Archive for October, 2003

holiday snap


the sound of one leg breaking

After work I took Claire to the playground behind the Bernal Heights library. They have good baby-swings there. It was about six when I started loading her back into Hedwig, but already dark, because daylight saving ended yesterday.

There was an almighty thunk. I looked up to see a gold sedan bounce off a red convertible stopped at the stop sign. Just a fender-bender, I thought, but surely car-on-car wouldn’t make such a horrible meaty noise?

A woman at the cafe on the corner said, loudly but in a weirdly conversational tone: “Oh my God. She hit him.”

I hoisted the baby onto my hip. A crowd of us gathered around the guy, who was sprawled in the middle of Cortland, holding his right thigh. He grinned valiantly up at us. The woman who had been driving the red car, who had hit him, was kneeling beside him, calling 911.

“Are you all right?” asked the waiter at the cafe.

“Of course he’s not all right,” scolded the witness, “he’s been hit by a car.”

“He thinks he’s broken his leg,” the driver said into the phone.

She should be the villain of the piece – she hit the guy, after all – but I thought of the man who ran in front of me on Fourteenth Street yesterday, and how I’d hardly seen him in the half-light and only missed him by a metre or two. Her hand rested very gently on his shoulder. Her face was intent as she listened to the instructions coming over the phone.

“Don’t move him,” she said.

The victim had been carrying a case of Budweiser. The waiter opened it and gave him a beer. He raised it to us all.

The ambulances arrived with remarkable promptness. I finished loading Claire and drove very carefully home.

rach’s first clue

Incredibly tasty macaroni and cheese at Universal, with mesclun drenched in balsamic vinegar. Shady umbrellas to keep the hot sun off. Claire has her own piece of cheesy macaroni and is chewing solemnly. The coffee is delicious.

R: I’ve realized that my level of achievement, objectively measured, has little to no effect on my actual mood.

J: Zwoop(1) how wealth has almost no correlation with happiness, except for extreme poverty, like not actually having enough to eat.

R: Well, yeah. As long as I get enough food and sleep, my mood seems more or less arbitrary. Maybe I could just choose to be optimistic rather than pessimistic? To enjoy the sunshine and the baby and the coffee?

J manfully refrains from rolling his eyes at me.

serendipity flip

Everyone knows who Ada Lovelace’s father was, but do you know who she married? A direct descendent of William of Occam, the Occam’s razor dude on whom the protagonist of The Name of the Rose was based… My Nanowrimo novel gets more and more intriguing. I love research.

scrummy novels about ponies

I think I’ve diagnosed and cured, if not the cause of, at least a contributing factor to my below-mentioned grumpiness. I’d been planning to rework Charlie Ravioli for Nanowrimo this year. Trouble is, much as I love the novel (and fully as I intend to rework it and try to get it published), it was spawned by a painful event in my life that I’m currently trying my utmost to get the frick over. I just ended that run-on sentence with a preposition, didn’t I? I also used the word frick, because I’m a mother now and should at least make a token effort towards not swearing like a sailor. As Sarcastor has noted elsewhere, my once-feared edge is lost, a mere memory, gone with the wind, I might as well just buy the minivan, adopt the Labrador and get REPUBLICAN SOCCER MOM tattooed on my head.

(Fragment of a dream last night: “She had no mottos, only tattoos.” Also, I was Mina Harker, having an exquisitely pleasurable lesbian love affair with a gorgeous vampire trapeze-artist in an alt-history Victorian England where they’d discovered genetic engineering and cloned the Kraken. Strange.)

Ahem. Where was I? Oh yes; it turns out that reworking an existing piece is against the rules. You didn’t think Nanowrimo had rules? Think again, kiddo. Obviously these rules are unenforceable in practice. There’s nothing to stop you cutting and pasting, oh, say The Voyage of the Beagle and submitting that as your novel, except for your innate sense of honour. Aren’t you gallant? But the FAQ in its wisdom states:

“No works in progress allowed. You have too much invested in them. Give yourself the gift of a clean slate.”

