Sunday, November 26, 2006

Hello from San Francisco

This will be a short entry since I am sitting at a computer in a cybercafe for which I am being charged $2 per 15 minutes. But just wanted to check in.

The picture to your left is of the Caffe Trieste, one of our favorite coffee shops in San Francisco. However, it is not the cybercafe, which is called Cup 'o Joe.

We had a great Thanksgiving dinner at our house. Our good friends E and M (names abbreviated to protect their innocence) came for dinner along with my mom and aunt, and DH's parents. I actually managed to get enough ready ahead of time that I got all the food ready simultaneously, and the turkey was done at the time I thought it would be done. That doesn't always happen for me.

E made homemade cranberry sauce and M made his signature dish, pot au feu (a type of French pudding or moussey thing) but with a Thanksgiving twist - it was pumpkin pie flavored. It was really good.

DH did a yeoman's job cleaning up the rest of the dining room (yes, we did most of it last Sunday and then he finished it up on Wednesday, which he took off). He also set the table and prepared hors d'ouevres and went to pick up my aunt and mother. He is a great husband.

Everyone left with a "care" package of turkey, stuffing, green beans, sweet potato casserole, and mashed potatoes, and E took home the carcass of the turkey to make soup at a later date. We did three loads of dishes and then got up the next day, packed, and took off for San Francisco.

Since arriving we have been enjoying our usual pursuits, walking around North Beach, going to the Saloon to hear our favorite band, Johnny Nitro and the Doorslammers, and generally eating a lot and drinking lots of latte and cappuccino. So far we still consider Caffe Trieste to have the best, although Mario's Bohemian Cigar Store Restaurant is a close second.

Today, sadly, it is raining, but we have managed to have a great time anyway. There's no such thing as a bad time in San Francisco. We took the F train to the Castro and had a great brunch at a little restaurant we'd eaten at before called "Welcome Home." Then we went to the Ferry Building and poked around the markets there all day before arriving here for afternoon beer (for DH) and tea for me.

Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving! More soon....

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Back to the grind

Monday we were supposed to get a new front storm/security door and of course when they finally showed up to install it after we waited for 6 weeks, it was backward. Yes, backward. The hinges were on the wrong side and the handle was on the other, equally wrong, side. DH had to send them away with instructions to reverse the door and bring back a new one. Lord knows how long this will take...

Yesterday I worked from 5 p.m. to midnight working on a "deck." A deck, for the uninitiated, is Big Corporation-speak for a Powerpoint presentation full of charts and commentary. I had to finish said deck by end of day so that it could be e-mailed out to LA in time for copies to be made for a meeting taking place on Wednesday.

I felt pretty good about it by the time it was done but exhausted. I am way too old for this kind of thing. "Why," you may ask, "were you working on it at the last minute?" I have an easy answer for that. Because it is mentally impossible for me to focus on any big project until I absolutely, positively, have to get it done. If there is even a day to spare, it is too much. I know I have "a whole day" to work on it. So I don't.

This is how I have always functioned and I've managed to make it to 53 without becoming a colossal failure, so it is unlikely I am ever going to change.

I spent my high school years ensconced in my little den typing up lab reports and research papers on my old manual typewriter at 2 a.m.

I spent my college years during the last week of the whole semester, pulling all-nighters and pounding out English papers directly onto the typewriter from my notes.

I even had devised a clever color-coding system for organizing my papers. I took the scribbly notes that I had taken when I did whatever research I had managed to do (how on earth did anyone do research before the Internet???) and I'd circle various sections of notes in different colors which signified whether it was the beginning, the middle, or the end, or if I was feeling more adventurous, different colors pertaining to different topics. It was my way of doing an outline, which of course was way too much planning for me.

Of course now it's all I can do to read my own writing, so when I take notes for the neighborhood association meetings or the park conservancy, or the Historic District Review Board (I'm on that too, did I mention that?) I take my laptop computer with me and take notes that way. Not only can I read them afterward but they're already typed up.

When I was cleaning out our old house, I found a lot of my notebooks from high school and college, and was amazed at how large, loopy and flow-y my handwriting was. You could actually read it. Years of typing into computers have totally atrophied my handwriting abilities. Now I make these illegible scribbles that are impossible to decipher even five minutes later.

Speaking of our old house, my mother has reported that the man from her church whom we had been working with to clean out the house had gone over there and finally removed the rest of the detritus that was strewn about, and gotten rid of any remaining unwanted furniture. He had even managed to sell my father's piano for $400, which he applied to the cost of the cleanout, bringing it down to a very manageable figure. Bless him, I never could have finished cleaning the place out myself.

