Archive for July, 2003

the responsible

The phone rings, waking me, but mercifully not the baby. Jeremy is working at the computer.

“It’s 1am!” he begins.

“Oh,” he says. “Are you sure she’s the right person?”

“Oh,” he says. “Okay then.”

He appears in the doorway of the darkened bedroom.

“It’s okay, I’m awake,” I say.

“It’s the security company for your work. They say they’ve tried to get hold of John but they can’t, and the alarm’s going off, and they want to know if they should call the police.”

I take the phone and tell them to, yes, by all means, call the police.

“Now don’t worry,” says Jeremy. “Go back to sleep.”

I lie awake in the dark, waiting for the phone to ring again, which of course it does.

“There has been a break-in,” says Jeremy. “They need you to go down there and talk to the police.”

I park Hedwig the wonder car behind the four patrol cars flashing in our alley, and wonder uneasily whether I’m here to learn that John has been bonked on the head and Oscar is going to grow up fatherless.

“Are you Rachel?” asks the friendly Irish sergeant with the grey handlebar moustache. When I nod, he calls to the others: “The responsible is here.”

You know you’re scraping the barrel, hierarchy-wise, when I am deemed the responsible.

Everyone is straight out of central casting: the Irish sergeant, his beautiful black-Irish woman sidekick, the go-getting twenty-something red-headed jock with the Italian name, the heartbreakingly pretty Japanese boy at the bottom of the pecking order. There’s an eyewitness, who I will call Comic Book Guy. He’s our neighbor, moved in to the apartment opposite our office on July 1st, immediately formed the Crime-Ridden Alley Improvement Society and talked to Captain Corrales at Mission Station about cleaning the place up.

Comic Book Guy was watching our office at 1am, as you do, when he saw a black man in a red shirt and white pants climb the door, kick in the window and enter the office. He called the dispatcher and the police arrived in time to find the black man cowering under our conference table in the mezzanine upstairs. The suspect is in custody. He doesn’t seem to have purloined any company property, but the police have confiscated his crack pipe.

Comic Book Guy wants him locked up, preferably for ever. Comic Book Guy watches all the cop shows and has the jargon down.

“If he does get charged, please make sure I get called as a witness. I’m your eyeball, right? I want to tell the judge how bad the alley is. I want to ask the judge to put him away. Did you say he’s on parole? Is this his third strike? Is he going down?”

Friendly Irish sergeant is wise to city politics. San Francisco’s district attorney Terence Hallinan has a background as a public defender, a poor relationship with the police department and a reputation for being very soft on crime.

“In an ideal world, yes, he would be locked up,” says the sergeant. “But this is Hallinan’s world. He’s not on parole, he’s on county probation. That’s a Hallinan thing… You will get a subpoena, don’t worry.”

There’s a lot of standing around, waiting for the inspector to turn up. While we wait, the sergeant explains How These Things Work. He has the knack. He’s a business analyst of the underworld.

“Stolen property typically sells on the street for five to ten percent of its book value,” he says. “So say he’d stolen a three hundred dollar computer, he could expect to fence it for fifteen to thirty dollars.”

“It’s hard, isn’t it?” says Comic Book Guy to me, “When you’ve worked so hard to start a business?”

“Yeah, we should have just set ourselves up as fences,” I reply. “Ninety to ninety-five percent? That’s a terrific markup.”

Everyone looks at me very blankly, and I am reminded of the signs in American airports: “Jokes Will Be Taken Seriously.”

“When you see street vendors selling things on the sidewalk, that typically comes from one of three places,” says the sergeant. “Home burglaries, car burglaries or stealing out of the donations to Goodwill or the Salvation Army. The biggest scam in the city, though, is stealing recyclables. I don’t have any issue with street bums digging through unsorted garbage. At least they’re doing a little bit of work to improve their situation. But there are people who drive around with vans on garbage nights and pick up the recyclables before Sunset Scavenger can get to them. That sort of thing just raises everyone’s property taxes.”

I like friendly Irish sergeant very much. He notices the picture of Boston as a puppy and says: “Your office manager has a golden retriever? He’s good people.”

