Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Swinging to S'pore

Sorry for the delay in getting at least a short entry up for the great fun that was my vacation to Singapore. I was excited to see my younger brother, Bill and his family. I wasn't so excited about spending practically an entire day in an airplane. I packed a bad full of warm weather clothes (completely inappropriate for San Francisco) and treats for the girls and off I went. I was concerned about how I would entertain myself for 19 hours. I brought books, magazines, my PDA filled with games, my iPod filled with music and some paint and paper. I felt more like an 8 year old than a 38 year old. But I wasn't going to take any chances. Nadine, my roommate drove me and my massive suitcase to SFO and off I went. I bought a little currency at the airport and meandered around the new to me, international terminal.

Boarding the plane I found my seat and was please that the plane didn't look too full. I kept one eye on the cabin door and quickly shifted over to a unoccupied center row. On Bill's recommendation I booked my flight on Singapore Airlines. I was please to receive a little booklet containing all of the dining choices for the next day (three meals) and beverages galore.

After that, my attention turned to the thick entertainment guide. Seems that the plane is equipped with personal seatback screens and on demand movies (60 choices, I counted them all), television programs, music (both mixed and full CDs) as well as Nintendo gameboy games. I had to force myself to sleep. I didn't pick up or turn on anything that I brought. I didn't want to get off the plane, but did so knowing that I'd be back to this wonderful place in just a couple of weeks.

The visit itself was fun. Bill and Hyun Joo had been sending me email asking what I wanted to do and see while I was visiting. Mostly I wanted to see them since Singapore will always be there for future visits and I hadn't seen them in about 2 years. When asked what I wanted to see and do, I replied that I wanted to see their favorite places. Granted I did read about Singapore to get an idea of what the place was like and I assumed that my brother would display his innate talents as a great travel guide. Little did I know that his wife was a kick-ass guide herself. Hyun Joo and I spent a ton of time the first week going to various neighborhoods around town. I would admit that we ate our way through Singapore, but honestly, there was too much food and not enough time.

Would I live here? I don't know about you, but everywhere I go, this question pops into my head and floats about. It's the reason why I moved out to San Francisco. I kept finding more and more reasons to say yes. But getting back to Singapore. Well living close to family would be cool. But the heat there was a bit much. And it's not like summertime back in New York. This is hot, humid, your-butt-is-sitting-on-the-equator-for-Pete's-sake! In all fairness, I'm not just picking on Singapore because it's hot. I just couldn't move to Minnesota either. I love Jerome and his family, but anyplace that gets so cold you need to plug in your car is just too cold for me. (I just realized how much my life resembles The Year Without a Santa Claus. One brother is the Heat Miser and the other one is the Cold Miser.)

But getting back to Singapore, there are lots of things that are uniquely Singapore. Some of them are simple things, like the way everyone backs into parking spots. So there you are in that scary mall parking lot with cars zooming around at top speeds and people are zipping backwards into spots. Since I back past two big pillars every day in the garage below my office, I can appreciate this performance under pressure. So after that I think it's only fair to be rewarded with a huge variety of yummy and incredibly inexpensive food at the hawkers stalls. English is spoken in Singapore, but when you are walking around, you hear so many odd additions, it makes your ears perk up. The use of Can and Lah are heard so much, I found myself starting responding with these two common colloquial words.

Spending time with my 2 nieces also introduced me to the concept of uncles and aunties. Hana's lessons in manners extended not just to immediate friends and family but to the uncle driving the taxicab and the auntie running the shop or taking our lunch order.

So I had a wonderful time, which included the tropical paradise that was our holiday within a holiday trip to Lomboc and the Qunci Villas. Many thanks for those kind visitors that allowed us to take their romantic getaway and add the joyful interruptions that only a friendly 3 year old can bring. I was lucky enough to get the best villa in the place (#8) with views of Bali for much of our stay there.

Trip highlights were spending time with Hyun Joo and getting to know her better. She is a great person and partner for Bill. Bill was busy working for chunks of my trip, so he missed out on tea parties and princess dancing. However I will be ever greatful for his introduction to the Zen of talcum powder. No way to get through this town without it.