2003 was supposed to be the International Year of Cope. It didn’t quite work out that way, or hasn’t yet, but we live in hope, because that’s just the kind of cheese-eating surrender monkeys we are. So my early Christmas present to myself is a clean slate – My! Second! Novel! The title is Breeding – Sarcastor, would you please stop sniggering like that? It’s scrummy, and it’s about ponies, and it’s set in an alt-history Victorian England where Dorian Gray is the A-list dinner guest (“He looks so young!”). I can’t wait to get started.

update from lazyworld

So when I said normal service would now resume, I apparently didn’t mean I’d be, you know, posting to the blog or anything.

Good day yesterday. I started out very grumpy, knowing only that I needed large quiet rooms, Dutch still lives and possibly a glass of coffee in a leafy courtyard. The Palace of the Legion of Honor provided all of the above, although the quietness was significantly ameliorated once Claire started experimenting with the exciting acoustics. To Bernal for tea with Carole and Jamie and Rowan, and home for roast chicken and apple crisp. And so to bed.


Sorry about that. Normal service will now resume.

I’ll admit the weather was a little sub-par, but apart from that, the Crosby-Macgowan wedding was pretty much perfect. We arrived at the marquee pitched on the Wilderstein lawn just as Miss Emily began playing Bach’s Cello Suite No. 1 on her viola. We bumped into Mike and Cheryl and were thrilled when Paul appeared in the nick of time. Being Paul, he had tales of derring-do: he’d driven up from Atlanta in a 1991 BMW he’d bought from a charity wrecking yard. He’d had to replace the fuel tank because it had rusted through and when he parked it on a hill all the gas leaked out. He also lost a windscreen wiper blade, improvised with a t-shirt, and when that didn’t work, just stuck the wiper out so it gestured impotently in the rain. Paul always hugely enjoys these vehicular misadventures, which is lucky, because he seems to have rather a lot of them.

Tori was Best Woman and wore a splendid dress made from indigo and gold brocade. Kathryn appeared in a sumptuous wedding gown, all drifts of crimson and azure silk under white lace, with a lovely Victorian headpiece. The reading, from Mary Zimmerman’s adaptation of Ovid’s Metamorphoses, was so beautiful and touching that I ran out yesterday to buy it for a friend. When the deed was done, Kathryn came dancing up the aisle with her brand new husband. I may have blubbed. The chronicles are unclear on this point. What is known is that I love a good wedding, me.

After the ceremony we got to explore the house, which was the home of FDR’s distant cousin and dear friend Daisy Suckley. It’s an exquisite Queen Anne mansion decorated in the aesthetic style by one of the Tiffanys. Many of the volunteers who maintain and preserve the place are descended from the Suckley’s cooks and butlers.

“People like the Suckleys, they just lived off the capital,” explained a docent. “Whereas our parents, who came from Europe and went into domestic service, saved their money and bought land of their own.”

There’s your social history of the modern West.

Lunch at the Cripple Creek Restaurant in nearby Rhinebeck was as glorious as you’d expect from Matthew and Kathryn, which is very glorious indeed. The wines were extraordinary, starting with the sparkling Hermitage, like dark fizzy blood. Later I was overcome by good cheer and had to be helped to bed, but Rach Honnery assures me she remembers everything and will tell me all about it, by and by.

On Sunday we took the scenic route back to Boston, arrived with an hour to spare for our flight and spent that entire hour in airport security. They frisked Claire for weapons and undressed me to my singlet. Maybe I looked disgruntled. On the six-hour flight to San Francisco, Claire stood on Jeremy’s tray table and hooted at the baby in the seat in front, much to the delight of everyone in earshot, I am sure. The infinitely gracious Robert Walsh picked up three very weary Chalmers-Fitzhardinges at the airport, and the cat Bebe failed to conceal her overjoyedness at having us home.

Last week we tried to catch up on everything – paying bills, debriefing friends, woogling the cat and so forth. In theory at least, we are all caught up now.

I want to go on another trip.