“Yes she is,” I say.

He shows me pictures of his own golden retrievers, in a swimming pool.

“I can’t keep them out of the water,” he says.

“I guess they’re checking the pool for ducks,” I say.

“I guess they are,” he says, and chuckles.

As we are locking up, I thank Comic Book Guy for keeping an eye on the office.

“I’m helping you as well as myself,” he says truculently.

When I get home there is thunder rumbling in the distance. Cat and baby are fast asleep. As Jeremy and I lie awake and I tell him all about it, one of San Francisco’s rare summer storms forges its way overhead, spattering warm rain on our bedroom windows. I think about the black man in the red shirt, dragged from under our conference table, locked up at Mission Station, waiting to be charged.

Next on Yatima: she’s a wicked-tempered working mom. He’s a bearded Linux guy. They fight crime!

i get lucky (in my dreams)

I was Batman! Claire was still my daughter, of course. I was throwing her a huge party and I went in my Bat-costume, which confused several guests who only knew me as Bruce Wayne. Alfred was serving hors d’oeuvres.

Being Batman, I was a man! I can tell I really was a man, because I was thinking about sex. This gorgeous thirty-something woman, who reminded me vaguely of Justine and also of Tina, was helping decorate the scout hall with streamers and helium balloons. She was on a step-ladder and I was totally checking out her, well, y’know, her ass. Can I say that on a family blog? It was kinda hard to avoid it, since she was wearing turquoise bikini bottoms under a translucent skirt. But she carried it off! She was all lean, muscular thighs and the cutest bubble butt.

She looked down and caught me in the act. Her blonde curls were tied up in messy pigtails. She had huge blue eyes and cheekbones up the proverbial wazoo. She met my eye and gave me this amazing, frank, open grin, like I was the most fun she was going to have all day. Be still my beating wossname. I wondered shyly if she would go out with me.

Then I remembered – of course she’d go out with me! I was Batman!

Of course when I woke up, I realized she was the girl version of Jeremy.

Man, she was hot.


Knoa said to Recheng the other day: “Where is baby Claire’s mama? I miss her.”

hippo birdie, two ewes

Yatima is one today.

As I look back over last July, I find that very little has changed. Luminists are arrayed against me, but my scurvy dogs guard my flanks. The Gandhi mural has been cleaned up. I continue to seek out raptors and bagels at Atlas. Kids today still smile blankly at my jokes, and my brother, he is still funny.

i do think about things other than food, but only rarely

I have nothing to blog but my weekends.

Friday, lunch (actually breakfast) at Tartine with Scott the WiFi guy; olive cake and one of their amazing little endive salads. Kappy and her retriever Boston dropped by to pick up a birthday cake – the white-nectarine-and-raspberry tart – for my boss, so Claire and I accompanied them to the office for gossip and a slice of tart. Claire played on the rug. My coworkers gurgled with delight. Tartine’s vanilla cream is a wonder of the world.

Back out in the street I ran into Karie. She used to live up near Shotwell Films; I remember walking to work my first day at the451, back in 2000, and she called out of her window to say hello. She was planting jasmine in an old toilet bowl on her fire escape. Just the kind of woman she is, Martha Stewart by way of Burning Man and Valhalla. She, too, cooed over the sleepy baby.

Next Claire and I headed over to the SF Public Library. I’ve never been a giant fan of its architecture or collection – it’s no Mitchell Library or Long Room – but Claire greatly enjoyed the atrium and skylights, and made me realize how spoiled I’ve been. The Mitchell and Berkeley and Fisher Libraries are truly great, and even the Mechanic’s Library is very good, and it’s churlish of me to not-love the SFPL just because I secretly want it to be the British or New York. Anyway, I found what I needed: Fussell’s Wartime, Ian Buruma’s The Wages of Guilt and a decent-looking book on the Viennese.