Friday, September 10, 2004

100000 Mile-stone

Woo hoo! The old girl rolled over to 100,000 today. I was driving to the gym this evening and noticed that the numbers were dangerously close to 999,999 miles. I started speculating how far it would take to get to the gym. If the parking garage was more than 3 tenths of a mile in and out again. After working out, I managed to remember my quest. I pulled my digital camera out of my work bag to capture the moment for posterity. This brought me back to my childhood where we'd lean over the bench seat of the family station wagon to peer over to see the numbers roll over. For a new car the big numbers were 1000, 5000, 10,000 and so on. An older car hitting 100,000 was a landmark event and we'd drive around for miles so we wouldn't miss it. I will eventually add some of those pics for your viewing pleasure. In addition to the actual odometer reading, I'll toss in one with the great view I enjoyed as I cruised down the Embarcadero waiting for it to turn from 99,999 to 100,000. Mom and Dad would be proud to see the tradition is still alive and well.

Tuesday, June 8, 2004

Toronto Tunes

I was looking for cheap fares to Toronto. Still reeling from an actual vacation to Mexico, I am going to go and visit Toby in July once the dust settles at work. the last few times I'd been to Toronto it was cold and winter-like. We still got out and did things. I am looking forward to a place that is Summer in the summer-time. Pretty much like the time I went to visit Jerome, Anne and the kids in Minnesota one Christmas. I got that White Christmas I wanted and then some.

So back to Toronto. When West had moved there, we went to see Ron Hawkins, the former lead singer of Lowest of the Low, a rock band of local Toronto boys. Ron's got a great voice and I managed to get hooked on him even with his melancholic leanings. Well just to make my day, I went out to do a search for some background information and it appears the band is back together. Now don't be thinking I'm going to let this go to my head. I know my desire for more of their music didn't bring them back together. I know you just can't keep good music down. Now if only I can make a Ranch 1 restaurants appear here in San Francisco, like I could in New York. That would prove that I am indeed all powerful.

Even though most of their songs rock the house, this ballad Subversives, with it's catchy lyrics is still one of my favorites. Of course you can listen to more of their rowdier songs, many performed live on their audio page.

Happy Birthday Lili

Today is Lili's birthday. Last October in my music blog, Tune Talk, I wrote about how a favorite CD came to mark the events of my life at the time. I think we all have a couple of those albums, that we listened to until we wore the magnetic tape off the cassette or the grooves off the vinyl (not sure how to wear out a CD).

A few weeks ago I get an email from Lili, who stumbled across my little piece of the Internet and decided to write back. I don't have any grand thoughts that this site will do more than it's intended purpose - to keep my friends and family up to date, more or less, with what's going on in my world and head. So you could imagine my surprise to get this email from someone whose work I admired. It's been fun exchanging email and such and getting to know Lili.

While I do try to keep this space to telling my stories and letting others tell their own, I am especially pleased that Lili has started performing again. I am hoping to get some guest writers either here or in Tune Talk, to share their songs or their side of the story. Oooh just imagine the depths this little online journal could achieve. Okay okay, back to the story.

I always hope to be able to inspire people with my actions. When it comes to my words and rambling stories, I often assume that you are all just placating me when you post complimentary comments. You are all just nice that way.

Other than being inspirational, things around here have been quiet. I've mostly stopped whining about my allergies. I did hear that the wind was up to 40 mph which is a little crazy. I can only hope that it's always blowing me in the direction I am walking. I haven't seen crazy crosswind like this since I worked in Mid-town Manhattan. Actually I stand corrected. Once we thought it a good idea to walk a few blocks to dinner in Minneapolis in February. We had to stand next to the building to avoid being blown into oncoming traffic. Now that is crazy!

Tuesday, June 1, 2004

Too Much of a Good Thing

A few weeks ago I found myself wasting some time in the Powell St Shopping Plaza in Emeryville. Some stressed guy was debating jumping off the Bay Bridge and I was hoping to wait it out while getting a retail therapy fix. By the time I was done and with refrigerator food from Trader Joe's I attempted to leave the worst designed parking lot in the world. If you've ever been there you would agree. If not, just take my word, I'm really correct. In any case, I was heading out and encountered a group of three people deeply engaged in conversation. So deeply engaged that they didn't notice me behind them. For about 2 minutes. I wasn't in a rush, and was curious how long it would take to notice me if I didn't beep or make any noise. 2 minutes, 4 seconds. A lifetime really. In those 2 minutes and 4 seconds, I realized that it is in fact possible for intense focus to be a bad thing.

