Thursday, December 19, 2013

driving with Baby

My love affair with my Mini Cooper, a.k.a. "Baby", continues.  Yesterday I admonished the children to speak respectfully of her.  "Her?  'Baby' is a girl?" asked Iris as she got into the car.  Buckling her seatbelt, Iris turned to me, obviously making a great effort to keep a straight face.  "Where are Baby's genitals?" she asked with great faux seriousness.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

the wisdom of Lola's mother

Lola has been taking quotations from her idols, such as Einstein and da Vinci, and making inspirational posters at school.  I suggested immodestly that she make one with some quote from me.

"What do you say?  I don't remember anything you say," said Lola dismissively.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

festive expectations

Our stalwart eleven year-old Lola is getting braces in the New Year, as soon as her last baby tooth falls out.  We were discussing what life with braces will be like, including what she won't be able to eat, and Lola pointed a finger at me and said sternly, "I WILL be expecting at least two pounds of taffy for Christmas.  It IS required..."

I cut her off mid-sentence.  "Expecting?  Required?  You can't talk about Christmas that way!"

Lola backtracked immediately.  "I am so sorry!"

Still, the expectation lingers...

Sunday, December 08, 2013

why we rarely go out of an evening

The Sober Husband's new company held its Christmas party last night, and we dragged ourselves there.  I felt like staying in, as it was very cold out and we have four very cute foster kittens and two reasonably cute children in the home.  "There'll be free alcohol," said the Sober Husband winningly.  "I can drink at home," I said loftily.  But guilt over my relative loseriness as a spouse caused me to wriggle into a glamorous outfit, exhibiting lots of lace-lined cleavage,  and strap on glamorous shoes.

Next there was a bit of conflict over transit.  I started calling for a car, but the Sober Husband looked at me as though I were an idiot.  "You do know where this is, right? Walking distance from the train?"

I pointed out my footwear and the fact that we were having a cold snap.  "You want me to go out in that cold and walk down a cliff in heels?"

Winning that little disagreement, I summoned a Lyft.  However, I then noticed my cellphone thought my location was downtown.  I called the driver and told him our true location.  He called me back and pressured me into canceling.  "I don't want to cancel because it's a five dollar fee, and I don't feel I should have to pay that," I whined, but the driver had no intention of coming out to get us, and I finally caved.

I regretted that when I then tried to call a new Lyft and learned that no drivers were available.  I started taking off my shoes and determined to stay home.  The Sober Husband balked.  "I thought we were going out; I thought we had a date."

Eventually we obtained an UberX car, one with a driver who had no idea how to reach our destination and no GPS.  The Sober Husband suggested to the driver that he could just let us out roughly half a mile away, and I snorted.  In the end the Sober Husband got directions on his iPhone and struggled to impart them to the driver.

At the large, cavernous party location, we saw a lot of lines.  Lines for the coat checks.  Lines for sushi.  Lines for alcohol.  It was cold.  We forged on, not checking our coats, and found a bar with no line in a remote, outdoor zone.  The drinks were small and mostly composed of ice.  Then we discovered a candy bar, with limitless amounts of candy and convenient paper bags.  We each filled a bag with candy with the intention of bringing it home to the children.  The Sober Husband kept protesting that we couldn't take so much, but I pshawed.  "You think they don't have more?"

We roamed about, running into only three people the Sober Husband knew.  The place was gorgeously decorated but cold, so cold.  I found a spot by a snaky duct which blew blistering hot air on my ankles, and I stood there a long time.  After about an hour total, we left.  A famous band was scheduled to play, but I wasn't interested.  "Their music is whiny," I said.  "I have nothing against them, but it's wasted on me."

We went outside to summon a Lyft home and discovered one of the three people the Sober Husband had recognized, doing the same.  "You're leaving already?" the Sober Husband asked.  We bonded, and I explained to this coworker how to use app-based car services.

At home I summoned the young people.  "Assemble!  Assemble!"  They ignored me.  "I have candy!" This brought results.  "Why, hello there," breathed the same Lola who had ignored me upon my arrival.  We dumped out all the candy on the dining room table, and our offspring were in ecstasy.  I took off my shoes and changed out of my sultry, tight clothes into a bathrobe, to the disappointment of the Sober Husband, who'd made a few admiring remarks about the view.  He soon wandered off to become immersed in a coding project, and I opened my literary horror novel.  Normalcy was restored.

Friday, December 06, 2013

strange as it may seem

I have started working.  I have, at least for the nonce, gotten up off the couch, turned off the internet, and re-entered the world of the working for pay.

What will become of this?  Where will it all end?  How long will it last?

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

sarcasm where sarcasm is not due

Over dinner the family was discussing budget cuts we could make ('tis the season to cut back on discretionary spending; we are attempting to figure out whether we can afford to send Iris to private high school).  The Sober Husband noted that he rarely drives his car nowadays, since he normally takes a luxurious company bus to work (the bus in question has hardwood floors, a very friendly driver, and a WiFi connection faster and more reliable than any home internet we've ever had).  

"I wasn't asking you to sell your car because I know you love it so much," I said.  The Sober Husband and his Prius (nicknamed by me "the Science Coffin") seem like a perfect match.

The Sober Husband scoffed. "I don't care if that car lives or dies."

I looked at him in horror.  "Don't talk that way!"

Iris intervened.  "It's not like it's the Baby," she said, referring to my beloved MINI Cooper.  "The Baby is a beloved member of the family.  His car is just a car."

"I'm so glad you understand," I said.

Iris rolled her eyes. "I was being sarcastic."

Sunday, November 24, 2013

sojourning in Ojai

Iris über Alles and I roadtripped down to Ojai, to visit a boarding school.  This school is famous for its horses (each freshman is assigned a horse to care for), but no one had told us it could also be famous for its dogs.  Delightful dogs roamed the campus freely.  The campus itself was breathtaking:  gorgeous views at every turn, contented teenagers going about their responsible ways amongst bucolic spectacular beauty, devoted faculty members gazing with admiration at the students.

Private schools always talk about their diversity, but this one seems to have achieved it.  At a school-wide assembly, teenagers of every color and size all appeared engaged and happy, not a single one rolling their eyes or acting above it all.  Iris was taken about the school by a miniskirted girl from Japan; I was given a tour by a rangy Christian from Texas.  I remarked to my guide, "Everyone tells you about the horses, but no one mentions the dogs."  Her delightful reply was, "There's lots of cats, too!"

Later Iris and I reconvened.  "Thacher is the happiest place on earth," I said wonderingly.  "I have never seen such happy teenagers."  Iris agreed, but darkly noted that she might be too sarcastic and unhappy by nature to attend.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

ugh, another year stuck being me

It's my birthday, a day of great depression and unhappiness always for me. Two "friends" have severed contact with me this week, kind of icing on the cake. Usually I feel on this day that the world would have been a much happier place if I had not been born (certainly my family of origin would have been), but I have to reconsider because that would mean Iris and Lola wouldn't exist. They are so wonderful and really all I have in the world, with the Sober Husband. I guess I have good luck with making a little family, although very little luck with friends.

Friday, November 01, 2013

the kindergarten promotion

The Sober Husband took a new job, at a new company.  The job is a huge promotion, a much loftier and important job than he's held before, with huge new challenges and responsibilities.  However, to us, he's like a kindergartener.

This grew out of a joke I made, when I regretted not being there to send him off on his first day (I was at Burning Man).  "That's silly, you don't need to be here," said the Sober Husband.

"But it's like your first day going off to school," I said.  "I should take a picture of you."

While I was just being silly, the parallels began to mount.  The Sober Husband now takes a bus to work, like a school child.  After the children started school, he tried a different bus route so that he could spend more time with us in the morning, but the new route didn't suit him so well.  "I had people I talked to in the morning on the other bus," he said fretfully.  He changed back to his old routine.

I explained this to the children.  "Daddy has bus friends, and he didn't make new friends on the other bus, so he wants to ride the old bus with his old friends.  He's like a kindergartener."

Also, the kids at the new school dress differently than the ones at the last place.  I ordered the Sober Husband a new sort of shirt so he would feel that he fit in better.

And, as the icing on the cake, at work, when the Sober Husband needs to clear his head, he goes into a special nap room.   The children seized upon this.  "He really is a kindergartener.  He naps!"

The poor man is beset with stress and responsibility, but to us, he is a tall kindergartener.

Friday, October 25, 2013

contracting, contracted

It's not a big secret that I am prone to depression and that I have had a couple of spectacularly bad, life-threatening spells.  Since the last one, in November, 2012, I've done really well working with my psychiatrist.

One of our strategies has been for me to avoid stressful situations.  This sounds so bland, like a nothing piece of advice, but the reality has been some rather ruthless pruning.  Last night I skipped a meeting of my book club because the last time I went, I had a bad time.  I'm not going to quit the book club just yet, but it felt safer to spend the evening curled up with my coned, post-operative cat, with Lola across the room with our foster kitten.

This stress-avoiding social pruning has been very good for me, and it feels empowering to cut some things out of my life.  But on the other hand, in the interests of health, I've contracted my life right down to the bare minimum.  At some point I'm going to have to expand it again.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

not the MUNI

Today I took a friend who is temporarily on disability out for lunch.  She's been staying with another friend, and I invited him to come along.  He was planning to take mass transit from San Francisco to Watsonville, and I suggested he come for Mexican food first.

The disabled friend suggested, as a lure, that we could drop him off at BART after lunch, his plan being to travel to BART, take BART to Caltrain, and then take a bus for the last hour of his trip.  "BART is in the wrong direction from where we'll be going," I said, mindful of needing to pick up Lola after lunch.  "But we'll be right at MUNI.  You can take MUNI."

