Thursday, September 28, 2006

Postcard from Atlanta: Ted and Jane Send Their Best

A couple of editors treated me to lunch today at Ted Turner's Montana Grill (where I had my first bison burger!), and who should be on their way out? TT himself, with ex Jane Fonda. I love Jane Fonda. And her little dog, too.

As she started to walk out the door of the restaurant, she turned to Ted behind her and said, "Ooh, they were seen together!" As the joint was half-filled with journalists, I'm sure this tidbit will be making the rounds.

In other news, I lost my rental car. Last night when I got here, I was exhausted. And as you know, I have been going through rental cars like bad dates recently, so I didn't really notice what I was driving or where I had parked it in the labyrinthine garage by the Hilton.

When I went to find it this a.m., I couldn't. So I took a cab to the AJC, which turned out to be within walking distance anyway.

When I returned this evening, I decided I was going to scour that garage until I found the damn thing -- turns out it is a Chevrolet HHR.

Just as I was about to give up hope, I began retracing my steps from last night back through an elevator that isn't even used by the hotel; it's in the adjacent Sun Trust building. And voila! A woman in the elevator told me I wasn't crazy; that in fact, where I parked my car isn't findable from the hotel side. Whew.

Oh, and one more thing. The 25th Annual South East Clown Convention is in town. Somehow, I imagine them all arriving in the same VW. How terrifying do you think it is for me to walk around this city, knowing that at any moment I might be accosted in a dark alley by a balloon animal?

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Ready or Not, Atlanta, Here I Come!

I'm sitting at a table in Perry's at San Francisco International Airport awaiting my flight to Atlanta, sipping some chardonnay. I love traveling -- you can basically slough off any responsibility by saying, "Oh, that's Wednesday? I'll be out of town. No, sorry, can't help you move this weekend, either."

Which is totally ridiculous when you think about it, as I've got a cell phone, a lap top with cool Verizon wireless card, access to my voicemail at work, etc. But shhhhh! This aura of being "unavailable" in our techno-world has a very short shelf life, so I'm going to enjoy it while I can.

And have I said how much I love hotels? I love hotels, especially when someone else is paying. I'll be at the Hilton, which has a roof lap track (destined to become a roof laugh track when people see me running), a pool and a fitness center. Hooray!

I'm really hoping to squeeze in a visit to the Margaret Mitchell house. Here's a piece of trivia: Do you know how she died? You'll never guess. She was hit by a cab. True story. I also hope to stop in at the old Oakland Cemetery, but we'll see.

Oh yeah, and then there's the REASON I'm in Atlanta, which is to visit the newspaper and observe how they do what I do to see if I can get any ideas.

OK, gotta sip up. Plane's here.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Who Is This Girl and Is She for Real? (God, I Hope So)

You may have noticed Stella hasn't been getting her groove online lately. Well, if you did, thank you.

I feel vaguely embarrassed about the reason, though I don't think I should be. You see, I've gone off the Paxil. (Hey, with mom dying, brother going to prison, husband leaving me, dad dying, cat dying, and siblings who won't speak to each other, I think I'm entitled to a bit of depression.)

The thing is, the withdrawal symptoms were incredibly cruel, and I am hoping that anyone who dabbles with this particular SSRI becomes educated about them. I thought I was crazy; I was enraged at everyone and everything, including myself; I had night sweats; I was constantly feverish; my skin tingled like I was being zapped by electrodes; my mind was muddled; I was dizzy; I couldn't finish thoughts; and I had the most disturbing dreams. All of this is par for the course, according to the research I did. Isn't that scary?

Then to top it off, I got the 48-hour flu on Friday. That's just how long it lasted, from my feverish self barfing outside my workplace til Saturday night when I woke up feeling groovy.

Through it all, I abandoned excess wine, all caffeine and began running. And you know what?


I have lost weight, I have energy coming out the wazoo, I don't even want to be in bed at all (alone, at least).

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Me and My Minivan (Not That There's Anything Wrong With That)

Today I went from driving this ...

to driving this:

(Not that there's anything wrong with that.)

Still, I'd like you to consider adding to the oxymorons of our world ("jumbo shrimp," "Dodge Ram," "friendly fire") the idea of a "minivan uprade."

First, there's nothing "mini" about a van. And if you're a single woman living in San Francisco, where space is at such a premium that someone literally got killed a few days ago in an argument over a parking spot, can you really consider it an "upgrade"?

Enterprise does.