I feel a little sad that my father's piano is going to strangers. I had hoped a friend would take it so I could visit it occasionally. We have our own piano and neither of us actually play it anyway so it didn't make sense for me to take it. But the piano always reminds me of my father since every night when I was growing up, after the news and the Johnny Carson monologue were over, he would sit down for about 15 minutes and just ramble through old songs he knew. He was an excellent pianist, but despite his early training in classical music, he really preferred to play old pop songs like "My Funny Valentine," "It Had to Be You," "My Restless Heart," or anything by Noel Coward. I hope the piano will find a good home and someone to appreciate it.

Now our last step is to turn the keys over to the bank and be done with it. It only took us 5 months to clear it out! A friend of mine at work's father passed away in April and somehow she and her sisters managed to clear out the entire house and sell it by June. I don't know they managed that but of course having 3 siblings helping probably made a difference. Large families do have their advantages, I guess. But I remind myself, I had my own room the whole time I grew up, so being raised as an only child also has its perks!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

We won!

"How sweet it is" as Jackie Gleason used to say. For once all the pre-election hype and the polls weren't wrong. People really ARE sick of this administration and really did throw the Republicans out. It doesn't get any better than this (except maybe if the Democrats won the Presidency).

Of course, now comes the hard part: Actually coming up with a plan to get out of Iraq and an agenda to really push. Most of the Democrats who won, simply won on the basis of Bush backlash. I haven't seen a clear plan presented by my party as to what they would do instead. But at least I know they will be supportive of choice, stem cell research, the environment, the middle class, and all the other things I support. So that's the main thing.

Having just one party in power in the House, Senate and Presidency is just too much power in one place, and as the old adage goes, "Absolute power corrupts absolutely." Now the system of checks and balances will be back in place where it belongs.

We had a good time last night watching the election returns with my mother. Yes, I'm a politics junkie. I'm not as bad as my 88-year-old mother though; she's the one who invited us over to watch the returns with her in the first place. She has C-Span or CNN on all day in her senior citizen apartment even on a normal day. So I picked up some Indian food at our favorite Indian restaurant and we chowed down on that while we watched CNN. It was pretty exciting to see the blue piling up inexorably until the House was taken.

And then to wake up this morning and hear that the Senate may have also gone to the Democrats was a pleasant surprise, followed by the even more pleasant news about Rumsfeld resigning. I think the tide is turning...

Hope you don't mind me going political on you but it's part of who I am! I am open to either party if the right person is running -- but the Republicans haven't been running anybody I could vote for for a very long time.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Alice's Picture

I had trouble posting her picture to the previous post so had to make it a separate post. Here is our girl in the park that last night.

Sunday Afternoon with Alice

It's been a quiet Sunday overall. We had a nice time having dinner at our friends' house last night and went to bed at our usual time and soon fell into dreamless sleep. Around 4:30 a.m. Dear Husband woke up, wide awake, due to the fact it was 7 p.m. in Adelaide. He reached out to me and started talking as if it was noon...Diva snored beneath the covers, the cat purred at my side, and I grumpily said "Go. Away. Now. It is 4:30 in the morning. I am not waking up right now."

He decided to vacate the bed and go downstairs. Diva and I went back to sleep until the respectable hour of 9 a.m. and our Sunday morning routine (newspapers, funnies, breakfast/coffee) began.

Now it is Sunday afternoon and it has gotten dark.

Sunday afternoons have always been a bit depressing to me, even back when I was a kid, when it meant school was the next day and whatever homework I had procrastinated about doing all weekend now had to be faced. I still feel that way now that I'm a grownup of 53 years old. I know work looms ahead of me the next morning and the fleeting minutes of the weekend are fleeting ever faster as dark approaches.

In my melancholy state I started to look at some pictures of our old dog Alice. She was a great dog. Because I didn't start this blog until well after her death, Diva is going to get all the attention and you'll never know about Alice if I don't tell you about her.

I first heard about Alice in 1995 from a neighbor who was good friends with a woman who ran the East Orange pound at the time. We had just lost our 20-year-old cat, Mathilda, in February of that year, and were bereft and pet-less. My neighbor told me about a dog that her friend had told her about. The dog had been found wandering the streets of East Orange, starving, with a broken pelvis. The East Orange Animal Control officer had picked her up and she had been taken to the vet and x-rayed and treated.

After a month of confinement in a cage to keep her from jumping around and lots of food and care, she was ready to find a home. The East Orange pound didn't actually adopt out dogs due to liability issues (they were too cheap to pay the insurance, I surmise) but some left through the "back door." So I told DH about this dog that needed a home. He was dubious about it but we had decided we might be better off getting a dog instead of a cat, since no cat could replace Mathilda, and both of us had had dogs when we were younger.

So we went to meet this dog. She was still very skinny, only 32 lbs., when we saw her, and still limped with one of her hind legs. When she saw us she came out of her cage wagging, and proceeded to roll on her back.

