Sunday, December 23, 2012

walking through a winter wonderland

The other night we walked down through the Castro, as I was meeting a friend for drinks and the Sober Husband and children felt like going for a walk.

The walk was particularly enjoyable for me, because I was trying out some new performance socks I'd ordered at a holiday sale.  These particular socks are so advanced that a catalogue I'd received in the mail referred to them as "systems" and had a diagram pointing out the various features.  I had enjoyed ridiculing that diagram, but it was an effective sales technique, getting me to order them, and they are the best socks of my life.  As we walked, I kept reveling in my "systems."  "I am never wearing socks again!  I am only wearing systems from now on," I shared.

A particular child found this annoying and requested that I stop referring to my new footwear as "systems" as it was "dorky" and potentially embarrassing.

"You're not the boss of me," I said maturely.

"I should be the boss of you.  I'd do a better job managing you than you do."

We walked on, me reveling in the joy of my systems.  One particular bar with a balcony was full of festive drinkers, who were shouting at pedestrians trying to egg them into jaywalking.  They shouted and shouted at one particular pedestrian next to us.  "Don't be a little bitch!"  Then one festive gay drunk shamed the others:  "There are little kids down there!"  Much gay drunken guilt followed until I shouted up to them, "Don't worry!  She hears worse at home!", gesturing towards little Lola.  This met with a lot of loud, inebriated approval, and as we walked away, when the lights finally changed, one drunk screamed out, "I wish you were my mother!"

I turned and waved in acknowledgment.  "Are you flipping them off?" asked Iris.

"No, I'm waving!  He said he wishes I was his mother."

"Well, I don't wish that," said Iris fiercely.

"WHAT?" I squawked.  "You don't wish I were your mother?"  I knew she wants to go away to boarding school, but unwishing the very biological bonds that tie us together is another matter.

"No!  I don't wish you were his mother!"

After this misunderstanding was cleared up, mother-child love was restored, and we all parted ways:  the Sober Husband and offspring off to eat cake, and me to have cocktails.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

this isn't disturbing; no, not at all

The Sober Husband has been bored at work lately, and he calls me from time to time.  The other day we were chatting, and he shared, "Yesterday I was so bored I watched your dot."  He clarified that he has a program which monitors where my cellphone is.  "I watched you drive up Masonic, then wait on Waller, then drive off.  I was so bored, I just sat there watching for a really long time."

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Lola's wacky drug experience

Yesterday Lola went to the dentist, always an ordeal for dentist and patient alike (Lola, who has a huge dental phobia, has been known to vomit and cry during procedures).  One of her baby teeth had broken in half, but the jagged remains remained firmly rooted.  Normally I am the dental parent, but the Sober Husband decided to take Lola this time.  He was sure that the dentist would airily say, "Oh, everything's fine, just let it come out in its own time."  I, on the other hand, was sure that the dentist would remove the rest of the tooth.

Indeed the dentist did want to pull the wretched stump, and it didn't go easily.  After a rough beginning to the proceedings wherein Lola cried and the Sober Husband ordered all of the dental personnel out of the room, Lola took some time to compose herself, and the Sober Husband allowed the dentist and his assistant back in.   (When I heard this story, I winced and became nervous that our family would get blacklisted from this dental practice.  The Sober Husband was quite militant in describing this to me, and I had flashbacks to when we used to go to a particular vet who was afraid of him and would have to visibly brace herself to enter the room if he were with me).

Perhaps understandably the dentist chose to give fragile Lola plenty of nitrous, in addition to numbing gel and a novocaine injection.  As Lola described it later, "It was like I wasn't alive, but I wasn't dead."  After she was done at the dentist, Lola went to school.  She told me later that she was working on a project with one of her best friends, "but I got all giggly.  My teeth were shivering and I couldn't stop giggling, and A. didn't know what to do with me, so she had to take me to Ms. B.  And she didn't know what to do with me either!  So she told me to color or do whatever, and I was giggling and crying at the same time and my teeth were shivering."  Eventually Lola returned to normal.

"Well, Lola, that was quite a day you had today," I said, contemplating it all.  I imagined that the dentist could have used a few hits of nitrous after getting the wrath of the Sober Husband turned on him.

Friday, December 07, 2012

the embarrassment

This year I'm co-teaching a class at Iris's school, where we read and discuss books.  Today the students were trying to guess the age of a character, a rather raddled and frizzled alcoholic who is described as wearing gold stiletto shoes.  This sparked a lively debate, as the description of the character's face, with its wrinkles, made the kids think she might be in her sixties, at least forties, but those gold stilettos... she had to be in her twenties to wear shoes like that.  Maaaaybe thirties at most, but then how would she be wrinkled?

I pointed out gently to the children that I am in my late forties, but I wear stiletto shoes.  They were bemused but soon thought they had me.  "Not gold ones!"

But I was not to be caught out that fast.  "I do have gold ones."

They were nonplussed.  I promised to bring the shoes to our next meeting to prove that a woman in her late forties could wear gold stilettos.

At home I shared this story.  Iris interrupted me at the point where I said, "I told them I wore stilettos."  Moaning, she said sadly, "You had to.  You had to say that.  When did you say that?  So embarrassing."

When I got to where I promised to bring my gold stilettos, Iris erupted.  "When you come into my place of residence, you have a responsibility!"

Perhaps not surprisingly the conversation turned to Iris's obsession, going away to a prestigious boarding school.

"Can I come visit you when you're at boarding school?" I asked.

Evasively Iris answered, "I don't think you'll want to come."

"Well, you'll come home for the summer."

Pensively Iris mused, "I wonder what I'll do for the summers, whether I'll want to come home."

Monday, December 03, 2012

the life of a Debbie Downer

After perking up and feeling happy and energetic for a while, so perky indeed that I was back in the kitchen trying new things (like a homemade caramel and chocolate ganache tarte with a sablé crust and like pasta with baby spinach, fried chickpeas, and fresh mozzarella), I'm back in a slump.

Yesterday I not only went out to a party, but I talked the Sober Husband into coming with.  It's rare he'll socialize with my friends, as he views them as his inferiors.  At the party, there was only one person he enjoyed speaking to, and he was disparaging of my other friends after we left.  The disparagement didn't stop with my friends -- it continued to me.  He referred to "your suicidal bullshit."  I would have jumped out of the car and stalked off right then had we not been driving on an elevated freeway.

Obviously it must be difficult to be married to a suicidal person, but referring to it as "bullshit" seems completely wrong on so many different levels, so trivializing and so apt to provoke the very behavior being criticized.

This argument put me right back where I was, in that dark, deep hole.  I don't even want to look at him or hear the sound of his voice.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

how not to take a compliment

After losing over fifty pounds, I've been enjoying wearing smaller, form-fitting clothes.  Not long ago I indulged in a little retail therapy and acquired a dress which I call "my mid-range hooker dress."  It shows a lot of lace-obscured cleavage and is tight all over, and it is one hell of  a dress.  You could go a lifetime without finding such a rewarding dress, just the right amount of sleaziness.

Recently I had the right occasion to wear this dress in public:  a friend had a private party at a wine bar.  After I'd had a glass of wine, a former Marine sergeant I know made his way over to greet me.  "You look great," he said, hugging me.

"Thanks!" I said.  I turned this way and that.  "I call this 'my midrange hooker dress.'"

"That's exactly what it is," he agreed.  "It's good enough that you can go into a hotel or restaurant in it," but we both agreed a call girl would do well wearing it.

"Sexy!" was his final judgment.

"Thanks," I blurted out sincerely.  "That means a lot, because I know you don't like me."

Then came the awkwardness.

Friday, November 30, 2012

fear the judgment of the children

Today was a rainy day, and Lola's thoughts when I picked her up were on another rainy day spent waiting for me at dismissal time.  She and her friend "were sitting in one of the only dry spots on the stairs, you know, it was all wet.  And we had one of the only dry spots.  And then this car came tearing down, it was going so fast, and we all gasped.  And I said, 'You shouldn't drive that way down here, because it is full of judgmental children, AND WE WILL JUDGE YOU. ' And we did."

Thursday, November 29, 2012

a very deep thought

"On the outside, I may appear to be an emotionless, sarcastic jerk, but like an onion, as you peel back each layer, you find exactly the same thing.  And then you start crying."  (Courtesy of one of my Burning Man campmates).

insults and metaphor

Today as I was driving Lola to school, she asked me what a metaphor was.  It was especially pleasing for me to get a question I could actually answer, and I delved into metaphors and similes, making up some and quoting famous ones.  "The fog crept in on little cat feet" went over well, but Lolz balked at "Shall I compare thee to a summer day."

"Summer days are hot," said Lola disapprovingly.  She and her sister, native San Franciscans, prefer a cool, foggy day.  For Lola, Shakespeare was an idiot.

"NEWSFLASH, LOLA:  you and Iris are not normal.  YOU ARE NOT TYPICAL."

Lola did not take the point.   A new insult has been found:  comparing someone to a summer day.  Those are fighting words, all right!

Monday, November 26, 2012


I'm really sorry for all my failures.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

the crazy man and the mystery of his shoe size

Act I.

The Sober Husband needs new slippers and new sneakers, but somehow over the nearly five decades of his life, he has avoided learning his shoe size.  I buy his clothes for him, but he's on his own foot-wise.  "If you only managed to learn your shoe size, you'd live in a wonderland," I nagged him the other day, "where I'd keep a stack of slippers for you.  Like when you said you needed new pants, and I told you to look in your dresser, and there was a pile of them I bought when they were on sale."  

