Archive for March, 2005

pig, pig

Hayao Miyazaki was shocked when a woman told him her kids watch his movies every day. Miyazaki said they should be rationed, to maybe once a year. Does Miyazaki know any toddlers? I think not.

Right now Claire is deeply engaged in a close reading of Porco Rosso, probably his best film. She asks for it daily (“Pig, Pig!”) and gets more out of it each time round (“Pig sleeping. Phone, ring ring! Pig on phone!”) She seems to identify with Porco, much more so than with any of the little girls in the other Studio Ghibli films. I guess being the toughest two-year-old at the Day Street playground is a lot like being a bounty-hunter.

I am diverting myself by planning a trip to Japan for the sole purpose of visiting the Ghibli Museum. I dreamed last night that we all stayed in a ryokan.

counting with claire

“One, two, three, four, five, six, other eight, eight.”

and how was YOUR day?

Last night we came back very late from a visit to the Murgisteads. Contrary to her mother’s fondest hopes, Claire had not fallen asleep in the car. Instead she bounced up the stairs, only to be overcome with joy at the sight of her paternal unit.

“Daddy daddy daddy!” she sang. “Claire Mummy Salome Jack Daisy Belinda PIZZA!”

distilled essence of twoness

She’s in the back seat of the car. We’re coming home from dinner at the Moores’.

C (sweetly): Mummy?

R (doting): Yes, my heart?


R: I see.


R: Okay then.


J: I believe you’re in the poo.

R: So I hear.


Short, expectant pause.

C (sweetly): Mummy?

R: Oh no, you don’t.

Right now her hobbies include: Eating Mummy’s Food Then Spitting It Out Into Mummy’s Hand, Pulling The Tail Of The Incredibly Patient Cat and Jumping Up And Down On Mummy’s Head. Fortunately she’s still the most ridiculously beautiful thing I’ve laid eyes on, like a circus-raised sidekick with her golden hair and full red lips and wide star-sapphire eyes.

I wonder how parents who aren’t crazy in love with the little beasts survive the appalling twos?

Bebe, somewhat less enamoured, has moved into the closet.

she dreams in colour she dreams in red

It’s a miserable rainy day in San Francisco. I’m tired and a bit poorly. We’re driving to swim class. Claire, in the back seat, starts laughing her head off.

“What?” I growl.

“BLUE!” she sings. “Purple, green, red, yellow, ORANGE!”

She’s right: the rain on peoples’ sprayjackets, the neon lights in shop windows, all these saturated colours against the grey day.

Claire is nuts about her swim teacher, John. She’d swim every day if she could. Most days we wake up to: “John?” “Not today, honey, but soon.” On Fridays, though, she asks: “John?” and I say, “Yep.”

All the way to the JCCSF she sings “John! John! John!”

The whole time we’re in the lockers: “Jo-ohn! Jo-ohn!”

And then we’re in the pool, and she sees him! Oh, the humanity!


“She likes you,” I observe lamely, as she launches herself into his arms.

Later she gets all afterglowy. Salome called, and I started to tell her about this, Claire’s First Crush, then I said “No, she can tell you herself,” and put Claire on the phone.

“John,” said Claire dreamily. “John.”


J: You’re going to have to move all those wireless antennas.

Jack (proudly): I have one watt!

R: One what?

Jack: One watt of wireless.

R: What?

S: She’s trying to be funny.

Jack: OH! Oh, I can never tell when she’s all dry like that.


R: I walked to Cortland a different way. I went up Eugenia and down Andover.

J: Which one’s Andover?

R: It’s the one that goes up and over. Thank you, I was working on that exact joke.

J: Just never gets old for you, does it?

R: What? What?

claire, child autodidact

“Can you see the letter A?”

(pointing at A) “A! A! A!”

“Awesome! Can you see an I?”

(pointing at eye) “Eye, eye.”

“Well, yes, you got me there. Can you see the letter U?”

(tracing outline of U, grinning maniacally) “Happy! Happy!”

feeling maggotty

Finding out more and more about the way St Davids protected multiple sexual abusers, the word I keep wanting to use is “maggotty”. You see an animal beside the road, you think it’s still alive but it’s just the maggots heaving that make it seem like it’s breathing.

Then I feel guilty, because maggots leave clean bones, whereas all Vic Cole did with his life was tell lies and make people suffer. He hurt everyone, not just the children he had sex with. I think he’s probably the worst man I’ve ever met, edging out an IRA bomber who at least had the grace to eventually disavow violence.

Still, the maggottiness is real, and it is repulsive. I think it’s what stopped people telling the truth at the time. These godawful things had happened, rapes and incest, but everyone hoped they could just bandage it over and forget about the festering wounds.

Gross as they are, maggots in a wound are a good thing. They pick off the dead meat and let the living flesh heal.

god almighty

If only, if only there had been a Wikipedia back when I was a Sydney Anglican.

I remember saying to Christchurch’s Austin Day, rest his soul, that growing up in St Davids Forestville was like growing up in a church made of Tupperware, hermetically sealed from all history that took place between the Acts of the Apostles and the Billy Graham Crusades. He was very tickled: “Hermetically sealed. Funny little thing!” Here at last is the missing context that took me, I’m not joking, about ten years to piece together on my own.