My friend recoiled and looked at me as if I were suggesting he eat larvae or crawl through the bowels of hell.  "MUNI!"

I explained how MUNI runs right to Caltrain, much like BART.  "You want me to go to Fourth and King?" he said, again regarding me as though I were suggesting he lick the floor of a gas station restroom.

"If you need to take BART, you could just take MUNI down to Civic Center and transfer to BART."  This drew another long, incredulous stare.  Soon my temporarily-disabled friend and I set out for lunch, without our MUNI-hating pal.

After lunch a MUNI train passed by us.  "I see what you meant; it's right here," she said.

I drew her attention to how trains were coming from two different directions to merge at the relatively palatial West Portal station.  "See, it would have only taken him four minutes."  We pondered his resistance to MUNI, given that BART itself resembles the waiting rooms at the cutrate HMO I used to belong to, with truly horrifying stains on the upholstery (who puts cloth upholstery on mass transit trains???  Who??)

Later as I drove her home, we were in traffic behind a MUNI bus with a big cheerful poster with a "Take MUNI!" headline.  "You should steal that, give it to F.," my friend said.  "Take MUNI!"

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

not enough shame

Our post-operative cat is sporting a Cone of Shame, to prevent him from gnawing on his Fentanyl patch.  My children adore a friend's cat who often is put into a Cone of Shame due to a persistent skin condition which the cat grooms to a state of bleeding.  They were so taken by that cone that they dubbed the cat "Coney" and our friend's other cat "Notconey" and, when the cone is off, call Coney "Coney-Now-Unconed."  I thought they'd be excited to have their very own Coney.  "My little Coney, friendship is magic," crooned Iris as she carried our own cone-owning cat's carrier.

Inside the house the cat, who had been silent and motionless since we acquired him at the vet, began thrashing violently to the point where it was difficult to hold the carrier.  We had planned to sequester the convalescent in the master bedroom, with his own private litter box and food and catbed, and the box jittered and crashed about as Iris carried it upstairs.  The entire box was shaking and at risk of falling of the bed, while we were trying to figure out how to adjust the cone to put it on him.  "We'd better let him out," I said.  "We'll keep an eye on him while we figure out the cone."  I opened the carrier, and the thrashing animal slid out... upside down.  Clearly he'd lost track of which side was up in his struggles.  His eyes were hugely dilated, and the only thing on his mind was escaping from the bedroom.  But neither Iris nor I could figure out how to adjust the cone (not as easy a cone to attach to a cat's head as Coney's, which we had put on our friend's cat before).  We called to the Sober Husband, our resident mechanical genius.  "Come quickly!" shouted Iris.

I held the violent convalescent with difficulty while the Sober Husband attached the cone.  The cat was off, weaving around.  "We may as well let him out of the room," I said, bowing to reality.  He made his uneven way downstairs and immediately gorged on dry food, although we had been instructed to feed him only canned food.  Iris opened cans and showed him the canned food, but he kept gnawing at the dried.  We put away the dried food and left him with canned food, which he smeared his cone in and then abandoned.

His next order of business was to piss on our shoes in the hallway.  The operation he'd endured had come about as a result of his peeing on the shoes:  I wanted to see if there was an underlying physical cause for this annoying change of behavior.  We'd just paid over two thousand dollars in hopes of getting the cat to a point where he wouldn't pee on the shoes.  I cleaned up the piss and the shoes, and we removed all shoes from the scene.  Later the cat pissed where the shoes had been (only a short distance from a lovely, clean litterbox).

The cat has been trying to get out of the house, howling, peeing on the shoes and floor,  knocking things over, and generally acting the fool.  I would like to appropriate his Fentanyl patch, thinking that I myself would wear it with more dignity.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

history repeats itself

Years ago my poor little cat Al, who was allergic to plaque, needed to have his teeth pulled, an expensive operation requiring anesthesia and a day-long hospitalization.  Endless squabbling over the cost of pulling Al's teeth ensued, and I even took some odd jobs and sold some belongings to raise the necessaries.

Now this year our most glamorous cat, Frowst, needed several teeth pulled.  He's had some behavioral changes (and none of them for the better -- he's taken to peeing on our shoes and is now referred to as "the Mad Pee-er, he has been bothering the next-door neighbor), and I took him to the vet to see if there were underlying physical issues.  Right off the bat the vet found a mouth of decaying teeth, at least one with an abscess.  Guilt overwhelmed me.

We have an image in our minds of crazy cat ladies as being poor and living in shabby apartments.  Is it because they spend all their money on oral surgeries for their cats?  Thank God the Sober Husband took a new job and is receiving a timely signing bonus.

Friday, October 18, 2013

the street of suffering

This morning I called (handsfree, of course) the Sober Husband as I drove home from driving the children to school, and I completely lost my train of thought as I passed the most eye-riveting wreck.  A mid-sized sedan had somehow become one with a large garbage truck, and it was mesmerizing.  I wished aloud that I could have had a red light so I could have gotten a better look at this really breathtaking wreck.  The Sober Husband, speaking from afar, was not able to appreciate the strange beauty of this, probably thinking his cold-blooded wife was ignoring the human cost, but I reassured him that the body of the car, where any people had been, was unscathed.  The car itself was clearly never going to be driven again, but whoever drove it would live to ride again (although probably never to see a Recology truck without shuddering).

In the afternoon Lola and I were talking as we walked to the car after school, and I distracted her.  She turned her head to speak to me and hit her temple hard on a large metal box projecting from a pole exactly at the level of her head.  I could hear the audible thwack of her skull hitting the box.  Lola was speechless with pain, and I felt sure I was to blame for this by not seeing the box and warning her in time.  The pain was horrific, and it was such a random accident.  We have parked in that same spot and walked past that pole innumerable times over the last five years.

As Lola uncomplainingly cried from the pain in the backseat, I started the car and turned the corner, trying to console her.  Around that corner, on the same block where Lola had hurt her head, a police car was double parked with its lights flashing.  I slowed way down, and in a flash I saw what the police car was protecting:  a coroner's van, and then a body -- an actual corpse, covered with a white sheet but unmistakable -- being loaded into that van, and I heard the horrible sound of someone crying in true hysteria, screaming and crying.  Lola and I were both shocked into silence.

This  set of three random awful things all happened on the same city block during one particular day.  I could find the car accident fascinating in the absence of anyone being hurt, but the horror of the body and the awful crying had no beauty.   It felt like it could have been our tragedy, but it wasn't.  We were only passing through.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013


The children refuse to accept that our cats' given genders.  "All cats are gender-ambiguous," opined one.  They always disagree with me about what gender any given cat is.

We were discussing this and squabbling over what gender our little cat Zorro is when Lola expounded upon her perceptions of our big cat, Coconut. "I always thought he was a girl and then one day I looked, and suddenly he was a boy!"

Iris and I found this amusing to no end.  We spent the following couple of hours "suddenly" looking at things.  "Suddenly I looked, and you were children," I said.  "Suddenly you looked, and your mother was middle-aged."

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

what we have learned

Recently I asked the children what they had learned from me.  They drew a complete blank for some time.  Then Iris had an inspiration.  "The difference between champagne and sparkling wine!  Champagne is from Champagne, and everything else is sparkling wine."

I felt a bit taken aback.  Surely I had given them so much more.  Even if we were to limit ourselves to this bit of knowledge, where were cava and prosecco?  I decided to make the best of it and asked cautiously, "And how do you tell how good it is?"

"By the size of the bubbles," answered my non-drinking minor child triumphantly.  At least I have imparted something useful, I consoled myself.  They won't be drinking André on my watch, I thought.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

the stereotypes are so wrong

In our culture, the crazy cat lady is viewed as living frugally. She and her many cats live off a shared diet of cat food in a small apartment quite cozily (but undoubtedly with the heat on a low setting).

It's all wrong.  Today I took our most majestic animal, Frowst, to a vet, where I paid $666 (not kidding) and took home an estimate for an additional fee of $1,800.  Being a crazy cat lady is a luxury lifestyle.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

the queen of TMI on Facebook

At Burning Man this year I fell into conversation with a stranger as we had morning cocktails in the deep desert, where you can ride your bike far out to see some large installations.  The conversation somehow drifted to the point where I confided, "I'm the queen of TMI on Facebook."

My new acquaintance did a double take and said, "You're the Drunken Housewife!"

I was so surprised by this that it was a wonder I didn't spill my drink.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

therapy moments

I'm not proud of some of my parenting. I can be lazy; I'm not a tiger mother who pushes the children to excel (Iris would have a lot more awards and honors to put on her high school applications if I'd tiger mothered her. "I am my own tiger mother," she remarked primly last year). The worst part of being my child is that I struggle with depression, and I know there is a toll this takes on Iris and Lolz. There's also the embarrassment (poor Lolz had to cringe when I picked her up at school this month sporting crazy-beautiful green and blue extensions and braids I'd acquired for Burning Man). 

The Sober Husband and I often remark upon things which happen in our home which could make good discussion topics for future therapy. But while I am far from perfect and am creating plenty of Therapy Topics, I am also amaze me no end, given my new insights as a parent myself, at how so many of my own Therapy Topics come from my parents attacking me for things a normal parent would have been proud of:

Having a gym membership and working out: my parents thought that was the stupidest idea possible and harangued me endlessly about it. Evidently I should have just found chores to do around the house for exercise; anything else was immoral. My sister kept saying that she and my mother knew the only reason I did it was to try to pick up guys. Even though I said, "If that was the case, I'd have quit a long time ago. I haven't had a single date from it", I had to keep hearing that.