Many of us attempt to multitask on a regular basis with varying success. Chances are you are doing something else right now as you read this entry. If I focus on one thing at a time (writing distractions down on a list to get back to later) I can often accomplish more and with better results. When doing work that I dislike I will take on any task possible - a welcome distraction, but still a distraction from my primary task. But when I'm doing something I really enjoy, I get caught up in it and lose complete track of time.

If I'm working on a painting, things just happen, ideas just flow out of me and I am often more pleased with it than one I start and stop again and again. That flow is what I look forward to when I sit down to paint. Observing that same deeply engaged flow in the form of a conversation walking slowly down a parking lot is just damn annoying.

Now don't get me wrong, I love a good conversation but is it because they dragged me in on it inadvertently (for 2 minutes and 4 seconds) that makes it selfish and wrong? I mean there is no way for me to get that time back.

Okay, you all have been quiet. Engage me in conversation and tell me about times you've been focused to a fault. Was it good? Bad? Embarrassing?

Monday, May 17, 2004

Getting in touch with one's natural abilities

Sleeping, napping, catching a few Zs, these are a few of my favorite things. No, I'm not a narcoleptic, I just love to sleep. Without meaning to sound excessively boastful, I'm actually good at this too. I've been noticing that people seem to lose the ability to sleep well as they get older. I often worry that this will happen to me too and feel the need to sleep as much as possible. Crazy? I think not. Most mornings I wake up regretful that I can't fall back in my pillows and wrap myself in the still warm sheets to sleep some more. Even when I get a solid 8 hours of sleep and wake well rested, I love the sensations of lying in a warm bed.

Cancun was a magical vacation in that I was able to indulge in slumber-like activities for days at a time. Here's a typical day:

Wake up around 7 am to the bustle of Mom and Karen (up for hours before) looking to get lotion on hard to reach spots. Get up knowing that after a quick bathroom visit, lotioning and suiting up, I could grab a quick breakfast and be on the beach for my morning nap in no time. I brought 3 books but read only one. I typically lasted about 35-40 minutes before being lulled to sleep by the warm sun and mild breezes coming off the water. I'd wake up for a bio break and a snack only to return for the afternoon portion of the nap. If I found myself restless in the afternoon, I'd go workout until I was tired and get a small nap in before the cocktail hour. After an evening of activity, we would return to the room to read and then sleep some more. Interestingly I had no problem sleeping after all the naps I took early in the day. That's how good I am.

I do believe that we should do what we are good at, but do you think that perhaps I've taken this all too far? Leave a comment, I'm off to take a nap.

Sunday, April 18, 2004

Did anyone see where my March went?

I'm sorry but I seem to have misplaced the month of March. It's a large month in size, even though it seems smaller, must be the shortness of it's name. In any case, it's gone and while it wasn't my responsibility to keep an eye on it, I do feel badly that it's gotten away so easily. I know I was busy, more or less, the entire 31 days. Perhaps I was too busy. Nah, there were plenty of slack days there if I recall. Hmmm...so let's see, what did I do? Hey I feel a list coming on -
Things I did in March
• Volunteered to do taxes for working poor at work
• I saw some live music at the Mystic Theatre with Ruth (Keller Williams, Deborah Pardes and Dave Wilcox)
• Still working out with Esther 4-6 times a week
• Bought myself a Tivo (I'm in serious lust with this little box)
• Spent a bunch more money on the Miata in order to get a clean smog test (sorry y'all for spewing noxious gases into the environment for so long as my cataytic converter was void of anything that resembled a filtering baffle)
• Working like crazy (not like the old days, but pretty darn hard keeping track of my 11 minions, I mean, direct reports). I'm trying to develop a plan for myself to keep myself more organized and less easily distracted at work.

Ah nothing like a little list to see how busy or lazy you've been. Whatcha all been doing? Because you may have noticed that returning email or phone calls was not included in my busy list.

Thursday, February 26, 2004

Cell-free Zone

It's mid-week, halfway through the vacation, and I've completely lost track of days or dates. It's easy to settle in to an easy going routine. We did some snorkeling on Monday which was fun. I got a little burnt on my 'flounder side', y'know the pale back part of your body that never sees as much sun as the front side.

