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!