kind of faux-official sheet about parking laws they used to leave on people's windshields which was officious and offensive. Once they had our erstwhile housemate, Tom, ticketed. He was in no way blocking their driveway, but arguably his car was a millimeter or so into their red zone. Poor unemployed Tom was livid AND out $45. A few weeks later, Anton noticed that the Parking Nazis themselves were in front of their very own red zone, and he got them ticketed for interfering with their own garage as payback for our housemate. The sight of them staring puzzledly at their parking ticket brought us to near-hysterics, and we giggled all afternoon over that sweet, sweet triumph.

On my current street, a neighbor who is not my next door neighbor had me ticketed one day for that same offense, slightly intruding into the red zone but not in any way blocking the driveway. To add insult, this neighbor also complained that I hadn't moved my car in 72 hours, which was an egregious lie. I was only parked there for three hours in between taking Iris Uber Alles to preschool and leaving to pick her up. I've hated that neighbor ever since, although Anton likes her because she once lent him a special ladder that can be used on stairs. The whole neighborhood was abuzz last year because a friend of this neighbor was living on our block in his truck, and some neighbors asked me (I am known for being home the most, sigh, since I have no paying job) to call them during the day if this truck-dwelling man were seen to make any suspicious moves.

Down the end of the block, there's a house which makes me (and other neighbors) very nervous. Clearly someone who lives there has that mental illness which makes you pile your clutter up to the ceiling, and I suspect eventually the house will burn down (thankfully there are many buffer homes between that one and mine). It was a spellbinding visual nuisance, with rusted, empty cages, an ancient car which is never driven, and miscellaneous furniture piled up high all over the driveway and minuscule front garden, but last year a high, solid, unpainted fence was put around it to block out the view. Associated with that house is a man who looks like a meth addict, but not the usual Castro crystal queen, all glamor and house music. Instead, he looks more like a rural truckstop-frequenting speed addict. This man works on cars in the street, which is problematic given that our street is nominally two way but is in reality only wide enough for one car to squeeze through between the cars parked on both sides. (To survive in my 'hood, you must drive very slowly and be alert for oncoming idiots). Whenever this man is out working on a car, I have to go extra slow, and then he always glares at me, as though somehow it is annoying to him that I don't just blow through and run over whatever stupid tools he has left in the street. Perhaps he wants me to put him out of his misery.

But at least we don't have the gymnastics mommy on our block, nosing into whether anyone is getting an undeserved senior citizen discount.

Friday, February 16, 2007

why our sleazy mayor's misbehavior matters

So San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom confessed to having had an affair with Ruby Rippey-Tourk, the wife of his deputy chief-of-staff/election manager/close personal friend Alex Tourk. Of everyone I know, I'm virtually the only person who has any outrage. Everyone else in San Francisco has an "Eh, must have been a slow news day" take on it.

The overwhelming under-reaction seems to be an artifact from the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal: all these good Democrats have become conditioned into saying "a politician's sex life doesn't matter" and "that's his personal life, not his job performance."

So why is this different? In a lot of personal ways, Newsom was sleazier. Lewinsky was single, not married to a staff member/personal friend. A more real analogue would have been if Clinton had conducted an affair with James Carville's wife WHILE she was on the federal payroll, reporting directly to Clinton (although in this scenario, Mary Matalin would have had to have converted to the Democratic party). Alex Tourk was Newsom's James Carville.

And it directly relates to Newsom's job performance. Today's Chronicle reports that Ruby Rippey-Tourk, while working as Newsom's calendar secretary, took hundreds of hours of leave which she could not have conceivably qualified for. Her timesheets were not signed by supervisors but were approved. During her last nine months of employment, she did not work a single full week. Finally, she got a very suspicious $10,154 payment in "retroactive pay" when she quit. How would she have amassed over ten thousand in retroactive pay when she was never working her required hours? (In contrast, it seems Lewinsky, an unpaid intern, worked harder and more, hoping to run into the President)..