This evening after our regular cocktail hour we went out to do a little shopping. For the first time in days I heard a cell phone ring. I hadn't missed them really, but it was weird all the same. Living in an urban environment I hear cell phones all the time. Unless someone has a ring tone that is the same as mine I can filter the noise out. Something similar to a mother penguin and her baby. Even in the office, personal cell phones go off more than our work phones. It's an invasive aspect that I find annoying even though the convenience is undeniable.

I really do like the fact that I can do things without being tethered to my home waiting for calls. If I'm busy or with someone I don't have a problem turning off the phone and letting calls go to voicemail rather than interrupting my plans or company. I do get annoyed with the way that you get subjected to all the gory personal details of some random stranger because their appropriateness filter is broken and their phone rings. It's fascinating and horrifying. It's a lot like finding out your friends are the sort that like to talk while viewing movies in a theatre. You want to know why are they like this and how can they feel it's okay.

And while I'm hovering on this side of a rant, I thought I'd share a little rant by Foamy the Squirrel on low carb diets [click on the Fat-kins toon]. It's how I feel mostly about this. Go out and have a nice bagel with cream cheese and then just eat like a normal person with some sort of control over what you put in your mouth. And turn off your cell phone 'cause we don't want to hear it. Sheesh!

Sunday, February 22, 2004

Retro Mexico

[I've been back a while but this is an entry I wrote while on Vacation in Mexico. Isn't it nice to know that even blissed out in a tropical dream I was still thinking of you?]

I think it's Sunday. Saturday was a fuzz of sleepy ever blinking sights. It wasn't that cold in New York, even the ever breezy JFK airport, so I was able to slip through unscathed in my red-eyed zombie state. Mom and Karen had just checked in and were waiting for me as Dad dropped me off from one terminal to the next. This was a good plan as I was totally on auto-pilot. The thought of coffee sounded good. However I didn't take into account that my head thought it was 3am PT and it just made me chatty yet unfocused. Sorry guys!

I felt funky all day and managed to get in a short nap in the afternoon which did help. We had a low key evening, snacking at the cocktail hour, taking a short walk before heading back to the room and to sleep. The next day, today really, I felt so much better and well rested. We headed off for a day at the beach.

I suspect most beach days will be the same. So here are some images from over the top of my book - baby blue skies, clouds dotted here and there, more an accent color than a threat. The wind blows in from the Caribbean Sean so it's never too hot on the beach. The sea is inky black on the horizon but softens to a rich turquoise as it rolls in with white edges onto the soft, pale beach. The sand is so fine and soft as our the waves. Nothing like the cold and brisk Pacific waves at home. The beach is littered with sunbathers, round thatched umbrellas and seabirds looking for a snack. Those little buggers are aggressive and will quickly snatch a baggies of goldfish crackers or a hamburger bun from an unsuspecting child. My visual palette is filled with Yellow towels, blue and white chairs and bodies ranging from white, pink, red and brown wandering along the shoreline along with speed boats and their colorful para sails bobbing up and down the coast.

Friday, February 20, 2004

Like a Zombie

Wow, it's been a while since I've added something new for you all. Sadly, there isn't any horribly exciting reason for it. Just getting busy with life. I will be away for a week to vacation and relax in Cancun with my mom and cousin, Karen. Even though it's not the most direct route, I will be flying to New York on a red-eye this evening and then flying down to Mexico from there. It will be faster and will have me on the beach hours earlier than if I flew straight from home. Just the thought of a red-eye flight makes me tired. I will arrive at JFK like a zombie. Luckily I can catch a few more winks on the second leg of my trip, 'cause no one likes a cranky Steph.

This entry's song is a tribute to all zombies everywhere, but especially those in New York. Everytime I hear Zombie Jamboree by Rockapella I think about West sitting on the floor of my bedroom at the house on Delancey St and making a 5 volume Alphabet Soup. This one cheers me up and is one of my silly happy songs.

Sunday, February 1, 2004

Simple Things

I’m having problems reconciling my pleasure at seeing learning and growing experiences all over the place with the obvious marketing and product placement around them. For example, I’m sitting in a Starbucks sipping a grande non-fat chai latte. From my vantage point, a cushy micro-sueded blue wingback chair, I can expand my musical horizons to jazz, world music, and classic American music from the HEAR music rack. I can purchase and read both the local paper and the New York Times. If I don’t want to buy them, I can peruse people’s pre-read magazines and papers from the considerately placed paper basket. I can learn and buy dozens of coffee and teas as well as purchase coffee and tea making and drinking accessories. In a coffee shop years ago I would have been able to sit and get food and drink. If I wanted to buy something I’d go to a store. There was more separation.

