Archive for June, 2005
…because thanks to her championship, Elizabeth Goudge’s The Little White Horse is back in print, including this nutshell encapsulation of my child-rearing beliefs:
“…Miss Heliotrope caring now not two hoots whether Maria liked her or not, if only she could make of the child a fine and noble woman.”
I am actually looking forward to Half-Blood Prince, if only to witness the ramifications in slashland.
Jeremy took me to see Howl’s Moving Castle last night. It looks sensational, of course, but the plot is incoherent. Apparently my newfound love for Diana Wynne Jones trumps even my longstanding passion for Miyazaki! The book of Howl is amazing, and highly recommended. The film is probably best for Miyazaki completists; that said, nothing will ever knock Totoro and Spirited off my list of favourite films of all time.
Other good things: I prayed to Epona, goddess of horses, last night, and she gave me a parking spot that’s good till Friday at noon!
Oh, and stone fruit! Have you tasted the nectarines this year? Wow!
The Columbia River delta
Was shining like the back end of a deer
I am following the river down the highway
To the cradle of microbeer
I’m going to Portland, Portland, northern Oregon, I’m going to Portland
Powells and poly kids have families and we are going to Portland.
My travelling companion is two years old
She’s the child of my first marriage.
I’ve reason to believe we both will be received in Portland.
How much Portland can you pack into one 36-hour trip? We had breakfast at Old Wives’ Tale, visited Shannon and Heather in the south-east, rode Cricket the appaloosa and Dinah the paint horse at Penny’s farm, oohed and ahed at Multnomah Falls in the Columbia Gorge, lunched at Burgerville and splashed in the water fountain in the Pearl District. I passed out in front of Princess Mononoke before Quinn could drag me off to a fiftieth birthday party for a Flying Karamazov Brother. I did make it to Powells, though only on a technicality: there’s a branch in the airport mall, where I bought stickers for the flight home.
Portland was clean and green and beautiful and even sunshiney, exactly the sort of city we bleeding-heart liberals would plan and build if we could; perversely, and no doubt to Quinn’s chagrin, it’s made me love dirty old Fogtown better than ever.
Claire turned two and a half years old yesterday, and I love her more than I could ever possibly have imagined. As for example when we were getting off the plane this morning, and she said “Goodbye man! Goodbye lady! Goodbye people!”
Recheng: Thank GOODNESS THE KID DOES NOT HAVE to live with the NAME SAM.
Kirsty: Yay! How are you?
R: I’m pregnant!
R: I’m five months pregnant!
K: Oh I knew that. I thought you said you were fragrant!
R: Yes! I’m five months fragrant!
K: You should have a bath!
She looks perfect – four-chambered heart, two-hemisphered brain, fingers, toes, even lenses in her eyes.
Spare a thought for Jeremy, trapped in his houseful of women.
J: What wouldn’t Eris do?
R: I dreamed we were in a huge cave, like a cross between Jenolan Caves and the River Caves ride at Luna Park.
J: Don’t remember that one.
R: I think they closed it down after the Ghost Train fire. Anyway, we were there with Jack and Salome and Milo and Danny and Quinn and Ada, all paddling around in cave boats, when a news bulletin came out. A woman had been kidnapped in San Francisco. It was my old English teacher, June Frater. The kidnappers sent a photo with a glimpse out the window of the place where she was being held. So I called Seth and asked him to post it to Guess Where SF.
R: Huh? I thought that was pretty ingenious of my dream self…
After driving around Bernal for forty minutes in search of parking, Quinn pulled up to the spot we were minding for her only to find a Pontiac poised and ready to crush Danny if he didn’t step aside. She got out of her Prius and said to the driver of the Pontiac: “If you’ve been looking longer than forty minutes, you can have the spot.”
Danny and I stared at each other in consternation.
The instant she said it, though, the car parked in the next spot along came to life and drove away. So, incidentally, did the Pontiac, leaving Quinn with her choice of two spots.
“I think the driver of the Pontiac was Jesus, come to test her,” I told Jeremy.
“Did she park across both spots?” asked Jeremy. “That’s what Eris would have done.”
