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BY suzy

05/01 Direct Link
Grey Cat was waiting for me this morning, sitting in the sun beside the porch. As soon as he saw me, though, he ran away. I wonder if Iíll ever be able to pet him. Iíd also like to take him in for a checkup and a spay/neuter (Iím assuming heís a boy, since a stray girl would almost certainly be pregnant now). I guess feeding him is the thin edge of the wedge; Iím already fond of him, even though I canít bring him into the house. The kittens watch him carefully, as if wondering what my plans are.
05/02 Direct Link
It looks like Iíll be working through some of the conference, which is the ideal excuse for avoiding some of the endless social rounds and the more boring sessions. I asked my boss why on earth they were so keen to have me attend, and he said it was so the money managers could ďglom ontoĒ me and tell me how great their products are, hoping Iíll recommend them to my clients. I have to admit Iím a little nervous about having dinner with a bunch of total strangers. What will I say to them? Iíll think of something. Right?
05/03 Direct Link
I'm writing on the plane from Oakland to Denver. Final destination is Tampa tonight, for a silly conference. I think it's a waste of time, money and carbon emissions, but that's just me. Unbeknownst to me, this particular plane turned out to be the Screaming Baby Special. There are two howling infants in my immediate vicinity, and right in front of me is a father with his small child, who is equipped with a harmonica. Comment is superfluous.

On the bright side, I have a whole row to myself, which almost never happens, so I have enough room to write.

05/04 Direct Link
The flight from Denver to Tampa had the requisite number of screaming children, and we also got to fly through a thunderstorm. Yikes. But once on the ground, I was met by the charming chauffeur and ensconced in a plush Town Car. We sped quietly through the night to the resort. Apparently my one bedroom suite isnít good enough, because its balcony faces the lagoon (gasp!) instead of the beach, so theyíre going to move my bags to the good room when itís ready. Its hard to imagine anything nicer than the room I already have Ė itís incredibly luxurious.
05/05 Direct Link
Itís been a long, long day of conference plus schmoozing. I canít say Iím a huge fan of making small talk with people I donít know, or speaking in public. Not quite sure which is worse, to tell you the truth. I had a lot of work to do, so when everyone else was golfing or deep sea fishing, I was battling with recalcitrant PDFs, on conference calls, and running back and forth to the business center. So far, I havenít had any time to walk on the white sand beaches or dabble in the warm turquoise ocean. Maybe tomorrow?
05/06 Direct Link
The conference is finally over. I discovered a fax from my boss waiting for me, so I have another project to finish today. I have a few hours before I have to go to the airport (the guy who organized the conference is driving me to the airport, so that means, yes, more than an hour of more small talk with a nearly unknown person), so maybe I can have a spa hour or two or even a stroll on the sugary beach. So far, the conference might as well have been in Akron or Oklahoma City instead of Florida.
05/07 Direct Link
Arrived at the Tampa airport only to learn that the flight was delayed. Called the airline to find out how delayed. Two hours. So I missed my connecting flight in Denver that evening. Standing in the terminal, cell phone in hand, I wanted to cry like a child. I wanted to be home so badly. I missed my man, I missed my kittens, I wanted to get the hell out of Florida and back to California, where I belong. I didnít cry: I called my assistant and she booked a hotel in Denver instead. This trip was a total fiasco.
05/08 Direct Link
By the time I got to the Denver airport hotel, it was 10 pm local time. The receptionist took one look at me and gave me a drink voucher. I printed out my boarding pass for the following day, ordered room service, and discovered the TV didnít work. Room service arrived with the wrong wine; the technician came and fixed the TV. Room Service reappeared with the right wine and opened it. I finished the very welcome wine around midnight, which gave me five hours to sleep before getting up and going to the airport and starting all over again.
05/09 Direct Link
Looking out the window of the airport shuttle, I see no sign of mountains or anything a mile (or even half) a mile high. Itís nothing but dead brown fields and dark grey skies. The airportís roof looks like an odd collection of white tents. Security takes half an hour. I am thoroughly exasperated by the time I reach the metal detector. One of the agents searches my bags, finds Ė gasp!- a nearly empty tube of natural toothpaste. Starts lecturing me, but I just walk away, telling him, ďThrow it out.Ē Instead of what I really want to say.
05/10 Direct Link
I never thought Iíd be happy to see Oakland again. Iím so happy, I might go a whole day or even two without complaining about it. I practically ran through the terminal to meet my man at baggage claim (though I had mine with me and none to claim). I couldnít see him, but I heard him call my name and turned around, rushed into his arms. When we stopped kissing and cooing, he told me that the board showed my flight had been cancelled and he had no idea what had happened. The finishing touch on the perfect trip.
05/11 Direct Link
Went to the walk-in clinic to get new prescriptions. I no longer have healthcare coverage, so this is pretty much my only option. Wait to see a doctor, pay $50 and hope for the best. He turned out to be a charming, smart guy and we had a good chat along with discussing the medication. He suggested getting the prescriptions filled at Wal-Mart, since theyíd only cost $4-10 a bottle. I shook his hand and thanked him. As I waited for the prescriptions, I thought: this is what my life has come to? Walk-in clinics and Wal-Mart?
05/12 Direct Link
Iím pretty sure my $20 has been turned into crack.

