This kind of book is right up my alley, alongside slice-of-life, almost-plotless foreign films. I ended up marking or Post-It-marking several quotes where I was saying (sometimes aloud) “Yes! Me too!”

“Bad news makes me unhappy but satisfies my paranoia.”

“When I am happy I’m afraid of dying, when I’m unhappy I’m afraid of not dying.”

“When something wonderful takes me by surprise, I try to reproduce the circumstances under which it occurred, in order to make it happen again, but that is confusing the thing with the grace of accident.” (I remember many times doing this as a kid, very deliberately. I do it a little less deliberately as an adult.)

“When I’m in a foreign country, I pay more attention to the norm than the exception.” (Yes! I love going to foreign supermarkets and riding public transportation in other countries. Here, not so much.)

“In foreign countries the street is an exhibition.”

“If I don’t like what I see I close my eyes, but if what I hear bothers me, I am unable to close my ears.” (Constant commuting lament.)

I probably could have annotated half the small book, but those jumped out at me. Oddly, while I love books like these, I also enjoy mysteries set in other countries. I only care in passing about the crime; it’s the foreign-country details that are described because it’s a mystery that I love.

I have a strange list of favorite books, clearly.


Gorgeous Sunday (Sorry, rest-of-America)

While most of the country is freezing and/or buried under snow, today was a lovely day in the Bay Area. A friend and I ventured to the Legion of Honor in San Francisco for the Anders Zorn exhibit, with a small Matisse show from the SFMOMA thrown in as a surprise.

After the Legion, we went to Baker Beach for a little while to enjoy the view and sunshine. It was the sort of day that I could have actually sunbathed, were I the sunbathing (and not the burning-just-thinking-of-the-sun) sort. Have some pictures! (Click to embiggen. They look a little washed-out in their smaller forms.)

The entrance to the Legion of Honor. A little taste of France for me.

The entrance to the Legion of Honor. A little taste of France for me.

Archway into the entrance courtyard at the Legion.

Archway into the entrance courtyard at the Legion.

Outside the courtyard, to the right.

Outside the courtyard, to the right.

Moving a bit to the left, you can see all the way over the City to the East Bay.

Moving a bit to the left, you can see all the way over the City to the East Bay.

To the left, the other lawn and the entrance to the Bay.

To the left, the other lawn and the entrance to the Bay.

Baker Beach, looking oceanward.

Baker Beach, looking oceanward.

Surf and frolicking people at the beach.

Surf and frolicking people at the beach.

The money shot.

The money shot.

Got home rather early, and spent the rest of the day knitting and reading. Back to work tomorrow… a full, holiday-less week that is going to be busy and not fun and all that, but hopefully I can whip up another weekend like this soon.


Yesterday was a lovely, perfect day. I woke up amazingly early for me — 8.45 — and spent the day reading (I finished Autoportrait, about which more another time), putting Post-Its in my new Christmas-gift cookbooks (What Katie Ate, Smitten Kitchen, and Homemade Winter), knitting, blocking finished knitting, watching a little tv, drinking tea, and watching my housemates be this relaxed:


comfy alexander

I also had some assistance with the blocking:


feline blocking assistance

It was pretty much my ideal day.

Almost Ready

Every year I get one brother-in-law a bottle of Crown Royal as his Christmas gift. It’s easy; I can get it at the grocery store any time. And yet it’s the last present I bought, today. Why did I let something so simple hang over my head?

In a few hours I will go to my friend C’s place for Christmas tea and gift exchange, and then we will go over to the Oakland Zoo for their Zoo Lights. Since I live in between her house and the zoo, I’ll drive and her husband will later come fetch her here. My house is not exactly presentable, but it will have to do. Coming home from work and being so tired all I do is have a sandwich and go to bed isn’t conducive to a lot of tidying up. Nothing is particularly dirty, just a bit of a mess. Alas.