We were walking through the Castro when we had this conversation, and the Sober Husband suggested that he walk up a block to visit a store which sells garish sneakers as well as campy t-shirts to get his feet sized.   I vetoed that suggestion.  "Stores like that don't measure your feet," I explained.  "They rely on you to know your size when you go in.  Normal people know what size their feet are.   Iris and I know what size our feet are."   We sneered superiorly.  

The Sober Husband was unconvinced. 

Act II.

The following day, while Iris and I were taking in a matinee of "Seven Psychopaths", the Sober Husband and Lola stopped by that same store in the Castro in an attempt to get his feet sized.  "You were right," he admitted; the store didn't even possess a shoe sizing board.  "They treated me like I was a crazy man.  I think they thought I was insane."  

It was a double victory for me, as the Sober Husband had predicted that "Seven Psychopaths" would be too gory and upsetting for Iris, but in the end she had, as I'd known, enjoyed the movie.  


The sad part is this was probably the highlight of my entire year: having a laugh at the expense of my usually better-than-me spouse due to my superior knowledge of how to buy shoes.  It's all downhill from here.

Friday, November 23, 2012

the things we ate

People think Thanksgiving is all about the turkey, but here in this vegetarian household, I bring the feast.  Yesterday we had nine dishes, none prepared ahead of time (due to the chef being in a funk), all made Thanksgiving morning.

- Asian marinated cucumber salad (to give us something light and crunchy),

- garlicky mashed Yukon Gold potatoes (Lola's favorite),

- turnip gratin (so simple but so pleasing),

- lantulaatiko (a Scandinavian rutabaga pudding which has become the Sober Husband and my holiday tradition, served every Thanksgiving and Christmas like clockwork ever since we were
dating and first discovered this food together),

- Tofurkey! marinated and roasted with little potatoes and carrots (mock if you must, but it tastes fantastic),

- homemade cranberry sauce (this year's had cherries, Cointreau, apricot preserves, and ginger, and it was a disappointing recipe which will not be seen next year, the one underperforming dish of the year.  Last year's cranberries with sugar and orange zest were much better),

- green beans cooked in vodka (seen every year),

- mustard-chive monkey bread (the only really time consuming and tricky thing which was made), and

- sour cream pumpkin pie with fresh whipped cream.

There was only the one pie, due to the chef's health kick and huge weight loss, and not coincidentally it was a pie which the squash and pumpkin-hating chef does not eat herself.   Another non-coincidence was some complaining by the minors over the relative lack of pies, which was met by the spirited rebuttal that they could eat the leftover tres leches cake in the refrigerator if they needed to stuff their yaps with sugar.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

hate reading

It's terrible, it just is, yet I have no shame over my newest filthy, unforgivable habit.  I'm hate-reading,  I'm reveling in schadenfreude over the last election.  I don't feel bad about this, as I was on the losing side for virtually every election during my voting lifetime and have sadly bucked up every four years.

Sadly my supply is running dry as more time goes on past the election.  But here's a toothsome gem, one which doesn't age:

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

surcharge, shmurcharge

In the aftermath of the election, some CEOs of chain restaurants are spitting mad that healthcare may be in their employees' future.  The head of Papa John is charging 10 cents more per pizza, which frankly strikes me as a bargain. I'm happy to pay an extra dime if it means a struggling, hardworking pizza chain employee can go to the doctor.

As Wonkette reports with delicious snark, another CEO is trying to egg customers into stiffing waiters on their tips to punish them for wanting healthcare and Obama:
 John Metz is nobody’s fool, so John Metz, CEO and owner of Hurricane Grill and Wings as well as some Denny’s and Dairy Queen franchises, is going to pass the cost of Obamacare onto the employees AND the customer. “If I leave the prices the same, but, say on the menu that there is a five-percent surcharge for Obamacare, customers have two choices. They can either pay it, and tip 15 or 20 percent, or if they really feel so inclined, they can reduce the amount of tip they give to the server, who is the primary beneficiary of Obamacare,” Metz told The Huffington Post. Metz is a WINNER, you guys, and WINNERS do not pay for the health care coverage costs of others. They make you, the customer pay for it (SUCKER) and if you don’t want to, then YOU get to be a winner and make the waitress pay for it.
Frankly I'm all for him doing that.   We've done that already in San Francisco, and restaurants, waiters, and diners all seem to be fine after adjusting to a new reality.  When a new law called "Healthy San Francisco" was passed, restaurants of a certain size had to start providing healthcare to their employees.  Many restaurants decided to put a surcharge on the checks labeled "Healthy San Francisco", to make it clear to the consumer that she was having to pay out of her own pocket extra for her meal in order to give the doctor-craving waiters and cooks health insurance.  And you know what?  All the doom that was forecast didn't happen.  Restaurants are still opening at a crazy rate (our economy has perked up here, thanks to Silicon Valley); people are still eating out.

Just yesterday I took little Lolz and a pal of hers out to lunch, and we paid our "Healthy San Francisco" surcharge on top of our tab.  The heavily tattooed staff who waited on us and bussed our table looked healthy, and the surcharge was modest enough.   Funnily enough I didn't have any sort of class rage against my waiter, the way that John Metz seems to think I should.  We all of us get sick, and we all of us need some medical care from time to time.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

it's that special time of year

It's that magical time of year, when I am constantly reminded that I am unlovable (the only person in the world who has ever genuinely loved me after getting to really know me is the Sober Husband, and that's probably because by then he was stuck with me), unloved, unlikeable, and mostly unliked.  Also, I've lost the one advantage life gave me, which was that for a while I was pretty damn good-looking.  I was an ugly child, a hideous adolescent, and then I blossomed into a hot chick, but that didn't last long enough.  I have lived too long past my sell-by date.

Yes, it's birthday season!  Happy fucking another year older to me.  I can't wait until it's over.  The actual day is Tuesday, but the dread and funk arrive ahead of time.

Friday, November 16, 2012

a very special genre

I'm co-teaching a "lit club" class at Iris uber Alles's school.  It's like a tiny little foray into the working world, and I love the children.

Not long ago I asked them to tell me about what they like to read, and one shared, "I like books where mermaids commit suicide."

Thursday, November 15, 2012

detente pictured

There are a lot of gray animals around here lately, and there is only a fragile detente at best, with your humble narrator at high risk for small bodily injuries.

Monday, November 12, 2012

not appropriate

Iris and I went to a clothing exchange over the weekend, where we each scored some great finds.  Most notably Iris got a beautiful leather jacket and I got a Michael Kors dress; I also ended up with an extremely ornate, bead-encrusted wedding gown.

"I don't understand why you took that wedding gown," said Iris.

"I've always wanted to go to this event called 'Brides of March,' where everyone runs around bars all day in wedding gowns, both the men and the women."  (Indeed several people at the clothing exchange had lit up at the sight of the wedding gown, all thinking of the Brides of March, but it was me that the gown fit perfectly.  Although I've been married twice, I have never owned a real wedding gown.  I have lots of friends who have had inordinate amounts of fun at the Brides of March pub crawl, and I've always intended to get a wedding gown for it, but I've never managed to find one in my size at a thrift store).

Iris made a derisive sound.  "You are a forty seven year-old mother of two!  THERE IS SO MUCH WRONG WITH THAT, I CAN'T EVEN BEGIN."  She shook her head.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

so very cute

This morning I was tired, from insomnia-caused sleep deprivation and from far too much exercise over the past several days.  The Sober Husband called my attention to the fact that one of my foster kittens had diarrhea (in the litterbox, good kitten, and which I had already realized and arranged to get some medications).  I had a realization and shared it with him.

"I feel that almost everything you say to me is conveying a piece of negative information.  Like that almost everything you talk about is either damage or disgustingness caused by animals or [perennial topic of anomie and worry not appropriate for the public].  It's making me fear you opening your mouth.  I'm dreading talking to you.  We need to fix that."

The Sober Husband feistily argued the point with me for a while, which caused me to further stiffen in my views.  Then he broke off and stared at the latest foster kitten.  "That orange one is over there.... "  He paused.  "Being cute."

I walked over and saw the kitten, bent over vomiting heartily.  I turned to the Sober Husband and ran my hand through his hair affectionately.  "Well said!"

Friday, November 09, 2012

a mystery

Tonight I had the Sober Husband drop me off at the gym.  He proceeded on to a cocktail party, while I had a good, long, strenuous workout.  By the time I was out of the shower, he was waiting to drive me home.

I felt like exercising, not drinking.  WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO ME?  I used to be so much fun.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

the fashion police

Since I became so obsessed with working out and lost a huge amount of weight, I've taken up dressing like a skank.  One member of the family (the Sober Husband) not only enjoys this trend but strongly encourages it.  Another apparently has no opinion or perhaps has not even paid attention.  However, a third member is disapproving.

Yesterday I was having a stressful time (a little foster kitten had a health crisis, which was quite disgusting, and when I bathed him, he sank his fangs deep into my wrist; the kitchen sink clogged up and then when the Sober Husband attempted to fix the clog, a pipe burst;  we were running late to get to the polls), and little Lola took that time to raise an issue with my clothes.  I was wearing a form-fitting silky t-shirt and a faux wrap skirt which was designed, as the catalogue had said, to "occasionally reveal a tempting slice of leg."  Lolz, seeing the slice of leg, was tempted to point out to her mother that some thigh was on display, and the crabby old mother hissed, "Do not say anything critical to me.  There is nothing wrong with my clothes."

