Archive for the 'fulishness' Category

o happy day

A lazy morning in bed with cups of tea and books and Alice cat, followed by Rebels Within and lattes at Craftsman & Wolves. (Two dogs came in: “Wolves! Truth in advertising.”)

To the house, where Jeremy expressed glee over the extremely solarpunk radiant floor and hot water heating system, while I sat on the stairs daydreaming, only for our starchitect Bonnie to show up unexpectedly for a look around. We all agreed that it is turning out to be a very cute house indeed.

To the barn, for a lazy amble on Bentley. Freya my war mare has a new family, and family photos were being taken in the golden hour. Freya, fat and happy, was striking warlike poses. “This is my person. This is my dog.” God bless the war mares and starchitects and wolves and craftsmen and rebels, every one.

back in the saddle

A big week round these parts: Claire got her braces off. I got out of the moon boot, retrieved my car from the barn, got a job, and rode Bentley for the first time in two and a half months. We saw a heron and an eagle mantled over its prey. Bentley, as whorled in his winter coat as a bear, arched his neck and stepped prettily through the mud. If I never jump again, if I never even trot, I will be so happy just to be able to sit on a horse, walking around the park like Queen Elizabeth, looking at the world more charitably through a pair of pricked ears.

why i love yoz, part 36,422 in an ongoing series

“Of course if you had a robust praxis around intersectional feminism, you’d’ve already figured that out.”

“You’re so right.”

“No. I’m just lucky that your friendship-orientation is towards heinous bitches. I can be my true self.”

perspective

Alain’s going home next week and this distresses me, so we climbed Mount Tam about it.

I love that mountain. It’s a magical island above a sea of Karl the Fog. From up there you can see San Francisco as it really is: a city made of dreams.

We also took in the usual suspects: the Japanese Tea Gardens, Cal Academy, De Young, Japantown Mall and SF MOMA. Al had seen most (all?) of these before but it’s always nice to look at things from a different point of view.

The city is a spaceship, and a time machine.

socal road trip

Alain wanted to visit Legoland, so I plotted a route to Carlsbad that took in La Brea on the way. I was about 13 when Dad came home from a business trip to LA, overflowing with excitement about the tar pits, the dire wolves and the saber tooths, the bison, the sloths and oh my God, the mastodons.

I went looking for that Dad, of course. Young Dad, enthusiastic Dad, the Dad who brought the world to life for me. He isn’t there, what with being dead and all, but he was less not-there than usual. Having Alain with me was part of it. Another part was seeing Oscar Isaac in Hamlet a couple of weeks ago, sitting at his dead father’s feet with his head bowed. I cried for his grief as I’ve been unable to cry for my own.

It’s hard to make fossils, but in the tar pits, the conditions are just right. This display includes less than a tenth of the dire wolf skulls alone. La Brea’s full yield is in the hundreds of thousands. My own tar pits, the darknesses that pull me under, are likewise rich in ice age bone jumbles. My job is to uncover them with care, and to document the shit out of them.

fresh-caught artisanal comedy

Alain: “Why are cows amazing?”

Me: “I don’t know, why are cows amazing?”

Alain: “Because they’re outstanding in their field!”

(Chorus of groans)

Me: “Knock knock.”

Alain: “Who’s there?”

Me: “Interrupting cow!”

Alain and me in unison: “MOO!”

Claire: “See, you can’t tell each other jokes because you grew up together and you already know them all!”

Me: “So this horse walks into a bar.”

Alain: “And the barman says, Why the long face?”

Me: “And the horse says, Is this some kind of joke?”

Jeremy: “Knock knock.”

Me: “Who’s there?”

Jeremy: “Interrupting cow.”

Me: “Interrupting cow who?”

Jeremy: “Would you like to see my Nobel prize?”

Me: “Why do you have a Nobel prize?”

Jeremy: “Because I’m outstanding in my field.”

(CHORUS OF GROANS INTENSIFIES)

reclaimed local comedy

Me: “Do you wanna see Philip Glass in concert?”