 Having a reasonable number of sequential relationships in college: my parents were high school sweethearts and married young. Evidently doing anything else means you're a damned skank. "You're like a butterfly! You need to stop it. You're going to get AIDS."

 Being proud of having won a National Merit Scholarship: my father said, "You think you're so special. Well, there's someone like this in every town. You'll find out when you go to college that you are just ordinary."

Settling down with a special boyfriend (my first husband): my father told me, "He's too tall." (He was 6'4"). My father told my ex, "You know, you can do better than her."

Going to a movie with a friend: "You left your sister at home all alone! You should be ashamed! Your poor sister!" My sister was older than me, a 20 year-old college student.

 My sister got into a traffic accident: "It was all your fault. I hope you learned that the passenger has a responsibility to the driver." This is worse because I'd gotten out of the hospital the day before with meningitis, was still in a lot of pain and on heavy narcotics. That leads nicely to ...

being so sick with meningitis that I needed to go to a hospital.  "Obviously you have no faith, or you'd be healed by now."

 My mother had a weird way of running me down to other people and being proud of it. I worked at a jewelry store as a teen, and she ostentatiously thanked my boss in front of me for helping me pick up accessories to wear to my graduation from high school: "Thanks for finding her what to get. You know she would have gotten something awful on her own (theatrical shudder). You know her taste." 

My first fiance told me once he said to her, "Wow, she made me the most amazing lasagna last night," and he was freaked out when she laughed mockingly and said, "You're going to get sick of that. It's the only thing she knows how to cook."

 As a parent myself, I can't understand this at all.  Most parents like it if their child excels at something and want their child to be fabulous. Mine seemed hell-bent on proving that I was inferior and squashing whatever confidence I'd managed to cobble together. Is it a wonder as an adult I finally limped into therapy?

Tuesday, September 24, 2013


It's almost October, which means we're almost into Halloween season. I love Halloween dearly. It's a big holiday in San Francisco, and my love for it seems almost tame here, compared to the people who go over the top creating haunted houses, laser cut jack-o'lanterns, and so on. But my enthusiasm doesn't get a big enough buy in. Today Lola and I were seduced by the upscale Halloween decorations at our neighborhood Pottery Barn. Lola loved the "antique mercury pumpkin objects" but overall was a bit of a damper on her mother's enthusiasms. "I think we only need one of those claw hands," she said as I gathered up two metal skeleton arms. "Arms come in pairs, Lola!" She said the same about the metal lanterns with cunning vampire bats worked into the front. "I think just one." Up at the cash register Lola looked disapprovingly at our spoils (aside from the "antique mercury pumpkin object" she'd chosen, which she caressed protectively). "Lolz, Halloween comes every year, so you can reuse the things for it and get more every year. And just think! By the time I die, you'll inherit such a collection of Halloween décor!" The gay man waiting next to us for more martini glasses to be brought to him broke out in a snorting laugh, which he then quelled as he gazed, embarrassed to be caught eavesdropping, into the middle distance.

Friday, September 20, 2013

what it was like to work with me at Burning Man

I made a homemade card for my friend J. who was severely injured in a fire only two weeks after getting married in a cathedral he built himself at Burning Man. It depicts the morning when poor J. was faced with a crew consisting only of your humble narrator and the Louise to her Thelma, the long-suffering N. Enjoy!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

the cathedral

This is the cathedral I went out early to help build this year at Burning Man, with J., our slaving and slavedriving foreman (now recuperating in a burns unit from an unrelated accident), silhouetted by the sunset in the doorway on a scissor lift.  The photo was taken by a member of the Lost Penguin camp.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

appreciating the banal in life

This week I woke up one morning and, as is my wont, checked my email and Facebook before getting ready to drive the children to school.  I learned that in the middle of the night my friends' warehouse had burned down.  They had jumped out of a second floor to safety, throwing their two dogs down (tragically their other two dogs were not reachable and died in the fire).  Both my friends were in the hospital.

These are friends who are in the peak of life, just married a couple of weeks ago at Burning Man (it is the groom who built the cathedral, with the paltry assistance my friend N. and I could offer).  Now one is facing a couple of months in a burn unit, having already had two surgeries and with the prospect of many more.  The other one has just been released but is in a wheelchair.  They are homeless and have lost most of their possessions.

The Sober Husband and I resolved to check our smoke detector's batteries.  We have only the one working, upstairs.  We renewed our perennial squabble over having one on the ground floor.  I offered to try one out in the living room.   Long ago I took the controversial move of disabling the one near our kitchen, as it went off every single time I cooked, mistaking steam for smoke.  I don't even burn things, but that damn smoke detector was convinced I was a menace, and I couldn't have it screaming at me when I was trying to make dinner.  The dented ceiling still bears witness to the days when I'd jab up at the fire detector with a broom, angrily trying to silence that damn thing.  The smoke detector in the bedroom I have nothing but fond feelings for, however, and I'd be willing to try forming a relationship with another well-behaved, better-positioned one.

This week has been a dull one for me.  Lola spent a day home ill from school.  I've had a couple of unpleasant social encounters lately that have left me holing up at home, associating only with the children most days.  But rather than feel disgruntled, I'm happy to have the luxury to be in my home with my pets and children.  I'm not in a burn ward facing rounds of skin grafts.  I'm not having to replace all my things.  I'm lucky.

I went to a bookstore and bought a replacement copy of the book my friend was reading when her home was burnt down and added it to a bag of yuppie food treats to give her a break from the hospital fare, and I dropped it off for her at SF General without seeing her (she was tired, and I didn't want to bother her with having to make conversation).  If my house ever burns down, that's what I'd want done for me personally:  bring me whatever book I was in the middle of and some decent food.  The surviving dogs have already been taken in by other friends.

"What are you going to do for J.?" asked Iris.  Unfortunately I can't send food to my other friend, as the burn ward has very strict rules allowing only cards to be sent to patients (burn victims are at great risk of infection, and who knows what germs could be lurking in a bag of upscale food).  "I'm going to draw him a homemade card," I said, "with him thinking, 'I need some real #(&@ carpenters' while N. and I are trying to build the cathedral."

Check your smoke detectors' batteries, everyone.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

bruised but unbowed

I ran off to Burning Man this year and came limping home a few days earlier than planned to recover in the bosom of my loving family.   My psychiatrist was taken aback from this.  "Usually you don't want to come back from Burning Man, and you gain energy from it," he mused.

I nodded.  "Not this year."

So what happened?  First I went early in order to work on my theme camp's highly ambitious building, the Jerk Church Cathedral.  Skilled members of the camp had drawn up plans for a three story Gothic building; we had done the fundraising; the pieces had been cut and painted in the Bay Area already.  I was excited about this, thinking that it would be a lot of fun being with the artists and workers creating the event, learning valuable carpentry skills while watching the city arise around us and undoubtedly celebrating every night, long before the regular attendees arrived.  I negotiated a deal with the shrewd Iris where I was allowed to leave town before her birthday, eager to head out to the dust.

The reality was that when my friend N. and I arrived at night, earlier rains had caused the organizers to shut down the gates.  We spent over three hours sitting in our cars, and we had to sneakily pee by the side of the parked traffic (luckily not getting a stiff fee for it, as this year the BLM ticketed several Burning Man workers for peeing in the wild).  We pulled in after midnight and threw up our tents and crawled into them.

In the morning we put up our shade shelter and unpacked a bit, setting up what was supposed to be our home for the next ten days.  We were nowhere near done when we were informed that we were already late for our work shift.  J., the lead carpenter, was fuming.  No one had shown up to work.  No one.  N. and I were the sole crew, and we were, to put it mildly, "underskilled."  The sun blazed down, and we worked under the directions of an increasingly tightly wound foreman.  By the time we went to bed, we were exhausted.  "J, you're running a fat camp," said N. the next day.

Virtually everyone failed to show up for their volunteer shifts.  N. and I worked every day and every night.  Some more skilled people did come by.  One extremely talented carpenter got fired from his paid position building the Burning Man base and spent the morning working with us, as well as drinking my beer and telling N. and me his problems, but sadly for us he was rehired by Burning Man at lunchtime.

By the weekend more skilled people had arrived, so N. and I were demoted from the slightly more interesting tasks we'd been doing (we'd learned to wield an impact driver and to assemble the support structures, but we were back to carrying things, holding things, picking up things, fetching ice for J.'s cooler, and so on).  The sun still blazed down.  We were steadily acquiring a variety of small injuries:  blisters, a burn on my thumb shaped just like a wishbone, bruises.  The worst little injury occurred when we finally felt we could take a break from construction to finish setting up our own camp, and a fiberglass pole shattered in my thumb, leaving long, painful shards blocking the joint.  A friend volunteered to excavate this and cut most of it out with an very much not sterile knife.  I exhibited the gory shards to everyone, who were all suitably disgusted and impressed (I still have fiberglass shards visible in that thumb today).  A rash on the tops of my legs began to intensify and became scary.  I had several atrial fibrillation attacks.  My body was clearly unhappy.

On Sunday night the gates opened for regular attendees.  Exhausted by a day of construction under the hot sun, we Jerks were sleeping when we were awakened around three a.m. by a man shouting over an amplified sound system. "IT'S MY FIRST TIME DJ'ING AT BURNING MAN!"  Hours of terrible, distorted dubstep ensued.  Everyone looked homicidal the next morning as we went back to building.