Other outfits have met with disapproving attempts at censorship, including a lace t-shirt ("From this angle, I can see your bra in that shirt."  "Lolz, that is kind of the point of this shirt") and a  retro low cut cocktail dress ("It's so wide here", gesturing at the cleavage and trying to pull the sides of the neckline together).

I'm just dreading Lolz's reaction when I sport my newest acquisition, a tight dress with a lace bodice.  Yes, the dress looks vaguely like something a mid-priced hooker might wear, but I'm okay with that.  It's a truly great dress.  A person can go decades without acquiring such a fabulous dress.

I have tried to explain to Lolz that her mother has not spent so much time slaving at the gym and broken her recreational ice cream habit in order to wear caftans and burqas, but still, the remarks, the looks, and the tugging at the necklines go on.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

it's just that easy

"I don't want to argue," I said.

"No, you don't have to argue," said the Sober Husband strenuously.  "You can just concede that I am right!"

areas of expertise

Over sandwiches Lola asked me thoughtfully, "What is the fourth dimension?"  After I finished chewing, I called the Sober Husband in.  He has a Ph.D. in physics, after all, and I, moronically enough, was not sure about what the fourth dimension was.  This was the right thing to do, as the Sober Husband lit up when Lola repeated her question and said, "Ah!  Now, what is a dimension?"

Later I had my moment in the sun.  "What is the Antichrist?" Iris asked her father.  He was blank, and I intervened.  "Leave this one to me,"  I said.  I didn't have a born-again Christian childhood for nothing.

Friday, November 02, 2012

annoying coworker

Lately I've been thinking that perhaps it's time for me to get a job.  However, in one of my volunteer positions, I have been working closely with someone who irritates me profoundly, and this is making me remember all of the annoying coworkers I've ever had.  I realized I had been  remembering all the paychecks and happy hours and nicest clients, not thinking about the psycho bosses, insane deadlines, and other unpleasantnesses.

Today my annoying co-volunteer was especially annoying, and I thought perhaps instead of vowing to get a job,  I should instead vow to never work in any office again.  I shared some of my thinking with the Sober Husband and Lola.

"I was romanticizing the work world.  I was just thinking, 'Oh, there's always someone to go to lunch with or out for drinks.'"

"I feel like I live in the movie 'Office Space'", the Sober Husband shared.

Little Lola, who has never actually held a job, for inscrutable reasons of her own found what I had to say hilarious.  Between guffaws, she asked, "You thought that?  Lunch?  Drinks?"  She slapped her leg in amusement.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

even kittens

Even kittens can't cheer me up.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

survivor's guilt and Tom Sawyer's funeral

On Sunday I had a wonderful day, a fabulous day of sneaking (pre-authorizedly, of course) away from my family for a day of fun, but I returned at night to discover, via Facebook, that someone I knew had killed himself the night before by throwing himself in front of a BART train.

After shock, my next reaction was being pissed off at the people who were piously mourning the deceased, most of whom I knew very well wouldn't have given the deceased the time of day if they'd run into him.  It seemed like they were being vultures, grabbing for attention and for emotional thrills.  But of course the suicide had worn through almost everyone's love and esteem.  He was an unmedicated sufferer of bipolar disorder, a grandiose and annoying person, and the worst part, I think, about mental illness is that it makes everyone stop loving you long before you die.

I myself had a complicated relationship with the deceased.  I got a job he wanted, back when he was stable and ambitious, and to add insult to injury, afterwards I wouldn't bring him on to work with me.  Of course I was right in that decision; back then, it wasn't common knowledge that he had bipolar disorder, but I did think he was too intense and unreliable to be a good attorney, and in retrospect, I was righter than right.  I know he held a grudge against me for years, and he was also right.  If it weren't for me, his life would have taken a different direction.  I didn't have any hard feelings against him; it wasn't personal from my point of view, but what could be more personal from his?

It wasn't until today that my feelings reared up and hit me.  I feel absolutely terrible that this man is dead, that he killed himself, that the BART operator and everyone who had to clean up after him had to deal with the horrors of it all.

On top of that, the situation makes me think of how carrion-feeding and attention-seeking most people are.  People (including me due to my writing here; believe me, there are no good feelings for me about myself in this) are mourning publicly, when we avoided the deceased in the last part of his life.  Lots of people less connected to the man are attention-seeking, name-checking the glamorous corpse.

As a lot of people know, the suicidal urge is strong with me.  And seeing someone who was my age roughly, who was in my profession, who was in my social group, who did give in to that dark urge, gives me an experience like Tom Sawyer had going to his own funeral.  And I don't like it.  It makes me think of how many of the friends who knew how rough a time I had last year in particular were more concerned about themselves than me, how they felt bad for themselves that they had a close friend who was on the edge.  The biggest example of that was someone who told me that if there was anything I needed, to please call, that it was so upsetting that I was in crisis and that if anything would help, I only had to say the word... and then when I did call and ask for a minor favor, the person said, "Sorry, that would involve moving my car, and it might take me up to forty minutes to find a parking space."   It was all I could do not to say, "You know, my funeral might have been today.  Would you have given up your parking space for THAT?"

It's a horrible, cruel, awful world we live in, a world with so little love and joy in it.  People will feel sorry for themselves and seek out all kinds of attention as the bereaved survivors if you die, but if you live, they don't want to spend forty minutes looking for a parking space.  And I'm not claiming any moral high ground here, either.  It's a bleak, bleak world.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

crazy and crazy-making

I spent a rare, relaxing day with a friend today, away from the domestic madness of children, cats, parrots, and my intense husband.  "It's like a mini-vacation," I said to my friend.  When I came home, after greeting everyone, catching up on the news, and cleaning up after some tiny foster kittens, I logged on to Facebook for the first time that day... just as a lot statuses were exploding with teasers about a suicide in our social circle.  That put a close to my vacation-ish feeling.

As anyone who knows me well should realize, I have a complex relationship with suicide, and it is maddening to me when people are acting like vultures around it, acting like there's some personal tragedy unique to them when someone they wouldn't give the time of day to has passed on in this dark way.

This was not my tragedy.  I knew this man, I spent time with him, I joked with him, I flirted with him, I pissed him off thoroughly by refusing to hire him at one point (and I don't think he ever forgave me for that).  But it's not my tragedy.  It's the tragedy of my friend, who was engaged to him for a while back in the nineties.  It's the tragedy of another friend, an old drinking buddy of mine, whom he was actually staying with just before his death.  It's the tragedy of his mother, who survives him, and who he left his suicide note for.

And it's a tragedy similar to ones so many other people share.  This smart, talented and handsome man had bipolar disorder, which he did not medicate because, as his former fiancee and I discussed just a week before he died, he loved the highs of mania.  Bipolar disorder is linked to suicide; the NIH says 25-50% of people with bipolar disorder attempt suicide at least once.

What is the right way to honor the memory of someone who lost his life to bipolar disorder?  I'd like to do something nice for the BART driver who had no choice but to run my acquaintance over (that poor bastard must be having nightmares); I'd like to do something for a random suicidal person with bipolar disorder.  Donating to a foundation working on treatment for bipolar disorder is something else which seems appropriate.  But don't feel sorry for me; it wasn't my tragedy.   I'm lucky to be on the far periphery of this one, and I'm not a vulture who'll circle over the corpse, looking for pity.

I'm reminded of how not that long I nearly died myself, and how strange and alienating the reactions were to that, people making it about themselves that I had a close call with mortality.  When I go, people, for the love of all that is both holy and unholy, don't post a Facebook status namechecking me as a glamorous corpse.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

your reading list

I've had some luck with my reading choices lately, books so good that reading alone makes living worthwhile.   In case any of you are bookless at the moment and needing direction, here you are!

"Joseph Anton" by Salman Rushdie:  Rushdie writes about his life after the fatwa, and as a memoir, it's deeply satisfying.  Who knew that the worst part of being in hiding wasn't the loneliness; it was the lack of solitude?  With police officers always lumbering around and frying sausages, Rushdie couldn't get any peace and quiet to write.  

Beyond an account of the thorough strangeness of being anointed Islam's top enemy, this book is a lyrical and profound examination of what it means to write, what a book is (was "The Satanic Verses" a novel or an insult? ), and the value of dissent and expression.  Bonus: lots of literary gossip!  The PEN meetings will never be the same again now the dirt is out.  

"Out of the Ordinary:  True Tales of Everyday Craziness" and "What I Do:  More Tales of Everyday Craziness" by Jon Ronson:  I've been reading Jon Ronson since before "Men Who Stare At Goats" was made into a movie.  He is amazingly witty, and he's not afraid to skewer himself (such as his piece about a new neighbor he meets, who won't ask Ronson what he does for a living, no matter what tempting little conversational morsels Ronson lays out for him).  These books are worth the price alone for the accounts of his marital spats alone, never mind the chapter on the strange cult which pressures its members into donating kidneys to strangers.  

"The Vanishers" by Heidi Julavits:  I thought Julavits' prior novel, "The Uses of Enchantment", was hugely overrated, and so I was skeptical.  But "The Vanishers" lured me in, and I will say without reservations that it is one of the best books I have ever read.  A washed up, physically ill psychic is hired to use her now pathetic powers to sense the truth about a bizarre feminist film maker.  The characters and plot are original and thought-provoking, but more than that, the prose is so luscious, so crisp.  Reading these gorgeous sentences is like receiving an almost endless series of odd little surprises.  

