Archive for May, 2010

Ferie update

Perl and I saw Ferie tonight. She (not a “he” as I previously thought) is back to guarding her corner of the complex. The Author says that Ferie snubbed her for about 10 days, but she has started eating again and everything is back to normal.

Everything except Ferie’s missing tail.

Homemade pizza experiments

I’m making pizza again. This time I made the dough from scratch too. Let it rise while I “walked the dog”. Picked some of my oregano out of my herb garden and added it to the dough. Cheese, and basil from my herb garden, on top.

Forgot to oil the dough and let it rise a second time. And didn’t follow instructions for baking the dough before adding toppings. Hopefully it turns out okay.

Might have to make a kiwi spritzer.

Empathy

sympathy—feelings of pity and sorrow for someone else’s misfortune.
empathy—the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.

A few months ago, I was playing a game. It required running up to another person, reading information off the card I carried and having that person tell me which person to go to next. The goal was to get as many “packets” through the “network” as possible.

At the end of the game, a guy came up to me and stated, “You are very empathetic.”

I asked why he thought that. He said I was the only one who played the game by memorizing the information on my card, holding my card so that the other person could read it while I spoke the information.

I said I did it because it would get me through the maze faster. And because some people are better at interpreting information they read, and others are better at hearing it.

He called me empathetic.

I was thinking about what he said while “walking the dog” this morning. While I was talking to The Archivist on a corner, we saw two bicyclists going through an intersection get cut off by a car turning right. She didn’t stop. She didn’t look. She was so focused on herself, where she was going, and what she was doing that she didn’t give a shit about anyone who was biking, or running, or “walking the dog”. I stared her down as she drove by and yelled, “Yeah, ’cause waving is going to make it all better, fucker!”

I run into these people a lot while “walking the dog”. And I understand that they are probably late to work. Probably by their own doing, although they happily blame their alarm clock or some other physical device rather than their ability to understand their own waking patterns and adjust for them.

She is the reason why, when I’m driving, I stop at the intersection before the crosswalk. I look both ways, then inch my way into the crosswalk if I think I can make a right turn without blocking a pedestrian or biker. She is the reason that I don’t turn into the bike lane to make a right turn unless I’m sure I’ll get through before a bicyclist shows up. She is the reason I have to anticipate people like her when I’m on a bicycle or running. She is the reason that when Perl and I are at the entrance to the complexes, I make sure the coast is clear before walking across.

But sometimes, we get halfway across and some jackass comes speeding up. If they were driving the speed limit, Perl and I would be safely across before they reach the entrance, but because they aren’t, I’m usually hidden from their view by redwood trees. So I quickly move Perl to my left side so that if they don’t slam on their brakes and stop in time they will hit me instead of Perl.

I do it because I want to save Perl. But not all my intentions are good. I also want them to hit me instead of my dog because I will make a bigger dent in their wallet. Maybe they will feel that, since they don’t feel empathy.

Why I don’t like to ride the bus

I want to ride the bus. I love Myrtle, but I love the environment more. I want to do my part. But I have issues.

Lets move past the typical problems of why a middle class, nearing on middle age, white woman might not ride the bus and talk about the real reasons.

Problem 0: It takes too long. To take the bus to work it would take me half an hour more than driving because of the time it takes to walk to and from the bus stop. Riding my bike takes five minutes more than driving and I get better parking.

Problem 1: How much does it cost?
At the bus stop I did not see any sign saying how much the ride would be or that I needed exact change. When I tried to board the bus, I had a yuppie food stamp ($20 bill). Neither the bus driver, nor the automated machine gives change. Also, are there discounts if I buy a day pass or something? How do I transfer?

When I enter a subway station, I don’t necessarily know how much it will cost, but I know that I can buy my ticket from either a machine or an attendant. Both will tell me how much I must pay and will give me change.

Problem 2: Embarrassment because I didn’t have exact change.
Even though I a)didn’t know the price before boarding and b)didn’t know the bus driver couldn’t give change, and c)didn’t know anyone on the bus—I could feel the disdain towards me from the passengers and driver for wasting their time.