Don’t get me wrong. There is a certain pleasure in sitting in a living room-like environment and kicking back with a drink with some friends. But knowing that every cozy little detail was engineered to facilitate parting me from my money is annoying and more than a little creepy. Sure, sure, I know I can avoid these places – and usually I do. But damn I keep getting sucked in by the comfy chairs that provide me with excellent people-watching perches. In addition, I can plug in my laptop and write journal entries for you. I’m working on using cafes as places to commit art (thanks to you and your generous art-related gifts). These are things I can’t get at home. Right now there are about a dozen or motorcycle dudes clad in tight leather body armor. The odd of them pulling up to my house to grab a coffee and hang out are slim.

I suppose that I’m sensitive to this because I am always looking for ways to expand my knowledge. Last Thursday I went with Esther and her posse to see the Diane Arbus exhibit at SFMOMA. I was fascinated and hopefully Esther was inspired. But it was all about the art and the artist. Yes, I know they have a museum store but it’s off to the side and they don’t have advertisements in the exhibit on where to purchase things in the gift shop. On a side note, if you go on Thursday evenings, you can get in for half-price from 6-9 pm. I know I'll be back there again, until the two times I was there when I worked a couple of doors down from the museum. You just need to make the time.

I was at my local library the evening before the museum trip (also refreshing void of shopping opportunities) and picked up a few videos, a couple of books on bonsai and the book The Well Educated Mind I found this book compelling since it’s premise is that you don’t need to sit in a classroom to learn something. It outlines how to read and even takes into account that most of us subsist on ‘fast food’ information derived from television, movies and magazines. It also provides a starting point of lists of classics along with my the author feels that this would expand us, her reader. I was please to see that I had read many of the authors. I know I still have a lot to learn, but it was nice to see that I wasn’t starting from scratch.

Sunday, January 25, 2004

Smells like snow

Sense memories are weird. They say non-visual memories like smell, touch and taste are stronger than sight. I agree, but often the non-visual memories throw me off a bit. Yesterday morning I was on my way to Esther’s after having met her, her mom and her cousin Ludi for Filipino breakfast. I had forgotten my wallet at my house. I blame it all on Esther for calling me in the middle of my getting ready routine, but that’s sad considering that I’m 37 and have been working on the morning routine for years now. On my way up and over to Mill Valley I decide that a cup of coffee would be ideal. I drove up 24th Street with the idea that I would stop at the first coffee shop that had parking right outside their door.

Today the lucky place was The Jelly Donut. I bought a regular coffee with that old style rip and flip top. As I walked back to my car, I sipped the coffee. The street was wet, although it wasn’t actually raining and the cars passing made a whooshing sound as they drove by. It was cold outside, cold by San Francisco standards, and it had that crisp clear smell of snow. I had this flashback to when I lived back East and it was the first sunny day after a snowy days. The water in the street looked like melted snow and the nip in the air made me feel like I was back home. The fact that I was drinking a regular coffee with no fancy milk or syrups and without a special sippy top or heat sleeve just added to that sensation. It was a little eerie and I stood outside my car for a minute to really revel in it all.

Today I slept in and went to check my mail and drop off some stuff in my storage space. I came so close to leaving empty-handed but decided at the very last moment that nothing goes better with cold weather than browsing old photos. So out comes a big box labeled 'photos'. It does fit in my trunk which allows me the opportunity to stop for a fancy coffee on the way home. I don't know about you, but nothing says procrastination like a big old box of envelope after envelope of photographs. Now keep in mind, I never actually said anything about organizing them, putting them into albums or anything of the sort. At this point it's just me and about 20 lbs of paper strolling down memory lane. As an added bonus, I am thinking that I will start posting a random photo from my past with each post. This entry's photo is from my last Winter in New York. Or maybe it was the one before. I actually wandered around the neighborhood with my camera taking pictures of the light dusting of snow. And this time it didn't just smell like snow it was snow.

Monday, January 19, 2004

Kidney in a Cooler and the jammin' touch

Every time I hear Kidney in a Cooler by Keller Williams I start tapping my feet and sing along with the words I manage to catch. This is on his Laugh CD and yes, he is being silly on purpose. His style is catchy and great to listen to when you need a musical pick-me-up. If you want to hear more, check out his website for links and places he is playing. they say he is great live. I'm just a little sad I missed his last stop in San Francisco.