"The Collective" by Don Lee:  Three disaffected, unhappy Asian American college students form a lifelong friendship and devote their lives to art.  The most successful of them commits suicide, leaving his friends to try to make sense out of their lives, as well as the tragedy.  A dense and engaging novel with very real characters, whose flaws and gifts are carefully mapped out.  

"Some Kind of Fairy Tale" by Graham Joyce:  I've been hugely taken with Graham Joyce lately, and "Some Kind of Fairy Tale" was a joy.  He takes an ancient, hackneyed premise (a woman is taken away to live with the fairies and returns, thinking only a few months have passed, to discover that decades have gone by) and does something deeply moving and thought-provoking with it.  

"True Believers" by Kurt Andersen:  A law school dean decides to write a memoir about her long-covered up past as a college radical.  I love how Andersen conveys the passion of political thought and  the carelessness and purity of youth.  However, there were some bits which I found hard to swallow that broke up the mood for me (for example, his protagonist during her first year of law school has a memorable encounter with a charming third year student, President Clinton in a cute cameo, during a class they are taking together, never mind that a third year student would NOT be taking one of the basic, introductory classes everyone else takes during first year.  I cannot tell you how much this bothered me).  

Meanwhile Lola enjoyed "The One And Only Ivan" by Katherine Applegate, a lonely gorilla's account of his captivity at a peculiar shopping mall attraction, and Iris is reading "Murder On The Orient Express" by Agatha Christie.  The Sober Husband, upon my recommendation, is reading "Joseph Anton", but he's being driven crazy by wondering whether he should put it aside and read "The Satanic Verses" first.  "I feel like I'm missing so much," he frets.  

Friday, October 26, 2012

I get no buy-in

The other night I saw "7 Psychopaths" with the Sober Husband, a movie I thoroughly enjoyed, and the desert scenes left me feeling nostalgic for the days when I went camping in the desert.  (Burning Man doesn't really count as "desert camping", as it is its own peculiar thing).

Before I procreated, I used to love to go on road trips to the desert and camp far from anyone else.  My ex-husband and I developed a Thanksgiving tradition of driving down to Death Valley and exploring that wonderful, strange, huge desert.

I dragged along husband 2.0, the Sober Husband, on just one such trip, to the wilds of Utah, when we were first dating.  We'd only known each other a few months, and we drove until we found majestic places with amazing views, where we didn't see anyone else for days.  One day it snowed, and we holed up in our tent with a bottle of wine.  On other days the weather was more typical for a desert camping trip, where it's hot enough that, if one chose to do so, one could comfortably hike naked but for sensible socks and boots, but at night, you want to huddle around a fire and snuggle up to a companion.

Coincidentally the children in Lola's class are studying California's ecosystems, and Lola has been assigned to study and report upon California's deserts, much to her dismay.  She had wanted either the coast or the mountains, and she was disgusted to get stuck with the desert.  Lola, an urban child, doesn't even like to look at pictures of deserts.  "I like cityscapes," she says firmly.

As we walked out of "7 Psychopaths",  filled with love and longing for the desert I proposed to the Sober Husband that we take the children camping in the desert for spring break.  He gave me a look.  "That sounds like a great idea, forcing something on them that you love and you know they are going to hate.  That's going to lead to some therapy."

"Hey!  I just went to Disneyland for them, and I didn't want to do that!"

He had to note that I had a point.  It is payback time.

Today I raised the idea to the children, who were aghast.  Lola pointed out that she barely escaped Hollywood with her life, as it was far too hot and the tap water was undrinkable, and cannot be expected to survive a night in a desert.

"And would you expect us to camp?" Iris said with disgust.

"Why can't you have open minds and a sense of adventure?"

Lola buried her head in her hands.  "I expect to be unhappy."

Thursday, October 25, 2012

no exit strategy

Like an army that has invaded Afghanistan, I find myself in a difficult situation with no good exit strategy.

Several months ago I returned my foster cats, ready to go up for adoption, and the head of my rescue asked me, as a favor, to take a cat home for a weekend.  "He just needs a little work."  The cat in question was gorgeous, a large kitten, but not friendly.  It was very difficult to get him into a carrier, but since he'd already been in foster care and had been returned as being deemed ready for adoption, I assumed he just needed a few days.

The days, weeks, and months have gone on, and the cat still isn't ready to go up for adoption.  When he arrived, he was never seen by anyone, spending all his energy on avoiding any encounters with people.  But "Coconut", as the children re-named him (he was previously referred to as "Bandit"), has slowly adapted to life in our house and has become very happy.  He loves our other kitten, Zorro, and he enjoys watching the parrots.  He even loves our company, following us from room to room.  He'll sleep at the foot of our bed or with Lola; he'll follow me into the bathroom and watch me put on my make-up.  He has absolutely no interest in going outdoors and is a happy, playful indoor cat.

So what's the problem?  You can't handle him.  He'll happily sit or lie near you, but if you reach out and touch him, no matter how stealthily or gently you do, he'll tear off.  Recently, after he asked me for food, seeking me out, making eye contact with me, meowing, and leading me to the dish,  I looked down at him as he trustingly ate from a freshly-opened can.  "Our relationship has come so far," I thought to myself.  "It's time to pick him up."   I bent down and grabbed him.  Coconut struggled.  I held on.  He whipped his head around and sank his fangs deep into my right hand.  I let go.  Coconut was not seen for most of the rest of the day, and my hand hurt like hell.

After that, I gave in and confessed to the rescue that I have failed with this cat.

The head of the cat rescue found a solution of sorts:  the woman who owns the yard in which Coconut was trapped is willing to have Coconut put back in her yard.  He'd be fed then and expected to become a feral cat again.

I can't bear to do that.  Coconut has no interest in going back outdoors.  He is truly happy and healthy as a pet, so long as no one touches him.  And he is a very attractive, decorative cat.

The Sober Husband is bitterly opposed to Coconut remaining on the premises.  "That would make two cats adopted this year.  If you kept rescuing cats for ten years, then we'd have twenty cats!"

I easily countered that argument.  "I HAVE been doing this for ten years, and we don't have twenty cats!  We just have three, and one visiting cat."

"Visiting cat with no plans to leave!"  The Sober Husband returned to his prior point, even after I'd debunked it.  "Imagine a house with ten cats in it," he said sarcastically.

"It would be like heaven," I said sincerely.  "Cats everywhere!  All the cats you'd want."

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

wastewater.... and a treatment plant!!! (Guest post by Lola)

These are Lola's complaints about the wastewater treatment plant she visited. It sucked.

Hi narrator dude.

The script, Lola...

Oh. Today, my class went on a field trip to the nearest wastewater treatment plant. You had to cover your wrists, so I had to wear my jacket the whole time. I got very hot. When we got there, we went to this room and sat down. They ranted and showed us a video, none of which stood out except for a small rant about how quote and quote "Flushable" wipes were often flushed down the toilet while, when you can physically flush it, it does not break up and cause a problem at the wastewater treatment plant. We were told to put on a hard hat liner and a hard hat (blah blah blah Federal law) and these gloves, so we wouldn't get as many germs. Oh, those gloves sucked. They were the plastic-ey latex kind, and in the beginning they were uncomfortable and through the tour it started to get sweaty, crumpled, and yeah. We were not allowed to take it off until we finished the tour. I will always remember the purple of those gloves.

We then we walked to the place where they drag a metal.... thingy through the water to get the big things out. It smelled absolutely horrible, and one girl got nauseous. After that was dealt with, we went into the next part, where they...... do something. All I remember is complaining to my friend about the gloves and smell. Then they have this whole mess of tubes called the tube gallery, and then....... well, at some point they let the water sit there for a few hours so the organisms eat up the leftover solids, and also at some point it gets so smelly they have to clean the air to breathe. They have a few tubes labeled"CONTAMINATED AIR". After that, the water is clean and it goes 4,000 feet (1,219.2 meters, and I also found 2.54 centimeters makes exactly one inch) into the bay. Also by then, my gloves were sweaty and wrinkled, and my hard hat was falling off (not really, they have a nifty thing on the hard helmets to make it the right size). When I finally took my gloves off, the inside of it was literally covered with a thin layer of sweat, and my hair was tangled from the hard hat.

So yes, it sucked. Bye. May kittens make you happy.

Monday, October 22, 2012

the cursed pencil

Little Lola loves pencils.  Once she cried for ages after one of the parrots chewed up a pencil... which Lola herself had given the parrot.  "Lola," I said exasperatedly, "why did you give the pencil to the bird if you didn't want the bird to chew it up?"

Sobbing, she said, "I didn't realize how much I would love him."  The pencil was mourned for days.

Each pencil lost at school is like a little death.  Days when no pencils are lost, we celebrate.

So naturally when I noticed a pencil rolling around in the driver's footwell of the Prius, I offered it to Lola.  It seemed a handsome pencil, with hearts on it.

"Lola, would you like this pencil?" I asked, extending it.

Lola drew herself back.  "Why, NO NO NO NO NO NO NO!"

"What? Is it a cursed pencil?  Is it the pencil of the devil?"

Lola recoiled.

"Does it have bad mojo?  I thought you loved pencils!"

Lola shuddered.  "Not THAT pencil."

Sunday, October 21, 2012

am I proposing a dinner date or the Bataan death march?

A male friend of mind suggested that he and his wife have dinner with the Sober Husband and me.  I've met his wife, but the Sober Husband remains a figure of mystery and legend to them.  It sounded fine to me, but the Sober Husband is warier than I am.  He took a jaundiced view when I raised the subject.