You may be familiar with the injury sustained by my BMW Z3 convertible, whose driver-side door was backed into by a symphony-goer as it was sitting innocently, valet-parked, while I had a few drinks with my ex-husband a couple weeks ago. (Having a few drinks with my ex-husband strikes me as oxymoronic as well, or perhaps simply moronic?)

I took the car, christened "Zippy" by my friend V. from whom I bought it, into the auto body shop this morning, then walked a few blocks down to Enterprise to pick up a rental car.

There, I encountered a half-dozen people also waiting for cars, so I put my name in and told the manager I'd walk the few blocks to work and return on my way home.

I was getting ready to leave the office this afternoon when the call came: "Would it be OK if we upgraded you to a minivan?"

I laughed so hard I snorted. Actually, that's not all that rare, but still...

Several hours later, after navigating the mean streets of San Francisco, I am sitting here with a black Dodge Grand Caravan parked outside because it won't fit in my garage.

And tomorrow, I will drive it to work, feeling like I'm at the helm of a Muni bus, sitting high in my captain's chair and blasting music throughout the *two* empty back seats (and storage space!) -- music that minivan will remember from its youth but hasn't been able to enjoy for a while, with all the noisy kids it's had to chauffeur to soccer games.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

I'm Not Dead Yet! (But Where Is My Cane?)

A few things:

I spent today -- an unusually hot, clear, sunny day -- gardening in the back yard. There are few things more satisfying than making plants grow, I find.

I've learned to accept that I can't keep them all alive. Today's casualty was a small azalea bush I had planted when I first moved in, in honor of the azaleas my mom had planted all around the house where I grew up.

But you know what? This isn't Delaware. The azalea settled in to give it the old Blue Hen try, and even delivered a few promising buds. But in the end, the sandy soil and foggy air got the better of her, and she departed for that fragrant garden in the sky. Care of the Sunset Scavengers compost bin.

Another thing I've learned, however, is not to pronounce your plants dead at the scene too quickly.

My tomato plant, which appeared at first glance to have left for the heavenly farmers market, was hiding healthy vine behind dried brown leaves. Same with a small tree I thought had no chance, but is now bursting with new growth.

When it comes to plants, and perhaps even relationships, something that looks dead may just be waiting for some old-fashioned TLC.

On another subject, the following story was on the AP wire yesterday.

I don't know which is funnier, that the woman's name is E.Strogen, or that the AP reporter thinks phones were new and rare in the '60s.

Also notable is that the editor required the reporter to explain what "dialing" is. And this cat didn't do too great a job of it. A dial that "is moved with your finger" sounds more like a Ouija phone to me.

Finally, I strongly suspect that the granddaughters' "outrage" over the wasted $14k is more related to their interest in E.Strogen's will than her well-being. Maybe I should write her a letter suggesting she leave her estate to the phone company -- they've at least been paying attention to her for the past 42 years:

Widow Rented Rotary Phone for 42 Years

Canton, Ohio (AP) -- A widow rented a rotary dial telephone for 42 years, paying what her family calculates as more than $14,000 for a now outdated phone.

Ester Strogen, 82, of Canton, first leased two black rotary phones — the kind whose round dial is moved manually with your finger — in the 1960s. Back then, the technology was new and owning telephones was unaffordable for most people.

Until two months ago, Strogen was still paying AT&T to use the phones — $29.10 a month. Strogen's granddaughters, Melissa Howell and Barb Gordon, ended the arrangement when they discovered the bills.

"I'm outraged," Gordon said. "It made me so mad. It's ridiculous. If my own grandmother was doing it, how many other people are?"

New Jersey-based Lucent Technologies, a spinoff of AT&T that manages the residential leasing service, said customers were given the choice option to opt out of renting in 1985. The number of customers leasing phones dropped from 40 million nationwide to about 750,000 today, he said.

"We will continue to lease sets as long as there is a demand for them," Skalko said. Benefits of leasing include free replacements and the option of switching to newer models, he said. Gordon said she believes the majority of people leasing are elderly and may not realize they are paying thousands of dollars for a telephone.

Skalko said bills are clearly marked, and customers can quit their lease any time by returning their phones. Strogen says she's not a big fan of her new push-button phone. "I'd like to have my rotary back," she said. "I like that better."

Friday, September 15, 2006

'The Things You See When You Don't Have Your Gun'

I stole that quote from my brother, the one who recently dug up his dead dogs. Just FYI. He has nothing to do with this post.