God, language is just the best. I’m sure we’ll regret teaching her English soon – she started on the “Why? Why? Why?” line of interrogation this morning – but when she briefs me on what’s been happening, I just die of love. On the phone yesterday morning: “Me and Daddy and the BUS.” Last night as we picked her up from Rowan’s house: “Rowan and Rowan’s POPPY.” “Yes, that’s right Claire, Rowan and his poppy Josh. Do you like Josh?” “Yes. JOSH.”
I guess the emphasis is her first-generation migrant version of the Australian upward inflection, yeah?
I’m sure she said “I love you” to me the other day, but Jeremy insists it sounded more like “Why would you?”
Oh, and in support of my theory that whatever they seem to be talking about, people are really talking about themselves, she calls penguins “Wee wants.”
So much for working on the house this weekend; Bryan called on Saturday morning, just as we were waking up, and we looked at each other and out the window at the glorious sunny day, and that was the end of us as responsible grown-ups. We had breakfast at Progressive Grounds; I had the wonderful smoked salmon bagel with capers, and Cian and Claire had ….veggie booty. Sigh. Then we drove to the beach and spent the laziest day ever at the zoo: carousel, playground, cafe. Exotic animals seen: one free-roaming peacock, and some flamingos, asleep.
That evening we caught up with Kat and Ian and our NEW NEIGHBOURS Roy and Courtney at Spicy Bite, a pretty decent Indian place that is now LOCAL FOR ALL OF US, because Roy and Courtney have moved to Glen Park WOO. They drove over three thousand miles from Rochester, New York without incident, only to be rear-ended on their way back from the Emeryville Ikea. People, this is why we named the East Bay Pig Latin for beast.
Ian told us about Pakistan, and how he dressed like a local and sped around on a tiny motorbike conversing in his cab-driver Urdu, and how he caught the steam train up to the Khyber Pass, where the hills have numbers on them to make them easier to bomb, and where he was stung six times by wasps, on his butt, in his side and on his nipple.
“It was sensitive for years after that,” he said, twirling his fingers over his nipple.
“And we know it was his right nipple, because whenever he tells the story with that gesture he always does it on that side,” said Kat.
I asked if he missed Pakistan, and he said rather sadly: “I do, but it’s not there any more. My Pakistan only existed for a few years in the nineties, before the military coup.”
We drank beer, we drank chai, we discussed anime and Internet porn, sorry, erotica, and the relative merits of the Hitachi Magic Wand. The child-free, they still go out dancing and stuff! It’s nice to know that that world still exists.
Sunday morning Salome called us to make sure we were awake, but we were late to brunch anyway. After getting high as a kite on Scharffenberger hot chocolate, I drove to Aquatic Park under the delusion that I was going to walk around the lake. We made it about fifty feet before I needed a relaxing sit-down, so we gave up and went to the playground.
It’s Claire’s favourite playground in all the world, not so much because of the completely awesome equipment, all volunteer-built from reclaimed materials, as because the Amtrak line runs immediately behind it, and Claire is passionately fond of her trains.
“We should get you a notebook so you can write down the engine numbers,” said Jeremy.
“Yeah, and an anorak,” I said.
“Too hot for anoraks,” said Jeremy.
“Notebook?” said Claire hopefully.
I don’t know if I’ve mentioned that when I drop Jeremy off at CalTrain on Fourth and King, we tell Claire he’s going to work on the train. Now Claire thinks he works on trains, which… well, she’s the daughter and grand-daughter and great-grand-daughter of engineers, so it’s not at all surprising really.
From Aquatic Park we drove to the Pacific Film Archive; Recheng had persuaded us to take Claire to see My Neighbor Totoro on the big screen, even though we watch it practically every day on DVD. It was amazing. I’d never really thought about the differences between TV screens and computer screens and film projection before Chris got his job at Filmlight and started working with a brilliant colour scientist. Totoro is beautiful any way you look at it, but in a high-quality projection in a small, completely dark cinema, it’s Paradise.
Claire was utterly enchanted, sitting bolt upright on my lap, until the credits rolled and the lights came up, and then, realizing that the experience was over, she burst into tears and cried inconsolably.
Yep, she’s my daughter all right.
I had nightmares last night and this afternoon, Claire woke up early from her nap and yelled at me for several hours. This wasn’t as bad as it would have been before the advent of my wonder drugs, levothyroxine and sertraline; I confined myself to remarking that she was hurting my ears. Eventually I bought her off with some Kettle Chips and an episode of Teletubbies. After she’d calmed down we had a bath and she washed my hair: “WASH. MUMMY. AIR.”