"Sure, you love him, he loves you..."

I cut him off.  "I don't 'love' him!"

"Just because you guys 'love' each other doesn't mean I have to like him and his wife."  He sighed.  According to the Sober Husband, going out to dinner with my friend and his wife was one of the most daunting yet boring prospects imaginable.

"Maybe we could go to the theatre instead and get a drink afterwards," I said.  "Then we wouldn't have to talk so much, and we could talk about the play."

The S.H.'s response was visceral.  "No no no, that would ruin the performance!"  Evidently the dread of having to later discuss a show with these friends of mine would completely suck any pleasure from it.

"I could invite them over for dinner," I said.

That prospect was also horrifying.  "Please, for the love of God, make it short.  Make it in a public place, so we can leave if we need to."

I'm used to getting this reaction from the children when I'm scheduling them to have their teeth cleaned or to get shots, but from my husband over dining out with other middle-aged people?  It's no wonder my social life is often conducted in a different zipcode from him.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

conversations with children

"I know what I'm going to do when I grow up.  I'm going to be like Mitt Romney!  I'm going to make a lot of money, and then go into politics," one of my children said to me.

"Don't talk like that," I said.

"Yes!  I'm going to be just like Mitt Romney," the child continued.

Covering my ears with my hands, I said, "LA LA LA I CAN'T HEAR YOU."

The child went on, ignoring me, sensibly enough.  "Once I have a lot of money, I'll run for senator.  Or governor."

"That didn't work out so well for Meg Whitman," I said.

"I'll be a better politician than that."

Talking to the other child is a bit cheerier, but also can be draining.  This second child ran up the stairs and burst into the room. "I just realized what I just said, and it was weird," the child marveled, a propos of nothing.

Friday, October 19, 2012

out and about with the better half, Gangnam style

For a longish time the Sober Husband and I didn't have a date night, as I enrolled Lola in a writing class which met on the night our babysitter had given us (technically we shouldn't be needing babysitting now that Iris is thirteen, and our lives should be one big date night,  but we have made a parenting decision not to leave Lolz under her big sister's supervision for extended periods of time.  The babysitter is in charge of Lola only, and Iris is free to do as she wishes without real supervision).    

Last night we went out together for the first time in recent memory.  We were a little rusty at it.  The Sober Husband wanted us to walk to the restaurant; I wanted to wear my new Fluevog high heels, which are not meant for walking down steep hills.  Our conversation faltered.  We seemed rife with misinterpretations and misunderstandings.  Over at Bar Agricole we failed to get cocktails at the bar from the slow moving bartenders while we waited for our reserved table, and when the table was produced, it was a wretched little table inside.  I wanted to sit outside in the herb garden; it was one of the few warm evenings of the year in San Francisco, and this table was truly depressing, hot, stuffy.

I was disappointed, but given how long it had taken for us to get a table (despite having a reservation) and our failure at getting a drink, I didn't want to wait for an outside table.  The Sober Husband, though, took command, whizzing off and imperiously directing that we be reseated outside.   Once ensconced in my outdoors table, so airy and with a view of the herb garden, I was happy.

"Now we'll be eating in style," said the S.H. admiring our new, superior table.

"Gangnam style!"  I agreed.

He furrowed his brow.  "What is 'Gangnam style?'"

I was appalled.  We really hadn't been spending much time together.  How could he have missed my fascination for the K-pop sensation, not to mention Iris über Alles's much-vaunted superiority?Having been a fan of Korean pop music for over a year before PSY had a break-out hit with "Gangnam Style", Iris can be quite vocal and quite condescending on the topic.  The K-pop scene is an oddly ubiquitous subject in our home, but evidently only when the Sober Husband is at work.

Could these misfits get along?  By the time we'd shared a bowl of white onion soup with barhi dates,  shallots, chives, and vadouvan oil, as well as a glass of vinho verde, the conversation began to flow.  By the end of our roasted jimmy nardello peppers with corno di toro, nepitella, and tonnato sauce, we were cozying up to one another.  We shared a Eureka lemon and ricotta tart with a lavender meringue, and we got a delightful Armagnac cocktail made with absinthe and hibiscus bitters as a gesture from the management to make up for the delays in getting our table and our drinks.  Far from my prior feeling, while we were waiting for a table and giving up on getting a cocktail, that I was over Bar Agricole, the magnificence of the soup and the Armagnac cocktail left me wanting to eat there every day of my life.  The Sober Husband was admiring the results of my fitness regime; my new Fluevogs were delighting me.  We were on to the Cat Club, where we danced and drank far later than we normally ever stay out on a weeknight.  It was an epic date night, positively Gangnam style.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

space exploration news

Teenaged Iris über Alles has an eccentric teacher.  Today's update:  "He doesn't believe in the moon landing!"

"Well, you must have so much in common, then."  I remembered all the debates we'd had in this home and on this blog over whether the moon landing was a hoax.

Iris was dismissive.  "Oh, I believe in the moon landing now.  I've believed in it for years."

This was news to me.

She went on.  "He believes in the Mars landing, he thinks the robots went to Mars, but he thinks the moon landing was a fake."  She shook her head in disbelief over this obstinacy, this tinfoil hat thinking.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

the legend was unveiled

This blog has made me some enemies, but it's made me some great friends as well.  I tend to value the friends more highly, because they really understand me, and also it's likely that the people who learned to hate me through this blog would have gotten around to hating me eventually.  The blog just speeded things up.

Whenever I've had the chance to meet a commenter, someone who has commented here more than a few times but instead has commented enough to let their personality shine, it's always been a rollicking good time.  Today I finally got to meet the esteemed Hughman, who has always been the alpha commenter here, and my fellow judge in the photo contest (which we should do again one of these days; your DH is lazy and disorganized as ever).   Hugh has always been a large figure here; one of my real life friends once asked me, "Who is this Hugh?"

Our planned meeting was a bit in jeopardy when I found myself derailed by an AIDS march.  In San Francisco, whenever anyone marches anywhere for any reason, the police allow cross traffic to go through from time to time.  West Hollywood, though, is a different story, and I had committed the fatal tourist error of not allocating enough driving time.  (This reminded me of how often I've scoffed at people visiting me who make the classic San Francisco tourist error of underdressing for the weather.  Poor commenter 2AMsomewhere showed up in a Hawaiian shirt and shorts on a summer evening when it was only about 45 degrees outside, and he was a good sport about both the cold and the ridicule).  I bailed out of the rental car and called Hugh as I clipped along.  Of course I was dressed like a prostitute from the fifties, complete with retro-looking high heels, and I cursed my decision to wear cute shoes, opposed to the Tevas I'd sported at Disneyland.  "You're a long way away," said Hugh sadly after I was finally able to accurately describe my location.   But I hung up, hung on, and power-walked a mile up La Cienaga in my shaky heels, with only a little abrasion from an ankle strap to show for this silliness.  Someone asked me directions as I raced up the street, and I looked at her as though she were crazy.  Wasn't it obvious that I was a moronic tourist?

Finally I got there, and we had a delightful time.  At the end, Hugh also got to meet the Sober Husband, Iris über Alles, and an uncharacteristically subdued Lola, who was greatly affected by the SoCal heat.  (Earlier Lola had confided in me, "I liked L.A. until I drank the tapwater."  She shuddered dramatically).   After all these years of reading about them, suddenly they had come to life and were walking about, talking, complaining of the heat, and petting Polly.  And for me, I got to see Polly disregarding her owner to scrounge about outside a dumpster (Polly's attitude was clear: if only her owner were to become enlightened, he'd understand how important and enjoyable a bit of dumpster diving can be) and to enjoy sitting outside at Hugh's favorite restaurant, where the handsome waiter treated me like royalty after learning I was Hugh's friend.  The internet comes alive at times, and it's delightful.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

automotive hell

A couple of months ago I was driving my Volvo merrily down O'Shaughnessy, just about to turn onto the freeway, when suddenly the car lost power, including its power steering.  I maneuvered it across a lane of heavy traffic, wrestling with the wheel, and let it drift to a halt.  After a short moment of contemplation, I cancelled the appointment I was headed to down the peninsula, as my car did not feel highway-ready.  I gingerly turned the car back on.  Surprisingly, it drove me back home without doing anything else amiss, and there were no error codes.

We took the car to the Sober Husband's chosen mechanic, who did a variety of things, charging a variety of amounts, and who ominously told us to replace the transmission.  "They tell you," he intoned, "that transmissions last a long time, but that's not for San Francisco. That's for ideal driving conditions, you know, freeways."  He positively spat with contempt for the lazy driving ways of the non-San Franciscan.  "Here in San Francisco, you're driving up hills.  You're in traffic.  You're stopping and going.  You can't have a transmission last like that."

The Sober Husband and I paid him a large amount of money but weren't ready to fund a new transmission.  "I'd rather get a new car," I said bitterly.  I kept driving the Volvo.  

On one day I had some time to spare, while I waited for Iris über Alles and some privileged friends of hers to take a sewing class in scenic Hillsborough, and I found a pleasant garage in Burlingame where I had my oil changed.  I asked the mechanic to change the air filter as well, but he refused.  "This one's still good!" he said.  I found this refreshing, as at my last oil change, a less honest mechanic had tried to bully me into getting a new air filter, and this one was that same, unchanged one.  "You could make a passenger sick with this filter," lectured the sleazy mechanic at me, but this good one held it up and said, "I'm putting it back in."  