I am so PMS today, and I am sorry to share that with you if you are the kind of person who gets all squeamish about women's issues. Deal. (Please.)

I am usually a pretty unflappable person. But for some reason, some things are really getting under my skin today. Namely:

1) The Gap's whoring of Audrey Hepburn to pimp their new (old) Skinny Black Pant in their commercials, and their advertisements of this fashion renaissance on the sides of Muni buses, the glimpses of which continue to remind me that while about four years ago, I was a perfect candidate for the Skinny Black Pant, I currently decidedly am not. I'm 39 for cripe's sake.

2) That the city of San Francisco has purchased new sidewalk-cleaning vehicles equipped with a feature that drives some of us at Fifth & Mission absolutely batty as it careens down the street with an incessant beep and recorded message reminding all the homeless people to get out of the way as it scrubs away the detritus of the city.

3) That my house happens to be THE spot at which the GPS system in the city's touristy GoCars announces, "At the stop sign, go straight, on Seal Rock Road" in five languages. OK, it's only one at a time but it is annoying as shit when you're trying to sleep on a Saturday morning. (I actually called them today, being in "rare form," and voiced my complaint. They told me to call on Monday when the illustrious inventor of the devil spawn cars returns. Oh, I will.)

4) My cat Stosh has taken to humping the purple couch pillow. Yes, even though he's neutered. I'll be trying to watch a show and he'll jump up, mount the pillow and go to town. Speaking of animal sex, you must check out the picture on Naynay's blog of exhibitionist squirrels. Truly disturbing.

As Joss Whedon used to end the Buffy the Vampire shows ... Grr! Arg!

P.S. As an aside, the Blogger spellchecker does not recognize the word "blog." Isn't that a hoot? It wants to change it to "bloc." Clearly, it's recovering from the Cold War neuroses of my own childhood.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Just a Girl, Sitting on a Dog House

Once, I had a dog.

He was very little. So was I.

He was a black dachshund named Stanley, and he wasn't really mine. He belonged to my brother.

I don't know how long we had him before he went to live on a farm (the dog, not my brother).

No, really, in this case (as I found out from big brother P. when we went back for my dad's final days last year), Stanley did go back from whence he had come.

On the back of this photo, my mother has written the year 1968, so I couldn't have been more than 1 when he came to live in our grassy back yard (the dog, not my brother).

If I have the story straight, P. bought Stanley using money from his paper route. Then he wasn't as responsible as my parents would have liked, so back Stanley went.

Strangely, I find Stanley often in my thoughts.

I post his picture now simply because I found it in one of my dad's old photo albums, and the same big brother P. has sweetly gifted me with a fine photo scanner for my birthday, and I can scan it in.

When my mom was alive, she told me that I would sit on top of Stanley's dog house for hours, talking and singing to him, and he appeared to pay attention. While Stanley was snippy with others (probably another reason my parents divested the family of him), he was unwaveringly gentle with me.

Without a word, my mom said, I would walk out the back door, through the screened-in porch, out to the dog house where I would scramble up and hold court.

My behavior as a girl reminds me of S., the girl who loves snails.

When her neighbors moved, they left behind an orange cat with a smushed-in face who was called Lucy until someone noticed it was a boy.

My friend T. -- her dad -- says S. will sit on their front porch for hours, cradling that cat like a baby and singing to it until she senses someone is watching.

But if T. moves out of her view, she resumes singing her 6-year-old's songs to a cat that no one wanted but her.

There Is Everything to Fear, Including Fear Itself

For the better part of my life, I have been a news reporter. Until I became an editor about six months ago, I most recently covered breaking news. Or, as my friends liked to call me, I was the Unfortunate Death Reporter.

People smushed by trains, buses, big-rigs; toddlers fallen down elevator shafts; decapitations; plane crashes; burned alive; you name it, I've written it. I use humor to distance myself from these victims, and to remain objective in my writing.

There have only been two times when I have cried over a story.

The first was when a lovely woman who lives in Merced went out for her morning walk with her best friend a few years ago and returned home to find that her ex-husband had shot to death her four children and then killed himself in her bedroom, holding the youngest girl to him.

I visited the mother a year after the crime and interviewed her in the home where she remained, because, she said, that's where they had made their memories. I used the bathroom outside of which her oldest daughter had surprised the ex-husband, where there was a hard-fought, bloody battle, and the girl got shot twice for her efforts.

