Archive for June, 2006

i do like food

Dinner at Chenery Park’s kids’ night, with Andrew, Kathy and Martha. I had lamb with spinach and potato gratin, and a bourbon bread pudding. Sazerac and pinot noir. OH my god.

Hedonism can be read as aggression. There’s a growing movement among my friends to discredit my blog. Danny and Quinn threaten to go to restaurants after me, and publish: “It wasn’t that good!”

But it was, my scurvy dogs, yes it was.

die old #2

I have made every 9am workout since the switch. On Friday, Charlotte sent us to run around the top of Bernal Hill.

“I want you to imagine yourself as a great athlete,” she said.

At last, something I can do!

Rahab Charmian, private eye, ran like a deer, all brown muscle and pale crop of hair. Olympic athlete, Pulitzer- and Booker-prize-winning novelist and real estate genius, she made the steep hill seem negligible, even amiable. The eyes of men and women followed her, only to be cast down by a glint of gold from her wedding ring – a single flash from the fires of Mount Doom.

first tooth!

Just when you think she’s absolutely perfect …she gets jewelier.

Thank you very much! I’ll be here all week!

die old

I signed up for the 6.15am class with Coach Charlotte, thinking, I don’t know why, that I could reverse a lifetime of Not Being A Morning Person by sheer Force Of Will. After I’d missed seven of the first eight sessions, I gave up and asked to switch to 9am. Had my first late-morning workout today.

I’ve been very fit in the past, but only anaerobically, when I was riding competitively and teaching. I’ve never had much upper-body strength, and I have no cardio fitness at all. I loathed my high school PE teacher, your standard-issue sadomasochistic pervert. I’ve never set foot in a gym. So Charlotte’s basically starting from scratch.

Halfway through the first session I was wheezing like an asthmatic, and I wondered why it felt so completely different from high school PE, why I was in pain but not actually suffering, and then I realized: I’m not scared any more. From the age of about seven until I started taking Zoloft, just after my 32nd birthday, I was terrified most of the time. I didn’t even know it, not really, I just thought other people were braver than me. Post-vitamin-Z, I’ve lost my driving phobia, flying phobia and social phobia, so it stands to reason that I’m no longer afraid of getting out of breath.

The best thing about Workout on the Hill, though, is not the workout – which feels fabulous as soon as you stop – it’s the hill. I did my bicep curls looking down over Candlestick to the bay. My step-ups, I watched mayflies hovering under the eucalyptus trees.

Die old is a geek meme right now, reflecting the fact that so many of us are thirtysomething with kids. In my miserable teens and twenties, it never occurred to me that my doctor would actually find out what was wrong with me and fix it, or that I would get married to the most amazing person in the world and that he would like me and laugh at my jokes, or that I would have kids at all, let alone revel in them. I get happier and happier over time, even as the glaciers melt. I’m going to buy a Prius and live to be a hundred and twenty.


Through the curved stairwell window of the apartments on San Jose Avenue, Claire got a look at the twin spires of St Paul Church in Noe Valley. Ever since, she’s been demanding to go to church.

You may imagine how this makes me roll my eyes.

Far be it from me to stand in the way of my preschooler’s blossoming spirituality. Sunday morning Salome and I took the lot of them to Glide. Whatever your position on the existence or otherwise of invisible superheroes in the sky, Glide is worth visiting. They provide food, health care, housing, training and employment, counseling and HIV tests to anyone who needs them; also, they have a kick-ass gospel choir and band.

I know I said I’d shut up about $HorribleSuburbanChurch, but this is relevant: the last year I was there, Vic began one of his more pointlessly stupid crusades. Ian Marrett, who ended up marrying my sister, brought along a beautiful old spiritual: “I want Jesus to walk with me.”

Vic announced that we weren’t allowed to want Jesus to do anything more for us – hadn’t Jesus done enough? – and that we’d have to sing the doctrinally correct, if ridiculous and unmetrical, “Jesus wants me to walk with him.”