Jeremy: “Um.” Me (interrupting): “Do you wanna see Philip Glass in concert?”

Jeremy: “Um.” Me (interrupting): “Do you wanna see Philip Glass in concert?”

Jeremy: “Um.” Me (interrupting): “Do you wanna see Philip Glass in concert?”

(We high five.)

Later

Jeremy: “There’s some kind of shriveled, wizened, dead thing on the soap dish.”

Me: “It’s goat’s milk soap, from Wellstone.”

Jeremy: “It’s definitely dead.”

Me: “It’s artisanal.

Jeremy: “Maybe there’s some really great-looking soap out partying somewhere, and this is the soap of Dorian Gray?”

Me: “That joke never gets old.”

my friends, man

“It’s the people being unexpectedly kind to me that make me cry.”

“They’re all just returning kindnesses you’ve shown them.”

“Shut up. I’m a surly nerd amnesiac super-soldier assassin. We’ve been OVER this.”

“Yes, and Bucky Barnes doesn’t get a wobbly chin looking at the pictures in the museum.”

“Listen, I didn’t come here to be SEEN and ACCEPTED UNCONDITIONALLY, what is this, SAN FRANCISCO?”

grounding devices

Dark times etc. Here’s what’s working right now to keep the panic attacks at bay (note effectiveness may cease at any time without warning):

  1. Following beloved institutions on Booky McBookface: Cal Academy, Marine Mammal Center, Monterey Bay Aquarium, SF MOMA
  2. (Making plans out past election day like there’s going to be a future)
  3. I know you think your cats are cute but my cats are super cute okay, I’ve given the matter a lot of thought
  4. The new Mexican place around the corner is full of natural light and delicious food that everyone in our family will eat
  5. I’m still starry-eyed as fuck about this city, man it’s beautiful

this is true love; you think this happens every day?

I had a pretty Gothically terrible week for various reasons beyond anyone’s particular control, mostly to do with generational inequity and centuries of systemic oppression. The least of it was that my trainer Facebooked a picture of me jumping Sam in which I’d lost my balance and caught him in the mouth. Salome insisted it was just a bad moment. I argued that I have learned nothing in all these years and am wasting my trainers’ time and ruining my good horse.

Salome got up an hour early this morning so she could bring her camera to my riding lesson and get better pictures of us. I love her so much right now I can hardly stand it. From such small kindnesses to one another we will build a less sucky world.

(Apparently my blog is just 24/7 schmaltz these days. I’m not sorry.)

yatima’s mostly-nondenominational northern hemisphere midwinter festival playlist

2000 miles

“I can hear people singing,” (and since I’m not allowed to listen to this playlist until after Thanksgiving) “it must be” Northern Hemisphere Midwinter Festival “Time.” Chrissie Hynde wrote this after The Pretenders’ first lead guitarist James Honeyman-Scott died of an overdose; as you’ll see, I like the sad carols. The ending of this song is sublimely 1980s; the band just repeats the chorus over and over until they end on a resounding chord. Jazz hands!

Chiron Beta Prime

So much for being nondenominational: because I’m a lapsed Anglican nerd, I sometimes wonder whether Jonathan Coulton (suspicious initials, those) named his protagonists the Andersons because it means “Son of Man” and whether he chose Chiron because Chi-Rho was a Greek monogram for Christ. That said, the song works equally well as an anticapitalist anthem, with the robot overlords representing limited liability corporations. Oh, and it’s hilarious.

Fairytale of New York

Mandatory, obvi. I usually start crying around “I could’ve been someone./ Well so could anyone.” Reminds me of when Rajit Singh returned our lost luggage and, years before that, when I met Shane MacGowan in Dublin, his broken teeth like tombstones on the red hills of his gums. I wish Kirsty MacColl were still alive.