I think of that woman a lot. And I think of what she told me at the time when I asked her how she could go on living, how was she to heal? She said that she had given herself a certain amount of time to regain some sense of pleasure in life, but she wouldn't reveal her deadline. If her life was still bleak when that time came, she said, she would end it. And, she said having that light at the end of the horror that was her life was a comfort to her.

The other time I cried was sitting in a darkened auditorium on the UC Berkeley campus shortly after Sept. 11 at Mark Bingham's memorial. He was killed when Flight 93 crashed in Shanksville; he has been one of the men credited with taking over the airplane from the hijackers.

This week, when Sept. 11 rolled around, I noticed how the city has changed since 9/11. There are no more flags. No more bumper stickers that read "God Bless America." And not enough viewers clicked on the 9/11 anniversary coverage on our Web site to place those stories even in the top 15. Readers were more interested in the death of Anna Nicole Smith's son.

And I started to think: what a laugh, that motto "We'll never forget." We've already forgotten.

Then I made my daily visits to my favorite blogs and found that many of you hadn't forgotten, and that heartened me. Of course, a lot of you are on the East Coast, and I think that makes a difference.

I remember my brother calling me that morning, telling me to turn on the TV, and the dawning realization that what had happened hadn't been an accident, and that there was more on the way. I called my friend Erica, who was crying. "Why are you crying?" I asked. "The people in those buildings," she said. It wasn't real yet, that those huge skyscrapers were filled with thousands of people.

Later in the day, the silence from the absence of airplanes in the sky became a noise itself.

I was the most scared I have been since I was a kid during the Cold War, and movies like The Day After fostered a consistent underlying feeling of doom. I remember dreams in which I would be walking home from the busstop in grade school and I would hear a noise, turn around and see a nuclear missile headed toward me, the sky already beginning to turn orange with the annihilation it carried onboard.

I called my father, who had served in World War II, and asked him if it was the end of the world. He assured me that it wasn't, and that it was the same fear people had felt when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.

What 9/11 and the Merced multiple murders triggered in me was a fear that had no respite; a fear that the most mundane of life's pleasures or chores -- taking a walk with a friend or flying out to see your family -- could be cloaked harbingers of death.

Recently, we've had two "talkers" of crime stories here in S.F.: In one, a man went to a popular park not too far from where I live, where hang gliders enjoy their sport, and shot two people, one pointblank in the head, for no apparent reason. When his gun jammed, he pulled out another and killed himself. One of the other men died.

In another incident, a man went on a hit-and-run spree, starting across the bay where he killed a man with his SUV, then came to S.F., where he injured 19 people. One of them, a woman, is paralyzed from the neck down.

A fellow editor at a meeting voiced his fear that we no longer could feel safe anywhere, and what kind of a world is that in which to bring up kids? When a visit to a park, a walk down the street, could turn deadly at any time?

It's terrifying, but it has a flip side. I think of all the times that kind of thing hasn't happened. That no one has struck me on my bicycle, or mugged me while I hiked. Things go right more than they go wrong in my life.

The evil in the world defines the good. And there's more of that than I usually take into account -- and more than I think I, and my recovering Cold War childhood neuroses, even deserve.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Just a Girl (In-)Action Figure: Wine Glass, Cat and Bed Sold Separately

I love sleeping. An action figure of me would really be an inaction figure, with accessories sold separately: bed, couch, book, wine glass, cat.

Last night, in the middle of the night, I awoke at 2 a.m. and snuggled into my covers, savoring the darkness, the quiet and the prospect of *five* more hours to sleep. What bliss!

Then I heard it: the soothing, plaintive cry of a fog horn. Perfect.

I hate getting up in the morning, but the noises of the building and the street -- and the insistence of my cat Vesper -- lull me into awareness bit by bit.

Cars start motoring by beneath my window; birds call.

The neighbor across the hall, a cop on the night shift, returns home, closing the front metal gate behind him. The girl upstairs, who works downtown, leaves shortly after he returns; the garage door opens.

My cat Vesper jumps on the bed and starts pawing my arm or whatever appendage he can locate.

My alarm sounds with the song "You Sexy Thing" from the Me, Myself and I soundtrack.

Yeah, I really can't complain.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Of Life Before the Web, Snow Days and AM Radio

(This is me and big sis D., who's holding Marcus Aurelius the Cat. We had a big box of snow attire in the basement, and I had to wear two of everything [hats, mittens, pants]. Before putting on my gloves and boots, Mom would slip old Wonder Bread bags onto each arm and leg to keep me dry.)

There is something soothing about AM radio.