I am also being stalked by a Shoe Demon. Several pairs of shoes have suddenly decided to develop holes or suddenly not fit. And I ordered a pair from Zappos I need to send back. My feet have always been wide but they seem to be in cahoots with the Shoe Demon and are becoming even wider over the instep, while remaining narrow at the heel. Damnit to hell.

Seriously, I don’t want to be one of those women who wear sneakers with everything. Or clunky orthopedic-esque shoes. In the spring and summer, sandals work. But if I want a closed-toe shoe I’m challenged. Feh.

Work has been… all right. No one has yelled at me yet, although I’ve had a couple of weird interactions. But so far, no one has driven me to tears. Watch this space. On the other hand, the exhaustion factor of being onstage all day sometimes means I’m in bed, lights out before nine pm. For someone who is a) not in grade school and b) a night person who is most happy after the sun has gone down, this is, shall we say, a bummer. Slowly, though, the nine pm nights are getting spaced out a bit. Monday nights are the worst, because it’s hard for me to go to bed super-early on Sunday, so by 5 pm Monday I am shattered.

And we only get one day off for Christmas. One of the few things I miss about my last job was having Christmas Eve off. Oh, for the lovely two weeks we had in grade/middle/high school and the month off during college!


Some coffee and reading now. Thank God for Saturdays.

Minor Ex Flail


With working in this new unit, I don’t get out of the office as quickly as I once did. So I have been getting a train home on the same line my ex-husband takes, assuming he still lives in the same city I last knew him to live in.

I basically keep my head in a book; I would be on the train before him, so he could see and avoid me. I give him the chance to do that by not gazing around the train.

Tonight I was sitting in the first row of seats, with the handicapped seats immediately in front of me, perpendicular against my knees. An older woman with a cane was sitting there until a couple of stops before mine. Then a guy sat down.

A little bit before my stop, I put my book away. And looked at the guy.


Unlike a couple of years ago, when I very definitely saw my ex on the platform, I’m not entirely sure about this guy. He was playing on his phone and did not look up (which is what my ex-husband did on the platform that other time). He was heavier than my ex, but I haven’t seen said ex close up in ten years. I was trying to see his earlobe, which would bear the faint scar of a piercing, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t see if he had a wedding ring on. I was thinking, “I think D’s nostrils flare a little more than that… but this guy can’t grow much facial hair, which would fit…his hand on his knee. Does that hand look familiar? Is it weird that I was married to someone and I’m having a hard time telling if this guy is him or not? If he were wearing shorts I’d see the scars [from his ill-fated adolescent jump into a river full of rocks], but no…”

His eyes, in profile, were exactly like my ex’s, which was enough to make me uneasy. I got up before the train stopped at my station and I did not look back.

It felt weird, both because I practically had my knees jammed up against a guy who may have once been my husband, and because I could not quite tell if it were him.

The one convincing argument that it wasn’t is that he sat down almost on my lap. I don’t look that different — heavier, but essentially the same. And I have red hair, glasses, and a way-too-big chest — people do tend to remember me, for better or worse.

Home safe now though. And only one more work day this week! Hallelujah!

Thursday on the Hillside

On my lazy Thursday off, for the first time in the year I’ve lived here (!), I took a book and walked up the hill to the little park we have in the development. Clicking to embiggen is recommended.

Puffy purple flowers on my walk uphill.

Puffy purple flowers on my walk uphill.

Blossoms and blackberries.

Blossoms and blackberries.

Close up.

Close up.

The park, to the left of my perch.

The park, to the left of my perch.

And to the right.

And to the right.

Later I moved to the other side of the green, with the earlier houses to my back, and looked up the side of the quarry.

Later I moved to the other side of the green, with the earlier houses to my back, and looked up the side of the quarry.

Walking down the stairway from the upper part of my street to the lower, where I live. In real life there was more constrast in the blue of the sky and the grey of the clouds.

