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BY suzy

02/01 Direct Link
If amusement parks can have signs saying, "You have to be this tall to take this ride", can't art museums? I mean, come on. Amusements parks' whole raison d'être is to attract kids and possibly make them sick while simultaneously parting their parents from their hard-earned money. Art museums, to the best of my knowledge, are not. So institute a "5 years old or older" rule and let the rest of us enjoy the beauty in peace. If the kid's being dragged around slobbering and screaming in its mother's arms, it ain't working up a sweat with art appreciation.
02/02 Direct Link
While I was in the city, I decided to visit the old neighborhood and pick up some delicacies and delightfuls which are unavailable in Siberia by the Bay. Besides not actually being San Francisco, having to drive nearly everywhere, and the shopping cart people, the worst thing is the near-total lack of Suzy-standard take out and delivery in my immediate neighborhood.

In the month or so I have lived here, I have had the worst pizza and Chinese food of my long life. Seriously. I picked up some good food and brought it home. I am my own delivery man.

02/03 Direct Link
I noticed a guy in the backyard of the house behind mine. It was hard not to notice, since he was beating on the door and screaming, quite the little monologue:

"Open the door, bitch! Open the damn door!"

Pause while guy looks at door, which looks back. Guy resumes pounding door and kicking it:

"Open the damn door! I know you in there! I know it!"

Second intermission. Guy gives it another try:

"Stop doin' all that damn oxycotin 'n' sleepin' all damn day. Then you can answer the damn door. Damn!"

And on the Lord's Day, too.

02/04 Direct Link
I was chatting with my sister on the phone when I noticed an old man carrying a plastic gas container coming up my front stairs. I told my sister about the unexpected visitor, and she told me (somewhat unnecessarily, but she tends to be protective of her older and sillier sister) not to let the guy in. I fled to the kitchen, making me temporarily invisible.

After a few minutes, I peeked out from my refuge and saw that my porch was once again weirdo-free. On further peeking, I noticed Gas Can Man shuffling away, presumably to scare someone else.