Problem 3: Actual costs exceeds expected cost.
I had to get off the bus and buy something I didn’t need at either a local store or restaurant to make change. There was no way to get change at the bus stop. So I went to a taqueria and had a taco and a sangria. It wasn’t a total fail, but if I had gotten to the party on the first bus, I could have just eaten there.

Problem 4: Where is the bus going?
All I see are signs that say the bus number and sometimes the ending location. I don’t know if this bus goes where I need to go. This could be solved with route maps at the bus stop. A route map of where this bus goes would help, but most subway stations have route maps of the entire system so you can see where you should transfer. This might be difficult at a stop that is just a sign. Which leads me to my next problem…

Problem 5: Where is the bus stop?
I come out of a restaurant and need to get to the train station. Which way should I go? The sun isn’t out so I don’t know which way is north, and I can’t find the bus stop. Most subway stations have an entrance that is obvious. Bus stops could be a small clear shelter covered in graffiti or just a small sign on a post.

Problem 6: Which direction is the bus going?
I’m unfamiliar with this area and have no idea which side of the street I should be on to get where I want to go. If I enter a subway, there are usually signs saying which ramp to take to go in a particular direction.

Problem 7: How do I know when to get off?
I am supposed to pull this rope when I want to get off. I see a sign that says the next stop, but there was no map at the bus stop, so I’m not sure when I need to get off. Lucky for me, I have an iPhone with Google maps and can see where I am thanks to GPS, but not everyone riding the bus does.

Problem 8: How do I know it will stay on the route?
Of course, every bus is not a reenactment of the movie Speed, but this is a psychological problem I have a hard time getting over. Subways and trolleys all have to stay on the tracks or they don’t work. I know where the tracks go. Buses could change their route at any time. There is an unfounded fear of uncertainty. And I know I’m not the only one who feels this way.

So why don’t you ride the bus? How can our communities convince you to not drive your car?

Bleeding heart, take two

I cry at series finales.

There I admitted it. I’m pathetic, and I know it. But I don’t cry for the usual reasons.

I don’t cry because the show is ending. I don’t cry because the characters won’t exist in my life anymore. I don’t cry because of the scripted touching moments.

I cry because these actors have been working together for years. They have bonded. They are like family, not to me, but to each other.

Watching a series finale is like watching a high school graduating class. I used to cry at graduation too. Not because I would miss the kids—I do miss them, but I understand they must move on—but because of the pain they are enduring. They are excited and nervous about their futures, but sad to leave their friends and family behind. Overwhelming emotion.

It is easy to forget what that feels like when graduation was so long ago. We all learn to live with constant fluctuation. People come and go from our lives. But there is something eruptive when everyone leaves together.

I taught high school for seven years. I thought time would dull my sensitivity to it, and it did dull my personal emotion, but it didn’t weaken my empathy.

So I cry because there are a couple hundred people with each show like Lost and 24, who will no longer see each other on a regular basis. Their lives all changed with their last shows. Their futures hold great promise and great uncertainty. Fear, excitement, and a sense of loss all bottled up together.

Overwhelming emotion.

Visual To Do List Results

I did not make apple pie. Nor did I get through my mail box. But I’ve done the rest, and now I’m doing some work. It has been a really long day.

Cat food put away

Made organic blueberry muffins. Had to ride my bike to the grocery store to get eggs because mine were bad.

Cut up some organic strawberries in some yogurt

Took out the garbage and the recycling

Cleaned the litter box

I vacuumed and mopped

Re-potted plants

Cleaned out the bird shit

Made red cabbage and sweet potato salad

Made pickled radish

Five loads of laundry

Dishes done

Finally painted the doorbell. Needs a couple more coats.

Oh, and I walked the dog four miles today. I need a nap.

Visual To Do List

It is that time again. I have no one else to keep my house in order, so even though I have a lot of work to do today, I also need to spend some time doing chores. The pets aren’t doing it. Here is what is in store for today.