Monday the deadline pressure was high:  we needed to finish the cathedral for a wedding the next day.  A bored girl said loudly to her friend as she passed, "They are always working on that thing!" in a Valley girl accent, and we took to repeating that to each other.  "Oh my God, they are always working on that thing!"  Lots of people were on hand, and we finally finished up in the middle of the night.

The cathedral was stunning when it was done.  The wedding was moving and delightful, two well-suited people getting married in a beautiful church one of them had built for the occasion.  Then the congratulatory drinking began, and the groom told me that he and one of his attendees were going to fight over at the infamous Thunderdome.  "I want to fight at Thunderdome," I said artlessly, and he cut me off, sneering.  "You couldn't handle it.  One blow to the head, and you'd be out.  Concussion!"

"I have a big head," I said challengingly.  I hate being told that there is something I can't do, and a six foot-tall lesbian who works a blue collar job jumped on the chance.  "I'll fight you," she said.  I agreed to this in the heat of the moment, and we all hopped on an art car which had been arranged to carry the wedding party over to the Thunderdome festively.

While we watched the groom and his attendant fight, the groom still in his wedding suit, I had second thoughts.  "This skirt is really expensive," I said.  "I should come back another day, when I'm dressed for it."  "Just lose the skirt," said my insistent campmate.

"I should have some kind of handicap," I said, looking at my larger, stronger companion.  "Let's just agree not to hit each other in the face.  That's our moneymaker: the face."  She agreed.

The groom's fight was short and weak.  Soon we were being hustled in and strapped in.  At Thunderdome, the two fighters are armed with pugil sticks (bats with a protective padding around one end) and launched at each other by bungee cords.  I normally do not like losing control over where my body is, but the adrenaline and endorphins took over.  They launched us at each other, and we came out fighting viciously, me in my underpants, crashing together and injuring all of our four collective knees.  They pulled us apart from each other, with us struggling to get more blows in, and then relaunched us at each other again, and we hit and hit at each other.  Finally they pulled us apart again, with us once more struggling to get more blows in.  "Relax, you won," the people on my side said as they disconnected me.  I gave a victory strut and flashed the crowd, and the very professional Thunderdome people pulled me off to the side.  "You're bleeding, you should see the medic," one said.  I hadn't noticed that I had a nosebleed.  "Give me your beer," I demanded to someone, and I rinsed the blood off my face with beer.  "No medic," I said posturingly.

"That was great," said one of my campmates wonderingly. "I would pay to see that kind of thing."

My opponent refused to accept that I had won.  To this day she is posting on Facebook arguing that she was unfairly "trumped by tits," refusing to take the point that I didn't flash anyone until AFTER my victory had been declared.  This is clearly seen on the video which my intrepid friend N. took, trampling many strangers to get a good angle, but still, my opponent won't admit that she lost.  The next morning she went to the medical tent to get a wrist brace and her knees bandaged, and I gave her some ibuprofen.

As for me, my left knee is still a bit wonky, and I still have some bruises from the many I sustained. over my thighs, shoulder and back.  For over a week after the fight, both of my knees were in constant agony.   It was horrendous trying to change position in bed, let alone ride a bike and run around Burning Man.

The final straw came when a rather innocuous mole-sort of growth on my neck, which I'd had for over a decade, began to bleed uncontrollably.  "You're bleeding," everyone who saw me informed me.  "I know," I said crossly.  It's too dry and hot at Burning Man for a bandaid to adhere (indeed I was having trouble with the multiple blisters on my feet, putting moleskin on several times a day over a base layer of stinging liquid bandaid).

"I can't take it," I said to N.  "Everyone's telling me I'm bleeding.  I gotta go home."  My knees, my bruises, my mangled hands, my atrial fibrillations, my rash, and this annoying blood dripping down my throat:  it was just all too much.  "I think I am getting too old for this."

The easy-going N. agreed, and on the spur of the moment we threw all of our dusty belongings into our cars and drove away.  The children and husband were thrilled to see me four days ahead of plan.  Carrying some of my luggage into the house, a bag swung and struck me on the left knee, drawing blood, and I let out a howl.  I showed them my knees.  "You should have seen the other person," I said.  If you're going to come crawling home a physical wreck, at least you should be able to brag of a mighty victory won in your underpants over a larger, stronger opponent.

Friday, August 09, 2013

working, working, working out of a funk

The month of July was a very hard month for me.  It felt like I fell into a funk out of the blue, but talking things over with my psychiatrist, I was able to identify a number of uncontrollable stresses which had all struck at the same time.  My funk wasn't the random act of craziness it might have appeared to be, say, to a sane bystanding husband.

It is pathetic to be a middle-aged person who lives in a nice house in a beautiful city with a husband, cats, parrots, and vivacious children who is depressed.  Very, very pathetic.  I have been working to pull myself out of that funk, with extreme exercise when I am healthy (I seem to pick up viruses like clockwork), antidepressants, and avoiding stressful situations when I can.

During the worst of the funk, while I was trying to keep myself out of the darker abysses, I saw one of those extra annoying posts on Facebook.  A friend wrote about an amazing vacation day filled with adventures, love, and decadent desserts, capping it up with, "I love my life!"  At the time I was devoting myself to keeping my head out of the oven, metaphorically speaking (my beloved Aga is a lifegiver, not a machine of death).  Usually I'm not prey to the Facebook my-life-sucks-compared-to-yours demon, but it hit me that day, and it hit hard.  I fretted about how I don't go on vacations, I don't travel, I deny myself fattening foods, I budget, I have no life comparatively.  Not wanting to slide down into the abyss, I gave myself a shake. I told myself that I needed to stay off Facebook if I was going to let it upset me.

Over time I pulled myself out of the worst of that funk, and my psychiatrist congratulated me on my self care and improvement.  Then I read another update from that same friend, sharing that the friend had been fired for seeking accommodation at work for severe depression .... before the "I love my life!" post.  That person was vacationing and adventuring to fill up free time from having been fired.  I was stunned.  How ironic that this person's cheering-the-self-up to cope with depression had triggered and worsened my own.  I wondered:  do the depressed owe one another a duty not to post life-gloating updates?  Or do I owe the world a duty not to post "I'm in a funk" updates, which I have been guilty of in dark moments?  In any event, Facebook is not for the fragile.  

Thursday, August 08, 2013

scholasticism meets "King of the Hill"

The children and I were unwinding one late evening, watching a couple of "King of the Hill" episodes.  I was exhausted from a grueling workout earlier in the day; the children were tired as well.

Their father entered the room, ignoring our enrapt viewing, and asked Iris some questions about a potential new humanities teacher for her school whom she had met.  His voice booming, he asked, "Does anyone know what 'humanities' is?"  A couple of us, trying to quiet him down, offered definitions, but he would not be bought off.  His voice ever louder, he proclaimed, "Humanities is a rejection of scholasticism!"  He laughed at his own wit.  Everyone else gazed raptly at the cartoon Texans, intensely beaming out "be quiet and leave us with our lowbrow entertainment" thought rays.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

the joys of being thinner

Recently the Sober Husband gave me an impromptu piggyback ride.  I haven't had a piggyback ride from anyone since I was in college, and it was charming, despite the intended squashing of my joy from a certain child, who said, "Did you just squeal?  Seriously?" to me.   Certainly this would never have happened when I was significantly larger, and it was delightful.

Clothes shopping has also been much more delightful.  I tried on a corset dress at a funky boutique on Haight Street, just pulled off the rack at a store which doesn't carry particularly large sizes, and heard those most delicious of words from the salesman:  "You could go down a size, if you want."  

Shoes are also more fun.  I've taken to wearing stilettos whenever there is the slightest excuse.  I previously was under the impression that the reason I couldn't bear to wear insanely high heels was due to my advancing age, but it turned out that once I dropped some weight, my aging feet were game, just like in my twenties.   

As well as judging the squealing, the children are not so enthused about their mother nimbly darting about in corset dresses and stiletto shoes.  Clearly it is not age appropriate.  "Since I'm not employed, I could dress like that every day," I confided to one, who cast me a side eye and sighed heavily.  

Sunday, July 14, 2013

we will stay until the end

Recently I heard about an experimental theatre performance taking place on the beach.  A number of plays will be staged in one evening, with the participants meeting outdoors and being led around to the plays.  The performers are from New York, flying out for this event, and I'm not sure if they realize how chilly it is going to be at night on a beach in San Francisco during our "summer."  I signed us up to attend, though, as we all love the theatre.  Bonus:  Iris can get extra credit at her school for attending plays over the summer.

Reminding the Sober Husband about this outing, I said, "Of course, we can leave early if it sucks."  But! Lola has never forgotten the one blissful evening she saw an experimental theatre troupe and did not like this crazy talk of slipping out.  "We are staying until the end.  Even if it is terrible.  We will stay until everything is done.  We will see everything there is to see.  Even if it is terrible," decreed the little theatre devotee.    She went on in this rather repetitive vein for some time, with relish.  "If someone has a heart attack, too bad; we stay!"  I began to wonder if she hoped this performance would tank.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

playing ping pong with Iris and Lola

We spent last week on our annual trip to Camp Mather, the rustic cabins in the Sierras owned by SF Rec and Parks.  No internet access, no cellphone coverage, no televisions, no cats -- just hours and hours of fresh air and sunlight with the family.

At one point the Sober Husband agreed to indulge me in a game of badminton, and the badminton-loathing children decided to play ping pong instead.  There are several ping pong tables, scattered throughout the trees near the mess hall, out of sight from the badminton court, which is in a sort of valley behind the general store.  We played badminton for a long time, getting a good workout, eventually joined by our offspring, who said nothing about their ping pong match.