(It sounds like an idiotic argument and it was, but there was a serious point to it. Does Jesus care more about one very strict, very narrow interpretation of a set of Greek texts of dubious origin, or does he care more about what is beautiful and right? Of course I think he’s long dead and has no opinion either way, but any God worth its salt should be an inspirer of great art – the Hagia Sophia, say – and not of evil and derivative crap like the Left Behind books. Otherwise, what’s the point? There’s a whole ‘nother conversation about C.S. Lewis and Hamlet – do you really want to live in a universe in which tragedy is meaningless? No, really? – and another about the extent to which American evangelicals grotesquely overrate Lewis, and yet another about how in $HorribleSuburbanChurch even Lewis and John Donne were considered scarily subversive and not really worth reading, especially by young women – only the Bible was worth reading – but suffice it to say that by Christ, I’m glad I left.)

Naturally, Glide launched into the old, beautiful and yearning version of “I want Jesus…” just to make clear to me that this is not $HorribleSuburbanChurch. Naturally I blubbed, and within seconds an usher was offering me Kleenex. That’s what I call service.

Claire thought church was fine. She’s walking again, by the way, which is a huge relief to those of us who both love her and are tired of carrying her.

Sunday evening we had vague dinner plans with the Murgisteads, and Salome wanted to visit the Target at Serramonte Mall. For some reason we thought it would be hilarious and ironic to have dinner in the ‘burbs. Well, you can picture what happened next: hungry, desperate hipsters appalled that a Food Court could close at 7pm; a 75-minute wait at the Elephant Bar. We ended up at Denny’s.

“What, if anything, is edible?” I asked, reasonably enough I thought.

“I’m not sure I want you ragging on my people’s culture,” said Salome. “I feel defensive.”

“I’m not criticizing. I’m just… surprised. The vegetable options on the children’s menu include Teddy Grahams.”

Jack said: “Isn’t it reassuring to be reminded that we belong in the city?”

Claire devoured her Mac and Cheese. Denny’s gave us free coupons for bowling, so our hilarious ironic hipster outings aren’t over yet. Jeremy was up till 3am trying to digest his sandwich.


i miss the kids

Raven IMed me: You still awake?

Me: Yes.

Raven: I went to the JBoss party, top floor of the Rio. Schweet.

Me: I had a glass of pinot and read my library book. Guy at the next table tried to pick me up. Typical night in Vegas.

Raven: Hahahaha! Moms are cool.


Everyone should have a friend like Jonathan, whose hobby is throwing ever-more-astonishing parties. Husband, baby and I spent the weekend on a mountaintop in the Ventana wilderness, drinking cocktails.

Preschooler stayed home and had a sleepover with all her friends. By all accounts, she enjoyed herself enormously, yet when we got home she sat on my lap stiff as an ironing board, and sulked.

“Don’t talk to me.”

“Can I read?”


“Can I give you a kiss?”


“Are you mad because we went away?”


I left my phone on the charger all day yesterday and forgot to check my messages until about five. There was one from Salvatore saying that Claire had had a fall in the playground and was limping. I was with my mother that afternoon thirty years ago when a stranger came to tell us that Alain had been hit by a car and broken his leg. I’ll always remember the look on her face when she picked up her handbag and left: pure unadulterated mama bear. I think that look was on my face as I took the train home last night.

Claire’s foot was still swollen and couldn’t take her weight. We bundled her off to St Luke’s, where her leg and foot were thoroughly X-rayed and where a lovely pediatrician asked whether maybe an elephant had stepped on it? As far as anyone can tell, it’s just a bad sprain. Claire is resplendant in an Ace bandage. It’s still pretty painful, and she had a bad night.

All the same, we’re the only parents I know who made it to age three-and-a-half before their first trip to the ER. I offer yet more thanks to the unseen for our undeserved good luck.

you can tell a lot about a person from their dragons

Claire’s latest crush is on Django.

“My dragon’s name is Zeaman,” she revealed.

Actually, she has three dragons: “Alfie, Matilda and Zeaman.”

Lest you think this is greedy, cousin Kelly has four dragons: “Ronin, Kinnon, Lunnon and Channon.”

There’s more.

“Cousin Ross’s dragon’s name is Hizzon Kiss Husband Orange-juice Hizzon.