Make blueberry muffins

Put away cat food

Dishes

Sort mail I've ignored for a month

Clean out bird poo from cat carrier

Re-pot trees so I can move them for the maintenance work this week

Work work

Laundry. Yes those are my pajama pants. Hot, right?

Vacuum. Regardless of the bad spring weather, my pets are shedding.

Ask me if you really want to know

Make apple pie

Clean litter box


Take out trash

Palace Cafe

Perl and I have started a new Sunday morning tradition. We walk to Murphy Street and I sip a vanilla latte while blogging. Perl protects me from the street. She isn’t much of a guard dog. And with the street still under construction, it is pretty empty on Sundays. But we’ve had a few visitors. No letters though. A big weightlifter type, the kind who has no neck and walks around in tank tops and shorts when it is only 50 degrees, just stopped to ask if I’ve ever eaten here.

Yes, I have. It is excellent. Especially pancakes for breakfast. And great salads for lunch. And the coffee is good too. So are the mimosas. And pastries.

He said he’d be back to try it some day.

Earlier, a man in his sixties wearing spandex rode through on his bike singing at the top of his lungs. I can’t remember the line now, but it was funny when it happened. Maybe I’ll remember in a couple hours.

A tall, lanky gentleman just stopped to pet Perl. He is now sitting with his coffee and a book on the other side of the entranceway. Perl doesn’t understand why he doesn’t come back to pet her. I wonder how long he will be able to stand the smell of the cigarette butt holder next to the table. Perl an I had to move from that table earlier.

Now my coffee is gone. Time to walk home and make some blueberry muffins.

Ferie sighting

Every morning and every evening as I “walk the dog” past the place where Ferie used to sun bathe, I look for him. For almost two weeks, I haven’t seen him and decided he must have crawled off into the ivy to die.

Then Thursday morning I saw him. The cat with no tail. He was sitting in the sun behind the car that de-tailed him. He looked at me and Perl and then he blinked. That slow blink a cat does to show that they have deemed you are not a threat. Out of respect, I did not let Perl jump at him as she always does. And Perl never really saw him anyways.

When we returned from our walk, Ferie was gone. All I was left with was the idea that I might have just seen a ghost.

Typical Saturday

Two weeks ago, I woke up to what should have been a typical Saturday morning. I was wide awake at 0700 against my own wishes. Regardless, Perl and I went out for our morning constitutional, also known as “walking the dog”.

Before we could get to the street, we ran into The Author. She was looking around frantically. When she saw Perl, she asked me, “Have you seen Ferie?”

Ferie is the feral cat that lives in her part of the complex. He used to be a neighbor’s cat until they moved away and left him behind. Now he lives outside and The Author feeds him. I like Ferie. He has adjusted to Perl over the last four years and doesn’t run away. He is homeless but happy. Always basking in the sun. Blinking his approval of me. I always say hello to Ferie.

“No, I haven’t seen him. Why?” Just then I notice that The Author’s car is halfway out of it’s carport and she is holding back the tears.

“I didn’t know he was there. He was under my car. He ran as I backed out, but I ran over his tail, and now it is in front of my car. I can’t find the cat, and I can’t look at the tail or I’m gonna throw up.”

Oh. My. Gawd.

Deep breaths. Deeeeeep breaths. “Seriously?”

“Yeah. That’s karma for you. I was trying to bring breakfast to a friend who is stuck in their house, and I didn’t know Ferie was there. You know I feed him. I’m the reason he’s still alive, and now I may have killed him.”

I didn’t know what to say. It was too much. I needed to help. I needed to do something. What could I do? “Do you have a piece of cardboard or something? I can pick up the tail for you.” I couldn’t believe that had just come out of my mouth. What the fuck was I thinking? “I need something fairly solid. I picked up a dead gopher the other day with a doggy bag and it was disgusting. Do you have something?”

“How about a magazine?”

“That’ll work.” Who was I kidding? I was freaking out. A cat’s tail? Sure, I could tell people I’d gotten some tail that morning, but it wasn’t the kind that they’d want to know.

I like to think that I am strong in difficult situations.