The next day Lola reported to me what happened.  "So we were playing ping pong, and I got tired of picking up the balls.  So the next time one went out, I didn't pick it up.  And Iris said, 'Lucy, get the ball,' and I said I was tired of it.  So she looked at me like this [commanding gaze], and I looked at her like this [one eyebrow lifted].  And we waited.  Then Iris had to go to the bathroom, and she said she expected when she returned to see the ping pong ball had been picked up, and I looked around and found another one.  So when she got back, she said, 'I see you picked up the ball', and I showed her that ball was still on the ground.  Then we played until that ball went on the ground, and then neither of us would pick it up.  So we were staring at each other.  Then Phil (a family friend) walked by, and he gave us a ball.  So we played until THAT ball went on the ground.  And then we decided to go watch you play badminton."

We saw Phil and his family later, and I told Lola to tell the full story to them. Afterward, Phil said reflectively, "In my version of that, I was much more active.   I was like a hero."  

"Instead, you were a pawn in the Iris-Lola conflict," I said.  

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

the bartender has cut me off

Today I took some foster kittens in to get booster shots.

"I want to keep this one," I artlessly confided to the head of my rescue.

"Well, I'm sure you can't," she said dismissively.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

the exciting prospect

I have a milestone birthday looming in a year and a half, and I mentioned it today as we were all walking to the car together.  "What should we do for it?"

"Have a big party," said Iris.

"No, go on a trip.  Go to Greece!" said the Sober Husband.

Lola interrupted.  "I have just one question for you.  What do you want done with your body?"

"Oh, Lola.  Do you have to ask that in such a cheery voice?"  So nice to know that Lola is cheered by thoughts of disposal of my corpse.

Thursday, May 09, 2013


Before taking little Lola to school, I said, "Brush your hair!"

"Hair doesn't need to be brushed," said Lola defiantly.  She explained that in olden times, people did not brush your hair.  "It is not necessary."  After brushing aside some objections from her mother, Lola continued.  Hair is happier unbrushed, she feels.

The next day the topic was revived.  Lola was undeterred.  "Hair will live on if it isn't brushed!  Well, actually, it's dead."  She intends to write an article about how unnecessary it is to brush hair for the next issue of the children's newspaper for which she toils.  (That will follow her current opus, on the state of cancer research, and prior articles intended to introduce hipsters to new music and convince her father to let her start farming chickens).

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

how he remembers

Yesterday I went for a walk with the Sober Husband, to get some exercise and also have a chance to talk to him without distractions.  Among other things, I reminded him, "You do know that Mother's Day is this weekend, right?"

"There was an ad for it on Reddit, so I do know," he said, proud of himself.

"See, online advertising does work!"

"No!  I didn't see the ad.  It was blocked.  A bunch of guys were posting about it, thanking Reddit for reminding them.  I saw that."

Thank God for Reddit!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

the glamorous life

Over the next few months, thirteen year-old Iris will be flying to New York for a conference, backpacking in the Yosemite back country, and attending the prestigious Shakespeare festival in Ashland, Oregon.   Next year she'll be traveling to Japan for two weeks.

Meanwhile her mother's plans are to sit around the house surfing the internet, accompanied by a rotating selection of feral cats.

Saturday, March 23, 2013



The play I recently went to, The Great Big Also, was very good.  Before it started, though, I had low expectations. The last play I went to at that place had been quite boring. The actors read their lines sitting in chairs and straight off the script. 

I read the program, and it seemed pretty good, so I still thought it would be read in chairs off scripts but with a good subject. But yes, I still thought it wouldn't be very good.

I went in, and they asked me if I would leave everything behind for a new life. I said no. I couldn't leave Zorro (my cat) behind. And I like my life.

They split us off into different rooms. I went into one at a corner. The thing is, the rooms were separated with paper. The walls were just paper, with some doors cut out. 

It was very good. I can't really explain it, that's the thing, but I really liked it. 

Then I left and it was over.

Before I left, at one point they came in groups of one or two, explaining different things they did. The first one that came to my group talked about NASA space blankets and how they can be used ("Prevent hypothermia! Help to start fires! They can even make a lean-to!"). The next people that came talked about some sort of "Remember When" charades. It's just charades, but to remember good stuff about the past. And the last group I got was two people talking about "If something is missing from the room, you can say it and everyone will get that feeling." One family member said that they wanted to say intelligence was missing from the room but they didn't. The first example was loyalty. Then, eventually, one of the two tried to say cooperation but in the middle started to cough. That repeated while the first one was flushed and trying to keep the thing going. 

That caused almost everyone to start to cough and do weird stuff.

My favorite part was at the beginning, when everyone was getting to their rooms, and people were just talking with whatever crazy people was in their rooms. It was nice.

The end.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Lola experiences perfection

At Iris's school, the end of the seventh grade is largely about the theatre.  The students study and stage Shakespeare, and they spend much of their time learning about drama.  Actors have been brought in to work with them (Iris reported, in tones of great disgust, that before the actors arrived, the students were cautioned to be kind and polite to them, as actors are very sensitive).

The students are encouraged to attend as many plays as possible, with academic credit given, and we've been attempting to rise to this occasion.  So far we've taken Iris to five plays, with another one coming up in a few days.

Over the weekend we went to an experimental theatre piece, "The Great Big Also", by a company called Mugwumpin.  I knew it would be interactive, but none of us were quite prepared for how it unfolded.  (If you are in San Francisco and enjoy experimental theatre and trust Lola's judgment, stop reading to avoid spoilers and just go buy your tickets).   The lobby had been subtly staged.  Most of the audience members didn't really interact with the things in the lobby, but we did.  It appeared to be the living quarters of the group called "the New Settlers", and I suspected some of the performance would take place out there.

The performers came through the lobby occasionally, doing different things, and they would take small groups of people back into the theatre occasionally.  Finally a cast member came to us and asked us if we were ready.  She took the four of us and an unknown man back, checking if we were ready to spend 80 minutes with her, and asked us if we would be willing to leave our civilization for a new one.  I said maybe, the stranger said yes, and the Sober Husband and children said firmly no.  She appeared to be taking us on a tour of the facilities, but the first thing she did was to get rid of me:  she turned to me and asked me to stay in a small cubicle, where I could take a stool from a pile.  "Don't worry, it won't always be like this," she said, leaving with my family and the stranger.  The Sober Husband asked me if I was okay being left, and I, who like to go with the flow in these circumstances, said yes.

I looked around.  The others in my little cubicle (we were in a corner of a structure made of Tyvek) had also been separated from their friends.  We talked.  Things began to happen.  I thought the actor would come back to get me, but she never did.  I regretted parting from my family.  We waited on our little stools, occasionally chatting, and sometimes cast members would pass through or walk past us or speak to the people in neighboring cubicles.  Eventually we realized that this was the show and that it had already begun.

For me the performance was largely overcast by my feeling of anxiety about Lola.  She was the only child at the show (teenaged Iris being the only other minor), and I worried that something would scare her.  I couldn't see her.  I peered into the other three cubicles bordering mine, but none of my family members could be seen.  I imagined they were all together, and this made me feel sorry for myself.  I'd been in a funk that day beforehand, and being isolated from my family made it worse.  I did talk to some fun young women in my zone, but we were joined by an unfriendly man who wouldn't make eye contact.  There was also a dating couple in our tiny zone who were not interacting with anyone else but constantly touching each other, and that made me feel more isolated.

The odd events, dances, speeches, and bits of performance that made up this odd and engaging piece about settlers (cultists?) awaiting an apocalypse went on, and I kept fretting for Lola (I was sure the preternaturally poised Iris was fine).  After nearly an hour, the Tyvek partitions were raised in the air, removing some of the barriers and creating larger pens with more people in them, but I still couldn't see any of the family.  Finally I sneaked out of my zone (I was the only person I saw doing this) and surreptitiously made my way around the barriers until I reached Lola.

Lola was fine.  She was sitting enrapt on a stool, watching everything she could see.  The Sober Husband was not far from her (I found out later that their rooms were merged when the partitions were raised partway).  I didn't find Iris until the show was nearly over, and she was skeptically gazing from the sidelines.

At the end, I confessed the experience had largely been ruined for me by worrying about Lola and by feeling bereft, that I was the one singled out to be cut off from the group.  I'd have felt less left out if I'd known everyone had been separated and parked in different zones and how happy Lola was. "It was like a party in my room!" said Lola merrily.  Evidently all the hipsters in her cubicle were charmed by the idea of a ten year-old attending this experimental theatre.  "They all wanted to know why I was there, and I said, 'My sister is doing a report on the theatre,'" said Lola.  "I told them all my name.  We talked and talked."  When anything happened, Lola intently absorbed it.

For the next couple of days, we spent a lot of time discussing the performance.  Parts of it were visible to each of us, and we didn't all see the same things.  Lola found everything enchanting about it.  I suggested she might find it inspirational for her own writing, and she strongly demurred.  "It was like perfection, and now I have it in my body," she said dreamily.  If she tried to base something upon it, it wouldn't measure up to the sublime experience she'd had.

I could relate.  When I was much younger, I ate at Fleur de Lys for the first time, experiencing perhaps the world's finest and most expensive vegetarian cooking.  I left feeling I had experienced food at a level I had never imagined, and I stopped cooking for some time.  "I can't make food like that," I said, "so I don't want to try."  My ex-husband complained bitterly that if he'd known what would happen, he'd have never taken me there, but I didn't care.  I had experienced perfection.  And now so has Lola.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

too personal

Iris is in the process of applying for a scholarship, which would enable her to go to the private high school of her choice, most expenses paid.  It's a lot of work, this scholarship, and it's been stressful for her.  She's in the last stretch, writing the essays, and I wanted to be helpful.  I remembered that I had been invited to apply for a sort of genius camp as a teen, for the 99.9th percentile of young geniuses, and I didn't have anyone to help me with my essays.  In retrospect I am sure what I turned in was embarrassingly pathetic compared to what the other applicants must have written, applicants from academic families or from private schools where someone would have assisted them with the essays, and I got turned down flat.