That is no way to run an office, clearly. If one staffer sleeps with the then-married mayor, that worker gets to take off all the time she wants AND gets a handsome leaving bonus... meanwhile the other workers are required to actually work full-time without mysterious "retroactive pay." This sort of sexual play and favoritism in the workforce is not legal and not ethical, and it would be no surprise if other female workers in the office filed gender discrimination and hostile atmosphere claims. In a corporation, you would expect the CEO to be fired for this behavior. The CEO of Boeing was kicked out over far less egregious behavior.

In a sidenote, I must say that Ruby Rippey-Tourk has the most amazing skull. Look at her cheekbones and jawbone: her skull is a work of architectural wonder. Imagine how great she'd look if she'd never taken up drugs.

UPDATE: it turns out that Rippey-Tourk's "retroactive pay" was sick leave donated to her by other City Hall staffers when she went into rehab, under a program where workers can donate sick leave towards others with catastrophic diseases. It also turns out that at least some of those other staffers were not happy about "giving" her their sick leave and felt pressured into it. It also turns out that her participating in this program was not exactly pukka: the program was designed for people who were either had a fatal disease or needed to care for a close loved one with a terminal disease, NOT drugged-out skanks who need rehab. The author of the law has spoken out that it was misapplied in this instance, and other city hall sources have said that she would not have qualified for this without a fatal disease alongside of a need to attend rehab.

seven, only seven

So it turns out that the world was going to come to an end, but Vincent van Gogh picked me to go on the special alien rescue ship, and I got Iris wedged in there (sorry, Lola and Anton). We were allowed to take only eleven of van Gogh's paintings, and I was only allowed to bring seven books. Only seven!

I picked "War and Peace" (after some dithering over "Anna Karenina") and Deborah Madison's "Vegetarian Cooking For Everyone", and then I was at a loss. Bring a collection of "The Goon", one of the greatest comics of all time? Bring new books so for a few days at least I'd have something new to read? A Bible? In my dream, I had more trouble over this than leaving Lola and Anton on the soon-to-be-rubble earth.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

the Sober Husband has a special job

Lola mused today, "Anton is supposed to make sure I don't bite! That is his job, to make sure all day I don't bite."

"Oh, that's a biiiig responsibility," I said.

"Yes! He has to make sure all day and all night I don't bite! Except when he is working" (she said this part bitterly), "then he can't make sure I don't bite!"

In other news, Iris was offended by getting a conversation heart which said, "Kiss Me" from a classmate. "That's inappropriate," she huffed.

Iris Uber Alles writes

Every Tuesday Iris brings home a folder from school with some of her first grade class work for us to see. Yesterday's was a bonanza. Iris Uber Alles had been asked to write sentences using particular words correctly:

For "go", she wrote, "Go and do what I told you too!" Here, without question, is a child who is used to commanding.

For "went", it was "I went to school." (This was the sole dud in the group).

Do: "Do you know who I am?" I imagine this one being spoken in ringing tones with more than a little affront therein.

Did: "Did you do what I told you too do?" Bossing and nagging, a familiar combo.

The Sober Husband and I both had a good laugh over that one.

Then there were also some "morning messages", which I think the girls can take turns reading at the morning circle time. Iris starts all hers with a breezy "Chao" (she went to Italy when she was two, and she will never let you forget it. I should teach her how to spell "ciao", though. She plans to move to Italy when she is 24, and she has agreed to let me come along on the condition that I do not bring Lola).

Here's one message:

"Chao 1B Did you take a bath so you would be clean today? Do you usually carry alot in your backPack? Have you been to Las Vegas? Las Vegas is kind of far away. Now I am done writting this morning message! Love, Iris"

More mysteriously, Iris wrote on another day, "Chao freinds, Sing in tune right in music. Did you know that we rule the school! If you have a pencil grip use it today. have a huge happy day! Are you going to look cute tomorrow Are they're many things like a tube in a tunnel? Love, Iris" She starts with a nagging command, veers into superficial fashion dither, but ends with a zen koan.

Yet another day, Iris wrote, "Chao Girls, can I tell you a story? Good, once there was a man named John who said. I did it because I wanted to buy somthing but then I found some of it and then I went to work. Love, Count Iris." Sounds like the story of poor Anton's life: and then he went to work, while Count Iris was free to scheme and command.