I woke up this morning with WNRK, 1260 AM, out of Newark, Del., on my mind.

Before I was school age, and then during the summer, the radio in the kitchen was tuned to WNRK from the time Mom got up in the morning until she served dinner.

It's how I followed the Patty Hearst saga, never realizing that one day I would work for her family. ("I don't understand," I'd say to my mother. "I thought she was kidnapped. Why are the police going after her?")

It's where I heard that John Lennon had been shot and killed, and that Elvis had died.

But WNRK offered more than just news.

In the winter, it was the divine emissary of God that informed me of when my school was closed for a Snow Day (a phrase that deserves to be presented with glowing gold angels and glittering snowflakes around it, but constricted by my medium, I had to settle for simply capitalizing it here). The hallowed Snow Day, sadly unknown to my friends who grew up on the West Coast, was a glorious thing.

Sometimes, when God was feeling especially whimsical and philanthropic, he would deliver the news to WNRK the night before, and instead of sitting at the dining room table the next morning, already dressed in my blue-and-gray plaid Catholic school jumper, waiting for the list of schools to be read, I would remain snugly under the covers in bed, savoring a whole day ahead of playing in the snow, eating chicken noodle soup for lunch, drinking hot cocoa and creating homemade snowcones. (Making these required a bit of forethought: You had to remember to put out a bowl when it started snowing to collect enough clean snow that later could be doused with vanilla extract. Yum.)

It was during these Snow Days that I would enjoy another feature of WNRK: The Mindbender. The host would present a riddle or historical question and announce which number caller with the right answer would win a prize (come to think of it, the prizes often consisted of Omaha steak delivered to your door, so maybe it was sponsored. I'm glad I wasn't this jaded then).

I would excitedly ponder the riddle, or if it was a historical question, zip downstairs to the den where our hulking encyclopedia and World Book collection lived. I called many times with the right answer, but was never the chosen caller.

My mom was more lucky.

There was another gimmick the radio station used to keep listeners tuned in all day: The Shop 'N Bag game (I wish I could remember its formal name), by which at regular intervals, the host would announce a dollar figure. Mom kept track of these figures in pencil, in her neat handwriting, on a slip of yellow legal paper folded in half lengthwise on the refrigerator.

Every once in a while, WNRK would call someone and ask them if they knew the amount. It was always something wonky, like $37.18, so you couldn't guess it. You either knew it or you didn't. If you did, you won a gift certificate in that amount to the Shop 'N Bag grocery store. If you didn't, the host increased the amount. My mom won that game several times.

Then there was the precursor to CraigsList and eBay: Swap Shop, from 2-3 p.m., during which my mom would lie down to take her nap while keeping her ear out for deals on bicycles, desks, cars, furniture and other items that neighbors wanted to buy, trade, give away or sell.

I like to remember my mom that way: Lying on Dad's bed (they had twin beds) with her hands beneath her butt (that keeps them warm, she said), dozing in and out of sleep as the callers and host of Swap Shop kept up a constant, low chatter, as I lay on my side in her bed, the radio in between on the night table, watching her, unaware of how fleeting and precious this companionship would be, just resting there waiting for the afternoon mindbender.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Someone Hit My Car: An Omen?

I let the valet park my BMW convertible Z3 and entered the restaurant, immediately recognizing the back of M.'s head, talking to an older couple at a table. He introduced me -- old friends of his parents. I wondered, what must they think of us? Not knowing that, not only did I know M.'s parents, they had been my in-laws, and M. had been my husband ... I wouldn't be surprised if they had thought: Nice couple.

I laughed a lot. He laughed a lot. I drank a martini and two glasses of chardonnay. He had some gin drink and two glasses of bourbon, on the rocks.

We caught each other up to date with news of friends and family. I looked at him and tried to remember a time when he was "mine." I couldn't.

We talked of his girlfriend and her kids. I felt little.

Then we parted, dedicated ourselves to a renewed friendship, and I waited for my car.

And waited.

The valet parker finally came to tell me that someone "had hit" my car in the parking lot. I crumpled the $2 tip I was going to give him and stuffed it into my purse. I followed him to the lot and took from him the slip of envelope onto which the woman who had "tapped" my car had written her phone number. I called her; no answer. I left a message.

I waited for the valet supervisor. Finally, both the valet parker and the supervisor came to the lot, and said they had no responsibility for the accident, which was a deep gash in the driver's side door. I asked for my valet fee back. They gave me the $10.