I’m not. I’m pretending.

The Author came out with a magazine. I didn’t look to see what it was. I just did my job. As I stepped in front of the car, all I could say was, “Holy shit. That is a lot bigger than I thought it was.”

A poor homeless cat lost his tail, and that is all I could say to mourn it’s passing? I’m not good in certain situations. You never want me with you in a hospital. I make fun of urine in jars.

I opened the magazine and grabbed the tail. I was barely holding it in. I marched over to the dumpster and disposed of my package with gusto. I was screaming inside. But screaming on the outside wouldn’t have made the situation any better. So I swallowed hard, took a deep breath, and pretended I’d not had to pick up the tail that had been violently torn off the poor, sweet, homeless cat.

The Author and I talked for a few more minutes about what to do with the cat. We didn’t know where it was, but even if we found it, neither of us had the money for the emergency vet bills. And most likely, the vet wouldn’t want a stray cat that hadn’t had it’s shots in years, if ever.

I told her that my brother’s cat has no tail. And The Artist has a cat with no leg. The cat will survive. If it doesn’t die of an infection.

She told me of a time when Ferie had gotten bitten by a possum. He survived that, so yes, maybe he will survive being de-tailed.

I hope so.

Perl was getting antsy, so we went for our walk. As we hit the street, Mom called and I was talking to her as we walked. She was telling me the tale of the bureau that she had almost bought, but had decided against. Up ahead, I saw a pit bull puppy running loose, it’s owner always a couple steps behind.

I could hear the puppy teasing, “You can’t catch me!” as it ran in circles around it’s owner. When Perl was a puppy, I learned that the trick wasn’t to chase, but to walk away, in a safe direction, and ignore her. She’d quickly wonder what I was doing that was so much more interesting and would follow me. This new owner had not discovered this trick.

I also knew that as soon as the puppy saw Perl, he would come to us. I was trying to pick up poo when it happened. It was all too fast. Perl was giving the puppy an old-lady growl. I was hoping that the pit bull puppy wouldn’t snap. The puppy was jumping around everywhere at the speed of light. The owner was doing circles around me. Mom was on the phone, cradled in the crook of my neck.

If you’ve ever tried to hold an iPhone against your shoulder with your ear while holding your growling dog in one hand, saying “No” over and over again, while grasping for a spry young pup with the other hand, then you know what happened next. My iPhone fell on the cement, face down.

I grabbed the puppy with my newly free hand, while pushing Perl away with a foot. The puppy’s owner picked up my phone with two fingers and handed it to me with the grimace of someone picking up a dirty diaper. I exchanged the phone for the dog.

“Sorry,” he said. What else could he say.

It seems that not only had his puppy stood on my phone and slid it around the concrete, but the puppy had also drooled all over it. Perl, disgusted by youth, looked at me with impatience while I wiped off the slobber. That’s when I noticed the scratches on the glass. It had survived the fall, but it seems that pressing down on it while sliding it on concrete was a little too much. Luckily, the scratches and the chip are at the very top.

“Good luck with that one,” I said as he was leaving. “He’s a feisty one!”

And adorable. But I wasn’t ready to admit that.

I called Mom back. The drop had dropped the call. She continued to tell me about the bureau.

And that was just the beginning of my day.

The night before, I’d had a bit of Guinness after work. I made plans to go to a friend’s house for some whiskey. So I convinced a new friend to give me a ride home so I wouldn’t have to bike. I enticed her with promises of parties. But after “walking the dog,” we were hungry, so we went to In’n’Out Burger. Then we were tired, so instead of going out, we went to my house, made some powdered Gatorade, and listened to music by Wedding Singer. She was questioning my judgement before, but now she agrees—he can sing. Hot.

After getting some tail and defending my dog from a licking pit bull, I had to make a choice of transportation to get to work. I could drive my car and put my bike in the back on the way home. Or I could run.

I put some clean clothes in a backpack, donned my running black and pink skirt and the pink Princess shirt from the Disney Princess Half Marathon, and took off on the four and a half mile trek. I finished my conversation with Mom during the first mile, and then ran the other three and a half.

