Archive for November, 2004

my heart walking around outside my body

Last night as we drove to Carole and Jamey’s. On the car stereo: Soul Coughing, Ruby Vroom. Michael Doughty sings:

I’ve seen the Kansas of your sweet little myth
You’ve never seen it, now I’m half drunk on the drinks you mixed
Through your
True dreams

Claire: Two three!

MD: of Wichita

C: … star

the fitzhardinges on narrative

J: I loved that queryletters site. There was this one movie pitch about a guy who married an heiress who died, so he found another woman and gave her plastic surgery to look like his wife, so he could keep the money. And it was so obvious that the writer had fallen in love with his hook, changing a woman into another woman, so all the characters had to just run around and obey the plot. And all the pitches are like that!

R: That site saddens me. The heiress plot is such transparent wish-fulfillment fantasy. The writer wants to make interchangeable women because he thinks it’ll make him rich.

J: There’s a line in an Umberto Eco novel about how tiring it is to be a fictional character. The plot is always kicking you along, and you never get to be yourself.

R: Those letters are from the people who never figured out that ‘A hero goes on a journey’ and ‘A stranger comes to town’ are actually the same story.

I order our bagels. Jeremy finds a table. I approach.

R: Well hello stranger. What brings you to town?

He wiggles his fingers around his mouth in the universal sign of octopi.

R: Oh no! You’re a Cthulhu! I married a Cthulhu!

J: No, I’m just in town for the Cthulhu convention.

R: Ah.

J: …

R (sighing inwardly): Yes?

J: Did you hear about the fortune teller who was molested at a Cthulhu convention?

R: No.

J: She filed a seersucker suit.

thanksgiving menu, with some shouting

Yummiest Turkey Day ever. We stuffed a Diestel bird with sourdough and Jeremy’s homemade wholewheat bread and mushrooms and parsley and rosemary and thyme. We stuffed a butternut squash with orzo and almonds and golden raisins. There were roast potatoes and mashed potatoes and green beans in peanut oil and soy and Jeremy’s Bernal spheres and cranberry sauce and champagne gravy.

It was great.

Afterwards we sat around and watched Gangs of New York (which is, regrettably, Not Very Good) and ate Salome’s pumpkin pie and an apple and cranberry pie from Liberty Cafe (Very Good). Then we ate leftovers and watched The Office. It was the laziest, most scrumptious Thanksgiving ever.

Today has been virtuous by contrast. We were up at the crack of ten and breakfasted and out of the house no later than twelve. Claire went on the carousel at GG Park and blicketed grandly across the playground. She fell asleep coming home, so while she napped I stripped off all the upholstery to wash it and scrubbed down the tiles on the terrace so that they can be sealed. Owning your own place is like nesting, in that you find yourself doing things you would NEVER EVER HAVE DREAMED of doing before you bought or got preg.

I scrubbed the GROUT, people. FEAR ME.

For dinner Jeremy’s making a sort of shepherd’s (poulterer’s?) pie. It smells wonderful. And I folded all the laundry using the super-secret Japanese technique for folding t-shirts. I am a woman possessed.

The coolest thing about Thanksgiving, though, is that we’ve had two days off already, AND THERE ARE STILL TWO DAYS TO GO.

a girl after my own heart

Quinn: Sometimes when Ada is falling asleep, she’ll stretch and sigh and say in this voice of utter contentedness: “Puppies.”

i am cross

It’s not at all clear to me how we managed to make our long holiday completely fail to coincide with everyone else’s. Quinn and Ada have already gone. Carole, Jamey, Bryan, Shannon and Cian are off on Friday, the Moores to New Hampshire and the O’Sullibrechts to Waterford and Paris. The Murgisteads always go back East at Chrimble. Poor me! I turn my abandoned snout to the moon and howl piteously.

Oh well. Despite the genocidal overtones (I’m a white Australian, so my whole life is genocidal overtones) I like Thanksgiving best of all the American holidays. It’s less bangy than July 4, less contraily than Fleet Week, less depressing than Memorial Day or Veterans Day or MLK Day, less work than Labor Day (heh, I meant hauling everything up to the playa, but let it stand). Also, I am in favour of roast dinners with all the trimmings.