There was an excited pounding on my door this afternoon. I went to answer it, and there was a breathless, elderly African American man with a story about needing $17.50 for a locksmith. He gave me his driverís license in exchange for the money, and ran off, calling out, ďI love you!Ē

When he didnít return, I looked at the license. The address is a block away, the description and photo fit, and the license expires in 2012, so itís current. I wonder if heíll ever come back for it.

05/13 Direct Link
Grey Catís name is now Henry. I think it suits him. Heís taken to waiting for me in the mornings, sitting in the sun beside the porch. I notice he almost always drinks all the water. Even though he knows Iím bringing food and water, and even though heís waiting for me, he runs away when I approach. Heís either been wild all his life or so long that the survival instincts beat all others. I canít help worrying what will happen when I move. Maybe I can catch him and bring him up to my sister in the country.
05/14 Direct Link
Weíre at the beginning of a heat wave. Iím dreading the crescendo. In the morning, I open the front and back doors, with the screen doors locked. I leave the blinds drawn, so the house has a strange, hazy, underwater light. It reminds me of my grandmotherís house in New York state during the long, hot upstate summers long ago. She did the same things. But her house was properly insulated and didnít have a flat, tar roof absorbing the heat the way mine does, so her house was much more comfortable. Even her attic wasnít 90 degrees at midnight.
05/15 Direct Link
The heat is killing me. Temperatures around here have broken their records by ten or more degrees, and I feel every single one of them in my sweltering little house. I curse the stupidity of the houseís owners, who put in a system which accommodates central heat and air, but failed to complete or activate the cooling system. Itís 90 degrees in my house at midnight. I have two fans, but having hot air blown around remarkably doesnít actually cool one off. The kittens are lying on the floor in little puddles of fur, too hot to play or cuddle.
05/16 Direct Link
The utility company has declared that everyone has to cut their water usage by 20%. I donít see how I can accomplish this. I use half of what the average Oakland resident does. I havenít watered the lawn this year. Iím not going to, either, unless I can persuade the landlords to pay for the water Ė I donít see why I should pay to keep their lawn green. They should take it out and put in drought-resistant ground cover as far as Iím concerned Ė Californiaís climate isnít meant for lawns, and they are a real waste of water.
05/17 Direct Link
The crows are very loud these days. Iím not sure if itís a mating thing (ďCheck me out, Iím so big and handsome!Ē) or defending their nests of eggs or babies, but they caw as loudly as the dogs next door bark. And thatís loud. They are swooping overhead a lot (Building nests? Scaring off intruders? ). Today I watched a pair of crows chase a squirrel across the fence, harrying the squirrel the whole way as he chattered in fear or annoyance. I donít think Iíve ever seen anything like it. Natural life goes on in an urban setting.
05/18 Direct Link
Less hot this morning. I still have the blinds closed, doors open (am I still hoping the myth of the cross breeze will turn out be true after all?), but am not sweating without moving. I do three loads of laundry, virtuously hanging them outside; mow the lawn; take the car to be washed; generally tidy up, then take a shower. I donít think Iím doing my bit to cut my water usage by 20% - at least today. I have the same Sunday feeling I did when I was a kid and my homework wasnít done yet, but due tomorrow.
05/19 Direct Link
Woke up to the pearly light that means fog. And fog means coolness. I go out to give Henry the stray cat his daily food and water, and my nightgown billows behind me in the cool breeze. The pale sun peeps out shyly, but is no longer the brazen hussy who held us all in her cruel claws just days ago. The air is green with mown grass, spicy with eucalyptus and a tang of distant salt from the Bay. Mindful of the thorns, I literally stop and smell the roses: the three big yellow ones on the lone bush.
05/20 Direct Link
A nearly fool-proof way to keep from being asked for money in the Haight is, I discovered, by talking on your cell phone while walking down the cinema-sticky streets. On my way back to the car, I had finished my call, and had my hands full of bags of CDs and books, Vogue and birthday cards for my few remaining relatives. A young man, or possibly boy, asked me for ďFour dollars to buy marijuanaĒ. I couldnít help laughing, though I kept my $4 to myself. Even though it was much cheaper than the $20 I gave away last week.
05/21 Direct Link
I caught Jacques Pťpin's show today, and it inspired me to recreate his shrimp casserole. I got all the elements at the farmers' market, and am about to start marinating the shrimp. I just realized that I'm going to have to peel all that shrimp, which is both gross and time-consuming, two of my least-favorite things. I wish I had Jacques' minions, or Jacques himself, to do that part.