Monday, February 12, 2007

focus on the fashion

Earlier today, Lola was, charmingly enough, teaching an invisible frog how to dance the tango. "He's very good!" she reported happily.

However, later in the evening her play became more demanding. "Pretend I am a fashion girl," she said. Fair enough, I thought. "That's easy," I said, "I never dreamed there could be such fashion in our lives!"

It turned out that "a fashion girl" meant "total dictator/diva." When Anton and I talked whilst applauding her sashaying about in a fancy dress, Lola snapped. "Guys and ladies, pay attention! No talking! FOCUS ON THE FASHION GIRL!"

I checked my email reflexively, and the Fashion Girl pulled on my leg firmly. "FOCUS ON THE FASHION! Focus on the fashion means no talking, no laughing!"

I can't believe that (a) I go along with this kind of treatment, and (b) we are such hideously bad parents. I should never have watched "Project Runway" in her presence; it has warped her.

hypochondria in the four year-old

Lola has taken to inventing various illnesses. This morning, she proclaimed, "I am sick!"

"What's wrong with you?" I asked.

"The blood in my foot! I can't walk because of my blood in my legs!"

She hopped around dramatically to illustrate that there was something wrong with the blood in her legs.

"What should we do?" asked her father.

"CARRY ME!" demanded Lola. Her father obligingly picked her up, and she snuggled into his chest happily.

"I think giving in to this is a bad precedent," I said.

"IT'S A GOOD PRECEDENT!" shouted Lola. "Daddy can be my legs!"

Thankfully the blood in Lola's legs and feet did not prevent her from taking her swimming lesson, walking to Starbucks, or fighting with her sister.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

ummm, no.

I called the Sober Husband over to admire my daffodils, which are in full bloom.

"Last year we had a wicked storm right after they bloomed, so I didn't get to enjoy them," I remembered.

"They look good now. Except some of them are bent over in that way that Frowsty knocks plants over," said the husband critically.

"Well, there's not much we can do about that, except have one of his Achilles' tendons severed."

The husband perked up. "Do vets do that?"


Lola, who is a scarily advanced computer user, currently enjoys playing a game named "Eekoworld" which she discovered for herself on the PBS website. (The very spelling of the name upsets the Sober Husband, who is not an environmentalist. How he married me, a woman who has worked for the League of Conservation Voters and the Environmental Defense Fund, is beyond reckoning). The game is aimed at educating (or, as some husbands would have it, brainwashing) children about the environmental ramifications of various actions.

Recently Lola was playing Eekoworld on my laptop while I read the morning papers. The game prompted her to decide whether to drill for oil in a wildlife preserve or not. I felt like helping her out, as I think Eekoworld can be a bit over her four year-old head, and I said, "Say no!"

Lola looked at me with all the pity and condescension in the world. "But Mommy, it makes our houses more comf'table." She clicked "yes", and the Eekoworld narrator explained the consequences of her decision to open the pristine wildlife preserve up to the depredations of Exxon: although drilling gives us oil to heat our houses and make them more comfortable, it harms wildlife blahblahblah... "See, Mommy," Lola explained to her idiotic progenitor, "it makes our homes more comf'table."

Friday, February 09, 2007

the sorrow and the pity

I'm abstaining from alcohol for a month, and by God, I really wanted a drink these past few days. The day before yesterday I did a favor for another mother (I owe her quite a few favors, so I was glad to be able to pay one back), which involved in part driving her child in the car with both Lola and Iris. Now THAT is a situation designed to drive one to drink: the other child, whom we shall refer to as Lawyer Jr., unlike other younger children has no fear or awe of the older Iris Uber Alles.

In the car, Lola and her friend, Lawyer Jr., were squawking about Iris. "She pushes us! She bosses us!"

"Guys, you have to wait until Iris actually does something wrong before you complain to me. She hasn't done anything wrong yet!"

Iris chimed in ominously: "Yeah, wait until I do something wrong."

Lawyer, Jr. was undeterred by that veiled threat, and the chorus continued, unabated: "She is the boss of us! She bosses us! She pushes us! We don't want her!"