Here is a brief and probably incomplete list of the things I am particularly thankful for this year (in no particular order and besides the usual ohmiGod-I-am-so-lucky-to-have-them feelings re Jeremy, Claire, my family and friends old and new, plus the mere existence of books, food and horses):

new babies Miranda, Tara, Avi and Sebastian; Avi’s and Alain’s good doctors and excellent propects for full recovery; impending babies for Salome, Anna and Serena; the weddings of Jamey and Carole, Aaron and Serena, Alex and Io; impending weddings for Kate and Asa, Ian and Kat;


the house on Eugenia; the blocks of land on Prentiss Street and in Gympie; Jeremy’s Constellation project; Carole’s art show; my trip to Turkey; Lesley’s trip to Africa; Jonathan’s and Leonard’s contributions to General Clark’s campaign; Josh and Cate’s efforts for Senator Kerry; 826 Valencia;; Chez Miscarriage; MNFTIU; Doctors Without Borders; Human Rights Watch; Jon Stewart.

Politically the weather is bad with no sign of improvement to come, but people – my people – are still doing excellent and important work, falling in love, getting married and having babies. Hey, I’m not feeling cross any more. How’d that happen?

yatima on yatima

It had to happen. Various people from my work life have stumbled on this blog, provoking terror that, dooce-like, I will be called to account and banished to Utah. My position is that Yatima is the Swahili for orphan and that therefore, clearly, this blog has no author. But seriously, hi guys! I really like you all, and your dogs!

17 reasons

Gah. I just lost a lengthy blog entry to a power outage. It was my most brilliant piece ever. If you’d read it you would have laughed and wept and nominated me for the Nobel Peace Prize. Alas, gone.

A sunny and happy and busy weekend, featuring brunch at Atlas, a trip to GG Park with Claire, dinner on Bryant Street, breakfast at Tartine, a trip to Parque de los Ninos Unidos with Claire and Rowan (everyone thought Rowan was mine, funnily enough, probably because he kept calling me mama), roast chicken and Bernal spheres with the Chung-Lockes, a visit from Francisco who will fix our bullet-holed skylight and tiled porch, a trip to Bernal Heights playground with a side trip to Chloe’s Closet for me, lunch at Geranium, Osento and Borderlands with Shannon, and lamb chops and panettone with the Locke-Chungs.

Jeremy calls lamb chops meatsicles because Claire likes to, y’know, gesture with them. She’s very committed to carnivory.

Parque Ninos Unidos used to be a toxic dump where the kids played anyway. Years and years of work on the part of dedicated activists got the place cleaned up, and now it’s a fabulous playground and clubhouse and community garden. It’s the sort of thing you daydream about, but that hardly ever happens. This is one of the big reasons I love living in SF; another is embodied by the Mayan dance troupe with the feathered headdresses and shell anklets and big big drums, rehearsing outside El Metate and enchanting the infants.

People occasionally raise a polite eyebrow at our choice to raise the kid in a micropartment in the middle of a city. I worry about it sometimes myself, but never really wish for anything else. It’s a short walk downhill to cat litter or platanos con crema; a slightly longer but still pleasant walk uphill to brunch and books. There are four good playgrounds within a stone’s throw, and as of next year Claire’s two best friends will be half a mile up the road. There are underground film festivals and red-tailed hawks and Arab horses and great blue herons and redwood trees and a good symphony orchestra and six or seven decent science museums.

But that’s all pretty superficial. More to the point, I think, is that there’s the EFF and Nanowrimo and Burning Man and and 826 Valencia and Craigslist and Kerry signs in every window, replacing the Dean and Clark and Kucinich signs that used to be there. This city just feels more and more like home.

the true meaning of the phrase, “hurts like a mother”

Kat: Your child is evil! I’ve seen her beat you! She’s given you black eyes! She BITES!

R: It’s only because she loves me.

Kat: Yeah, and you walked into a door.

R: And accidently fed my nipples into a meatgrinder.

Kat, Ian and Jeremy (in unison): EEUW!


Whole Foods cashier: Do you have ID, ma’am?

R: ID? Why yes. Yes I do! Here is my ID, because though I look far younger I am in fact thirty three years old.

Cashier: Thank you ma’am.

R: Yes, thirty-three. With excellent moisturizer.