Later in life I went on to get a degree in journalism summa cum laude and learn to write essays good enough to get me into graduate programs at Stanford and elsewhere, as well as how to write fabulous legal briefs and motions.  So I offered to Iris that I would be happy to work with her, to read her drafts, and to be a supportive and uncritical reader.

Her response?  "I think I'll get [Teacher] to read them. "  A pause.  "They're kind of personal."

Thursday, March 07, 2013

life cycles continue

Today I'm mourning a fellow crazy cat lady and former Modern Primitive who died yesterday at far too young an age, and also some unexpected news arrived about a birth.

The Sober Husband's brother sent him an email announcing that he is now a father of a baby girl. The email gave the name, weight, and length of the baby.... with no mention whatsoever of the nameless mother.  There was an attachment.... of a photo of a bakery. (The brother currently lives in Siberia, where he sells banana bread and teaches English).

 The Sober Husband was actually excited and happy about this.  His brother is the last person who should become a father, I pointed out. He's unstable, and selfish. And what is up with no mention of the mother? Not to mention that this baby was never mentioned before she was born.

Taking the moral high ground, the Sober Husband stated that a baby is always a miracle and always a thing of wonder, and that he for one looked forward to providing as much assistance as he possibly could at a distance.  I bit my tongue.  We took a huge pay cut this year, so that the Sober Husband could take a job at a fledgling start-up which would be more personally rewarding but hugely, hugely less lucrative.  I am always worried about money and fretting over our budget these days.  Any money sent to Siberia comes straight out of my hide.

Birth, death, what does tomorrow hold?  All I know is I'm not coping well with how the cycle of life is unfolding these days.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

RIP Betsy

Back in the late eighties, I was an early member of what we called back then the Modern Primitive scene.  Nowadays piercing and tattooing are banal, but back then, it was difficult to pursue these things.  I got pierced in a leather shop's basement by a visiting pioneer of the scene, for example, whereas now the young people just go to the mall, and Haight St. is littered with piercing salons.

In those days one of the most strange and amazing things I ran across was an article in one of the earliest issues of PFIQ, which showed the most famous Modern Primitive, Fakir Musafar, before Re/SEARCH made him famous, doing something very bizarre.  The Fakir and a friend of his were chatting at the friend's tattoo parlor when another tattoo artist's wife had a brainwave:  these two men had stretched out their piercings so far that a neon tube would fit through.  She was a neon artist, and she decided to create neon which these men would wear.  The results were photographed at the Fakir's request, and he wrote an article about the experience.  The pictures were striking and weird, and I never forgot them.  (Incidentally about thirty years later, the Fakir's friend, the other man who sported the custom neon tubes, Ed Hardy, became extremely famous).

Later through a series of oddnesses the neon artist's husband became my tattoo artist.  By then he had divorced her and had a new wife, so I never met the woman behind that strange art during the years I acquired tattoos from him.

Fifteen years or so later I was at my cat rescue's annual kickoff, and a woman with striking brown eyes and a lot of tattoo art was there.  She was new to our rescue but not new to working with animals, and she was introduced as Betsy Berberian.  Feeling a bit like a stalker, I cornered her while she was enjoying a glass of wine and asked if she were the Betsy Berberian who had done the weird neon art I'd never forgotten, and she was.  We reminisced about the Modern Primitive days of the late eighties and early nineties; we talked about her ex-husband (I'd represented him as an attorney as well as being a client of his).

Betsy became a vital figure in our rescue, running the website and photographing our kittens.  I ran into her from time to time and always enjoyed talking to her.  She was making jewelry, and I bought the earrings right off her ears once at a rescue meeting.  Every time I talked to her, I thought I should try to spend more time with her, go out drinking with her, but our relationship remained at the Facebook friends and chatting when we ran into each other level.   I heard a month or so ago that Betsy was ill, but I didn't grasp the seriousness of it.  After all, Betsy was not old, she was energetic, she was full of life.

Today Betsy died.  It's a loss to the animals here in San Francisco and to the people who work to save them, and more than that, it's a loss to the world.  Someone so unusual and sprightly, so creative and passionate and odd, is no longer with us.  I'm so sorry I didn't buy more of your jewelry, Betsy; I'm so sorry I didn't pester you to come out with me.  I'm very glad I wasn't afraid to be thought a stalker and brought up your Modern Primitive escapades.  RIP, Betsy Berberian.

Sunday, March 03, 2013

crazy cat lady tricks

I am a crazy cat lady who can attract the envy and wonder of strangers and neighbors alike.

How can that be?  Sadly I don't have a cat who'll walk on a leash or who will perform tricks.  But I do have a cat, a tabby with a large, fluffy tail, who recognizes the sound of my car or my footsteps and who meets me on the sidewalk to welcome me home.  As I open my car door, I exclaim, "Henry!  Henry!" and Henry cries, and I scratch her back.  We walk up the sidewalk and up the front steps, stopping for petting along the way, and anyone who witnesses this is always taken by surprise and often awe.  "Look at that cat; it's like a dog!" they say.

Henry's apparent devotion also extends to our leaving the home; Henry becomes distressed if we set out on foot, and follows, howling miserably, until we give up, capture her, lock her in the house, and then set out again.

Once inside the home, Henry doesn't appear to give a damn about me, but she puts up a hell of a show on every homecoming.  In the life of a middle-aged crazy cat lady, this is priceless.

Saturday, March 02, 2013

unlike you

"Unlike you, I do not take pleasure in losing," said a child in a cutting voice to her father.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

the jigsaw puzzle

Recently I put a package of hand-me-downs together for a friend with a toddler.  I wanted to include a puzzle, but I didn't feel right sending it without ensuring that it had every piece.  I still remember the sturm und drang from the large floor puzzle of an enchanted castle which I bought for then-toddler Iris, which was missing a piece from the get-go, having instead a duplicate of another random piece (and the people from the Melissa & Doug toy company PROMISED to send the missing piece but never did).

I set myself down on the floor and began the 100 piece jigsaw of kittens, suitable for a preschooler.  Lola's cat Zorro drew near.  She batted at some pieces with a paw, and I shooed her away.  Undeterred she pounced in a flash, seizing a piece in her mouth, and ran into Iris's room, carrying the piece under Iris's massive bunk bed.  After some effort I reclaimed the piece, locked Zorro in Iris's room, finished the puzzle, disassembled it, and mailed it off along with some of our more presentable cast off clothes and a random assortment of picture books.

This gave me a whole new insight into why at Christmas time we were unable to complete a large monochromatic Escher jigsaw I'd thought would be a good holiday divertissement.  I expect cats to bat pieces off the table with their paws; I don't expect them to carry them around the house in their mouths.  We'd been able to do big, complicated puzzles in the past, picking up a few pieces from under the table from time to time... but we hadn't had Zorro then.

I told this story to the Sober Husband that evening.

"To make jigsaw puzzles harder, instead of getting ones with more pieces, you should have to do them with more cats," he opined.

Monday, February 25, 2013

the trials of Coconut

I finally had Coconut, the partially tamed feral cat we appear to be keeping, neutered.  I had put this off as Coconut was not tame enough to put up for adoption or be handled, but the time had come (or, according to the head of my rescue, was long overdue).   It was presented to me, by a more senior crazy cat lady in the world of crazy cats, that Coconut should be processed through Feral Fix and given back to me.

"Feral Fix" is a program whereby feral cats are neutered for free and re-released.  The tip of one ear is cut off, to signal that the cat has been neutered.  We agreed that since Coconut was not easy to handle, it made sense to neuter him through Feral Fix, where it is assumed none of the cats can be picked up, rather than through the regular neutering program."I'll tell them to make a shallow tip," said the more senior crazy cat lady.  "It won't bother you, will it, having his ear tipped?  I'll tell them to just take a little."

I was dreading the day. Since no one can pick Coconut up, cramming him into a small box seemed highly problematic.  "I need all hands on deck for this," I said gloomily.  The last time I tried to pick him up, he sank all his fangs deeply into my arm, ran away, and wasn't seen for hours.  Everyone stood at battle stations, ready to grab the cat, and I threw a large towel over him and then quickly wrapped him up in it before he could react.  I then roughly crammed the towel-wrapped cat into a waiting carrier.  "That was easier than I expected," I said wonderingly.  Cries arose from within the towel.

I couldn't face taking Coconut in myself, as he is my greatest failure and I'm embarrassed around the other crazy cat ladies.  I had negotiated with the Sober Husband to deliver him to Feral Fix, which he did on the condition that "I only have to drop the cat off, right?  I don't have to do anything more? I just say, "Here is the cat' and walk away?"

A day later it was time to pick up Coconut.  Lola and I drove over to the SPCA's clinic.  It was reported to me that Coconut "had not done well."  Evidently he had not gone gently into that anesthetized night.  The clinic attendant who returned him to me said she was not surprised he was not tamer.  "Once a meanie, always a meanie."

This offended Lola and me.  "He's not a meanie," Lola said fiercely on the way home.  "She called him a meanie!"  We knew Coconut was frightened, not vicious.

At home we reviewed our instructions.  We were supposed to "feed and care for animal in his trap for one day."