It’s amazing the extent to which my metabolism has just calmed the heck down. These days I tend to have appropriate, proportional responses to things. My car got broken into, and I was bummed about the expense, and relieved that the car itself wasn’t stolen, and I had the window replaced and then I forgot about it. It’s fairly safe to say I won’t be having nightmares about that in three years’ time.
Looking back I can appreciate how utterly batshit crazy I was before I went on the meds, and how excellent my friends are who put up with me all this time. Champagne and/or Martinelli’s Sparkling Apple Cider for all!
Claire, beaming, runs up to me, holding something tiny in her hand: “Not, not, not! Mummy, not!”
Her joy is infectious! I take the proferred gift and inspect it closely:
R: There’s a story on Salon about veggie booty.
R: I am serious.
S: What can you say about veggie booty?
R: Don’t ask me! I’m not clicking the link! I am not going there!
S: Must’ve been a tough editorial decision: debt relief in Africa… or veggie booty?
R: New pope’s hard line on condoms even as HIV spreads… or veggie booty?
S: New torture allegations?
R: Bush officials lying about climate change?
Together: …or veggie booty?
In other news, I’m working on a film script called When Harry Potter Met Sally Potter, about a boy wizard who tangos to orgasm.
Jeremy comes out from putting Claire to bed:
“She’s lying there whispering ‘Goodnight, darling. Shhh,’ to her iguana.”
At last, at last, I am a fully-fledged member of the blog-munity!
Total number of books I’ve owned: Let’s just say – when we moved to California I gave most of them away and stored only the 1000 most essential in Emma’s attic in Kurrajong Heights. I brought about five to San Francisco. Seven years later, there are books coming out of our ears: five tall bookcases jam-packed, plus overflow in Jeremy’s office, in a cardboard box at the end of my bed, and at my work. Anybody want 20 or so books? Seriously. You’re not leaving the house without them. No, they’re a gift, don’t bring them back.
Last book I bought: Julius, the Baby of the World
Last book I read: Secrets & Confidences: The complicated truth about women’s friendships
Last book I finished: The Friend Who Got Away. These are both collections of essays about friends who suddenly up and ditch you, with no satisfactory explanation, leaving you to have nightmares and wake up in tears for at least the next three-and-a-half years. Incredibly cathartic reading, but I could wish that they were published, oh, three-and-a-half years ago.
Five books that mean a lot to me:
* The Jinny at Finmory series, by Patricia Leitch. A girl and her chestnut Arabian, Shantih. These books provided an utter contrast from the Pullein Thompson genre of tedious upper-class bitches on expensive ponies. Shantih was all but unrideable and Jinny was a sulky, introverted painter. The first books I ever read that reflected my black inner life.
* Horse of Air, by Lucy Rees. A girl and her bay Welsh Cob, Brenin. Rees grew up breaking Welsh ponies and now teaches natural horsemanship in Basque country; the teenage protagonist’s breakdown and her recovery through working with the horse are pretty obviously drawn from experience. It’s difficult to overstate the impact of this beautifully written, sharply observed, wise, compassionate novel, which I still reread every couple of years.
* The Witches and Guards books from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series: Granny Weatherwax is a key role model for me (bad-tempered, meddling bitch) and Sam Vimes’ character just gets more and more complicated and interesting. Sybil’s dragon sanctuary is the origin of the phrase “interchangeable Sarahs and Emmas” to describe what the Americans call barn rats – the kids that hang around the stables, ie me. Whenever I’m sick I reread Pratchett or:
* Almost anything by Georgette Heyer, a mid-century Jane Austen imitator who pretty much single-handedly kicked off the Regency genre of romance novels. Her heroines are generally feisty, self-possessed equestrians, her heroes brusque but kind men with giveaway grey eyes. Sarah Vowell was at the Sydney Writer’s Festival when some boring Australian academic type said of historical fiction: We mustn’t resort to easy entertainments. Vowell said to herself, Entertaining people is anything but easy. Heyer knew that, and never wrote a dull line. And speaking of hist-fic:
* Is Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey-Maturin series the best novel of the 20th century, or what? (Say “or what” and you’re dead to me. Dead.) What kind of horse does Diana Villiers breed? Arabians. I rest my case.
There – immature enough for you, Quinn?