Kat: And she wears a hat when she is out in the sun.

R (dancing a little): Thirty-three!

Whole Foods bagger (deadpan): Would you like me to make an announcement on the PA?

slim shady ladies’ night

Quinn has corrupted me.

R: So I watched the video for Mosh.

Salome: Uh-huh.

R: And then I went and watched all of Eminem’s other videos.

S: And?

R: He is so hot.

S: He sure is. Let’s watch 8 Mile.

R: Done.


R: Would you mind if, when we’re shagging, I pretended you were a misogynistic white rapper?

J: I am a misogynistic white rapper.

R: Of course! “My name’s Jeremy/ and I rap in C/ writing Valgrind/ with the power of MY mind…”

J: …

R: What?

J (kindly): Great rap’s not as easy as people think.


Claire is a complete ham.

In France she was so glad to have me back that she resorted to naked flattery. She called my belly-button “FLOWER!”, and when she found a horse-inflicted bruise on my hip, she kissed it better.

In London she was more blase. I woke up one morning and watched her sleeping next to me. Her eyes twitched. She started to smile.

“You’re not asleep,” I said. “You’re just pretending!”

Eyes still closed, she burst into giggles.

Now that we’re home she’s figured out the TiVo remote and wants to watch Teletubbies 24/7.

holiday snaps

Featuring her own self, Miss Claire.


Lunch at Al Hamra, the infinitely reliable Pakistani place across the road: lamb korma (it was halal meat, Salome, so humanely killed… yeah, yeah) with garlic naan and masala chai. They’ve just started giving out masala chai free with any meal, and it’s the real thing, strong black tea boiled in milk with sugar and potent spices. Oh, mmm.

As good a place as any to read Bernard Lewis on The Middle East and to think, and think, and think. Lewis went to Istanbul in 1950 and fell hard for Turkey and the Kemalist legacy. Fifty-odd years later I have done the same thing, aided in no small part by an extremely intelligent and persuasive tour guide very aptly named Mustafa Kemal.

Subtly, pervasively, Lewis makes the Turks the hero-saviours of the Middle East, and the Arabs its backward peasants. “Between the fourth and the sixth centuries, Arabia seems to have sunk back into a sort of dark age, a time of impoverishment and a bedouinization; that is to say, a decline in such cultivation as existed, of such sedentary centres as had been established, and a consequent establishment of camel nomadism.”

Look how innocuously those value judgments creep in: impoverishment, decline. Look how cultivation -implicitly, of thoughts as well as crops – is equated with sedentary centres, nomadism with ignorance. Look at that horrible neologism ‘bedouinization’. You wouldn’t think the bedouin were, you know, people, with problems and love affairs and kids to raise. No, if they’re not contributing towards the great evolution of human culture that climaxed in Bernard Lewis, they’re degenerate.

I’m not pushing a pro-Arab line here; I’m just beginning to appreciate the complexity of elsewhere and its history and culture, and am being reminded again of the limitations of my monoglottal research and my white imagination. Lewis, you see, is the standard Western brief history of over there. I’m trying to filter out his prejudice and argument and see beyond it to whatever actually is. But all I can perceive are shadow-people and their camel trains, moving slow thighs across an unknowable desert of the mind.

This is what it is to be a Westerner.


Well, last week was full of unpleasant surprises, no? You’ll be overjoyed to hear that Jack had a great week. He was ecstatic over the Red Sox, Juliette stopped being broody and Sprint gave him a wonderful new phone.

“Uh, Jack, doesn’t the Red Sox win mean the world is coming to an end?”

“Yeah, but it was so great!”

“I’m so glad you used up everyone else’s luck. You do realize this is all your fault, right?”

Last night we had an impromptu dinner party for ten. Jeremy made an immense and yummy ratatouille. Claire and Ada competed for control of the toys, Claire using brute force, Ada using sneakiness. Quinn and I exchanged pots and perspectives on Abu Ghraib, anal fissures and the impending collapse of the dollar. Ian and Jack held forth loudly on various matters. Salome and Ellen sipped alma cay and muscat.

Kat, in a corner, brooded over her newfound sense of political alienation and nihilistic despair. Girl’s come a long way since Anderson Consulting.