Thoughts About Bagels

The husband works for a medical company in Pleasanton.  (Lucky to have a job!  Especially in this economy!  Self just heard over the news that Hewlett Packard is laying off 27,000!).  Every couple of weeks, it falls to him to bring do-nuts or bagels to the office.  Today, he brought bagels.

Here were a couple of things that self found interesting about that:

  • A few weeks earlier, The Economist ran an obituary of “Bagel King” Murray Lender.
  • Self discovered that Noah’s Bagels opens at 5 a.m.  The only reason she knows this is:  that was how early the husband went over to get his order.
  • Self also never knew that a big order gets packaged like this (Reminds her of a Chinese take-out carton, only 10x bigger.  And with brown cardboard instead of white.)

Leftover bagels on the kitchen counter, next to an open copy of the Women’s Review of Books. Self was just reading a review of Arundhati Roy’s new book, Walking with the Comrades. The review is by Kerryn Higgs. Since winning the Booker for her novel, The God of Small Things, Roy has confined herself to writing only nonfiction.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Places, Last Weekend of July 2011: Borders, Downtown Palo Alto; Union Square, San Francisco

Self can’t believe it:  the Borders in downtown Palo Alto is closing.

It was a huge space:  two floors.  It was in a landmark Palo Alto building (Before housing Borders, the building housed the New Varsity Movie Theater, the place where self, a Stanford grad student, watched double bills like Attack of the Killer Tomatoes and Little Shop of Horrors.)

So this was the scene Saturday afternoon, when self dropped by with son:

Borders in Downtown Palo Alto Going Out of Business

Sadness! Taken from the Upper Floor of the Palo Alto Borders

And then self had to drive son to the City, because Kramer was running in the San Francisco Marathon and Kramer’s parents had gotten a couple of rooms in the Hilton on O’Farrell.

Since Kramer had to go to bed early (The marathon began at 5:30 am), self and son were able to spend a few hours walking around the city.

We went to the top floor of Macy’s, arrived at a terrace adjoining The Cheesecake Factory, and took pictures of Union Square.

The View of Union Square from The Cheesecake Factory inside Macy's

Then we walked to Chinatown.  Which is not something self would normally think of doing.  But all things are possible when in the company of son!  We made it almost all the way to Sacramento Street.

On the return trip, self insisted on hailing a cab.  The cab driver was so honest:  the amount of the fare was a little over $4, self inadvertently handed him $7 and he held the money up and said self had given him too much.  Self told him to keep it!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Late Summer Evening, Chinatown, San Francisco

Blooming Today in Self’s Garden/ Reading Patrick Leigh Fermor

Bushy Geranium in Side Yard-- Has Been Blooming for Months

Fourth of July, one of self's oldest surviving roses

Self finds it exceedingly curious that her backyard has all of the red flowers (The prevailing color scheme in the front yard is blue, white, and yellow)

Today, self’s in the thick of Patrick Leigh Fermor’s 1933 walk across Europe, A Time of Gifts.  He spends much time in Germany.  Aside from the historical value of seeing Germany through the prism of a British teen-ager, the writing is so drop-dead gorgeous that it fills self with the utmost awe and amazement.  It makes self ineffably sad to think that this —  the discovery of a new writer —  can only be had once:  that is, the next time she encounters a book by Fermor, she’ll know what to expect.  There can’t be that excitement, that she feels right now.

Self remembers feeling similarly awed by the writing of Antonio Muñoz Molina in Sepharad.  As regular dear blog readers know, self spent almost her whole month in Bacolod reading this one book.  She’s often been tempted to buy a copy to keep, but she knows the experience of reading Sepharad in Bacolod, in January 2011, can never be duplicated.  Even if she had the book, self would be extremely reluctant to tamper with the memory of reading it there, at that particular point in time, which she feels would inevitably happen if she began to re-read (Self, there you go again with your profound sensitivities!)

P. S.:  Today, self happened to drop by Woodside Plaza.  As further evidence (as if any were needed) that the California ecomony really really sucks, there was a big sign in front of neighborhood stalwart McWhorter’s Stationers:  STORE CLOSING, EVERYTHING MUST GO.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Monday, Monday

It was not raining, and then it was raining.  Now it is still raining.