Joy

This one makes me think of Jamey, who gave it to me, and of my mum, whose story it is. Tracey Thorn’s voice is a silver thread running through my marriage, from “Protection” as the anthem of our first year together to “Hatfield, 1980” for the summer we lived in Cambridge. Mum would have loved the lines: “We face down all the coming years/ And all that they destroy/ And in their face we throw our joy.” That was her basic rationale for all the mah jongg and Bailey’s.

River

Tracey’s Tinsel and Lights is such a great album that three tracks off it have landed on my playlist. This is a Joni Mitchell cover that earned its place for the lyrics: “I’m so hard to handle/ I’m selfish and I’m sad.” (No, YOU are.) I always think of Emma Thompson’s wonderful line from the mostly-reprehensible Love, Actually: “Joni Mitchell is the woman who taught your cold English wife how to feel.”

Sister Winter

A Sufjan Stevens cover, but I heard Tracey’s version first so it’s definitive to me. I love the strangeness and sensuality of the lyrics – “I kissed your ankle” – and Sister Winter as darkness and heartbreak, but also as an intimate relation. I love the friends waiting patiently for the suffering heart to recover. Demeter and Persephone are here, and so is Jonathan Shay’s Odysseus in America with its call for the communalization of trauma.

Jesus Christ the Apple Tree

Speaking of, that summer in Cambridge I wanted to hear the King’s College choir at last, but I was urged by a smiling Anglican to keep the girls behind the screen where we wouldn’t disturb the other congregants. Ah, the established church, ever eager to tuck its women and children away out of sight. Against that, though, set the pageant I attended at Holy Innocents in San Francisco, where the congregation discovered six-week-old Julia in her sling and urged me to take the role of Mary. I declined – I’m not that reconciled to my church damage – but I still have the tinsel crown Claire wore as a three-year-old angel. This strange old poem was given a mid-20thc setting by Elizabeth Poston. “It keeps my dying faith alive” – we’ll see, I guess.

Gaudete

Another silver thread through my life: My parents playing Steeleye Span when I was still too young to recognize the electric guitars and folk songs as incongruous with one another. Me carolling in York Street with the choir of Christchurch St Lawrence. Alex and I in Dublin discovering that we both loved this song. Maddy Pryor’s incredible voice was probably the prototype for my love for Kirsty Maccoll, Tracey Thorn and Vienna Teng. The ending of this song is ridiculously 1970s; the audio engineer just fades the choir out and you have to pretend that they’re walking away from you still singing.

O Holy Night

This one makes me think of Salome, because sometimes we read each others’ minds. Talk about incongruity, the ukuleles and xylophones making it sound like a school play. Yet everything that makes the Northern Hemisphere Midwinter Festival important to me is here: the long dark, the beloved dead, the newborn baby, the terrifying angels and their incomprehensible message. The star and our journey.

Atheist Christmas Carol

The newest addition, which I heard for the first time live on Boxing Day last year at the Freight & Salvage, with Claire in my arms. I gave this one to Tina after we rode our bikes to the Forest of Wind Chimes at Wilbur Hot Springs and cried for Jen. “It’s the season of bowing our heads in the wind/ And knowing we are not alone in fear/ Not alone in the dark.” That’s all I got. Grace coming out of the void, for some reason. It’s so cold now but spring will come again. Not a metaphor: physics.

five gifts for my mother on her 80th birthday

1. With my dearest darling bad horse Boo Bear living out his retirement at a lovely farm upstate (no, really, he aten’t ded), I have a new horse, Sam. He is a liver chestnut so dark and shiny that he looks like he was cast in bronze or, possibly, treacle. He is scopey and athletic but also kind and forgiving, sensitive yet gentle as a lamb. He is an education. He makes me a better rider.

2. The worst of grief bogs you down in the past. As I feel myself starting to come out of it, I’ve been getting these little glimpses of a future I might like to live in, enough that I’ve been making a list: Aziz Ansari’s new comedy Master of None, Trevor Noah as host of The Daily Show and, of course, on endless repeat, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton.