02/05 Direct Link
I am suffused with memories as I drive up to my sister’s and brothers’ (my sister has been married for 17 years to our brother’s best friend, so he’s my brother, too, as far as I’m concerned). The exit to Bodega Bay: where we spent so many happy Christmases with our father, who alternated Christmases between California and his kids and London and his wife’s children - a good arrangement for all concerned. The land my brother and sister bought to be our homestead, now in jeopardy. But no matter what happens, we’ll always have each other’s love and support.
02/06 Direct Link
So many other places. If I walk to my brother’s house down the narrow, rutted dirt road, I pass the tree where Dad had a stroke, the day after Thanksgiving. Where we found him, speechless, alive, and the paramedics and firemen who are now my siblings’ colleagues, but weren’t then, saved our father’s life before our eyes. The landfill, where the helicopter landed and took Dad and me to the starry skies and our fate, diverted by fog. The turn off to Ukiah, where CHP pulled my distraught brother over to tell him we were in Ukiah, not Santa Rosa.
02/07 Direct Link
I was torn by my need to minister to Dad in that unfamiliar emergency room and knowing my brother and sister were in hell, not knowing if he were dead or alive. So every moment I could pull my eyes from my father’s beloved face, I looked through the windows in the doors for my beloved siblings. I will never forget my brother’s face as he strode through the doors. I couldn’t make him wait another second after his long journey: I did thumbs up. His face caved with relief and when he came through the doors, he brought hope.
02/08 Direct Link
So this drive, so familiar, is haunted and always will be. Still, at the end are the people I love most in the world, a place whose beauty is haunting and astonishing, and no matter how much time I spend there, can never become ordinary. Along the drive there are places where my spirit always lifts: in the redwoods, the sun flickering through the shadows of the ancient trees; coming out to see the ocean in all its glory where it meets the river; the home stretch of the road that leads to the little houses of my beloved family.
02/09 Direct Link
The sky is blanketed with stars. There always seem to be more of them, and they seem closer than they do in the city. The silence in the country is deep, unmarred by traffic and neighbors. I used to find it lonely there, but after spending weeks at a time there during our mother’s illness, I finally got used to it. It’s chilly once the sun goes down, but we decide to have a barbecue anyway. Since it’s winter, we can have a bonfire, drinking wine and eating dinner by the blaze, showered with ashes and laughter, dodging the sparks.
02/10 Direct Link
Over the years, my brother’s and sister’s friends have become my own, so I slip easily into their world, asking after family and jobs, exchanging gossip. E, who was in love with my brother once, has a four year old daughter. She confided to me that she wishes my brother was the father, instead of the real father, who never sees his daughter or helps support her. He’s missing out: this little girl is so bright and composed and affectionate, a precocious little gift for those lucky enough to be part of her life. Her smile lights up a room.
02/11 Direct Link
Queenie’s Roadhouse in Elk is open when its owners feel like it, not according to any schedule. So we call ahead, find out they’re open, and make the spectacular drive on winding roads beside the rough, wild Pacific coastline, steep cliffs beside the white capped sea. We arrive at the tiny town in bright sunlight. Breakfast is as wonderful as the scenery, everything delicious, organic and almost everything locally sourced. Then a bittersweet goodbye (happy to see my siblings, sorry to leave) and the long drive home, past sleeping winter vineyards hazed with wildflowers, towering redwoods, planning my next visit.
02/12 Direct Link
The movers broke my bed, although I can’t seem to convince the powers that be at their office. All I know is it was fine on the last night at my old place, and the center beam was broken on arrival. Unfortunately, I didn’t find this out until I actually got into bed for the first time at my new place and it collapsed. I propped it up on bricks, but it was a losing battle, and the bed kept falling apart. I ended up ordering a new bed after tossing the old one. I have really bad bed karma.
02/13 Direct Link
I do have some things to look forward to: seeing Joe Sample and Wayne Shorter at the San Francisco Jazz Festival; Bruce Springsteen in Sacramento; and two friends coming to visit, all in April. I’m hoping to get some shelves built and all of the boxes finally unpacked and disposed of before company arrives. I have a fantasy of how beautiful the house will look if I can ever get it tidied up and my too many possessions put away, but most days I doubt if the fantasy will ever become reality. Good thing I have a couple of months.
02/14 Direct Link
The new bed isn’t even here yet and I’m already worried about putting it together. I’m incapable of successfully completing “some assembly required”. At my old place, there were lots of boys in the building who could and would help me with such projects, but here the only neighbors I’ve met are the 80 year old guy across the street and the Parkinson’s victim next door, whose wife prays for his recovery. I don’t think I can ask either of them to do the required assembly. I’ll have to ask my brother or rely on the kindness of Craigslist strangers.
02/15 Direct Link
On the last day of my visit, my brother is late meeting us, having stopped to lift the landlord from the hot tub. The landlord built the houses my brother and sister live in, and lives on the same property, so he is a neighbor, too. Over the years, he also became a friend, so we helped him as much as possible during his battle against cancer. My brother blows into the room, strong and vital, saying, “He won’t last much longer.” He was right: in a few days, the battle was lost. Rest in peace, James. And thank you.
02/16 Direct Link
Another blow: my sister M asked our older sister B for the portion of the money she had inherited from our mother. M and our brother bought some land a couple of years ago, intending to build houses there, and the money was needed to dig a well. B informed us that she had spent the money, and further, that Mom intended her to inherit all of the money, leaving us with nothing. Even though we are all the family she has (other than her own children), and even though she knows refusing the money may mean losing the land.
02/17 Direct Link