"In his trap!" We laughed.  At home, Coconut had shot out of his carrier.  We had intended for him to spend a day in Iris's room, resting away from the other cats, but he rocketed out of the door the moment it was opened and reestablished himself in the resident cat population.

I looked at the Feral Fix handout again.  It instructed me that I could return my feral to his colony in a day or two, but "the ultimate decision is up to you."

"What is 'the ultimate decision'?  It sounds like 'the Final Solution'," I said.

Coconut, meanwhile, basked on the back of the couch, unaware that he was meant to be convalescing "in his trap", subject to an "ultimate decision."

Saturday, February 23, 2013

behind my back

The children made some disparaging remarks the other day, and I said, "I'd hate to hear what you say about me when I'm not around."

Iris was noncommital, but Lola forged ahead.  "We sometimes talk about your musical taste."

I drew her out more.

"Like about that stuff you play that isn't ABBA that sounds like ABBA.  What is that?  And that other song we don't like."  Lola beamed winningly.

Friday, February 22, 2013

a memory

"I remember when I was really little," reminisced Lola.  "I was tired, and you decided I needed to be more hyper, so you gave me some coffee!  And it was cinnamon coffee, and I think I would have liked it better if it wasn't cinnamon."

"When was this?" I was incredulous.

Lola explained that it was when she was just a toddler.

"And I said I wanted you to be 'more hyper?'"

Monday, February 18, 2013

not before coffee

The Sober Husband tends to ask a lot of questions, and this morning was no exception.  Lola woke me up while I was in the middle of an intense dream (evidently I had gone to war in the Middle East, but yet I was living in a luxury penthouse).  I stumbled downstairs to get some life-giving coffee, only to be intercepted by the Sober Husband, who began peppering me with questions about my plans for the day.

"Don't interrogate me until I've had some coffee!  No questions!" I snapped.   I poured a cup and leaned against the counter while I took a sip.

Meanwhile the large feral cat I have adopted caught sight of me.  He regards me as a can-opening mechanism, and he made eye contact with me and began crying noisily.  The Sober Husband looked at the squawking animal.  "Don't interrogate her until she's had some coffee!"

Sunday, February 17, 2013

a bridge too far

After a good night's sleep and time to reflect, thirteen year-old Iris appeared to have recovered from watching "Silence of the Lambs."  She said to me, "Momdude, I want to watch 'Clockwork Orange.'"

I quailed.  "That's too much for me.  I can't watch that again."  I saw the X-rated version of "Clockwork Orange" my freshman year of college, at one of the popular dollar movie nights at the giant Warren Towers dorm, and found it far too intense.

"Why?  What happens?"

"Too violent!"  I didn't even want to go into details.

"Can I read the book?"

"Yes.  Go ahead."

Saturday, February 16, 2013


Tonight I watched "The Silence of the Lambs" with thirteen year-old Iris.  Just before watching it, I quavered.  "It's scary," I said.

"I'm pretty much inured to horror," said the jaded Iris.

The Sober Husband refused to be in the room for it.  "This movie has something I can't stand:  sadism."

"If you're scarred for life, will you forgive me?" I asked Iris.


We watched the movie.  Afterward, I asked, "Are you scarred for life?"


Due to a cat vomiting during the film (which we had both silently decided to postpone cleaning up until after the movie), we went out in search of cleaning supplies.   We met up with little Lola, who'd stayed safely away during the film.  She took in her sister's somewhat shaken state.

 "Let's stay together; it's safer," I suggested.   I remembered how I'd felt when I was young and I saw "Blue Velvet"; I'd been so shaken that the trip home from the movie theatre was an ordeal, with me peering suspiciously at everyone and every car I walked past.

Lola flicked a switch, putting us in complete darkness.  Iris and I emitted a squawk.  Lola laughed hysterically before turning the light back on.  "Lola, for someone so cute, you really can be evil," I remarked.

We moved as a squad down into the kitchen, obtaining the necessaries, and then back upstairs.  "It's a good thing there are no moths around here," I observed.

Friday, February 15, 2013

called out

"Momdude, you are a hipster snob," sniffed a judgmental child.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

a timing issue

This Friday is "Grandparents And Special Friends Day" at Lolz' school.  It is also the day after Valentine's Day.

As I pointed out to the Sober Husband, this timing means that for everyone who has family living out of town, this means that their inlaws will be in town for Valentine's Day.  He hadn't quite connected the dots between the date on the calendar and the note on the calendar to pick his mother up at the airport.  

"We'll have some romance another night," he said optimistically.  "On the bright side, my mother always puts out on Valentine's Day."

"I think you should rephrase that," I said.

It took him a few minutes to understand my objection.  "I mean she comes through.  She'll bring something for the children."

Sunday, February 10, 2013

feeling French

Yesterday we visited the U.S.S. Hornet, a decommissioned aircraft carrier.  A friend of mine who volunteers there had offered to take people to areas not open to the public.   The Sober Husband loved the engine room, while I found the little zone where the nuclear bombs had been kept to be the most fascinating (the warnings were still up declaring it a classified zone of the highest level, and there was a guard station by the door, and a small group of people lived down with the bombs).

As we walked up to the Hornet, one of the children felt uneasy.  "It's scary!  I'm looking at it, and I'm feeling scared.  What am I, French?"

Saturday, February 09, 2013

our dreams

In the car, today I shared some dreams I remembered.  "Last night I dreamed I had a dog.  Oh, and I dreamed I went on tour with Metallica.  They had some seats for superfans on their tour bus, and in the dream I was a superfan.  And the Sober Husband was with me, we had terrible seats, and there was this guy across from us who was vomiting all the time and just awful, and the Sober Husband held the bag for him to vomit in.  Then the Sober Husband had that bag of vomit, and I wanted to get rid of it.  Oh, and there was a bean cake, and I didn't eat any because I didn't think it would be good, but it was gone right away and everyone was saying how great it was, it was some special cake they always had, and I was sorry I didn't have any.  Then the guy who was vomiting turned out to be a wanted criminal, and I took him down!  But the Sober Husband didn't help!  He was just standing there!"

Little Lola chimed in.  "THAT'S JUST LIKE WHEN I DREAMED ABOUT THE DOUGHNUT APOCALYPSE.  He was just standing there!!"

We both turned and looked at the Sober Husband accusatorily.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

scrabbling around

Ever since our holidays blow-up, the Sober Husband and I have been prioritizing our relationship.  In general we've been looking for Things We Can Do Together (Without Fighting).  One of these things is playing Facebook Scrabble.  I've been playing it for a long time and secretly revel in being the highest rated of all my friends.

Normally the Sober Husband destroys me in any game we play which is not a game of chance (and even at games of chance he will win more than he should, as his mathematical mind is better able than my whatever-you-want-to-call-it mind at figuring out odds and calculating what might happen).  But at word-based games, like Scrabble or Boggle, he can't touch me.

Or at least he couldn't, until he wrote himself his own Scrabble-cheating program.  Suddenly now he leads.  Since he wrote his program to suit himself precisely, it's extremely helpful to him.

This irks me, as I am a pristine Scrabble player, and in this household I falsely suffer from a reputation of being a Scrabble cheater.  This stems from the fact that years ago -- AT LEAST SIX YEARS AGO -- I used to pay to play Scrabble on a large website, where one was allowed to use assistance.  After I discovered Warcraft, I let online Scrabble fade away, and I don't even know if that Scrabble-for-pay site still exists.  Eventually I returned to online Scrabble via Facebook (but not "Words with Friends", which I despise as I do all Zynga products).  In Facebook Scrabble, I am a queen of verity and ethics, but the children all call me a cheater, evidently on the basis that anyone who ever used a Scrabble help site is forever tarred as a Scrabble sleaze.

I exposed the Sober Husband's cheating ways to Lola, thinking she would denounce him.  But she thought he was clever and made a ruling that he should be allowed to use his program.  I guess she was thinking that if I were smarter, I could make myself a cheating program as well.

So thanks, Sober Husband!  Now one of my zones of feeling intellectually superior has vanished.  So far he hasn't driven my ratings down measurably, but that day will no doubt come... AND MY SCRABBLE ENEMIES WILL REJOICE.

Monday, February 04, 2013

educating the hipsters

Little Lola is enrolled in another session of the 826 Valencia St. youth newspaper.  On the way over to her first meeting, we discussed what she might write about, and her thinking seemed to be to cover "hugs:  heartfelt or horrible?"

Lolz was very tense about getting to 826 on time and kept ostentatiously checking her watch.  We had actually arrived very early and I took her to a nearby art gallery to kill time while enjoying art, but Lolz's mind was on nothing but punctuality and 826.  "You promise not to make me late?" she hissed at me.

I gave up and took Lola over early.  "Welcome back," said the hipster at the desk to Lola.

"Lola!" said the hipster behind the chain which keeps out hoi polloi like me while admitting the elite, such as Lola.  "We missed you last time!  How was your break?"

A few hours later I returned.  Lola told me that she had decided to write about "different kinds of popular music."

"Kids always write about music," I said.  "I thought hugs was a good topic."

Lolz got a bit haughty.  "As far as I could tell, no other kids were writing about music.  And the tutors, they don't know about music, different genres and things.  So it's educational."   Lolz continued in that vein for a bit, explaining how she could enlighten these poor, ignorant tutors about popular music.

I let the subject drop, but I was secretly amused.  These hipsters who help the kids write look like they are straight outta Coachella, but yet their musical ignorance appalls little Lola, who views it as her responsibility to educate them.