I wish I was as fast at peeling garlic, too.

One of these days, I'm going to get some cooking lessons. Or a chef/maid combo. I'd love to have Staff.

05/22 Direct Link
Well, my $20 may have been turned into crack, but it also turned back into $20. Neat trick, n'est-ce pas?

The guy who borrowed it finally turned up, paid me back, took his license, and told me he loved me again before leaving. That's what they all say.

I felt very frivolous reading Vogue on the train as it passed through the industrial outskirts of Oakland. This issue includes an article on the much-anticipated Sex and the City movie. The series' seasons used to start on or near my birthday, and the movie is an early birthday present this year.

05/23 Direct Link
In other neighborhood news, a guy was murdered three blocks away from my house. It explains all those cop cars and crime scene tape I noticed when coming home from the Safeway the other day. Apparently being a gang informant isn't the healthiest lifestyle choice.

Today I noticed there's a "Neighborhood Crime Watch" sign at that intersection. I guess the neighbors watch the crime being committed; in this case, Oakland's 55th homicide of the year.

I canít help thinking of my old neighborhood, Pacific Heights, where things like this never happened and shopping cart people stayed away. I miss it.

05/24 Direct Link
The heat wave has thankfully gone, presumably to places that are used to that kind of thing, like Phoenix, or the sun. Weíre back to cool, foggy nights, which I love. Itís so cozy to cuddle into the featherbed with the kittens and a good book. I love the feeling of the warm blankets comforting me. Iím still surprised by how much cooler it can be in San Francisco than it is in Oakland, though I guess it makes since literally and figuratively: San Francisco is much cooler all the way around. Will I ever become resigned to my exile?
05/25 Direct Link
Itís my sisterís birthday today. Her birthday is on or near Memorial Day (ďthe first long weekend of the summer!Ē) and my brotherís is on or near Labor Day (ďthe last long weekend of the summer!Ē), so I unfortunately rarely spend those days with them. The traffic, even with soaring gas prices, is insane. She usually works on holiday weekends, and this one was no exception. I called to wish her happy birthday and there had already been a fatality. She was stoic, though she always wishes the dead farewell, touching him or gently, saying, ďIím sorryĒ. A paramedicís birthday.
05/26 Direct Link
I take my coffee out to the back porch.

Henry, the stray cat, is curled up in the grass, managing to look alert even as he takes a bath. I know that when I bring him food and water later, heíll run away, so for now, at a distance, I can enjoy his company.

The palm trees rattle in the breeze. Crows caw. Always, somewhere, there are dogs barking. In my back yard, the yellow roses drop their petals to the lawn. A metallic green hummingbird hangs in front of a red blossom, wings beating so fast it looks still.

05/27 Direct Link
I discover that a friend has had her baby two months early Ė two weeks ago. I am horrified that I didnít know before. I imagine the terror she and her husband have been going through, all these days and nights. I hope they are all doing well. But Iím afraid to call. I donít want to disturb them while theyíre in the hospital, or leave a message theyíll have to return which will just be one more thing they have to do. And I feel like a terrible friend for not knowing sooner, not being better at keeping in touch.
05/28 Direct Link
My sister and her husband will be here tomorrow. They havenít seen my house yet. I wish Iíd had more time to tidy it up, or more money to hire someone to clean it, but I ended up not having money or time. The usual. Still, it will be good to see them. Theyíre picking up a truck they bought from a friend Ė a necessity in the country, where there is, for example, no garbage pick up Ė and will drive back tomorrow. Tonight weíll have a barbecue and eat on the back porch with a bottle of wine.
05/29 Direct Link
I may have been overly ambitious about what I could do in a day. I thought I could take my grandmotherís lamp in to be appraised; go to the ballgame; and meet my sister, all by 3:00.

I waited for half an hour to learn that the lamp is worth $300-600. We were hoping it would be worth enough to sell so we could put the money toward the land but, given the family curse, I canít say Iím surprised. Nor am I surprised that I forgot to give it back to my sister and itís still in my trunk.

05/30 Direct Link
I got lost on my way from the appraiserís to the ballpark. The GPS chose this time to go on strike, so I was helpless. I finally remembered that my cell phone has a GPS function, so I pulled over and consulted it. I still have no idea where I was. Traffic was unaccountably heavy for noon, and I was late to the game. Toronto had already scored two runs Ė the first of twelve Ė against Oakland, who wouldnít score even once that day. It was a beautiful afternoon, warm and sunny but not hot, with a light breeze.
05/31 Direct Link
I left the game before it was over. My sister and brother-in-law arrived at my house a few minutes after I did. It was the first time theyíd seen it, and even though Iím renting, it was good to hear that they thought it was a nice place. Their friend delivered the truck they had bought from him, which was the reason for this quick visit. Nice guy. We took him to BART, bought groceries, and had a barbecue, eating on the back porch, drinking wine and laughing. It was wonderful to see them and spend some time together.