This pleasant fellow replaced my serpentine belt for me and changed out my transmission fluid, after I saw for myself how murky it was.  He shook his head when I told him that the car had just been at another mechanic's a week or two before, who hadn't noticed that the serpentine belt was about to break (I verified this with my own eyes) or changed the transmission fluid.  

The Volvo drove me to Burning Man and drove my friend N. back (I felt like a heel giving it to her, but she had to leave early for reasons of child custody, and I wasn't going to be able to cram all of our camp into the Volvo, so she left me her spacious minivan).  But then I was rushing down O'Shaughnessy yet again, with the intentions of speeding merrily all the way to Iris's school for an important meeting, and the car died yet again.  Once again I managed to get across a couple of lanes of busy traffic, and I was shaken.  If that had happened just a few minutes later, I would have been driving 70 or 75 miles per hour in heavy traffic on 280, and it could have caused a horrific accident.  

I had the car towed to my favorite mechanic, the mechanic of my heart, who spent some serious time with it.  "My advice to you," he said, looking me in the eye more seriously than anyone has who wasn't proposing marriage, "is to sell this car immediately.  And I'm not charging you for today."  According to this mechanic, the car hadn't thrown an error code in months, and he could not find anything to cause this intermittent failure.  I got him to tell the Sober Husband all this on the phone.

Gingerly I drove home.  The Sober Husband and I began a debate which has raged on through today, the debate about whether I should get a replacement car and if so, what the hell should it be.  I refuse to drive the Volvo, no matter what pressure I may get from the S.H., who complains that "I spend ten more dollars a day on gas now that you're driving my Prius."  "Well then," I retort, "get me that Mini Cooper I want."  

"Why don't you drive the Volvo?"

"That car is dead to me."  

"Lots of people drive unreliable cars.  Poor people do every day.  I did when I had the Monte Carlo."

It took me a while to develop a proper retort for that argument, but my psychiatrist handed it to me on a plate.  Now I can hiss superiorly, "My psychiatrist thinks you do not value my life highly enough!"  This tends to lead to a silence, a satisfying one on my end.

While all this has been raging on, I've been driving the Prius.  Today the Prius failed as I was attempting to drive to the gym from Lola's school.  It turns out that the dealership had found a problem with the accessory battery, and the skeptical Sober Husband, thinking he was being ripped off, felt that he would prefer to wait until it actually failed before replacing it.  

"I hate this car now, too," I said.  The poor Sober Husband was apologetic over the phone.  "You can take a cab to a dealership and buy a new car," he cajoled me, but I wasn't falling for that.  "I'm not buying any car unless you're right there to agree it's acceptable," I said.  After all, our marriage, unlike the typical one, is largely based upon an unending competition for the moral upper hand.  The failure to replace the accessory battery had put me in a powerful position, and I was not about to throw that advantage away.  But these cars, yes.  I am prepared to throw them away.

Sunday, October 07, 2012


A troubled Lola: "I saw something about 'meningitis epidemic' on the TV screen at the gas station, and I asked Iris, 'What is meningitis?' And she said, 'It's a deadly disease that runs in the family that you're most likely going to get in this epidemic.'" 


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

how I burned

This year's Burning Man was more exhausting than usual.  Part of that was the weather:  we had a couple of days of "dustpocalypse", non-stop whiteouts leaving us crouched in what shelter we could find, holding scarves over our faces if we didn't have dustmasks, giving thanks for our goggles.  At one point, stumbling through a white-out to a porta-potty, I had a realization:  I had cleared a week and a half absence from my schedule, and in theory I could have gone anywhere.  It was my choice to hunker down in a duststorm.  "Next year, let's all go to Bali!" I proposed to my campmates on my return.  They hunkered down further, passed around a bottle of ancient port, and looked at me through reddened, dust-plagued eyes.

Other than the duststorms, the weather was lovely:  not too hot, not too cold, no storms (just a tiny sprinkling of rain, which caused one of my campmates to go into some hyper-storm preparation mode and rearrange our entire zone for some anticipated hurricane-level winds, all for naught).

My favorite piece of art this year was La Llorona, a life-size replica of a wrecked Spanish galleon, complete with books, bunks, art, dishes, rigging, and anything else you can think of other than parrots.  Exploring the different levels of the ship was the best thing I did this year; it made me so very happy to see the incredible level of detail.

Once again my camp gave out quests, and ahead of time I prepared the quest rewards, each tagged with a whimsical name and description of the powers it bestowed to its wearer.  It made me happy to see people wandering around on the playa wearing the name tags we'd slaved so hard to create (and Iris came close to rebelling at one point, saying plaintively, "Am I going to have to work in the sweatshop ALL DAY on my birthday??"  Loyal Lola whispered, "Sometimes I like working in the sweatshop" behind Iris's back).

Once again after I returned home, I spiked a fever out of the blue.  I've been miserable for the past four days, feverish, with an aching head, achy joints, and atrophying muscles.  But I'm ready to start planning for next year.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

home vs. Burning Man

Last night I got home from a week and a half sojourn away at Burning Man.  I threw my dust-covered possessions in the garage and rejoined my family, who were kind enough to make a "Welcome Home Mommy" sign.

Readjustment to normal life is never completely easy.  At Burning Man, when I have insomnia, I can roll out of bed, put on a jacket, and walk a few yards to a bar where I will find friends.  At that bar, I do not have to pay for my drinks.

On the other hand, when I wish to visit a bathroom here, I don't have to walk half a city block to a portapotty.  Not to mention that a handsome man carried a cup of coffee, made just the way I like it, upstairs to me this morning...

Saturday, August 25, 2012

don't go

Lola is concerned about me going to the Burning Man festival.  Last night she pleaded, "Don't go!  Muzzy is going to be set on fire!"

"I'm not going to be set on fire."

"You'll never come back!"

When I told her I was going to miss her, she whispered clandestinely, "You can just stay home."  I couldn't argue with that logic.

can it be?

Today Iris über Alles turned thirteen.  She's seemed like a teenager for a long time, years actually, so it seems odd that it took this long for her to reach the teens officially.

She's more than independent enough.  Right now she's researching far away boarding schools.  "Won't you miss me?" I say, pathetically enough, and she says, with great kindness, "Of course I will, but my education is important!"

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

fiber art

Today I speed-read "Mrs Dalloway" by Virginia Woolf, neglecting my Burning Man preparations, in order to get to my new book club.  On my way there I realized I would be confronting this group of lovely, educated, articulate, well-read and refined women with a head full of crazy yarn.  Indeed, when I rang the doorbell, the reaction was, well, one of quiet shock.

One book lover rallied gamely.  "I've seen a lot of fiber art lately."

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

ask the Lola

Not long ago I solicited questions for Iris and Lola, and Lola is ready to answer her questions! Without further ado, I hereby present "Ask The Lola."

 Longterm reader Silliyak asked, "Should there be a 'Burning Woman' event? Where? What would it be like?"

Lola opines, "Yes, there should be one. I have no idea where it would be. Yeah. There would be no men, I guess, since it's 'Burning Woman.'"

 An anonymous reader asked, "Lola, is it fun to be the Fun Police?" Lola said, "Yes. Yes, it is!"

"Is there anything else you want to say about that, Lola?"

 "No. The Fun Police work alone."

 Another anonymous reader asked, "Lola, what is your favorite word?"


A third anonymous person asked, "What is the best advice your sister has ever given you? What is the worst advice your sister has ever given you?"

"I don't know."

"Lola, you gotta say something."

"Seriously, I have no idea."

"Has Iris ever given you any advice?"

"Not that I can remember."

 Carroll asked, "What advice would you give to a nine-year-old girl who is starting 3rd grade at a new school where she doesn't already have any friends?"

"Make friends or be alone forever!"

"How would she make friends, Lola?"

"That's the hard part."

"Do you have any advice for her to succeed?"

"Stay in school. Don't tattle on people, or they'll be like [aarrrgh noises]. Yeah."

More questions from Carroll:  "Please describe some of your mother's cooking projects for us. Successes? Failures? Your personal Favorites? Do either of you like to cook too? Do you get to use the Aga?"

"Sometime I get to use the Aga. My favorite is da da da da, drum roll, umm, I think mashed potatoes. Definitely mashed potatoes. I don't like any kind of salad, not just that [Muzzy] makes but in general. I don't like salad. I don't really like to cook, but I like stomping mashed potatoes. Muzzy has made broccoli pasta, she has made ... why can't I remember anything you've made? You've made lots of food."

Jane asked, "Lola, I'm buying a new couch this week. What color should I get?"

"Oooh ooh ooh, couches. Orange! If not orange, then black."

Anything else you want to tell the readers, Lolz?

 "Pet the cats! Be happy! And that's a wrap."

the friendliest place in Bakersfield

My friend M. and I road-tripped down to far away San Juan Capistrano over the weekend, to hear the legendary Dick Dale on his alleged retirement tour (Dick D. seemed in top form, so enjoying performing and so very good that I suspect true retirement is not going to happen).  We decided ahead of time to break up our stay on the way back, rather than do the practically-the-full-length-of-California drive twice in one massive effort.  M. found us a charming hotel in Bakersfield, about halfway between S.J.C. and old S.F., ahead of time.