This would have been fine, except that instead of running, I’ve been biking lately. When I have run, it has only been two miles at a time. I was doubling that. And trying not to get chaffed by the backpack.

When I described the scene later, someone asked if I was practicing for the zombies. Yes, I think I am. Next, I’m considering learning to fire a gun and how to quickly enter and exit a vehicle. I’ll start training videos on how to prepare for a zombie attack.

By the time I got to work, I was hurting. Coworkers saw me stretching in my office while compiling. My mind was mush. It is hard to tell the difference between me being hungover and me having just pushed a couple extra miles out of my legs. In this case, it was physical exhaustion.

After having walked two miles, run close to four, working for a couple hours and forgetting the previous events like they were a bad nightmare, I rode my bike home 4 1/2 miles and “walked the dog”.

We didn’t see Ferie. Or the pit bull puppy.

I had flashbacks of the tail.

I ran into The Author. She hadn’t seen Ferie either. She was hoping that he was okay, but now she was kind of angry with him. While she was driving to drop off breakfast, one of the belts in her car slipped loose (not unlike Jupiter missing a belt). She got her car to the mechanic who explained that Ferie was probably sleeping in the engine block and knocked off one of the belts while getting in there, or while getting out.

Perl and I continued on our evening constitutional without incident. Another mile walked.

I had a party to go to in the city, so I rode my bike the mile or two to Caltrain because I hadn’t already had enough exercise that day. The Caltrain ride was going smoothy right up until we were delayed for half an hour because of police activity.

Once I arrived at 4th and King, I was to take a bus. Only problem is that I only had a $20, and the bus drivers don’t make change. Why is the learning curve for using public transportation so high? I can’t get change. The signs at the stops don’t always show me where the bus is going. And it is hard to know when to pull the “I need to get off” string. The last part is easier thanks to the digital readouts of the next stop. But I had to get on the bus before I could find out where it would go, and then I only knew one stop in advance.

Buses don’t go in a straight line.

And the driver’s don’t make change. So I went into the Walgreens to buy a bag of chips or a pack of gum with a $20. It was difficult to find something small enough that I would have enough change for the return trip as well.

Chips in hand, and stomach rumbling, I tried to get into line. But the girl I was standing behind turned to me and said, “The line is over there.”

It was a couple people deep. I went to the end. That was when I noticed the only girl behind the counter was frazzled, and there was a crazy lady ranting something at her.

The bus was about to come, so I thought I’d try my luck on getting change. I set the bag of chips down and muttered under my breath, “I’m outta here!”

I made sure I was the last one on the bus. I asked the driver, “Can you make change?”

“No.”

A little louder this time, I stated, “I’m outta here.”

It was cold. As it always is in a city where Mark Twain once stated, “The coldest winter I ever spent was summer in San Francisco.” So I went back into Walgreens and picked up the bag of chips I’d left on the shelf. I got back into line.

The cashier was still frazzled and the line was still long. This time, it was a drunk college guy counting change. I decided that this was not how I wanted to spend the next half an hour, so I set the bag of chips back down and as I walked out the door, I exclaimed, “I’m outta here!”

I crossed the street, careful not to make eye contact with crazy lady. It isn’t that I didn’t want to make eye contact, it is just that I was really hungry and couldn’t bear to have conversation. Especially incoherent conversation. So I looked aloof, but I didn’t care, there was a bar across the street and I was going there.

Turns out, it wasn’t a bar. It was a taqueria where you order at the counter. Not what I expected, but I was going to make it work.

Keeping in mind that I needed exact, or slightly over exact change for the bus, I ordered one taco, and one glass of sangria. They were amazing. Best bus stop taco, chips, guacamole, and sangria I’ve ever had. Done and gone in 15 minutes. There was only one other table occupied, and it was full of guys. But I’m gun shy now. A table full of guys in San Francisco is not an invitation for a single girl. Even a girl with sangria confidence.