Note especially: “Sydney Anglicans have often been described as Fundamentalist and sect-like by its opponents, but these terms are unhelpful in describing the differences. Fundamentalism, while taking the Bible at face value, has always been anti-intellectual. By contrast, Sydney Anglicans are encouraged to study and use their intellect so long as they continue to hold on to the central truths of the Evangelical faith.”

Yeah, so not anti-intellectual at all. I’m glad we got that cleared up.

I’d like to wind this up with something sardonic, but I’m dust and ashes. People who say that nothing is ever wasted didn’t grow up in my old church.


Reading Jane Jacobs’ Death and Life of Great American Cities and feeling humble and grateful, again. San Francisco really is remarkable, and not only for the oligarchic Pacific Union Clubbers and habitues of Bohemian Grove. Jacobs talks a lot about what makes neighborhoods work – a mix of businesses that draw people throughout the day and into the evening, for example.

As I read I found myself thinking, not of Cortland Avenue, which is what you tend to think of when you think of Bernal as a neighborhood, but of my stretch of Mission. Cortland still has some gems: the library and playground, Wild Side West; but it’s gentrifying fast. I really love Chloe’s Closet and Liberty Cafe, but some of the newer places… eh, not so much. Quinn and I took the toddlers to a yuppie restaurant there this evening, and got some glares that made my skin melt off my bones. I get it, I really do, and I hate it when other people’s hyperactive kids put me off my potato and leek filo, but I’m a city girl; eating at home every night makes baby Rachel cry.

Mission between Cesar Chavez and Cortland is another matter altogether. No fairy lights on the trees, no expensive boutiques or vegan ice cream stores, just a manky Walgreens and Safeway, the estimable Cole Hardware, several dozen hole-in-the-wall restaurants representing a substantial fraction of the United Nations (Indian, Cambodian, Thai, Cantonese, Honduran, Nicaraguan, Salvadorean, Peruvian), more nail salons than you’d believe possible (Cortland has them too, now that I mention it), too much traffic, too many buses, dirt and noise.

I love it. More to the point, it loves Claire. I can take her to eat at Angkor Borei, Fortune Cookie or Mi Lindo Peru and not only the proprietors but the other customers will give a very creditable impression of being pleased to see us and amused rather than appalled by Claire’s antics. The food’s fantastic, too. I can catch any three of the five buses and be at work in fifteen minutes. We can take Muni to Dolores Park or the Ferry Building Farmer’s Market. I can pick up my meds, Claire’s bubble bath, organic raisins and three bottles of Martinelli’s and be home in little more than an ad break.

How incredibly scary, then, to reflect that if the good citizens of SF had lost the Freeway Revolt back in the 1950s and 60s, my stretch of Mission would be a freeway. My house, 98 years old, probably wouldn’t be here at all. My neighborhood would have all the charm of SF General or the Dogpatch – pockets of Victorians cut off from real urbanity by concrete, steel and blight.

(Sydney had its own practical experiment in this when it undergrounded the through traffic up and down Bourke Street. The decaying terraces suddenly became hot property when they were no longer caked with black crap. It’s a shame the need to save money prevented a proper tunnel under South Dowling Street, where pedestrian bridges and a big box mall don’t entirely solve the problem of Redfern being cut off from Moore Park and Fox Studios.)

Back to California: thank you, unknown heroes. Thank you for the Panhandle, for Ocean Boulevard, for my beloved stretch of darkest Mission, for Polk all the way up the Tenderloin. Thank you for the Embarcadero and for Octavia Boulevard. Thank you, quite seriously, for San Francisco’s painful traffic and parking situation, and for the fact that it can take forty minutes to drive the seven miles from the GG Bridge to my house. It’s totally worth it. Unusually in the world, almost unheard-of in the United States, this is still a city for people, for pedestrians, and not for cars.

claire, child physicist

So it turns out that matter – say for example, doll house furniture – when subjected to extremely high energy, decomposes into particles.

We call these particles, choking hazards.

we weren’t even that drunk

Quinn: Should I tell her my pregnancy joke?

R: Absolutely.

Q: How do you stop a pregnant woman?

Shannon: I don’t know, how?

Q: Punch her in the stomach.

S falls over laughing.

R: Jeremy thought it was terrible…

J: …not in the very best of taste…

R: …but he’s the one who came up with ‘Miss Congenitality: Armed and Legless’.


Nat: …and he called me in to say, ‘Look Daddy, I made a bridge grogan!’

Bryan: You told us that one last time.

N: I did?

B: Yeah, and then Rachel used it as a character name in her Nanowrimo novel.

N: You did?

R: He’s an ex-Morman CEO. He’s dating the porn star Tacoma Narrows.

N: I can’t believe it happened that long ago. I’m getting old! I’m repeating myself! I’m sorry!

B: Don’t worry about it. It’s water under the bridge grogan…

R: There’s my blog post.

N: I have to mail that to my dad…