3. Many pixels have been spilled praising Hamilton showstoppers like “Satisfied” and “Wait For It”, because those songs are amazing. This week, though, I particularly love:

  • “One Last Time”, because in relinquishing the presidency, George Washington paved the way for term limits and the peaceful transfer of power between rival factions, two of the things I love best about the American political system; and
  • “The World Was Wide Enough”, because Aaron Burr is such an irresistibly sympathetic character that he shows us how to make space for the people with whom we disagree, which seems particularly important this week.

It is difficult to say anything about the massacres in Paris, except how sorry I am for those who have been hurt, and how desperately I wish for peace.

4. I tried to make pavlova for Mum’s birthday, a pretty Quixotic endeavor considering I’ve never yet succeeded at meringue. After two dismal failures to achieve glossy peaks, I stuck a sort of eggy soup in the oven, wept briefly and discovered online that our Bamix is almost certainly the problem. It doesn’t introduce enough air to allow the egg white to achieve the proper foaminess. So I ordered a hand mixer and just now, the egg soup came out of the oven as a delicately browned giant cookie, which we all look forward to eating.

5. “Brown liquor,” said Jeremy after he had mopped up my eggy tears. I poured us two glasses of the 12 year old Bunnahabhain and we clinked our glasses: “To Jean.” My mother gave me my love for animals and my righteous anger at the world’s injustices, and she was a much better pastrychef than I am. I miss her every day, but I am very, very glad that she was my mother.

over figgy toast

Me: Heather wants to borrow Little Poppies so she can paint Big Poppies. Yay! Go Big Poppy!

Alain: Is that a sports thing?

Jeremy: Yeah, maybe baseball?

Alain: I know as much about baseball as you know about cricket.

Me: What, nothing?

Alain: We lost the Ashes!

Jeremy: That was careless! Where did you have them last?

Alain: Not me, the Australian team.

Me: Can they retrace their steps?

Alain: By the way, you have leprosy.

Me: Sunburn.

Jeremy: From when we went bike riding.

Me: I was pulling off these sheets of skin and offering them to Jeremy.

Alain: Ew!

Me: He said: “Thanks! I’ll make a – No, I won’t say it.” I said: “What? A tiny me? A tiny penis?” He said: “I don’t want to say.” I said: “I will love you no matter what!” He said: “A lampshade.” I said: “EW NO BAD NO UNSAY IT.”

Jeremy: So now it’s been said again.

Me: “YOU ARE BAD AND SHOULD FEEL BAD GET OUT.”

Alain, to Jeremy: You should have gone with the Mini-Me.

Jeremy: A tiny wife!

Me: Poor Little, Poor Little Rachel.

Jeremy: Like Keira Knightley. Remember what Patrick said about her?

Me: “She is so wee!” You could keep her in your pocket.

Alain: Lose her in your pocket lint.

Me: How careless! Can you retrace your steps?

getting a friday five in early

1. A recycled Twitter joke: I posted this last Tuesday and my friend Matthew asked whether the Kaiju were under water, so I said that they were, and that this picture was taken from Jeremy’s and my Jaeger, the Frock Advisory. Seriously, though, look at my beautiful city.

2. My big brother Alain arrived on Thursday and is now an essential member of the household and may not leave. We went out for margaritas with a bunch of folks on Saturday and all got thoroughly roaring and ordered Pizzahacker on the way home. Danny converted Al to the cult of Ingress and now he is part of the Resistance, firing energy weapons into interdimensional portals as he walks around the Mission. (It cracks me up that every technolibertarian and privacy activist I know is in thrall to this sinister surveillance weapon of a game.)

3. Nick-the-horse and I had a lesson with Colin in the Grand Prix arena and, in between very embarrassing refusals, jumped up to a meter ten. It’s the very lowest level of jumping that anyone takes remotely seriously, it’s my goal height and it scared the living crap out of me. But we jumped it. It turns out that my snuggly goober Nicky Boo Bear is an imported Dutch Warmblood from a stallion line that has produced (notoriously badly-behaved) Grand Prix horses in both jumping and dressage. A frog prince.