When I got into my car, noticing the changes in the vents and the a/c-heat, the woman returned my call. She was apologetic. I'll call her insurance company tomorow. Meanwhile, I opened my glove box, and my BMW zippered case of manual, insurance card, etc., was unzippered. And the expired license that I keep in my car "just in case" was gone.

Clearly, I shouldn't have been where I was tonight. And though I'm glad that I stuck my neck out there and returned home with it, I'm not ready to play in that world.

I like my own, thank you very much.

Waiting for "Happy" Hour

It's 5:24, and I'm supposed to meet The Ex at 6:30, but everyone is telling me to be late, so that's what I'm going to do. We're meeting at Absinthe, if anyone out there is local and feels like lurking. I'll be the tall, blond, long-haired woman with a form-fitting black turtleneck through which you can see a hint of black bra, a long black skirt with a slit up the side, cowboy boots and pink purse.

He'll be the one with the lazy eye.

We will look like Eastern European brother and sister.

My lovely friends and sister are being so protective of me. If he's an ass tonight, I have people who can't wait to exact their revenge. With them waiting in the wings, I feel kind of like the woman in the Verizon commercial, with the "network" of people skulking behind pillars and following her around as she goes about her day.

Tonight, I've got The Network.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

My Top 10 List or Men Who Make Me Purr

Before M. and I got married back in '96, at my suggestion we put together our "lists." (This would have been too crass of an exercise for him to introduce. The man was a gentleman.)

That is, what top 10 celebrities do you want to grandfather in to your union just on the happenstance you meet them some day and fall into bed and you don't want to have to say, "Hey! I can't do this! What am I thinking? I'm married."

I remember being peeved at his inclusion of Alicia Silverstone (did I say gentleman? She's a child! I cried. That's sick!)

I remember some of the men I had on my list: Tom Petty, Bill Pullman, any of the Baldwins, Martin Sheen or any of his sons ...

With the start of the fall TV season -- and so many cuties on TV! -- I decided it was time to rewrite my list. In no particular order, here are the lucky gents:

1. Colin Firth
2. Rick Springfield
3. Julian McMahon
4. John Cusack
5. (Richard Gere removed 10/21) in favor of Keanu Reeves
6. David Boreanaz
7. (Tim Robbins removed 9/7) in favor of Harry Connick Jr.
8. Alec Baldwin
9. (Martin Sheen removed 9/7) in favor of Hugh Grant
10. I can't decide between Mark Wahlberg and Matt Dillon. Help?

Those who didn't make the cut, but whom I wouldn't kick out of bed for eating crackers:
Richard Gere
Martin Sheen
Bill Clinton
John McCain (no, he's not gross! I like older men.)
Michael Keaton
John Corbett
Johnny Depp
Crispin Glover (I don't think he'd be able to spend the night. I wouldn't trust him with my eyes closed)
John Travolta
John Irving
Christian Bale
Tim Robbins

So pony up, who are your dream lovahs?

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

What If People Purred? And Other Nonsense While Waiting for Nip/Tuck to Come On

My friend Shaken Mama and I have laughed in the past about the concept of people purring and not being able to help themselves, and the kind of trouble this autonomic reaction surely would get you in.

I was reminded of this recently when, for reasons too mundane to recount here, I came to be in possession of an organizational chart for my company that placed me ridiculously high in the ranks, especially factoring in the money I (don't) make, and that I'm, well, I'm just a girl in San Francisco. Come on, now.

There was only one level above me! Holy shit, I thought. I swear I almost purred.

I'd like to take the hypothetical a paw-step further, as inspired by my young cat Stosh.

Stosh gets so overcome with glee at the prospect of being fed in the morning, he can't control himself. While Vesper is waiting stoically, eyeing me warily from a strategic position near where I will place his bowl, Stosh romps with an imaginary toy or friend for a minute, and then collapses onto his back, rolling back and forth like some Biblical character that Jesus would have cured of the fits.

Recently, it's crossed my mind: What if humans not only purred, but succumbed to this behavior as well?

An imaginary office meeting:

Boss: "So, Stella, we need you to go to Chicago with Jim (dropdead gorgeous colleague for whom you've had the hots for years). And, uh, well, considering our budget, we were hoping you two wouldn't mind sharing a hotel room."

At which point Stella Haven collapses to the floor of the conference room, purring to beat the band, before bolting back to the newsroom and yowling like a cat in heat.

Surely, Tom Peters would think of a way to manage these instincts? One can only hope.