Once we found our lovely hotel in Bakersfield, we had a bit of trouble as our reservation had been mistakenly put into the system for the night before, and we'd been already charged as no-shows.  According to the very sweet desk clerk, this happens all the time with online reservation websites, and because those websites don't pass on to the hotel the customer's phone number, the hotel can't call to see if you are truly a no-show.  We were tired from our drive and from the heat (we Bay Area girls find the SoCal heat delightful yet draining), and we were pleasant despite this expensive screw-up.  The desk clerk wanted to be kind to us, and after M. said, "I just want to check in so we can have a drink" sadly, she asked "How many drinks do you ladies want?"  "Maybe four," said M. judiciously, and the clerk surprised us with four buy-one-drink-get-one-free certificates for the hotel bar.

Readers may not be surprised to learn that this gift was welcomed.  I'd planned this night to be my night off on my diet competition, and we intended to relax with some alcohol before soaking in the hot tub.  After we found our room, we headed to the bar.  "Do you have the certificates?" I hissed.

"Yes," M. hissed back.  "I haven't let go of them.  They haven't left my hand!"

Down at the bar, we found the jukebox painfully loud.  The side of the bar away from the jukebox was packed solid, so we were forced to sit on the louder side.   The young, female bartender took her time coming over to take our order, and gave us the impression that making drinks for us was the last thing she wanted to do.  M.'s inquiry about a margarita was greeted with the gleeful news that no blender drinks were available (you'd have thought she'd asked for a kidney).  Stalwart as ever, M. insisted we would accept our margaritas on the rocks and that they be made with Patron.  "We might as get expensive ones if we're getting free ones," she whispered.

Eventually the drinks turned up, and the bartender took great bureaucratic pleasure in explaining to us that we couldn't use our wealth of free drinks.  "Only one a visit," she said gleefully.

"Okay then," said M.  "We're going to have a drink, go to the pool, and then come back.  We'll make several visits."

"Only one per visit to the hotel," said the bartender, with even more joy at denying us.

After she bustled off to ruin someone else's fun, we conferred. "Obviously the desk clerk meant for us to drink all these tonight!  How can she do that?"  I figured out that surely we must each be able to use one of the cards.  We were two people, after all.  How could the bartender even know we were in the same room?  We could be in separate rooms.

That argument seemed to make the bartender even happier, giving her another chance to deny us.  I offered one of the cards to a very wrinkled old man sitting near us, but he said he'd used one already and would, like us, be denied.  Happily this man, who turned out to be named Don, joined us in excoriating the poor customer service of the bartender. "It's not like anyone would know that she'd taken more than one from you" he said.  "And you'd tell everyone to come here.  It would be better for the place."  He went on at length, and we nodded.  The bartender avoided our corner.

We did eventually get more drinks, and although it was not easy, we managed to order some crappy bar food.  Getting a glass of water from the bartender was particularly hard, and M. was a bit bitter that only one glass of water came (I offered to split it with her).  We confirmed that we intended to leave an uncharacteristically crappy tip.

The one joy of our evening was that M. put a lot of money into the jukebox.  "I played every rock song they had," she said happily.  "We're gonna hear a lot of Led Zeppelin."

The four deeply sunburnt young men playing pool were not pleased when M.'s jukebox selections started playing.  "What the fuck is this shit?"   They convened by the jukebox, staring at it.

Our margaritas had taken some effect, and we found this funny.  We whispered to each other.  "What is song?  What play this?  Where come from?"  Our joy was over, though, when the pool players moved the jukebox out of the wall laboriously and unplugged it, so all the Led Zeppelin M. had paid for was not heard.  Instead terrible, crappy country music rang out again, and the four very sunburnt scruffy men congratulated each other loudly.

A sign on the wall stated, in large letters, that this bar was "the friendliest place in Bakersfield."

"If this is friendly, I don't wanna see antagonism," I bitched.  We agreed that only Don, also passing through was friendly.  A woman passing through the door slammed it in my face as I headed out of the bar.

Once we left the immediate environs of the Friendliest Place In Bakersfield, things picked up.  Some men relaxing near the hot tub were eager to show us how to turn the jets on.  The weather was beautiful.  We remembered the kindness of the desk clerk and resolved to report to her that it was no good giving out those free drink cards.  

Sunday, August 19, 2012

a long drive

The legendary surf music king, Dick Dale, is doing a farewell tour, and my friend Michele and I roadtripped down to see him perform.   We bought the tickets when we were both under the misimpression that San Juan Capistrano is near San Luis Obispo, on California's Central Coast.  We discovered later, to our dismay, that it was south of Los Angeles.

Oh, how the children laughed merrily at the stupidity of their dear mother.  "You have so far to drive!" jeered one, pointing at me and laughing deep, big belly laughs.  "How long?  Seven hours?

 Most of the drive was actually quite pleasant.  My friend and I chatted.  She read out loud outrageous quotations from Karl Lagerfeld.  We were fascinated by his breakfast routine:
The first thing I do when I get up, I have breakfast. I have two protein shakes made for me by my doctor--they have a chocolate taste and no sugar, of course—and steamed apples. That's all. I don't like anything else in the morning. I never drink anything hot; I don't like hot drinks, very strange. I drink Diet Coke from the minute I get up to the minute I go to bed. I can even drink it in the middle of the night, and I can sleep. I don't drink coffee, I don't drink tea, I drink nothing else.
We debated the steamed apples.  I felt that the best part of an apple is the crisp, satisfying crunch, and steaming the apple seemed insane.  Michele felt, on the other hand, that she enjoys baked apples and that a steamed apple could be good.  We agreed that we now feel compelled to steam some apples.  It must be done.

Around Los Angeles we, of course, hit traffic, and the last seventy five miles or so of our trip were a taste of stop and go freeway hell.  One of my contacts was irritating my eye, and I'd finished my giant bottle of water.  I kept reminding myself, "Just a few more miles."  But those miles took so long.  Finally we arrived at our hotel, where the sound of the freeway is always heard.  The weather is spectacular, the surf music was magnificent, Dick Dale is a wonder of the ages (but his son is not so great a drummer, clearly parental affection has clouded the eyes of the surf master).  Despite the jeers of the children, this is proving to be a delightful outing.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

an elegant salad and descriptive faux pases

I usually prefer to buy salads in restaurants or at the one grocery store in town with a really great salad bar (the Molly Stone's in Pacific Heights), because it feels to me that homemade salads are usually not so good.  It's too expensive and too much trouble to buy and prepare so many fresh vegetables at home, whereas a restaurant enjoys the economy of scale.  Simpler salads usually are unsatisfying to me.  I want my salad to be complex.

There have been a few exceptions to this, interesting simple salads that I've made and enjoyed, but nothing that really made me think, "Here it is!  This is the salad of my heart, that I can make here at home."  But!  Then this week I finally made the salad that made me stop and say, "Oh my God, I have to say this myself, this is really fucking good... and it's so simple.  It's as good as something from a restaurant."

"It's better than something from a restaurant", said the Sober Husband, who sometimes rises to the occasion verbally.  He did not stay at that level of conversational grace, however, when it was time to clear the table.  In the kitchen, when he was putting away the food, he said loudly, "Hey!  There's more of this green glop left!"  I winced.  The "green glop" was pistou for the entree, soupe au pistou, made lovingly by me from organic fresh basil and really expensive Sicilian olive oil, and it tasted to me like one of the best things I'd ever made (I am completely over pesto; I'm all about its French version, pistou, which seems infinitely better to me).  

Iris paid the salad the compliment of having many servings, and it was basically demolished.  Lola, however, eyed it with distrust and was not interested in it.

Just two days later we had friends over for a small dinner party, and I made the salad again, but changing it up a bit, featuring asparagus instead of zucchini.  Once again it was loved and devoured, but before then, having a bit of trouble with the crowded table, the Sober Husband asked, "Can everyone just pass that stuff around", indicating the beautiful salad in a lovely, large, hand-made bowl.  I balked.  

"Please don't describe something I made as 'stuff'," I said.  "Can you call it a salad?"  I brought up the "green glop" remark which still stung.  "I work hard to make good food, and please don't call it 'glop' or 'stuff.'  If you can't think of the category word, like 'salad' or 'sauce', just call it 'food.'  'Food' works.  Say, 'Pass that food around.'"

The guests were bemused at this little contretemps and set forth on a discussion of whether "stuff" is dismissive or not.  But soon they began to eat, and instead the conversation moved to how good the food is and then to the fascinating topic of what does Mitt Romney really believe in his heart, and the dinner was on.

Hours later, as our guests were leaving, our friend said loudly, for the Sober Husband's benefit, "And thanks for that GREEN STUFF, it was really great!"

The Green Stuff Salad

large amount of fresh baby spinach, arugula, or other very pleasing fresh green
a vegetable to contrast (zucchini and asparagus are the two I have used)
1/2 cup or more fresh basil
1/4 cup pine nuts
olive oil  (must be very good, flavorful olive oil -- pick the murkiest cold pressed, extra virgin one on the shelf at the store)
a few lemons
a little sea salt (optional)
good Parmesan cheese

Steam the vegetable until it is soft but not mushy.  Set aside to cool.  (If you use a zucchini, slice it in half lengthwise to steam, steam about 5 minutes, and after it has cooled, cut it in as paper-thin slices as you can.  For asparagus, snap the hard end of the stem off by hand, steam the remaining stalks 5-8 minutes but do not overcook, then slice in short, diagonal pieces).

Toast the pine nuts in a little pan over a burner, frequently stirring.