“Unky Al’s dragon’s name is Hizzal Yummy Hug Bear Hizzal.

“Aunty Sarah’s dragon’s name is Hizzair Kiss Ouch Honey Cham.

“Uncle Max’s dragon’s name is Hizzax Baa Da Far La Na La Na Na Na. Wait! That’s too many names!”


We have hot water. Jets of it, gushing from the wall. In the nick of time, because I have my annual cold. All hail our plumbers!

They put our beautiful old brass shower back up, too.

there’s some gassiness

Friday night was Media Night at SOTA, so I blew off Pesce and Serena (sorry guys) and drove up the hill to school. The films were a mixed bag, as ever. Diana’s sweetly funny piece on Internet pen pals was a standout, as was the first little film, an adorable sapphic fantasy. And Joey Talbot made an amazingly slick documentary about his own hip-hop record label. Here’s one of his artists:

“Yeah, they call me the Milkman. I used to drink milk, a lot of milk, maybe too much milk. So now I am lactose-intolerant. There’s some gassiness.”

Joey’s in love with a sort of hard core urban aesthetic, so there were lots of moodily lit shots of his rappers standing in front of ghetto landmarks like… St Luke’s Hospital! I shouldn’t giggle, because I know that for some young men my neighborhood really is the ‘hood, however bourgeois it seems to me. I shall confine myself to remarking that when I went out on Saturday morning, someone trespassed on my flowerbed and pulled all the weeds. Damned guerrilla gardeners.

Anyway, what really hooks me on the kids’ films is seeing San Francisco through these entirely other eyes. The kids love long hand-held camera shots through the city streets, Orson-Welles-ian lurches through windows; they love the sidewalks and freeways and trees and mini-parks and architecture. They layer gorgeous music over the top of their footage. It’s a swoony dream of the City, unbelievably brilliant and beautiful, the way all adolescents are incredibly pretty just because they are so young.

They’re so young. They’re narcissistic and self-pitying and melodramatic and turgid. The best films embrace the contradictions of adolescence and make gentle fun of them; the most grown-up-seeming films are the ones most frankly made by teenagers. The films that try to be very slick and adult are the weirdest and least convincing. But these kids have so much to tell us. And their technical proficiency has improved by leaps and bounds in the three years I’ve been watching. I’m prouder of Salome and Scott than I can say.

So that’s what the young people are into these days. As for the really young people, well, they demand much higher degrees of interactivity. Claire says:

“I went to Salome’s school! We saw ALL the movies, on the very big TV. I like Daddy’s movie, with the stars. You go like this and they move!”


It’s late, I’m cranky, Jeremy is boiling up some fancy-schmancy pasta.

R: That smells like poo. Why are you eating poo?

J (serenely): For the nutrients.


One last thing about the whole church ick, and then I’ll shut up. While we were in Sydney Clare Pascoe flew down from Armidale to have dinner with me, which was intense and awesome. Also supercool: she arranged it so that the flight was on the Anglican church’s dime, ha ha.

After dinner I drove her back to Jaqi’s house in Redfern. We discussed regret, and I said something about how in your 20s you need to accept that your parents are the parents you would have chosen, if you had the choice.

“Oh you got that far, did you?” said Clare amiably. “I never did.”

It’s clear her parents loved her dearly, she explained, but her father lacked emotional warmth and left her hungry and vulnerable to predators.

I’d been reading Temple Grandin and Ian McEwan, so I was unusually conscious of the time lapse between the image and the verbalized thought. I’d read the literature and I know that girls who are securely attached to their dads are at far less risk of molestation and acquaintance rape than girls who are not. But there’s a difference between knowing something in theory and seeing it.

What I saw was myself at fifteen, with glossy ringlets and angry acne and a hapless choice of clothes, wandering obliviously through that ugly suburban church with the child abusers at the pulpit and the organ and in the pews. And all around me was a clear bright bubble, like a plasma ball, like Violet Parr’s force field.

So Dad, next time you add up your life’s successes and failures – and I know you do – add this one to the plus column. I spent years and years in a horrible place where cruel men wished me harm, and I was safe because you loved me.