I had done my homework (not having had a dog since I was a kid I thought I'd better read up on it) and immediately recognized that she was showing her belly and being submissive. I was impressed. I will add that this was the one and only time she ever, ever, rolled on her back and showed us her belly in the 10 years we had her. I think she knew what she was doing.

We went home and thought about it and came back the next day and took her home. She smelled pretty bad so our first act was to stick her in the bathtub and give her a nice warm bath. Until the end of her life she always loved baths and we think it was because she associated a bath as being the first sign of being an owned dog. She also hated having her collar taken off, probably for the same reason - it meant she had a home.

The people at the pound had called her Ali, perhaps because she used her paws so much to ask for things. (She came knowing "paw" and "sit" so someone had owned her at one time). We wanted to name her something else but she seemed to know her name, so we came up with Alice, short for Alice Kramden.

In the ten years we had her, Alice learned over 100 words, she slept on our bed every night, and loved to go for walks or rides in the car. There are so many stories about her little habits that I actually wrote them all down after she died so I wouldn't forget them.

She would cock her head to one side whenever she thought she heard a word she understood. Once when we were watching TV and I said the word "scar" out loud she thought I said "car" and started jumping up and down so much that we had to go out in the rain and drive her around the block about 5 times before she was satisfied.

She loved our family and friends and was great with our friends' children. She defended us against anyone else, however, who wasn't invited into the house. She had a lifelong feud with the mailman, despite the fact that I repeatedly told her it was such a cliche' for a dog to hate the mailman!

Right before we realized she had cancer, we spent a week at Cape Cod with her and she had a really good time. But after we returned we noticed she was breathing too fast and hard. An X-ray showed the worst news possible...cancer throughout her lungs. She only lived 2 weeks after the diagnosis. Apparently it was a very aggressive form of cancer and the oncologist we took her to told us she probably only had it a couple of months.

The night before we had to take her to be put to sleep she had a wonderful time in her favorite park. She walked all the way around, barked at some dogs, and was happy. The next day she suddenly went downhill. But I was glad she had one last evening of enjoyment in her life. And although the suddenness of her illness was worse for us, at least she didn't linger long and suffer. I find comfort in knowing that she had a wonderful life after her sad beginning and that she was loved until the end.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Back to normal

Things have returned to normal. Diva and I drove to the airport bright and early (well not that early) to pick DH up. His plane actually came in 15 minutes early so by the time we got there I didn't have to park, I just had to go pick him up at the curb outside the luggage area. It's a beautiful crisp, cool autumn day - quite a difference from Adelaide, Australia, where it was starting to be summer and quite hot. But at least the sun is out. Diva was very glad to see her daddy and sat in his lap all the way home.

DH had a big surprise for me - he bought me opal earrings that match the opal ring we got for my birthday when we were in Australia in 1988. They are beautiful, and their fiery opalescence made me realize the ring's stone needs some polishing. I probably have been abusing it by washing my hands and wearing it every day for 18 years.

DH realized once he inspected the premises that I had been remiss in one area in his absence: I had not watered a single houseplant. I had looked at an African violet sitting on the windowsill above the sink for almost 3 weeks and it had not crossed my mind even once that it ought to be watered. I also ignored the ti plant in the cat's room upstairs, and the snake plant in the sunroom. This is why I do not have houseplants. My husband is the houseplant waterer. It was all I could do to keep the dog alive, let alone houseplants.

Now DH is taking an extended nap, since it is the middle of the night in Australia. Diva has been in and out and is now snoozing also. This was a good opportunity to work on my neighborhood association newsletter. I recently became the editor of the newsletter when my good friend and the former editor met the love of her life at age 54 and got married in July. She and her beloved (who happens to be my husband's best friend for 30 years, but that is another, longer story) have been in the process of selling their two houses and buying a house that belongs to "them" so they have been exceedingly busy. Thankfully they are still going to be living about 3 blocks away, just not technically in the same town anymore.

Needless to say, with all this going on in her life, my friend didn't have time to do this newsletter anymore, so I took it over. It isn't that hard to do now that I've gotten the hang of Ventura. The main issue is getting people to call up businesses and ask them to buy ads in the newsletter, which helps cover the cost of printing it.

I am one of those people who has many good intentions and says "yes" a lot. So I am on the board of trustees and am secretary of the local park conservancy, which is an offshoot of the neighborhood association; I am the secretary and editor of the newsletter for the neighborhood association; and somehow I got roped into being president of my Toastmasters Club that meets at work. A friend who no longer works at the Big Corporation had snared me into Toastmasters about four years ago, and I've enjoyed it as it has helped immensely in my ability to speak "off the cuff" without saying "uh" and "er" a hundred times. But each year a new person has to be president; presidents are not allowed to have consecutive terms for some reason. So no one wanted to be president this year and the former president coerced me until I said yes. The problem with always saying "yes" is you end up not doing anything really well.