Self heard over the news that a boy somewhere in the South, an autistic boy, was “sucker punched” by his schoolmates.  Son was bullied at Sacred Heart Prep.  Here’s the name of the instigator:  Thomas Hennessy.  Self doesn’t know if Hennessy’s father was ever told.  Son had bruises on his arms.  He didn’t tell self.  Her first sight of the bruises was during a family trip to New Orleans.  Since the three of us —  hubby, self, and son —  were all together in one hotel room, son had to change in and out of his clothes in a very surreptitious manner.  One evening, however, self noticed bracelets of green and blue on son’s upper arms and said, “JUST A MINUTE.  Let me see that.” And then:  “WHO DID THIS TO YOU?”

Son was a freshman; Hennessy was a senior.  The following year, Hennessy graduated and was admitted to Stanford.  The rest of that trip to New Orleans passed in a blur.  She wanted to pull son out of Sacred Heart Prep, that very second, but hubby showed unusual firmness and said no.  Son graduated from Sacred Heart Prep.

She remembers getting a call from Hennessy.  He was all crying and contrite:  “Please don’t tell my father.”  Self yelled at him.  “I suppose,” she said, “You consider yourself a big man.  Picking on a freshman!!!”

Years later, she read in a local paper that Hennessy and his girlfriend were arrested for spraying graffiti on the walls of a Redwood City school, St. Pius.  Of course he was not put in jail or anything so awful.  And then the Redwood City Police Department dropped the charges, or reduced it to a mis-demeanor, or anyway decided not to stain the Hennessy family honor with further imputations.  And Hennessy graduated from Stanford (probably with honors, ha ha ha!)

(Self is recalling all of this now because, recently, it came to her attention that Christopher Warren, who was the commencement speaker at self’s Stanford graduation, has just passed away.  He served under various Democratic presidents:  his daughter graduated from Stanford the same year self did)

Self discovered (from a museum poster at Kirk’s Hamburgers, where she had gone last Thursday with son) that there is an exhibit on the Olmecs at the de Young.  Self became a Museum member last November.  She’s never even had the chance to attend a single exhibit.  Here’s this Olmec exhibit, and self learned several years ago, from a book called 1492, that the Olmecs decorated their temples with effigies of fetuses (Only recently have archaeologists corrected their earlier impression, that the effigies were of “dwarves”), fetuses in all stages of development.  The exhibit lasts until May 11.  She mentioned it to hubby, but he is very reluctant to drive to the city (“Gas is so expensive these days!”)

Self listens to the morning news and learns that Gaddafi, Madman Extraordinaire, and the cause of yet more bleeding of U.S. funds to a war in some foreign clime (when the war back home is:  Record numbers of unemployed, especially engineers, especially in California), once put out a hit on Michael Reagan, progeny of Ronald Reagan.

What???  And then, WHAT?

She looks down at the bookmark she has been using for Karin Fossum’s The Indian Bride:  a museum brochure for “Raised By Wolves,” a photography exhibit from many years ago, at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.  The exhibit consisted of photographs and other documents collected by photographer Jim Goldberg from runaways, children living on the streets of America.  On the front of the brochure, a quote from a street kid:  “It’s not like you can go home and watch TV.”  Self swears, the boy looks about 12.

Self looks wonderingly at the photographs on the brochure.  What a fantastic, evocative title that is:   “Raised by Wolves.”  One day she’ll write a story with that very same title.  Perhaps she’ll even start right now.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Eavesdropping on Engineers

While waiting for her life to get back on track (Dearest Mum left, leaving self’s nerves, as usual, in tatters), self ruminates:  Should she see “Let Me In” (vampire movie starring Kick-Ass‘s Chloe Moretz), or will that give her nightmares?  Should she see “The Social Network” in spite of hubby’s scorn? (Salon.com’s Matt Zoller Seitz wrote “There isn’t a drop of blood in it” which made her think of vampires again but anyhoo!)

A few days ago, self checked the enrollment for her upcoming UCLA Extension class on Nonfiction:  It is full! The class doesn’t start for another three weeks.

In the meantime, self has plenty of time on her hands to eavesdrop on hubby’s phone conversations (She’s a writer.  There is no such thing as being too snoopy!).  Here are a few snippets:

  1. Hubby on the phone to a fellow engineer:  “So, are you thinking of starting your french fry business?”
  2. Hubby to a technician named “Junior” (Self assumed from the name that the technician was Filipino; turns out he wasn’t, and self has to revise her stereotypical thinking yet again.  “He’s called Junior,” hubby explains, “because he has the same name as his father.”):  “Remember that young guy who was working with us last week?  They can’t find him.  What was his name?  That’s right:  Troy.  Well, they can’t find him.  They can’t find Troy!” (Oh, no!  Methinks someone better find Troy, on the double!  BWAH HA HA HAAAA!  On a side note:  self hasn’t encountered a first name “Troy” in decades.  She thinks the last time was when she used to hear the name of a Hollywood actor named Troy Donahue)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Zeitgeist, Redwood City, October 2010

Hubby is cleaning the tub.