As I was listening to his jamband sound, I thought back on the crushes I used to have had on musicians. Back when I was in high school I remember always having a weakness for dexterous musicians. Drummers for sure. Rhythm and the ability to keep one going always fascinated me. I was a jazz band groupie and in addition to the drummer, I typically had my eye on at least one horn player. You see there was both the hand work and the lips to play those intricate patterns. And I'm not alone. I still remember being floored when someone hit on me based primarily on the fact that I played french horn and he'd heard things about horn players. I'd never heard anything about them before but it certainly was in my thoughts afterwards.

If anyone was more promiscuous than I (and isn't afraid to admit it) and has some practical experience on the non-musical application of instrumental dexterity, please share. I'd love to know if it has any merit, because it's not too late to be a groupie, y'know. But do give Keller a listen to in the meantime.

Sunday, January 18, 2004

Life's Little Messages

Have you ever noticed how life sends you messages when you aren't paying attention to the right things? To be honest, I have been enjoying my three day weekend up until the point where I received my last message this evening. I was out running the errands I didn't get to yesterday, now referred to as loaf-around-in-your-pajamas day. I was impressed with my efficiency. I packed up the remaining bits of Christmas into my car to drive it down the hill to the storage place. I picked up my mail, then drove around the corner to the post office to drop off some netflix movies and a letter, then over to Safeway for something good to eat as well as deposit some checks in the ATM there. I got back to the car and decided to leave the top down as I drove over to Oakland to drop off some things with Tom and Di for their trip and then I went to IKEA.

I bought only what was on my list, pretty much a miracle for me really. I stashed most of it in the trunk and one box, a black Traktor stool for my desk in the passenger seat of my incredibly small car. Feeling proud of myself, I went out to the left to get a coffee at a new coffee shop on San Pablo. When I got there, they were already closed, so I went into the bakery across the way for a simplier drink in their less ambiant shop.

Knowing that I didn't have to get to sleep early, I bought a large and managed to overfill it. This didn't last long. As I carried it over to a table, the cup bent just enough to slosh really hot coffee over my right hand. I was planning on drinking coffee while working on a list of things I wanted to do later that evening, but I was too annoyed with myself to do this now. I put the top on the cup (a little late, I know, no need to nag, I'm already suffering) and went out to the car to head home. It was nice seeing how the old neighborhood has changed and the coffee was smelling good. I thought I would take a sip from my slightly less full cup of coffee before I got onto the highway.

Of course the light changed. They always change when you don't want them to, so I sipped gingerly as I started forward. I needed to turn soon so I went to put my cup into the cup-holder when the box, remember the Traktor chair sitting next to me?, decided to tilt toward me. I still had the cup in my hand, so I tapped it defensively to put it in it's place. Well the Swedish-designed chair thought differently and decided to come back at me again. Now this is a problem because I am going into the turn and need to make a quick decision. I decide to not run off the road nor veer into the lane to my left. The box sensing it's opportunity, takes out my coffee which flips into my lap. Did I mention that the sun was setting? Yes it was a beautiful sunset this evening. I watched it from the bakery. So now it's dark. Especially dark in the car, my coffee cup is somewhere in my lap and the damn box is still looking for more action. I find the cup which gracefully did a complete 180 onto my left thigh. As I pick it up, I feel the glug-glug of coffee now leaving the mouth part of the lid and pouring onto my leg. I quickly right the cup and deftly slip it into the cup holder to my right. I note that the coffee is less hot now so I'm not screaming in pain, but swearing at the box under my breath. I am still on the road and not causing any accidents, so I start punching the box. Being a dumb cardboard box, it keeps coming at me. Given the burn on that hand, I'm not hitting the box hard enough to do any damage. To the box that is. The metal stool inside knocks back in protest. I take a couple more swings at the box muttering something I believe was "stupid f-ing box" again and again until my hand hurts more from punching the box than from the coffee.

I start laughing at myself, because I realize how stupid this all is and how stupid I am acting. I pull at the bottom of the box so that it is wedged in such a way that only an act of god would cause it to fall anywhere near me. It's at this point that I realize that my ICKY, Pittsburgh, has been suspiciously quiet. Being a small turtle made of rubber, it's not like he ever has much to say, but his eyes, were they visible, would be saying, "tsk tsk tsk". So I listened to the little turtle's imaginary scolding, slowed down, turned up the radio and took it easy.