Meanwhile, I eagerly await tonight's premiere of Nip/Tuck, featuring my true-life obsession, Julian McMahon.


Monday, September 04, 2006

Why Can't We Be Friends? Why Can't We Be Friends ...

friend –noun
1. a person attached to another by feelings of affection or personal regard.
2. a person who gives assistance; patron; supporter: friends of the Boston Symphony.
3. a person who is on good terms with another; a person who is not hostile: Who goes there? Friend or foe?

My ex-husband e-mailed me to wish me a happy birthday. People ask me if we're friends, and if we keep in touch. It's not a simple question to answer.

I would say we are friendly, but up until recently, the idea of being friends with him hadn't crossed my mind as a possibility or a desire. As for keeping in touch, it's strange and sporadic. He e-mailed me when he wanted me to get him some reporter's notebooks. He didn't e-mail me when my father died. You see, the simple things are easy, you know what to say. In the second instance, he just didn't know what to say. I understand that now.

M. and I separated a little more than seven years ago. Add a few months to that, and you have the same amount of time we were together -- dating, breaking up, reuniting, engaging, marrying, divorcing. Maybe it takes being without someone the same amount of time you were with them in order to return to them in a different capacity.

I don't know.

Shortly after we broke up, he started dating L., a woman in his office. I've never been able to shake the idea that perhaps they hooked up before M. and I split. But I'll put that issue to the side for now, or my obsession with it will overtake this post and I'll get nowhere with the issue at hand.

The only reason I mention it is that she is divorced with three kids, and shortly after M. and I broke up, he said to me that he wished that someday he and I could be friends like L. and her ex are. I don't recall what dismissive reply I had to that, but it was akin to, "Only if it includes you letting me rip your heart out with my bare hands and force-feeding it to you, which I would tape so I could watch it again and again."

My reasoning had always been, here was someone who couldn't be trusted. (Did I mention I was his second wife?) He makes commitments and breaks them. How could I be friends with someone I didn't trust?

Recently, M. and I had been bandying about the idea of having a drink and catching up. In the e-mail he sent for my birthday, he said, "Let's get that drink before too long," so I offered some days. We settled tentatively on this Thursday. "I'm really looking forward to catching up with you," he wrote.

At the end of my first e-mail in that exchange, something compelled me to write, "I'd really like it if we could be friends." Then I realized that I meant it. He responded, "Yes, let's be friends."

All is fair in love and war, they say, and how could I blame him for leaving me if he didn't love me? Why would I want to be with a man who didn't love me?

After our break-up, I listened to this song a lot, "Baby, Don't You Break My Heart Slow," by Vonda Shepard, paying attention to the stanza:

I'd rather you be mean,
Than love and lie,
I'd rather hear the truth,
And have to say goodbye,
I'd rather take a blow,
At least then I would know,
But baby, don't you break my heart slow.

On the way home from what would be our last marriage therapy session, as we approached the toll booth for the Golden Gate Bridge, M. turned to me and said, "You're an old soul." I held back my tears and nodded, looking out the car window. I thought, I've survived my mother dying and my brother going to prison. There is no one in this world whom I can't live without.

I immediately wrote M. a check for half of all of our accounts, bought boxes from U-Haul and neatly packed and labeled his things, resisting the urge to tear up our wedding pictures and stuff pieces of them into all of his pants pockets. On the box holding his wedding tux, which he had purchased instead of rented because he is a fan of the opera and other fine things, I wrote, "Wedding tux: Clean and ready for re-use." I piled his things in the garage for him to pick up. It was I who filed for divorce.

I asked to keep three of his things: His old 35 mm camera, a red flannel shirt that his first wife had made him (I had developed an inexplicable attachment to that shirt, which I still wear. In my only conversation with first XW, who called me after our break-up, I think still looking for her own answers, she said she was happy that I had it), and the brown leather jacket M. was wearing when I first met him that I thought made him look so handsome. That, however, has since gone to Goodwill.

Seven years and countless tears, self-recriminations, therapy sessions, screwed-up relationships, dreams of revenge and more life-changing events later, I forgive him, if there is anything to forgive. And I thank him, for not breaking my heart slow, and for allowing me to fly on my own and become the person I am.

And I think just maybe, just maybe, I am ready to be his friend.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

I Dedicate This Post, to All the Boys I've Loved Before ...

Last night I dreamed about the man I consider to have been the first great love of my life: Rob, my college boyfriend. With him I learned love and happiness -- and jealousy and hurt.