Saturday we bought a dozen bagels at Katz and spent most of the afternoon on Ian and Kiki’s back deck, smearing said bagels with avocado and cream cheese and topping them with excellent smoked salmon, chopped onion and capers. Saturday night a big group of us met up at the Tonga Room. Jack loved his Gaugin shirt – “It’s shiny! And it’s by some old guy, which is cool!” Ian and Kiki got him a tool belt from Cliff’s Hardware. Every half-hour or so there would be thunder and lightning and a shower of rain. I drank virgin coladas and talked to the funny-as-she-is-beautiful Justine all night. It was very splendid.

Sunday Jeremy announced that brunch with Peter would be “in a place of Rachel’s choosing”, then objected strenuously to my choice of Foreign Cinema on the grounds that it has a pretentious name, which it absolutely does. But it was amazing – a huge beautiful courtyard off Mission Street, filled with sunshine and reminding me vaguely of Brennan’s in New Orleans or the Irish Film Centre in Temple Bar. I had a mimosa and the Flatiron steak, with fried Yukon potatoes and rabe. It was beyond delicious. I didn’t so much eat it as absorb it directly through the membranes in my mouth, via osmosis.

Otherwise I slept all weekend, because the child is growth-spurting again and feeding off my precious bodily fluids. Oh well. If I must be enfeebled, at least I can be diverted. Fussell is always a cracking read, and Spirited Away is just as wonderful the second time around.

trope #2: leaves of grass

Had another very cool weekend, which I should blog before it gets flushed from the cache (Yatima is pretty much all I have for a long-term memory these days; that and Google). Spent all day Friday at Burlingame again. Shannon and I tanned ourselves in the flower garden while Claire (large sunhat, SPF 30) inspected this strange new life form we call grass. Cian made bombing raids on the plum tree, and Jeremy and Bryan headed out to hunt and kill fine Mediterranean foodstuffs for their womenfolk and children… folk. The O’Sullivans left for Ireland that afternoon and I had to hug them quickly and run away lest I blub. I miss them more than somewhat.

Saturday morning I had my second lesson with Toni McIntosh, and continued to not fall off. Merlin is a terrific pony with beautiful manners and a nice big jump. My muscles are so rusty I can hear them creaking, but I still remember how to sit still, balance in the saddle and give with the reins, more or less. I did kick him in the ribs at one point and he bucked so hard that I ended up around his neck, laughing and admitting: “I totally deserved that.”

“Yes you did,” said Toni.

She is a wonderful teacher, and had us doing a not-unchallenging pattern over a couple of decent verticals, one on the diagonal. She made us do it again and again until I had my legs underneath me and the pony in the tack and everything balanced and forward and harmonious. There were red-tailed hawks hunting over the creek and the sun blazed down. It was a spectacular day.

Laura Miller’s piece on Hayao Miyazaki contained this, for me, striking sentence: “The image of a breeze blowing silky ripples over a hillside covered with young grass might just be his chosen emblem of pure happiness.” I’ve loved that particular image ever since I read Stevie Smith’s “Scorpion”:

I should like my soul to be required of me, so as
To waft over grass till it comes to the blue sea
I am very fond of grass, I always have been, but there must
Be no cow, person or house to be seen.

Sea and grass must be quite empty
Other souls can find somewhere else.

…but at Creekside it’s not just a literary trope. There are actual hillsides there that every March or April turn brilliant green with the spring grass. There are verifiable breezes that ruffle the soft blades like swell through the Sydney Harbor heads. This all conspires to make me idiotically happy.

Saturday night there was an amusing BBQ at De Haro, and Kiki made her essential avocado-and-mango salad. Sunday we picked up lunch at Tartine and headed over to ActivSpace to spend the entire afternoon enjoying the good feng shui of Jack and Salome’s new apartment. The boys played PlayStation games. Jeremy kicked Jack’s ass.

R: My husband is the alpha geek. So there.

S: Yeah? Well nyerr.

Sunday night we started watching My Neighbor Totoro, which is, in my very humble opinion, perfect. As I said to Jason at Oz, it makes me feel like a complete tosser to have to admit that all my favourite films of the last year were Japanese, and all by two (count ’em, two) directors: The Seven Samurai, Ran, Spirited Away. It comes as no surprise to learn that Kurosawa loved Miyazaki. (I am sure the reverse is also true.)