I tried drowning them out with music, but Lola has sensitive ears. "Too loud, Mommy!"

Iris started demanding that they be silent, and I had to weigh in that they were allowed to talk, although I felt they shouldn't complain unless Iris actually sinned. In any event, by the time we got home, my frayed nerves were screaming for the comfort of sweet, sweet alcohol. I stayed the course, however.

Again yesterday was a trying day for the old nerves, but I managed to slug down several glasses of plain tonic water instead of anything alcoholic. The old husband went out to get the tonic water in his support for the month of drying out (indeed, his supportiveness borders upon being insulting). Nearly three weeks down, just a bit over one week to go.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

for our esteemed commentator, Silliyak

Iris Uber Alles drew this portrait of Frowsty, her cat, and Al, Lola's skinny cat who is allegedly allergic to his own teeth:

This is Silliyak's "prize" for winning the Give Iris A Catchy Nomme du Blog contest. She has become quite taken with the name "Iris Uber Alles" and uses it often. It reminds me of the Dead Kennedys' song, "California Uber Alles." (Incidentally a dear friend and esteemed hairdresser of mine, the formidable Michele, was romantically involved with East Bay Ray of the Dead Kennedys for years. She once brought E.B. Ray to my old apartment on a Christmas Eve, where he broke a wineglass and remarked casually, "Well, it's not as if it was fine crystal." It actually was the last crystal wineglass from a set from Tiffany's, now all extinct, alas (I don't think there's a thing in this house which could properly be called "fine crystal", sigh. I love the sound made by pouring water into really good crystal, but that's a pleasure for people with more disposable income and fewer children). Ray also demanded that I demonstrate that I was capable of actually walking in my fetish shoes with the six inch heels I'd bought in London, which I did. That was the closest I personally came to a rock and roll lifestyle other than being tongue kissed by Genesis P-Orridge: broken glasses and fetish shoes with an aging rock star, courtesy of my dear hairdresser).

it's exhausting being Lola

"I think it would be more fun to be a bee than being Lola," Lola observed sadly the other day.

"How come? I think it must be fun to be Lola!"

Lola stopped walking and planted her hands on her hips, looking worldwearily at me. "I am TIRED of being Lola! I have been Lola for a long time!"

"You've only been Lola for four years!"

"That's a long time."

Monday, February 05, 2007

Joan, the phone, parenting is not for the weak

So last night we went out, a rare occurrence. Our glamorous twin teenaged babysitters were available, and it was the last night of the Film Noir annual film festival. I was still feeling sick, and I said to the Sober Husband, "I'm not dressing up; I'm going like this" ("like this" meant a t-shirt from a truckstop where I once spent a day due to a rental car breakdown and baggy camo pants).

"I won't dress up, either, to make you feel comfortable!" said the husband cheerily. This made me laugh out loud for the first time in days (the man has clothing issues. He feels weird when I dress up nicely, because he then feels inadequate in his uniform of jeans and button-down shirts, but it's stressful for him to depart from his personal norm).

We saw "The Possessed" starring Joan Crawford, and we first had to endure a lecture about how very lucky we were indeed to be sitting in one of the few remaining movie palaces of America to see this film as it was intended to be seen. This lecture somehow hit and missed the point: Joan is best seen in the Castro, but not because we're fidgeting on those rumpsprung old seats with no leg room. It's the other viewers, the burly man behind me who loudly, seemingly against his will, blurted out, "She's so fabulous" at a dramatic point in the film, the bearded bear next to me who kept sighing in awe.

While we were gone, a glamorous teenaged babysitting twin wrote a cryptic note that a Michael had called asking for a playdate with Iris the next day. Now it is the next day, and we are clueless. The phone number leads to an unfamiliar voice belonging to a Kathy, not a Michael. We thought it was our gay neighbors, the Mikes, who are taking care of three children while the fortunate parents vacation in France, and we called them. The Mike who answered the phone observed bitterly that there was no way he could contemplate adding a playdate to their schedule; he can't manage the children's obligations as it is. "Welcome to my world!" cynically barked the husband, appropriating MY line (whenever he whines about the children squabbling or refusing to obey or otherwise being unreasonable, I, in a world-weary tone, squelch him with "Welcome to my world").