Is that not a wondrous spouse, someone who cares so much about tidiness and cleanliness?

Self is one lucky woman.

So, where have we arrived at, in the month of Halloween, only a few months left before Christmas (and Costco already full of Christmas card displays and what not)?

Self did get to catch one of the debates:  the one between Jerry Brown and Meg Whitman.  And, on the basis of that debate, she has decided to vote for Jerry Brown.  She can’t honestly bring herself to vote for a woman who has rarely, herself, ever voted.  And who thinks one day spent on the border is enough of a backgrounder on the immigration issues that beset this state.

Hubby was leaning towards Meg, but self told him he better not.  We are both registered Democrats, how can we vote against our own party?

Besides, Brown is looking very spry for his age.

Gracie has a list when she walks.  Self returned from New York, and the poor li’l crit was lame.  Self glared suspiciously at hubby, and he swore he had nothing to do with it.  She just presented with a lame leg as if by magic.  And self took Gracie to her regular groomer, and the groomer felt around and said that she didn’t think Gracie had a broken joint or anything like that.

But she is definitely not herself:  panting excessively, etc.

Both of self’s beagles are old.

Costco had no lines.

Where is this state going?

Are people just going to keep getting meaner and meaner?

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Difficulties Today: Hottest Day (So Far) of 2010

With no warning, the Bay Area experiences the two hottest days of the year.  Last night, self listened to newscast after newscast, all announcing with utmost awe:  “This was the hottest day of the year!”  Funny, just the weekend previous, self went shopping for plants, and all the nursery people she encountered complained how “short” and “cool” the summer was.  Nowhere did self encounter a person who said, “We are going to have the two most sweltering days of the year —  starting tomorrow!”

Result:  all the plants self put in the ground yesterday got fried.  Fried.  Leaves as crisp as Calbee shrimp chips.  She wouldn’t even pay 25 cents for those plants, let alone $4.50 each!  Self ended up doing strategic re-positioning.  She looked at her front yard, and noticed that the late afternoon sun was akin to the Sahara.  And the front yard was baking.  Even the trees offered no relief, for the late afternoon sun comes in at a slant (of course).  So then self ended up digging new planting holes, in spots more protected from the sun.  And she was so obssessed that she only noticed after she had set to work that she was wearing white jeans.

Self has six pairs of white jeans in her closet, none of which she has bought herself.  All of them are from Loehman’s, courtesy of Dearest Mum.  Hence, the cavalier treatment.  One of them may even be Dolce & Gabbana.

Nevertheless.  Self succeeded in moving her plants.

Now, she only has one thing to do by tomorrow.  And that is write her book review of Ilustrado.

She of course has to prepare dinner (Oh, please let hubby come home late!  As late as possible!).  She sat down for a brief respite, and heard on the news that the economy was going to get worse.  Much worse.  In fact, the housing market is going down, down, dooown.  So she called her Stanford Retirement Plan advisor, and he said:  “Don’t you know that if you want rock-solid investments, you can pretty much expect 0 interest?  Didn’t you know that?”

All self wanted to know was why she has less in her plan now than she did in 2003.  Is that such an unreasonable question, dear blog readers?  She was about to tell her advisor to move everything to a bond fund, and then her phone went “Beep!  Beep!”  And the battery went dead.  The last thing she heard him saying was, “If you’ll just hold on a minute —  ”

Bzzz!  Fried.

It is so hot that Bella, self’s older beagle, hasn’t eaten for two days.  She is, however, still alive, bushy-tailed, and alert.  Which is more self can say of herself.

On lighter note, Gawker.com reports today that Catherine Keener kept Keanu Reeves waiting for half an hour in some New York locale.  Result:  he was cornered by a fan who asked him to pose for a picture and then spent the next moments frantically e-mailing the pic to the internet universe.  Self only knows that if that had happened to her —

Self, the sun has fried your brain!  You are not, self repeats N*O*T Keanu Reeves!  So no need to worry about the “What if” of such a situation ever happening to you!  You may stand around, for as much as an hour, and the most you will ever get is a suspicious glance from a security guard!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

A Choice Between “Vampires Suck” or “Get Low”

Saturdays, as dear blog readers know, are movie days. This morning, after running through all the movie choices (self secretly wanted to see “The Switch,” as she has soft spot for Justin Bateman), hubby decided on “Get Low.”