What's an ICKY? And why do I have one named Pittsburgh? Well, Mom read an article in Reader's Digest about ways to keep young drivers alive. She thought it had some good ideas including sending the four of us off with a friend named ICKY (Impatience Can Kill You). I don't remember my first one, but he was a serious fellow and did a fine job. My latest pal has been with me for quite a while. My sister bought him for me in a novelty shop in, you guessed it, Pittsburgh, PA. He's been my constant companion in my last 3 cars and has cruised from Maine to Florida and New York to California. Now I know he's small but he is my own personal Jiminy Cricket, my shotgun conscience. Given the sheer quantity of stupid people out on the roads you might want to consider getting one of your own. Stay safe people.

Saturday, January 10, 2004


I've been doing a lot of thinking about friendship. Over a big mug of coffee and a slice of pie at Cafe Flore I've managed to put some of these thought from the past couple of weeks into words.

Some people have a lot of friends and others have no friends. I, like most of us, have quite a few. The experiences I've had, the places I've lived and the jobs I've held account for the broad spectrum of friends I have. In addition to quantity, you need to take quality into account. Most of us have a larger pool of acquaintances and a smaller group of close friends. Acquaintances typically are former school mates, old roommates, ex-coworkers or friends of those people. Once your life shifts away from the key factor that caused these people to be fast friends, they fade back to being someone you miss and call when you are back in town. This is just the way it is. I seem to have this uncanny knack for holding onto these friendships longer. Sure distance can cause some problems, but I always assume that if you manage to connect with someone and they connect with you, it’s worth the trouble to keep in touch. In some way I feel like I’ve started pack ratting friends. I just can’t let go.

As I write this I realize that the majority of my readers are the very friends I’m talking about. In fact the primary reason why I started keeping this journal. So if you’re wondering if this feels awkward to me, yes, it does. But I’m willing to deal with the discomfort if you will. Of course you are all keepers. If you stumbled across this journal and want to be a keeper too, drop me a note and say hi.

Most of the time I find my relationships with my friends keep me sane and balanced. When I need to feel connected you’re there. And when I need to be alone and hermit-like for a while, you don’t give me a hard time about it. Okay, sure it helps that I stop answering the phone and let your email sit idle in my inbox, but you don’t seem to pout for an excessively long time and that’s cool. But where was I?

Oh yeah, sane and balanced. Recently I’ve been going through a rough time with a friend. We haven’t been friends long, just over a year. Honestly if we hadn’t been in the same place at the same time, I might have gone through life never knowing her. She’s showed me different ways to look at things and she dragged me out when I was down to watch the sunset, to play in the ever frigid Pacific waves, accompanied to interesting movies and added more than she took from my life. Until recently. She suffers from an awful condition and is unaware of how sick she is. I’ve done what I can to be a good friend to her. Even though it involved doing what I could to get her back into the hospital when she thought she was just fine. I’ve reached a point, a boundary if you will, to our friendship that leaves me sad, angry, disappointed and confused.

It’s made me realize that there are boundaries everywhere. Most of us never test them or even acknowledge them. I suppose I naively have been operating under the impression that there aren’t any. I don’t imagine that my personal revelation will change anything in my other relationships. It’s like the way you don’t push the accuracy of your gas gauge after you’ve run out of gas for the first time. And don’t even think about your dad’s voice in your head telling you to never go below ¼ of a tank because of all the crap sitting on the bottom of the tank that’s waiting for the opportunity to seize up your engine.

I’m feeling badly because I’m pulling back from a friend in need. I can’t help her the way she needs, nor can I do or say anything that perpetuated the illusion she is living in. So the best I can do is abandon her and force her to deal with her problems now. She's looking to me to help her, yet didn't think it was important to tell me that she's been hospitalized at least 2-3 times for the same thing. I’m disappointed in the way she blames her condition on everyone else and doesn’t seem to take any responsibility for her actions. I realize that she’s in denial about the whole situation and has been since her recent decline. I am beginning to understand the subtext of her stories and can read between some of the lines. Some of the people she’s demonized are likely good people and her lack of friends are just bridges burned from earlier relapses. The quirkiness of the old friends she still has make a lot more sense in the current context. I suspect it will take time to get over my overwhelming feeling of betrayal. But this does help me be more distant and selectively supportive.