Saturday, February 02, 2013

living the noir life

The Sober Husband and I scored a couple of seats at a showing at the Film Noir festival, which is based at the Castro theatre this year, and we stumbled out onto the streets after being fully immersed in the smoky and treacherous world of noir.  We wandered up the streets past homeless people and inebriates, up the hill, discussing the plot.

When I walked into our house, there were no lights on downstairs.  A steely little voice came from the shadows.  "I was waiting for you here, watching for you."  I jumped, taken by surprise.

Little Lolz emerged from the darkness, having successfully startled her mother.  "It's like living in a film noir, living with you," I said.

"I was waiting here in the dark, watching for you," Lolz reiterated, giving me a hardboiled stare.  All she needed was a cigarette.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

the horror, the horror of a hug

Today Lola started a new evening writing class.  After I picked her up at school, I suggested she might like to brainstorm ideas for her new writing project.

First Lola loftily informed me that the purpose of the first class, "after we spend a bunch of time saying "oh I am Lordwhatever from Blabbledom", was brainstorming and that the people who lead the class would have a list of suggested writing topics.

Clearly her mother was not needed, but indefatigable for once, I persevered.  "It might be a good idea to go in with some ideas of your own, though.  I know how picky you can be."  On a prior occasion, Lola had despaired of ever coming up with a good idea to write about and shared that she thought she had shot her bolt with her hit article on urban chickens.  "I'll never have a good idea like chickens again."

Lola accepted this point and told me that one of her friends had given her a suggestion.  This friend said Lola should write about "hugs:  heartfelt or HORROR-FILLED?"  It turns out that the friend's little brother had suffered a dislocated arm from a hug.

"Lola, that's awful!  What monster hugged him?"

"It was one of his little friends, not a monster."

I shared with Lola that I had suffered some horrible hugs myself.  Lola wanted details.  The first memorable Hug of Horror occurred when my first husband and I traveled to the Saline Valley.  We shared a love of natural hot springs and camping in the desert, and we had learned that there were some beautiful natural hot springs located near Death Valley, where some hippies and hippy-adjacent people had created a clothing-optional community.  When we arrived at the Saline Valley enclave, we were greeted by a tiny older naked man, with lots of flowing gray hair, who was of questionable cleanliness.  This man was very friendly and welcoming to us, talking to us about the hot springs, the people, what we could expect, what we might like to do, and so on.  Then he asked me  for a hug, explaining that he had to be faithful to his wife but she let him hug other women.  I was at the time a cute, trim twenty-something, and I noticed our new friend only wanted to hug me, not my husband.  The last thing I wanted was for this dingy, naked stranger to hug me, but he had been very kind to us, and I felt stuck.  I let him hug me, pressing his unclean and naked parts up against me, for as short a time as I judged polite and then disengaged.  It was not enjoyed.

The other horrible hug Lola had herself witnessed, but she'd forgotten it.  There used to be some benches by the subway station in the Castro, which have been cut apart and taken away because homeless people used to spend time on them.  I myself thought the particular homeless people who congregated there added color to the neighborhood and didn't detract from it; they never panhandled me or hassled me, but other people in the community wanted them gone.  When the homeless people still had a place to sit or lie down, one day one of them called out to me as I was walking through with my family.  He asked me for a hug, saying he was unhappy and really, really needed a hug.  Without hesitation I hugged him, although in the back of my mind I was wondering whether he would stab me; he was definitely troubled.  After the hug, he called out to me sincerely, "Thank you! Thank you!"  The Sober Husband told me, "You were very brave.  I thought he was going to stab you", which called into question why he didn't intervene if he thought his wife was in danger.  Did he want his wife to get stabbed?

Lola pondered these hugs.  She now had three Hugs of Horror she could write about.  Hugs, she felt, were a far scarier thing than one would think.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Coney and Notconey

Over the holidays we catsat for a friend of ours who has wonderfully taken in two cats with feline HIV.  These cats were unadoptable and could not be kept at the city shelter, but the city employees didn't want to euthanize them as they were very attractive cats with warm, friendly personalities.  Thankfully my friend M. stepped up and took them home, where she has taken painstaking care of them.  A local cat lady has donated a life subscription to her raw foods for these cats, and M. can take them in to get veterinary care for free, which relieves the financial burden on her of taking two cats with a serious condition.

These cats don't look sick.  They are beautiful, fluffy, and energetic, but they must be kept indoors and can't mingle with other cats.  Their raw food diet is kept refrigerated and needs to be served to them twice a day.  Although M's temporary housemate was willing to feed them, he is not a cat person and was not about to provide the hours of attention these cats normally receive from their doting owner.  So we were enlisted, to come by and play with the cats and give them some love (and also check on their litterbox).

M's housemate obviously fed the cats, but he didn't tend to their litterbox noticeably.  He also didn't play with them very much.  Every time I arrived, always with the stalwart Lola at my side and normally with Iris as well, the cats were ready for endless playtime.

One of them had a rash on her chin which she picked at, so she had to wear a cone of shame.  The children dubbed them "Coney and NotConey."  They loved ridiculing Coney when she tried to groom herself with her cone on, licking the inside of her cone and putting her paw up to it.

The children devoted themselves to photography of Coney and Notconey, trying to get pictures of them airborne as the children whipped them up to a frenzy with the cat toys.  The frustrations of nature photography were all too apparent, as the best shots seemed elusive.  They filled my iPhone up with over a hundred pictures of those cats in no time.

Driving over to M's place one day, we passed near her place of employment.  I had a thought.  "Hey, wouldn't it be funny if we went to M's salon?  You know she is always showing everyone all these pictures of her cats on her phone.  Now they have a break from looking at pictures of those cats, and we could take my phone in and make them look at pictures of M's cats on my phone while she's away!"  The children thought this was hilarious and were definitely up for it, but I was too lazy to inflict this prank on M's colleagues.

Since M's return, Coney's skin has recovered to the point where she no longer needs to wear the cone of shame.  I shared this with the children, who were disapproving.

"Coney isn't that cute; she needs to wear the cone to be cute!"

"What will we call them now, if they can't be Coney and Notconey?"

The sentiment among the children was that if M. expects any more high quality catsitting, she'd better put that cone back on.  The children's love is not unconditional.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

not the lilies of the field but the feral cats of the alleys

The most recent feral kittens I have fostered were the subject of an inquiry from a gay couple, who were interested in possibly adopting them.  I invited them to come to my home and meet the kittens, two calicos who were recovering from a terrible cold and becoming socialized.

One of the men was blind, but as I had a very close friend in college who was blind, I know how to host blind people (speak directly to them, describe the room to them, narrate anything happening).  That wasn't newsworthy.  What was interesting was that this man was extremely Christian, in a way you don't normally run across in San Francisco.  I know many devout people here, I know people who have strong faiths, but I had not run across anyone who lives here who speaks in this way of witnessing, with little gaps left where it seems what is being called for is a "Praise Him!" as the only response.   I didn't think I'd ever met a blind, gay Christian before, definitely a small segment of our population.

It turned out God had indicated to these men that they adopt these particular kittens, which was fine by me and seemed fine by the kittens as well.  The kittens took a long time to recover from their ailment, and I invited the men back to visit again on another occasion.  This time the kittens were in no mood to be friendly and chose to have almost nothing to do with their potential adopters.  I was a little worried that a good placement might fall apart, and I voiced that to the Sober Husband.  "But didn't God tell them to take these kittens?" he asked.

"God says lots of things," I said darkly.

But I shouldn't have worried.  Today the adoption is going through, but as I'm ill, it's being handled by another cat lady (a more senior and important cat lady than me, who gave me the kittens to foster to begin with).  She was a little worried that the placement might fall apart and wanted to know what the men were like, and I told her that God had told them to adopt these kittens.

"Really," she said.  There was a pause.  "I'm an atheist, you know," she said in her thick European accent.  Another pause.  "I'm glad you told me this.  I wouldn't have known how to handle it.  I'm not used to that kind of thing."  I could tell this was a moment of culture shock for her.

"In my ten years of doing this, this is the first time I've had God tell someone to take one of my kittens," I shared.

"I"m so glad you told me about this," she said again.  

Friday, January 25, 2013

describe me

The little paragraph describing this blog is woefully out of date.  I virtually never drink any more, certainly not "too much."  I exercise more than three regular middle-aged people combined (hell, maybe more than ten regular middle-aged people).   I'm more fit than the Sober Husband these days, always eager to point out when he is out of breath and I'm not.

Fabulous prizes await if someone writes me a pleasing yet roughly accurate soundbite for this blog!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

intricate, high level planning

I ran across a discussion of Burning Man preparation by chance on line, and one person urged others to send him their email address, as he's been going for years and has an Excel spreadsheet for a packing list which he enjoys sharing with others.

Spreadsheets?  Lists?  Here's how my friend N. and I planned last year:

I arrive at N.'s home.  Before we start planning, she suggests we have a cigarette in the backyard.  After her smoke break, we go indoors to get serious.  I pull out a notebook and a pen.

N.:  "What do you want to drink this year?"

A discussion follows of cocktail options, which is pretty much pointless because it was completely predictable that we'd want to drink the same things we drank the two years before:  shandies (N.) and sparkling wine (the D.H.), and maybe we'd do something with tequila, and it might be good to have some vodka just in case.

After I note that I will buy sparkling wine and tequila and that N. will bring beer, soda for making the shandies, and some vodka, the conversation stalls.

N.:  "So, will you bring everything you brought last year?  I'll bring everything I brought last year."

Me:  "Yes.  Oh, can you bring a dishpan?"

I make a note:  "N:  dishpan."

N.:  "Was there anything else we needed to plan?"

Me:  "I don't think so.  I don't know why we thought we needed to have a meeting."