Parenting is definitely not an easy thing to plunge into. I ran into one of the Mikes last week (one of his charges is in the same private school as our Iris Uber Alles). "I don't know how their parents do it," he said wild-eyed. "I couldn't do this if I had a job," I said honestly, "and I have two, not three children." He shared that he and the other Mike have been bringing in other relatives to assist, as when they are outnumbered by the children they feel threatened.

So it's not the Mikes who called, and I'm assuming it's not my ex, Husband 1.0 also named Michael(although Iris would love a playdate with him; she's fascinated by the idea that I had a husband before Anton). Whoever it is will undoubtedly be pissed we didn't call back, but I think I'll just handle it the way Joan would. She'd express her regret in a way which made it clear she probably had little and that it was probably safest to drop the subject and move carefully away. If the mystery Michael is gay, he may even blurt out, "She's so fabulous!" as he backs off.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

how much longer can this virtue be sustained?

I've just wrapped up two weeks without a single drink, not to mention that I've been following the Weight Watchers system and staying within its (reasonable) bounds, AND I've been selling emotionally-laden old memorabilia on eBay to try to raise enough money for an operation for Lola's cat.

"My God, how much more virtuous can I get?" I asked myself the other day when I was quilting while listening to the Dr. Laura show on the radio (true guilty pleasures, both of those; quilting means one buys a ton of fabric and has it piled up all over the house, and Dr. Laura is just so outre here in the Castro that I am ashamed to admit I listen. I just love hearing those idiots who call in; it makes me feel so happy about my own life).

I haven't worked this hard at being good since I was, as we called it, running a halfway house last year (we had a friend who was spiralling out of control with alcoholism stay with us while he tried to rehabilitate himself, and we tried to talk some sense into my pregnant, teenaged niece). I feel like a character out of "Little Women", but thankfully without chilblains (although this lingering respiratory illness feels dangerously nigh unto consumption). It's probably no wonder I've been feeling depressed.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Overheard in New York; overheard in San Francisco

From the delightful website, Overheard in New York:
You and That Skin Infection Were Meant for Each Other

Lady: So, are you giving them gifts this year?
Fat woman with afro: Ugh, I just spent 300 dollars on my tattoo. I can't afford it.
Lady: Oh, really?
Fat woman with afro: You know, in Amsterdam tattoos are covered by the government. It's part of the health plan.
Lady: Wow.
Fat woman with afro: I mean, why should I pay 600 dollars for emergency health insurance when I'd rather that money be spent on my tattoo? I don't go to the hospital. It doesn't make sense. Lady: Uh-huh... I see what you mean.
There's lots more where that came from. I love snippets of weird, anonymous conversation. When I was an undergraduate, the B.U. student paper ran a column of Overheard on Campus items, and once I was in it. Someone overheard me talking to my (now long-lost) friend Melissa Clarke: "My phone has just been ringing off the hook. I've been out every night."

Missy: "I wish I were popular like you."

Me: "It's not that I'm popular, it's just that the same people keep calling."

And so I present to you: Things I've Overheard in San Francisco Lately
Two twenty-something male hipsters eating eggs and discussing the Mayor Newsome sex scandal: "It's obvious he's a middle age pervert sexist. I mean, duh, look at his hair."

A young white woman walking down the sidewalk to her older, male companion:
"I hate vegans. They are always a pain!"
(astonished noise from companion)
"With my roommate, I put bacon in his oatmeal, and I rub it all around, and then I take it out."
(gasp from companion)
"And when he didn't do the dishes, I put them all in his bed and pulled the covers up over it."