Squeeze the lemons and measure the juice.  You want a ratio of 1:2 lemon juice to olive oil.  If you are making a small salad, whisk 1 T lemon juice with 2 T olive oil.  I made a big salad last night, with  1/4 C olive oil and 1/8 C lemon juice.  Pour any leftover lemon juice into a glass of water and drink it.

Toss the greens and basil leaves with the dressing.  Spread the steamed vegetable on top.  Sprinkle with the pine nuts. Sprinkle a bit of sea salt on top, if you like.  Take the good Parmesan and, with a vegetable peeler, peel off some nice curls of Parmesan.  Decorate the top of the salad with those.  Bon appetit! 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

enjoy this blog while it lasts

"Is my last name on that blog?  Will you delete it when I run for president?" asked an ambitious child.   "I don't want it used against me."

"No, and I'll be dead by then."

"I'll delete it for you then."

Monday, August 13, 2012

in my neon armor

The Sober Husband and I collaborated on a project this year, if by "collaborate" you mean one person has an idea and the other one does 100% of the work.  My idea was a corset lit up with little programmable lights; I got the idea from an eighth grader at Iris's school, who made a jacket with wearable lights integrated into it.  "Thank you, I am so doing this for Burning Man!" I said to her sincerely, and she gave me a look which I took to mean that she was having a hard time knowing whether I was joking or not.

Over many trials throughout the past few months, the Sober Husband persevered in building a prototype.  The first version was on a corset, but projected out too far from my body, making me despair.  "I look so huge in this," I mourned.  "I'm sure it will look cool, but my vanity..."  Also, as several people noted, it looked like a dalek.

The S.H. was undaunted. "It's like on 'Project Runway', it's always the tailoring that is the problem."  We abandoned the idea of a corset.  For the next version, he took casts of my body and built a sort of plastic armor for the lights.  Eventually we arrived at the second version, after an interim attempt which sliced open my finger so theatrically while I was trying it on that I actually opened up an artery, dramatically spraying blood across the room.  Its running time is about ten hours, and its charging time is currently 24 hours (but the never-fazed Sober Husband thinks he can get that charging time down to 12 hours).

After the hardware was built, it was time for the software.  Everyone had ideas.  "I want it to say 'Iris!'" demanded a certain child.  I thought perhaps a Union Jack pattern would be good or a sort of rainstorm interrupted by lightning.  The Sober Husband liked a pattern like the matrix, of downward drifting strings of green lights.  Some combinations were too seizure-riffic.

Fully expecting some errors in the field out at Burning Man, the Husband fretted that it would not be robust enough to survive without him.  No one entertained the idea that I be expected to repair it.  I asked my camp's mailing list who could solder, and it turned out that several campmates intended to bring soldering irons to Burning Man.  A helpful campmate came over to our house and was trained by the Sober Husband on how to maintain the mechanism.

Tonight I'm giving it a test run in the home.  "Do normal things," the Sober Husband instructed me.  So as I write this, I am strapped into a neon cuirass.  The main things I am noticing are that it digs into the insides of my upper arms and that the lighting from below my chin is a bit reminiscent of Halloween.  I started making ghoulish faces, and little Lola was bemused, but quickly coopted.  It has not failed yet, nor caused anyone to have a seizure, but it's early days yet.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

I won't ask for that again

Today I had an all day workshop, but over coffee before I left, I skimmed through the paper.  A recipe in the food section caught my eye,  a French soup featuring cranberry beans and other summer vegetables, drizzled with pistou.  I tore it out and handed it to the Sober Husband.  "If you can to to the grocery store while I'm at my class, I'll make this for you."

He took a look.  "This looks great!"

"Go to Calmart," I instructed him.  "I know they have cranberry beans there; I saw them.  Also, then you can go to the bookstore there and buy the book for Lola's bookclub."

He began to look harried.

When I came home around 5:30, a bit tired and low energy as I hadn't eaten since 9 AM and had walked halfway across San Francisco (during the lunch break I stood patiently in a sluggish line, at the only place near my class which sells food, behind a large clot of puzzled French tourists trying to figure out what a churro is, only to discover that this lunch spot was out of all the vegetarian food.  And why couldn't they have written that on the menu board and saved us all precious time, which we'll never have again??), I noticed that there were three bags of fresh cranberries on the counter, along with some other vegetables.

"Um, what did you get these for?" I asked.  It didn't seem incomprehensible to me that there were cranberries, as the children love cranberry pie and cranberry juice.

"For the soup!  And it was really hard to find them!" said the Sober Husband proudly.

"Sugarplum, you were supposed to get cranberry beans, not cranberries!" I said.

"I asked the children, and none of us knew what cranberry beans were," he said, crestfallen.

"Why didn't you ask someone in the produce section?  I know they have them; they were hard to miss!" I kvetched.

We put the cranberries in the freezer.  A bit later the Sober Husband asked me tentatively, "If I went and got the cranberry beans, do you still have enough energy to cook?"

I assured him, and he set off again.  This time he returned proudly with two bags of dried cranberry beans.

"Sweetheart, it was supposed to be FRESH cranberry beans.  I can't use those."

He looked at them.  The instructions on the bags clearly stated that the beans needed to be soaked overnight.  "Can you soak them and use them tomorrow?"

"No, this soup is just for FRESH vegetables."  By then an hour and a half had elapsed since I came home from my class.  I stomped into the kitchen and heated myself up some leftovers.  "Are you doing this so I'll never ask you to go to the store again?" I asked suspiciously.  

Saturday, August 11, 2012

the 2 pack

As a result of a year of keeping to a rigid, strenuous exercise regimen, there have been a lot of changes to my body.  The one zone of my body which sums everything up nicely is my abdomen.

Up at the top of my abdomen, I have developed some very noticeable muscular definition.  I have the outline of the top of a lovely six pack.  But down a bit lower the entire situation dissolves into chaos, a flabby, stretchmarked mess with baggy skin, attesting to my having carried two massive, nine pound babies (one three weeks overdue, so a very long pregnancy with a very large baby, indeed).  Some damage was also done by my having carried around my "third baby" for so long (a massive benign tumor which, by the time I had it removed, was giving me many of the physical symptoms of being in the third trimester).  And of course it would be only honest to admit that I put on a lot of weight, first after I had Lola, when I was depressed and went on medication with the side effect of "unexplained weight gain" which was explained to me only after I'd put on twenty-five pounds, later when I was in chronic pain from my tumor and also from an ankle injury.  Losing most of that weight has been good for me and my body overall, but the lower abdomen is where the story of my excesses and sufferings has been written.

If you poke the top of my abdomen, around the two pack, it's like poking something inanimate.  The muscles are so strong and hard.  I welcome that sort of prodding; sometimes I bully the poor Sober Husband into admiring that little zone.  Just don't go prying around below it, where you'd expect to find the rest of a six-pack.  You're just going to depress us all.

Friday, August 10, 2012

special troubles

Lately the most noticeable thing going on in my life is that I'm playing the the Game On Diet competition.  I've been having a rough time this week, and it makes me feel guilty.

Meanwhile my teammates have been excelling, and I'm pulling them down.  It's like my team is Michael Phelps, and I'm a little rock tied to his ankle.  He's still winning, but he must look down at that rock and think, "*#@&#, I gotta get rid of this!"  My teammates insist they are not feeling that way, but I think they must be.

First I was sick.  I ran a fever for three days, and on one of those days, I did not exercise at all.  The second day I exercised lightly (which is allowed in this game if one is ill); the third day I made myself exercise vigorously.  Yesterday I went back to the gym for one of my normal hellish workouts, but still, that is one day with no exercise and one with baaaarely any exercising (running errands on foot).

Next, I went off to have my hair braided.  This screwed up my diet day largely because I couldn't meet my water drinking goal for the day (one of the most important rules is to drink three liters of water each day) because I spent six hours without drinking, while my head was being wrenched to and fro and things fastened to it.

Stupidly enough I only realized as I left the salon that I had just added several pounds of weight... which meant I couldn't make my weigh-in goal.  I felt like an idiot.  I weighed myself at the gym, and I had gone up over three pounds, three pounds of yarn, some little metal clips, and hair extensions.

That evening I petitioned everyone in the game.  "I have a Burner problem," I said.  "I got my hair braided for the playa, and it weighs over three #(@& pounds!"  I attached a photo.  Everyone in this game has been to Burning Man, and they all empathized.  Even the people on the other teams agreed that I should be able to adjust my weight by several pounds to compensate for the huge weight on my head, although the word "freak" was used.

Struggling on, I persist as well as I can.  I must not be a rock, or if I am a rock, I must be a pebble.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

my head is ready

Today I spent six hours having my hair microbraided, extensions put in, and several skeins of exotic yarn woven into the braids.  My head is Burning Man ready, but the rest of me isn't.

It's early to get this done; I have another two weeks before it's time to go.  But it's practically impossible to get an appointment for braiding the week before Burning Man, and also it's very difficult to sleep on the pained, abused head for several nights after the braiding is done.  I may as well go through the uncomfortable nights here at home, so I can get whatever sleep is possible at the event.

When I drove home, I ran across Iris and Lola trudging up the hill with our friend who was babysitting them.  I honked and called to them.  They were considerably reluctant to cross the street and get into the car, frozen in spot staring at the masses on my head.

At home, our new kitten gave me a wide berth. "Look, Zorro is afraid of me!" I said.  

"I can't stop staring at it," said Lola.

"Can I pet it?" asked Iris.

The negative note came from the poor, patient Sober Husband.  Taking a deep breath, he said slowly to himself, "It's only temporary."