I used the bathroom and started to walk out the door. As I saw the bus pull up while I was on the wrong side of the street, I understood two things. The first is why the taqueria made you pay as you ordered so you didn’t run out to catch the bus or train without paying. The second is why people j-run across the street.

I j-ran across the street to catch the bus. Turns out, my clock wasn’t wrong, the driver was just early and taking a break. So I would have had plenty of time to cross at the cross walk. C’est la vie.

This time, armed with exact change, stomach full of taco and brain swimming in sangria,I boarded the bus, confident that I would not shout, “I’m outta here!!”

I think I’ve only taken the bus once in San Francisco. I have a lot of issues with taking the bus, both real and perceived. That will be another post. However, regardless of my inexperience with the bus, the ride itself—once I understood which bus to take, how much I had to pay, and how much to drink and eat to achieve exact change nirvana—was actually easy and enjoyable. Still not as much fun as driving my car, but I’m trying hard to use public transportation or my own steam to get places. Myrtle turned 7 years old in April and is still under 70,000 miles. I’m trying to see how long I can go before she gets there.

I arrived at my destination just in time for a flock of bicycle riding yoga enthusiasts to flood down the stairs of the building I was entering. They wished me a good time at the party I was going to in the third floor loft. I smiled a thank you. At the top of the stairs, I pulled out the bottle of wine and wine bag that I’d been hiding in my shoulder bag, and assembled my gift.

The place was huge. I wasn’t sure where to go. It was the entire third floor of this building with pockets of people scattered throughout. I swam through the masses until I found the guest of honor.

I presented her with a bottle of Burrell School2005 Ryan Oaks Vineyard Zinfandel, a library selection aptly named “Detention.” At least it wasn’t a party with buckets of mixed drinks with names like “Purple Fucker,” so I can hope that whoever drank it appreciated it. However, it was a party full of Italians, and I don’t know their take on California wines.

There were, however, penis shaped balloons. The host and I had a penis boxing match, and she was shoving her balloon in places that people were unsuspecting. It was somewhat disturbing, but her penis balloon did match her dress, so I guess that makes everything okay. Right?

I found another friend who introduced me to another friend, and the three of us disappeared into the teepee.

Yes, I said teepee. Pictures or it didn’t happen, right?

In the teepee was a sleeping bag and a melee of musical instruments. I was enjoying playing the slide whistle to a Lady Gaga song. Eventually I traded and managed to pick out “Old MacDonald Had a Farm” on a ukelele.

I felt like a kid again. Actually better than when I was a kid. I was always so stressed out and insecure as a child that I didn’t have this much fun. I just let go and it was incredible. If I had kids, I would build them a teepee in the living room and fill it with musical instruments. Pick a wall to use with crayons and markers. Free their minds. Free their souls.

But that won’t happen. Reality came crashing down. Like that scene in Mary Poppins where they are all laughing on the ceiling. I always said, “Reality exists only in the minds of the unimaginative.” Guess that describes me.

We exited the teepee just in time for the cake that read, “If you are under 30, get the fuck out!” Best cake title ever! The two people I was in the teepee with were under 30, and I like to think I am under 30, so we ate cake and ran. It was really because I had to make sure to catch the bus and train.

My ride back to the south bay was uneventful. I set my phone alarm to go off ten minutes before my scheduled arrival. I didn’t meet anyone interesting. And luckily, no one was too drunk. Uneventful.

As I exited the train, it was misting. I unlocked my bike, rolled up my pants and started the ride home in the rain. I was cold, I was wet, but I didn’t really care. It had been one of those days. The tail, the puppy, the exhausting run, all the bike riding and dog walking, the bus debacle, and the teepee party. I was exhausted.

As I turned into our complex. I saw a young guy wearing dark slacks, a button up shirt, tie, and vest. He was dashing, leaning back against our sign, lit up by the spotlights. Waiting.

Waiting for what?

As I passed, I thought he was odd standing there. But how odd was he compared to the girl in heels, rolled up jeans, and a bright white ruffled jacket, riding a bicycle at 0130?

Irreversibly odd.

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