Completely irrelevant aside: Alex used to joke that he wanted to write a play about the man who came as no surprise. This man would walk into a room and everyone would say: “Oh, there you are then,” and go about their business.

Well, it seems pretty funny after three glasses of Jameson’s, I tell you what.

cat and girl

J presses a finger to his lips and beckons me to the door of the bedroom.

Claire and Bebe are in bed, both on their backs, rolling around, enjoying the sunshine, squeaking. Feet, paws, hands wave in the air. As I watch, Claire reaches over to Bebe’s front legs. Bebe takes the fat infant fist gently between her sheathed forepaws, and licks it.

I let out a breath. They look up and see us. Claire giggles. Bebe turns over, comes to sit on the edge of the bed and coolly washes herself. She’s an aggressive, territorial alpha female, she’d have us know. She wouldn’t be caught dead dandling a human kitten between her scythe-like talons. Well, maybe this once, but if we tell anyone, we’re dead meat. Understood?

she pauses to enumerate blessings

Today I am feeling extremely grateful for various things. Email, for example, and three particular pieces of mail I got this morning. The promising results of three recent sonograms: two healthy-lookin’ fetuses, and two healthy-lookin’ breasts (none mine, in case your mind was boggling there). Huge advances in veterinary surgery. Baby monitors, psychopharmaceuticals, important findings in public health.

Nor is my gratitude solely technophilic. I am also very pro-family this week, especially my family, complete loons that they are. My mother’s wickedly fabulous sense of humour, my sister’s ear for listening and singing in harmony, my three brothers – two blood, and one spare – all of whom are instinctively kind, like my Daddy. Oh, yeah, and my own grumpy old man and our snot-nosed brat: the two most amazing human beings that ever lived.


Highway 1 at sunset; nourishing bowls of pasta in the Community House at midnight; stomping up the stairs under the stairs; the smell and white noise of Coleman lanterns in Newbird; a patchwork quilt; black widows in the dunny; Cian chasing chickens; raptors; hummingbirds; French toast; baths are better with friends; a hike up and over the hills; Shannon’s amazing and perfectly-timed chili; Afshin’s superb rice and salmon; “You have the most beautiful collar bones I have EVER seen”; “Check out the shoulder on that girl. Have you ever seen a more perfect shoulder?” “I have not”; random kite festival at the Point Arena lighthouse; reliving the Rearden Steel roller-coaster for nj at the Record Cafe; “Uncle Ian! Uncle Ian! Tell us the one about how you got excommunicated!”; “I’m terribly, terribly sorry, but you are all going to Hell”; black beans, scrambled eggs with avocado and chili-turkey sausages; “Do you hear that?” “What?” “It’s the bath… It’s calling me…”; “My gift is my song, body and soul.”

visual, basic

R: Every now and then this weird thing happens where some company comes and talks to me and it sure sounds like they’re in my sector, but they’ve never heard of any of the other companies I cover, and none of my companies have ever heard of them. And it’s like I’ve fallen into some crazy mirror-world and I can’t figure out what’s going on. And then they say the magic word.

J: Windows.

R: Exactly.

J: It’s like they’re running enterprise software for the Atari platform.

to do list

Why I’ve been a bit distracted this week:

  • grid confcall
  • Bowst. for TDM
  • Spotlight on perf man
  • Claire to pediatrician at 1pm
  • notice tiny ding in Hedwig, have enormous freak-out about it, have lunch, calm down, remember Hedy is insured, file claim, call trusted mechanic
  • Reflec.
  • Dijkstra deadline
  • Applim.
  • deposit checks for Oz
  • mail John
  • mail RachH
  • thank you notes
  • check, fax and mail Man-Bell
  • Chris H
  • dinner with Julian, Afshin, Bryan and Robert
  • call Peter
  • Active R.
  • grid questionnaire
  • grid topology
  • Rainbow cereal apricots peaches

The amazing part? Pretty much all done, yay me (and my extraordinary support team).