I hope whatever force is behind this universe forgives me for what a shitty girlfriend I was. You name it, I did it. Roommates were involved. But he wasn't a saint either. Anyway.

I met him in January of my sophomore year, set up by my friend Vic, who was dating his roommate. When Rob and I discovered we shared a birthday, our bond was cemented: Clearly, we were meant to be.

Things were good for a long time -- too good, my deficient self-esteem told me. The first summer, I told him we should break up because I didn't deserve him. He wouldn't let me.

We drifted apart and back together again during senior year, and then he met another girl he would later marry. The last time I saw him was at my mother's funeral in 1990.

I've often thought of writing him a letter apologizing for all the crap I'd pulled, but friends agree that would be a selfish move.

In my dream last night, he and his family had moved to San Francisco, and for some reason invited me to visit. He had five really cute kids. During the visit, the wife became increasingly hostile toward me and, when I wanted to say goodbye to Rob, she wouldn't tell me where he was, so I left. But Rob followed me out and I led him away from their house and hugged him and kissed him and whispered in his ear, "I love you. I would do anything to be in your life again."

How many great loves are we allowed to fuck up, I wonder?

Saturday, September 02, 2006

To Mom and Dad on their 56th Wedding Anniversary

Fifty-six years ago today, my mom and dad were married. Sadly, they did not survive to see this day. I am posting some images to commemorate that fateful union, without which, I would not have seen the world ...

An invitation to the ceremony, at 9 a.m. My parents received a beautiful ceramic clock as a wedding present, and after it stopped working, my father set the time for 9 o'clock and sat it on the dining room hutch to remind him whenever he saw it.

Mom and Dad's baby pictures ...

And a picture of how I like to remember them together, Mom sitting outside, looking graceful, and my dad showing off his physique in his swim trunks (notice the plastic pool ID tag).

I miss you!

Friday, September 01, 2006

The Highlights of Turning 39 for the First Time

I say "for the first time," as I plan to follow Jack Benny's lead and remain 39 for the next 40 years...

Am I the only one who thinks that maybe, just maybe, something magical will happen on my birthday? Even though I know it's going to be just another day at work? Well, nothing did. But I had a pleasant birthday, with some particular highlights.

My old boyfriend Tony (the one who invented "Stella Haven") took me to Le Central for dinner on my birthday eve, followed by drinks at John's Grill, both old San Francisco establishments. Le Central has a booth in the front window where storied columnist Herb Caen, clothier Wilkes Bashford and former Mayor Wille Brown used to eat. John's Grill is notable for having been mentioned by Dashiell Hammett in The Maltese Falcon. (The bartender told me they used to sell faux falcons for $39.95, but no more.) Tony dropped a lot of dough and was very sweet about humoring me and my various neuroses, then packed me off in a pre-paid cab at the end of the night.

Thence, having to take the bus to work the following day, I found that someone had abandoned two boxes of kitchen stuff and plastic toys at the bus stop. I had just enough time before the bus came to salvage a big plastic red "S" with a picture of Snuffleupagus -- my favorite Sesame Street character -- on it.

When I got to work, the couple at the coffee shop downstairs treated me to my drink, and my friend Suzanne gifted me with a whimsical feathered ceramic shoe bank.

Another colleague (and old flame!) stepped up with a box of Godiva chocolates. My former boss, who last year forgot to wish my a Happy Birthday, this year also wouldn't give me the satisfaction of voicing the sentiment, but occasionally broke into whistling the song under his breath. (Love him.)

For lunch I gave in to one of my guilty food pleasures and got McDonald's, and I followed that feat up when I got home by having chardonnay and Haagen Dazs chocolate-chip-cookie-dough ice cream for dinner.

I talked for over an hour to my best friend from childhood, M., who also sang the Happy Birthday song into my work voicemail, followed by the question, "Are you crying now?" M. has two gorgeous kids, Lyrissa and Nicholas, a 17-month-old handful. "You know how parents will say, 'My kid was hanging from the chandelier?'" she asked me. "Well, the other day, I came downstairs, and Nicholas was hanging from the chandelier in the dining room."

Big brother P. called and sent new Colorado quarters for me and Shaken Mama (ironic, isn't it, to be receiving coins from a convicted bank robber?) and an audio birthday card that sounds a fire siren when you open it up to a picture of a cake with hundreds of candles on it. Big sis D. called. The other three siblings were MIA, which was expected but sad. But not sad enough to ruin my day.

And as their contribution, my two cats did not pee on anything, or throw up.

Ah, birthdays!