Speaking of not doing anything really well, I think I'll go clean the dining, I still haven't started it.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Alone again, naturally...

Well, tonight was supposed to be the night my Dear Husband arrived home from his long business trip. Sadly, his plane from Australia was delayed by 4-1/2 hours (yes, 4-1/2) because it had a broken windshield!? (My mind immediately tries to imagine reasons a perfectly good airplane gets a broken hit a California Condor at 30,000 feet? Errant Pterodactyls? Meteorites?) Anyway, they fixed it and took off and made it to Los Angeles, where he originally had a 5-hour layover which he thought might be so long that he would be able to arrive early enough to get an earlier flight home. Ha! Of course not. Since it turned out to only be a half hour connection, he missed it because he had to go through customs and security all over again.

So, since he was flying First Class (the client was paying) the airline kindly put him up in a Hilton near the airport until he can catch his midnight flight out of LA, which has to go through Chicago, and he won't arrive home until 9:45 a.m. tomorrow. So, one more night on my own with the dog and cat...and my favorite TV station, Discovery Health. I think Mystery Diagnosis is on tonight...can't wait.

Today I did a good deed and took my 86-year-old aunt grocery shopping. I had taken a vacation day today just because I couldn't stand another day at the Big Corporation, plus I had a dentist appointment in the morning at 8:50 a.m. At least I thought I had. On my way to the dentist, late as always, I called to let them know I was running late, and the assistant told me she didn't have me down for an appointment! Luckily she was able to fit me in about an hour later so I just went then instead. So I had gotten up earlier than I had to on my day off, but no use crying over spilt milk.

After the dentist I headed over to my aunt's to take her shopping. She recently gave up driving her car because she had been having strange spells that her doctor decided must be TIA's (transient ischemic attacks - mini strokes that luckily have no permanent effects). This was very fortuitous in its own way (not the TIA's but her giving up driving) because my mother, who is nearly 88, had totaled her own car by running a red light about a month earlier and had no car. She received a payout from her insurance company and had been nagging me to take her to buy a new (used) car with it. I had been stalling because I wasn't so sure she should be driving at all, but she told me that she would stop driving "only when I pried the keys from her cold dead hand," so I kind of got the feeling that she would drive whether I wanted her to or not.

As it turned out, my aunt's stopping driving nicely dovetailed with my mother's situation so that my mother is now driving my aunt's car, and I don't have to take her car shopping, which "is a good thing," as Martha would say.

So my aunt and I headed off to the Clifton Mall to go to Staples (she wanted a file cabinet) and Stop 'n Shop. We arrived, parked in front of Staples, and went in and got the file cabinet she wanted. Of course it is heinously heavy and is in a knocked-down-flat state in a box, so I know DH has to come over to my aunt's and put it together for her, which he will be thrilled to do the day he gets back from Australia, I'm sure.

So we bring it out to the car and I manage to get it out of the cart and slide it into the trunk of the car, laying my keys down to do it, and talking to my aunt simultaneously (you see where this is going, don't you?). I then gave a sigh of relief once it was in the trunk, slammed down the trunk, and then we were about to go to the grocery store when I said to myself, "Hmmm, where did I put my keys?" After a few frantic moments I ascertained the keys were:

a) not in my hand
b) not in my pockets
c) not in my purse
d) not on the ground.

Nope, the keys were in the trunk of the car. I had managed to find the ONE WAY you can lock your keys in a Saab. You cannot leave them in the ignition and lock the doors. You have to lock the door with the key when you get out of the car. But, if you lay them down inside the trunk and close the trunk, it automatically locks. Now mind you, we could have this set so that it didn't automatically lock. But we don't.

I called Saab and asked them their advice. They said "Do you have Triple A?" I smiled proudly and said, "Yes, as a matter of fact, I do!" They said Triple A could help me. So I called AAA and they said they could indeed help me and they'd send somebody there in about half an hour.

So my aunt and I went into the Stop 'n Shop, did the shopping, and I came out just as she was finishing up and met the guy at the car and he managed to get into the car using a couple of wedgie things and something that looked like a really long coathanger that had been stretched out, and then we were able to get into the trunk from the inside of the car and get the keys.

So no harm was done, no vast expense was spent (I did tip the guy a hefty sum out of my gratitude but it was nothing compared to what it would have cost otherwise) and no cars were damaged in the process. All in all, a successful outing.

After stopping at my aunt's for some tea, I headed home and walked and fed the dog. It was shortly thereafter that DH called to let me know about his new arrival time. Hmmm, maybe that means I still have some time to do one or two of the things I said I would do while he was gone. Like maybe clean the dining room.