4. Jeremy and I went to NASA Ames to wait for the New Horizons spacecraft to phone home. That’s us in front of the beautiful Hangar One.

I love NASA as I love national parks and missile silos converted into marine mammal rescue centers, which is to say, immoderately. They kept describing the spacecraft as the size of a grand piano, so now that is how I picture it, a golden Steinway hurtling through the dwarf planet system, exploring strange new worlds, boldly going. A scientific instrument.

5. Ta-Nehisi’s new book is amazing.

 

friday five

1. Yeah so that happened and it was awful. I ordered flowers for Milton’s funeral which made me mad and sad, not that I grudged him the flowers but that I was so angry with him for being dead. I think I also wanted to be at the funeral so that I could be with other people who knew him and could understand what his death meant. Jeremy met him a few times but didn’t know him well and otherwise I was alone with it, which always sucks and is boring.

2. Otherwise and weirdly I am feeling much better, having shaken off the last of the horrible Chicago cold and consequent lingering bronchitis and what was evidently some kind of post-viral malaise that plunged me back into the worst days of having an undiagnosed anxiety disorder in my teens and 20s. I gotta give myself credit for spending the last dozen years taking meds and getting enough exercise and sleep and healthy food, because given the opportunity to directly compare my current and former emotional states, it’s clear that in spite of all the, you know, wrenching grief, my baseline mood is way better than it used to be.

3. I am finally reading (listening in the car to) And the Band Played On, Randy Shilts’ beautifully furious book about the early years of the AIDS epidemic; uneasy stuff when you are well, let alone when you are paranoid and sick. Excellent narrative history turns you into the Doctor visiting a Fixed Point In Time: it is 1980 and I am standing in the Ice Palace on Fire Island at 1am, looking at all the gorgeous men on the dance floor, knowing that there is nothing I or anyone else can do to save them. I am so, so sorry.

4. Speaking of beautiful fury, the new Mad Max movie is an exquisitely-researched and historically accurate documentary about my childhood and it gives me life. I got properly into the spirit of it too, getting rear-ended hard on the way to the cinema, jumping out of poor banged-up Mercy of Kalr in the middle of Van Ness and screaming at the other driver and kicking his license plate. He was at fault like San Andreas, of course, so his insurance covers everything including the rental on the piece-of-garbage Chevy Sonic I am driving around while Mercy is at the body shop. Her name is Lieutenant Seivarden, and she self-identifies as a small war rig.

5. Last night I dreamed I checked into a hotel where I was shown to a suite that I had to share with strangers who invaded my personal space, and when I complained to the staff they made fun of my accent and lost my favourite jacket, and when I realized that I was in a dramatization of my own mundane fears and insecurities I decided I was probably dreaming and that if I was, I might as well see Mum, so I turned around and there she was, wearing red and orange and gold and looking radiantly well and laughing. So I hugged her a lot.

death and ptaxes

Time continues to pass. Wednesday would’ve been Mum and Dad’s 55th anniversary. Thursday morning, I learned Terry Pratchett had died as I drove myself to the dentist. I bawled my eyes out, and as a result my pain tolerance was too low even for the water pick. My hygienist, Lisa, was super sweet about it. After that I had to meet with my tax accountant.

Being a grownup? Sucks.

It’s Pi Day, by the inexplicable American reckoning. I was kicking myself for not organizing pies – the line at Mission Pie is doubtless out the door, it was last year – when I remembered that we own the means of production! Claire’s hard at work on her Key Lime Pie, and I have the makings of a strawberry/apple and a tarte tatin, when she’s done.

happy birthday, sarah

I still can’t really write about Dad (although as Mary wonderfully pointed out, he’s been a hero of this blog all along.) So I will write about my sister instead, shown here adoring ponehs.