I realize that I am not her ‘crash and burn’ friend, as much as she might wish I am. It’s the hardest thing that I’ve had to deal with in a long while. I know it’s changing me and I’ve trying really hard to take advantage of the pocket of wisdom I seem to be sitting in and do the right thing. Which of course isn’t the easy thing, ever.

The best part is that even with all the drama, I’ve had the support of a few of you. You’ve shared your experiences with me and things you did to get through the ugliness of it all. You gave me your support and strength and let me purge and vent to my heart’s content. Thank you.

I’ve learned that friendship is not free. It does come with a cost. I’ve lost time, money, piece of mind and precious sleep. But to me it’s worth the price. For those of you less convinced of the power of friendship, you’ll be happy to know that you get what you give. Put in more of yourself and you’ll get back even more. Invest less and you’ll find that free time you’d been looking for to clean out the back closet and organize your socks.

Sunday, January 4, 2004

Black Water

As most of you know, or have grown to realize, I have an eclectic taste in music. There are a lot of songs I've heard over the years. Black Water, by the Doobie Brothers has always been a favorite of mine. This song came out in 1974, when I was eight. I loved the way it was upbeat with great harmonies and it made me happy. It wasn't until I was older and bought the Best of Doobies album that I even figured out that Black Water was about the Mississippi River. I dare you to not sing along with them. I've been doing it as a kid, so I have and likely will never have any self-control.

I had a hard time picking my favorite Doobie song, but this one is. The whole CD is great driving music, and I highly recommend it for anyone. I've taken then from Massachusetts to Alabama and back. Then across the country from New York to California. Of course NASA had to one up me and the Doobies along with a bunch of other rock groups on the Pathfinder mission to Mars.

Tell me about your favorite road trip music.

Friday, January 2, 2004

I'm such a sucker

A sucker for slick marketing that is. Last Wednesday evening I was dropping off a Miata trunk-load of library books (that's about 30 plus my gym bag) when I spied the Potrero Market across the street. They had ice cream there and after the crazy day I'd just had, ice cream sounded perfect. So in I went. They carried some pretty slick looking products for a local corner store. First I was drawn to the ever cool, moderately sweetened elixir of Glaceau's vitamin water. Specifically stress-b and rescue sounded perfect. First dropping everything to come to the rescue of a ill friend, driving all over town and then back to pack up a 10x12 room can produce quite a bit of stress. Yeah, it's sugar water with witty labels, but it's better than a Coke.

So I grabbed the two bottles of water and wandered further into the store looking for some good junk food. Nothing was really appealing, so I grabbed a small container of Classico Basil Pesto for dinner (I use the empty containers as shake-jars for quickie protein shakes at the office. The cute little jars have measuring marks that are great once you get the garlic smell out) and cruised down the next aisle. I slowed as I cruised by the food wrap section in my everquest for freezer paper (another story for another entry). No luck so I was off to the ice cream cooler in the front of the store.

I was almost there, passing the coffee and tea section, when my eye was caught by these discreet white boxes with the word Bonkers on it. The O had a crazy curly-Q which is not what you think of when you think of tea. The names on the boxes didn't describe tea. With words like Naked, Virgin, Wet & Wild and Wired & Crazy, you're thinking what I was thinkin' - SEX. Sex teas? Okay now I like a good cuppa tea, but it's never gone that far. So of course I had to pick up a box. {sound of fishing reel casting} Yep, they got me to pick up the box.

So I read the box, then another one. Bonkers, not your grandmother's cup of tea. Whew, I should hope not, plus Oma was more a kaffee and kuchen grandmother, not the tea and crumpets sort. Okay, I know you want to know if I bought one. Yes, yes I did. And when I got home I drank my sugar water. But the next morning I put the kettle on and drank a cup. And it was pretty good too. I got wired & crazy. The tea. I wasn't wired and crazy, but I was awake and enjoyed the brew. I was curious about the company, Bonkers International, a local company in the East Bay. Not too much about them on their website, they are all mysterious now, but their tea is good and with their clever sex tea hook I'm sure they'll manage to get around to your neck of the woods.

So I was curious about how many other people were suckers for slick marketing schemes. It turns out that there are quite a few and some of them even talk about them in their journals.

Oh yeah, I completely forgot to get the ice cream. Doh!