Self normally leaves the Saturday movie choices to hubby (as she can watch whatever she wants on the weekdays!)

Self has to say, the Guild Theater in Menlo Park, where “Get Low” is currently showing, is a beautiful theater. Here are the things self particularly likes about the theater: the art deco lights, the curlicue decorations all along the walls, the way the red curtains slowly part to reveal the screen (such a thrill!), and especially the fragrance of freshly popped popcorn suffusing the (teensy) lobby!

Initially, self was not at all enthused about this movie. In fact, the preview quite put her to sleep. But self is happy to report that the movie was so beautifully acted, by all the actors (Self thought Bill Murray was especially fine), and so beautifully photographed and edited, that she found herself quite moved, at the end.

It’s not at all what the preview leads one to think! For the movie turns out to be a bittersweet love story. Bill Murray and a young actor named Lucas Black, as operators of the local funeral home, were wonderful. And let’s not forget Sissy Spacek, whose luminous eyes brim with so much hope and regret.

Self would also like to say that Robert Duvall’s face is a craggy force of nature; she loved each and every one of his close-ups.

The Depression-era setting didn’t hurt, either. As self felt she understood the undercurrent of desperation that was the movie’s mournful sub-text. How can she not? Hubby’s company, which once had over a hundred employees, is now down to its last nine people! Every day, self thanks her lucky stars that hubby is one of those nine, though it’s depressing for him to go to work and see all those empty cubicles.

“Get Low” is now one of self’s favorite movies of Summer 2010, along with “Inception,” “Restrepo,” and “Winter’s Bone.” She’s suddenly sick of noisy, explosion-filled summer movies (“Inception” being a notable exception). If she craves action, she wants it really straightforward, like in “Predators.” Not gussied up star vehicles like “Knight and Day” and “Salt.”

Yesterday, in Palo Alto Square, where she went to watch “The Kids Are All Right,” she saw a preview for the film adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go. The movie, which stars Carey Mulligan, Keira Knightley, and Andrew Garfield, looks like a knock-out. (Surprisingly, star billing goes to Mulligan rather than Knightley. But self likes that, actually. It seems true to the material) Self can hardly wait to see it.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

In Yet Another Savvy Campaign Move …

It is sooo depressing to be back in the San Francisco Bay Area (after glorious weekend spent on the Central Coast, visiting son)

Today, a manuscript which self mailed to New York last week — a manuscript she sent priority mail, with delivery confirmation (She would have sent “Express Mail” only she was trying to save money) — came back in the mail, marked “Attempted, Not Known.”

She paid $19.20 to mail this package.

She called the recipient to verify the address.  Yes, indeed, she had it right on the mailing envelope.

Self immediately trundled back to the post office to complain.

She got to speak to a supervisor.  He said, “It says on the envelope:  MOVED.  Did you see this?”

Self said:  “The recipient has not moved.  I just spoke with her an hour ago to check.”

“In this economy,” the supervisor said, “So many offices are closing.  No wonder the postal carriers are confused!”

**##@@!!

“Really?” self said.  “Well, I want a refund.”

“We are not authorized to issue a refund,” quoth postal supervisor.

And why not?  In this economy, every dollar counts!

The supervisor offered to give her the number of the post office in Manhattan.  “No,” self said.  “Aren’t you the post office?  Do your job!”

Self just ended up shrugging her shoulders and walking out.

Then, she had a chance Read the rest of this entry »

Life Is Good/ 30 July 2010 Edition

Life is good, dear blog readers!

Sure, self’s li’l abode isn’t air-conditioned, and the recession is hitting hard on all fronts, and self’s part-time teaching jobs are vanishing into thin air, and hubby’s start-up (which makes the most fabulos-o mystery machine in the whole world) hasn’t been able to sell a single unit since December, and 12 engineers are just sitting around in Fremont biting their nails, and everyone wonders where the hell the Obama-love went, and self has not (so far this year) gotten any of her writing placed anywhere, and she was supposed to go to Scotland in September but got notice that her hosts are having to postpone her residency, but self still persists in thinking life is good.

Why?  Let self count the ways:

She bit the bullet and purchased a Macmini ($570), hooked it up to son’s fabulo-so HP widescreen (He has two other computers, much newer, down in San Luis Obispo), and now she doesn’t have to scrunch over her MacBook when reading e-mail or writing posts or what-have-you.  Success!  Happiness!  Jubilation!  Her posture is much improved.  Now self doesn’t have to end a full day of writing with a crick in her neck.

Since self is only Read the rest of this entry »

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