Walking down the stairway from the upper part of my street to the lower, where I live. In real life there was more contrast in the blue of the sky and the grey of the clouds.

It ain’t Paris, but it’s home and I like it.

Panic Hangover

This last week was a roller coaster — started in Member Services, where I love my cozy, surrounded-on-three-sides cubicle and my coworkers are lovely, but I’m still terrified; then went to hear David Sedaris read in Marin (he was hilarious and touching); had a blissfully lazy Thursday off; back to work Friday where I sort of froze and didn’t do so well; got an affectionate text from someone I once sort of dated, meant for whomever he’s dating now, which was awkward; screwed up a lace scarf three times before I realized I just wasn’t ever going to enjoy this pattern; and then spent Saturday trying to catch up on NaNoWriMo.

This was problematic. I had chosen for my November writing a quasi-autobiographical thing, because I thought it would be the easiest to zoom through in thirty days. No research or anything. While that is true, I am also disliking the narrator (hi! that would be me!) and finding reliving some unpleasant things (yay! divorce!) kind of harrowing.

On top of that, I’ve been writing in the dining room, when I normally spend more time in my room or in the TV room, and so I am near the cats’ water dish. I don’t know if my older cat is drinking more than usual or if I just never knew how much either of them drank because I was rarely in here. Coupled with reading on another blog about the death of a much-beloved old cat, and the depression engendered by my NaNoWriMo project, I spent last night following my cat around and actually catnapping her and making her come upstairs to sleep with me. She’s fine, really, she’s just 11.

But I lay in bed last night with my heart pounding and my stomach aflutter with worried butterflies. And today I have a hangover from it.

And it’s Sunday, which is its own day of anxiety and dread. GOOD TIMES.

I’ve been making a concerted effort to read happier things online, to avoid all but the most important news, to surround myself with uplifting things, because between work and my natural tendency toward depression and anxiety, I certainly don’t need any help being downcast.

It works, to a certain extent. Any suggestions for fun, bright, intelligent reading material or other entertainment welcome.

Lighting Advent candles soon should help too. i just bought these gorgeous handrolled beeswax candles:


You can buy the sheets to roll them yourself, if you're the handy sort.

You can buy the sheets to roll them yourself, if you’re the handy sort.

Now I’m off to have coffee with the same ex-sort-of-boyfriend who mis-texted me the other day. At least there’s a latte in my future, no?

Tomorrow, back to work, where I am going to try to steel myself and do better. At least I get to be ensconced in this cozy corner:

No one can pop up behind me and startle me anymore.

No one can pop up behind me and startle me anymore.

And, as always, I start the day by getting there early and making a strong cup of coffee. Whatever bribery works, eh?

Craptastic Week

It is no secret that I am not driven by career ambition. I work to support myself because I am single and not possessed of an independent fortune. That’s the only reason.

I started working full time in 1990. From that year until April 2010, I was miserable. Sometimes I was acutely miserable. Sometimes I was vaguely miserable. There were short bouts of optimism (the four times I started new jobs and thought maybe this time I will like it!), bracketed by unhappiness.

When I started my current job, there was a rough patch during probation when I was worried things might not go well. But they did, and for three and a half years I have been … content. Seriously! It was a miracle, and I do not use that term lightly. I didn’t cry every day. I didn’t contemplate wild escape plans. I didn’t dread every waking weekday moment. It was glorious!

And then this week happened.

Unlike everywhere else I’ve ever worked (or heard of), my office does rotations. They periodically blow up everything and almost everyone changes into a different unit, regardless of their talents. If I ran the universe, people would be put where they’re good and left there to excel, but that’s not how it’s done.

I liked my quiet, very-little-interaction, routine job. I got rotated into Member Services. Strangers all day every day. They’re going to make me do presentations — me, who bribed my high school government teacher by offering to do two reports for every one everyone else did as long as I didn’t have to do oral reports; me, who speaks at lightning speed when she has to speak in public; me, the most introverted person anyone knows.