She and I weren’t especially close growing up, which I get. There are six years between us, I was irksomely hero-worshippy and she had her own complex shit going on. I do still remember a note she wrote me when I was 19 and went to Tasmania for six weeks on an archaeological dig, saying: “I always knew you were going to have great adventures.” When I got accepted to Trinity she gave me a blue plaid Onkaparinga blanket to keep me warm in the Irish winters. It’s still my go-to for snuggling on the couch in San Francisco. I bought another like it to keep me warm in Barraba, and she has it on her bed when I’m not there.

But our timing was sort of perpetually off. Our lives diverged. She was pregnant when I came home from Dublin, and she had her babies while I got my first job, my first apartment and my first car. She moved to Brisbane around the time I moved to San Francisco and our parents set off in their Winnebago to live the nomad life. Our brother Alain shared her house and helped raise her kids while our brother Iain and I made the annual schlep to Burning Man.

When Mum and Dad settled in Barraba, Sarah packed up her whole family and moved there, with the tacit understanding that she would become their caregiver as they aged. Dad was diagnosed in January of 2013; Mum in August of 2013; Mum died in February 2014 and Dad, of course, four weeks ago. It’s been a brutal couple of years for all of us, but the burden fell disproportionately on her. She and I reverted, hard, to stereotype. I was the out-of-town career woman who flew in to deal with bureaucracy and demand answers from doctors. She was the one who dealt with everything else, day after day after long, crushing day.

She did it with such patience and strength, I can’t even tell you. Sarah was Mum’s best friend and constant companion. She maintained Dad safely in his home and independent long after anyone else thought it was possible to do so. Small wonder that even when he had forgotten the rest of us, Dad’s eyes still lit up whenever she walked into the room. It was her stubborn advocacy that earned them both a merciful death in palliative care with their pain humanely managed. Sarah alone was with both our parents when they took their last breaths.

I couldn’t have done it. I am awed by her unstinting love and grace throughout. Fortunately there are compensatory upsides to going through Hell side by side with another person. I was on the phone the other day laughing my head off, and afterwards Jeremy said: “Was that your sister? I thought you were talking to Salome.” Funnily enough I had said to Salome a few days earlier: “I used to call her because she was my sister. Now I call her because I want to talk to her.” And then I started to cry, but from happiness for a change (as well as because I cry at the drop of a hat these days.) It has all been a fucking ordeal, but Sarah has been magnificent. I’m so proud of her and grateful to know her.

And, as it happens, she is turning 50 today. Why don’t you all go do something awesome that she would do: tolerate a pesky little sibling, lift some weights, swim a kilometre, snorgle a kitteh, devour a book, teach a child to read, manage an art festival, play the ukulele, be an amazing friend, donate to cancer or dementia research. As for me I will raise a glass to the greatest woman I know. Happy birthday, Sarah.

44

Here’s what I wrote when I turned 35:

I called Mum and said “Congratulations! I’m AWESOME!”

Only one tiny thing is needed to complete my happiness: a Swedish Warmblood mare, six years old, 16.2hh, bright bay with a white blaze and four white stockings, a trot that levitates, a huge jump and a kind and willing disposition.

Here’s me at lunchtime today:

He’s far from six and he’s no mare. And I sure do miss my mother, not to mention my Dad. But despite everything, it’s been a pretty okay birthday so far.

small good things

  • Not getting up till eleven this morning because trapped by the cuteness of the cats sprawled on the end of the bed
  • We still have most of a panettone and about a third of a box of peppermint bark left
  • Seeing Big Hero 6 again and loving it just as much the second time and then unanimously agreeing that we needed teriyaki for lunch
  • Ending the year as I began it, actually mansplaining things to the mister
  • This year I reconnected with a couple of old friends I had thought I’d lost for good

happy merry

Twelve years ago, I personally made this. It was one of my better days.

This year Julia giftwrapped herself for me, so now they are both my Christmas presents.

Then we went out for dim sum. Brand new old family tradition.

I’m very lucky.