She continued with great relish to describe the ways in which she used bacon to secretly contaminate the vegan's food, and her companion attempted to get her to lower her voice, no doubt concerned that nearby vegans might attack.

good novel, bad novel

Bad: "Becoming Strangers" by Louise Dean, who seems to be one of those women who just hates other women and prides herself on being "a man's woman." Her novel was filled with complex, basically good male characters (with the exception of one evil male character, who made only a tiny cameo appearance, probably because man-loving Dean was unable to bear writing about a man who was not wonderful). The women Dean creates are all utterly loathsome. She describes several European and American women, who are universally petty, rude, selfish, and dependent upon their men whom they mistreat, the ingrates. The character who prides herself upon having a man's approach to sex is the most loathsome of the book, despised by all, with the signs of age creeping up on to her described mercilessly by Dean. The only good woman in her book is the only Asian character: a drop-dead gorgeous, kind, thoughtful, religious woman who oozes sex and ethics. Incidentally, and probably not accidentally, the good Asian woman is the only woman with a career: she has earned a fortune in the Hong Kong financial world. The evil, evil Americans and British women do not work outside the home and suck money off their men like loathsome leeches. Of course, the Asian character has very little dialogue or, for that matter, believability. She is just there to highlight the horribleness of the main female characters, as though Dean were not satisfied with the wretched acts and dialogue she has written for the Western women. Probably thinking she needed to really spell it all out plainly for the idiotic American and English women who might pick up her book, Dean wracked her brain to find a way to really, really illustrate how bad these women are and arrived at the conceit of a perfect Asian dreamgirl for contrast. Feh.

Good: "Alternatives to Sex" by Stephen McCauley. McCauley doesn't have anything serious to say here, but he writes so delightfully, and this book is about two of my favorite things: love and real estate. God, I love real estate (this is a love I arrived at in my middle age, perhaps a consolation for the lost pleasures of youth). This book follows a middle-aged, gay real estate salesman in Boston who has lost focus in his personal and professional life, and it's a joy. McCauley has a keen eye for details, so the world he creates feels quite habitable. The scene where the main character is taken to a yoga class is worth the price of the book all by itself.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

the idiots are in charge

Today's Chronicle reveals that our mayor, Gavin Newsom, had an affair with the wife of his campaign manager, who has resigned after confronting the mayor over this. At the time of the affair, the wife was working in the mayor's office as his appointment secretary; the campaign manager was also working directly for the mayor as his deputy chief of staff. Newsom was still technically married, going through his divorce with celebrity ex Kimberly Guilfoyle Newsom Whatevershescallednow.

This is idiotic in so many ways. First, by sleeping with a subordinate, Newsom exposed the city to sexual harassment liability. Next, and worst, he was stabbing a personal friend and important ally in the back. How dumb do you have to be to sleep with the wife of your successful campaign manager, the person who helped you get elected in the first place?

Newsom has always been an idiot when it comes to women. His ex-wife was an embarrassment to the city, bragging about her fellatio skills in a speech when representing the city at a formal luncheon and posing sprawled on a rug in the Getty mansion for an egotistic photo shoot. (I've drunkenly bragged about my own analogous skills, but only in non-professional settings; to date, I have not posed on Getty rugs for national magazines). Then he dated at least one teenager publicly, as well as a starlet/Scientologist. And now this scandal, on top of a lesser scandal in which he turned up intoxicated at the hospital vigil for a wounded cop (I personally cut him some slack over that one, as it occurred on a weekend evening and the man should be allowed to enjoy the delights of San Francisco bars and restaurants. It's not as if he turned up at City Hall on a Wednesday morning drunk. Others are being more judgmental).

I didn't vote for him, and I won't, either. I'm generally in favor of separating a politician's personal life from his or her career, but here I have to draw a line. The amorality Gavin Newsom showed in sleeping with the improbably named Ruby Rippey-Tourk is unforgivable. It shows too much impulsivity and lack of judgment.

Recently Gavin Newsom whined that Barack Obama won't be seen with him in person, despite the fact that Newsom allegedly raised money for Obama. Good judgment call, Senator O.!

At the same time, mayoral chief spokesman Peter Ragone finally confessed to posting on local news blogs under false names. He had been caught in the act by SFist, who did some IP address sleuthing, but he fibbed for days. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

It's a disheartening day, indeed, in San Francisco. Why are all the smart people cutting hair, driving cabs and housewifing, while the morons are running things?