I cried throughout the entire department meeting and then sobbed in the bathroom for a half hour.

Later, I did talk to HR and to the Assistant Director and they’re being compassionate. My coworkers are being great. I am still sick to my stomach.

The flip side of this disastrous coin is that this, too, is temporary. Eighteen to thirty-six months and then, God willing, I will be rotated out of there, back into the back, away from the flood of strangers and public speaking.

The HR director, who is amazed that I can travel alone, asked the other day how I could do that if Member Services terrifies me. I told her that when you’re traveling, you are working within certain parameters. You know how airports work — SFO is different from Prague’s Ruzyne, yes, but they’re airports and they function essentially the same way. Cabs, hotels, museums, restaurants — all pretty standard. (Notice that I don’t go trekking through Nepal. I go to Europe.) Sure, there can be curve balls, but basically they’re within the limits you know and understand. When my luggage got lost, or when I got the 24-hour bug and was throwing up alone in Paris, then yes, I wanted someone with me. But even then, you know how it goes — luggage shows up eventually; you feel better eventually.

Also, in these cases, you’re the stranger someone else must assist. People will generally be nice to you, or at least neutral. In Member Services, though there are some parameters, I am not the person people need to be nice to. I’m the person who needs to be nice. I’m the person who needs to take it (to a certain extent) if people are nasty or difficult, when I shut down completely during confrontation. I either get furious or I want to cry, and in either case I am speechless.

The good part is that everyone is committed to making this as non-horrible as possible. I have awesome, awesome coworkers, for whom I am genuinely grateful. They were all deeply concerned and kind; no one was saying “Pfft! She needs to get the hell over it!” Thank God.

So that was my week of deep unhappiness. I fled Friday night and was so happy that this weekend is one hour longer than the usual. Now it’s Sunday. The rotation isn’t official until a week from Tuesday, when we get back from Veteran’s Day, but there will be transitional things this week. I am going to look into getting a better doctor at Kaiser so I can get better anti-anxiety meds, and otherwise I think I need to function on autopilot for a bit.

I did, however, write my NaNoWriMo quota last night.

I get one for every day I write my quota. I forgot to take one Friday so I had two yesterday.

I get one for every day I write my quota. I forgot to take one Friday so I had two yesterday.


I really did start (although I have had the worst week in many years — more on that another day — and was tempted to just say screw it). 1707 words for today, and I’m beat.

A few drinks were involved, because I sat there paralyzed by the blank screen and needed some kind of loosening/anesthetic to get me going.

Remind me that it’s a rough draft and it’s okay if it’s crappy, OK?

29 days to go!



Living Life on the Edge

Many years ago, when I was a bride, my beloved was making hamburgers for us to eat while watching baseball. I got out my brand-new mandoline to make french fries.

The guard slipped on the sticky moist potato and my right thumb came sliding down onto the blade. It didn’t actually hurt, but it bled like a fountain. I sat with it above my heart, wrapped in a towel, while we ate just the burgers and watched the game. No dice. Off to the ER…which was packed on a Saturday night in Berkeley. We decamped to the small hospital in my hometown, where they stopped it with magic gauze, and then a sadistic doctor who looked like she could have been in a movie about the USSR scrubbed at it with gauze dipped in disinfectant, which was the single most painful thing I’ve ever had happen to me. There may have been a very loud obscenity shouted. Then — then! — they gave me Novocaine.

In the end, no stitches, and I have no scar or loss of feeling; it really just made a flap of skin and took some of the tip of my nail. But my husband made me sell the mandoline on eBay.



So I’ve been divorced nine years this month and damnit, it’s time to have a mandoline again. (I was thinking this while slicing the radishes for the tartines the other week.) I did get a safety glove, and the guard on this one is much better than the one I had circa 1999. I haven’t used it yet, but I’m excited just to have one again.