We’re all reeling from the shock, not only of our older sister’s actions, but her attitude. My brother thinks she must have a gambling addiction or be part of some cult – what else could explain stealing money from your own siblings and not caring about it? We can’t afford a lawyer, so she’ll get away with it. Even if we sued her, she’s spent the money, so we’ll never get it back. People always say, “What goes around, comes around”, but in my experience, those who behave badly get away with it and it’s the rest of us who suffer.
02/18 Direct Link
A bright spot in these dark days are the postcards I’ve been receiving from friends. One from Thailand, one from Barbados, and one from Croatia. So exotic! It’s nice to know that there are people thinking about me and caring about me while they’re on vacation, busy exploring other worlds and other cultures. And it’s so nice to get something in the mail other than bills or mail for the house’s owners (who seem unclear on the whole forwarding your mail thing – I know from personal experience that this can be done). I read them and smile, feel loved.
02/19 Direct Link
The kittens seem to have gotten exponentially naughty lately. They’re into everything, recklessly breaking glasses and dishes, trying to climb up the chimney (which is fortunately blocked), bashing the blinds so that each window has at least one twisted slat, exploring the dishes in the sink and then leaving wet pawprints everywhere. I feel like a real parent, yelling at them fruitlessly to stop doing whatever they’re doing, or putting them in the laundry room and closing the door. But then they’ll sit on my lap purring and I think how much I love them and how adorable they are.
02/20 Direct Link
This beautiful day is her last, but she doesn’t know that. She lies in the sun, feeling the sun warm her old bones through her thick fur. She is so tired these days; her tail is too heavy to wag and the smile is gone from her lovely face. When the day slips into darkness, so will she, surrounded by those who love her. The shadow on the moon tonight will mirror the shadow fallen on those she leaves behind. By tomorrow, she will join the other beloved ones under the big tree on the family land, with us always.
02/21 Direct Link
It’s been a rough month: our older sister’s heartless betrayal; the deaths of Bear and James; a friend’s daughter being diagnosed with schizophrenia. Sometimes I worry that our family curse rubs off on those close to us. I wonder what our friends’ and lovers’ lives would be like without us, and suspect the answer is “brighter and happier”. Can bad luck be contagious? Maybe we have so much that it just spills over onto whoever happens to be handy. We three joke about it, but underneath I think we all sort of believe it’s really true. Or fear it is.
02/22 Direct Link
I see the ambulance across the street and immediately think of the elderly gentleman who’s been spending so much time working on his home and garden on these mild days. My next door neighbor B tells me that it was actually the gentleman’s wife, and that he called B instead of 911. B ended up doing CPR and saving the woman’s life before the ambulance arrived. It seems irrational that he’d call B instead of emergency services, but I think it’s nice that he had so much confidence in her. Note to self: take a CPR class! You never know.
02/23 Direct Link
I’ve spent more time with the cable guys these days than with my friends and family. They were here for three hours last week, rewiring and doing other things. The internet went out again, and they came back with a new router. But the central server was down, so it couldn’t be registered. So they came back the next day, arriving earlier than scheduled while I was still in my pajamas, clutching a cup of coffee and feeling like an idiot. Or a porn star! “Do you need service?” “I certainly do…” It finally seems to be working. We’ll see.
02/24 Direct Link
Now that I’ve noticed how Barack Obama’s ears stick out, I can’t stop staring at them whenever he’s on TV. I also think his name sounds like a noise a bird would make on “The Flintstones”, maybe one of the ones they have doing all the work. “Ba-ROCK, Ba-ROCK!” Something like that. I wonder if he ever wishes his parents had given him a middle name like Steve instead of Hussein. I did vote for him, though, in my spare time when I wasn’t musing over his name or mentally making over Hillary and then giving up on it.
02/25 Direct Link
It’s suddenly spring. The apple tree next door sports creamy clouds of blossoms; matchstick thin local asparagus appears in the stores; the pink haze of cherry trees distract by the side of the highway. My neighbors begin to do more yard work than usual. It’s warm enough to leave the doors open into the evening – carefully locked, of course, this being Oakland, after all – so that the fresh, flower-scented breeze blows in. It’s warmer outside than it is inside. I take my coffee outside in the morning, feeling the joy of a new season, a new beginning, possibilities.
02/26 Direct Link
I spend all day working in the city. I feel like an imposter at work, pretending to be a grown-up. Surely I’ll be found out and sent back to high school. Now, that would be a fate worse than death. But apparently my protective camouflage of suit and heels is enough to fool onlookers, since I return to the train station unscathed in the depths of rush hour. I am unused to the commute to the suburbs and feel overwhelmed as I cling to the overhead bar, counting the stations. I can’t wait to return to the place I hate.
02/27 Direct Link
I love to eavesdrop in restaurants, movie theaters, stores – anywhere people converse in public, surely aware that others can hear them, but not caring if total strangers hear their worries, fears, unkind opinions, shared secrets. The train is a goldmine of the overheard. One girl says to another, “Of course, I read for a living, so I can’t wait to get home and just park myself in front of the TV”, and al I can think is What job lets you read for a living, and how do I get one? Of course, if I did, I’d still complain.
02/28 Direct Link
The internet is out yet again, even though two guys came a week ago and spent three hours “fixing” it. What with waiting for them and their prolonged, yet ineffectual repair job, it took up almost a whole day, so I can’t say I’m pleased with the repeat performance, especially since I can’t check my email or work (our database is online) or idly surf while waiting. It’s surprising and a little sad to be so dependent on technology. We had none of these things when I was a girl, but we supposedly must have them now. Want or need?
02/29 Direct Link
It’s leap year. A friend who is from Scotland tells me that in 1288 the Scottish parliament under Queen Margaret legislated that any woman could propose in Leap Year. Another component of this tradition was that if the man rejects the proposal, he has to soften the blow by providing a kiss, one pound currency, and a pair of gloves (presumably to cover the fact that her finger still lacks a ring!). It’s amusing that a law was required in those days before a woman could propose, but nice that the tradition remains. I wonder if anyone still follows it?