BY suzy

12/01 Direct Link
Yesterday, I finally went to the City for the first time since my non-triumphal return. I have been spending far too much time on the wrong side of the Bay, first in suburban San Ramon (aka Generica) and now in "vibrantly diverse" (aka Keep your doors locked at all times) Oakland. While my neighborhood itself is quite nice, consisting of tiny houses, big palm trees, and no visible or audible neighbors, if you venture a few blocks away you encounter folks with shopping carts hillbillied up with garbage bags, things and stuff, yelling at you or themselves. I don’t belong.
12/02 Direct Link
I thought being back in the City would be a relief, but it wasn’t. It was like running into your ex and discovering that he is now a millionaire, dating a supermodel, and looks ten years younger than you do, while you remain tragically unloved and underemployed. “Got to go,” he’d say cheerfully. “The limo’s waiting. Great to catch up!” and he’d be swept away in a cloud of wealth, leaving you alone on the sad grey pavement. The City didn’t miss me, doesn’t care that I’m back or that it is now a luxury I can no longer afford.
12/03 Direct Link
I went to the museum to admire Marie Antoinette's few remaining possessions from the Petit Trianon. The Petit Trianon was her refuge from the formal insanities of Court life, where she could let down her powdered hair and relax. I wish my camping were like Marie Antoinette's, with the "plain" furniture and porcelain and swishy gowns, instead of peed-on deflating air mattresses and no furniture. Granted, I only lose my head figuratively and she lost hers literally, but I think we would have quite liked each other. The exhibit certainly impressed me with her flawless taste and remarkably forward-thinking ideas.
12/04 Direct Link
My head full of beauty and sadness, I repaired to the museum café for a bottle of luxury-priced water. The guy ahead of me in line refused to pay for his $10 PB&J sandwich until his mocha was on his tray with it. I said that they were making his coffee and they wouldn't hold it hostage, but he replied that he was ahead of me in line. The elderly lady behind me got pretty upset and started waving her money at the cashier. By the time Mocha Man got his coffee, the line was out the door. What the...
12/05 Direct Link
I finally met my next-door neighbor, who filled me in on the other, unseen neighbors. The ones across from me are “like Boo Radley” and you never see them (nor do they maintain their palms, which is sad and unsightly). Next to the Radleys are a French couple: he owns a restaurant in San Francisco and is rarely home, and she is usually in France. The next house has been for sale for over a year because it has a strange layout. My neighbor’s husband is wheelchair-bound with Parkinson’s, but she believes he’ll walk again because she prays every day.
12/06 Direct Link
What I have: a cold.

What I do not have: my furniture. Patience to deal with not having furniture.

It’s bad enough being sick, and I haven’t had a cold in over a year, so I’m taking this one very personally. But being sick without being able to stay in your own comfortable bed and watch bad TV and read comforting books is truly unfair. So far, the truck has been in the shop in St. Louis, broken down on the salt flats of Utah, and is currently snowed in at the fateful Donner Pass.

Will it ever get here?

12/07 Direct Link
I went to look at used cars today. It’s become obvious that not having one will be difficult in this neighborhood, where the library and the grocery store are well over a mile away, and pretty much everything is down the freeway. I’ve never lived in a place where having a car was a necessity, so I know nothing about shopping for one. I soon learned that it’s the least enjoyable shopping experience ever, as you learn how very little bang you get for what seems to me like a lot of buck. I may have to take the bus.
12/08 Direct Link
I was drinking industrial-strength coffee and noticed a sound. Could it be? I ran through the empty rooms to the front door. There it was: a huge moving truck, taking up most of the street! I hugged the driver when he emerged. I think he was surprised but hugged me back - we've been through a lot on the phone, breakdowns in St Louis and the salt flats of Utah as well as the Donner Pass. He's been doing this for 43 yrs and said this might be the worst trip he ever did. He described it as "cursed". Hmmm.
12/09 Direct Link
Slept well last night after a bottle of celebratory champagne. My bed was a heavenly nest of bliss after two weeks of groveling around on air mattresses in varied degrees of deflation. Woke up to sunshine and the ability to drink coffee from my favorite mug at my own desk while reading “PostSecret”, my Sunday ritual. Even though it looks like a box bomb went off, the house is prettier and more welcoming with furniture in it, and I’m happy with my familiar things around me. I think the kittens are, too. They’re happily exploring and napping. Home at last.
12/10 Direct Link
Well, that was fast. Faced with returning the rental and most necessities of life being somewhere down the freeway, I bought a car. It’s only the second car I ever had, and they’re both Fords. The second, a 1997 candy apple red Taurus with 62,000 miles on it, is much more practical than the first, a 1966 silver blue Mustang convertible. Both are pretty and have only been driven in California. I feel conflicted about owning a car, though. Now I’m officially part of the problem. Does it count that I’ll be taking public transit to work instead of driving?
12/11 Direct Link
It’s going to be a long winter, she thinks, trudging through the heavy snow with her little black dog, who leaps merrily into the drifts. It’s already been snowing for a month, and it’s not even Christmas yet. She hasn’t made or sent cards this year, and her house is undecorated. She doesn’t feel festive. It’s as if it’s winter in her heart as well as outside. Passing her former neighbor’s apartment, now dark and empty, she misses the life and brightness that used to always be there, a haven from the storm. She turns homeward, into the cold wind.
12/12 Direct Link
When my husband and I separated, we agreed that he would keep the cats. It was hard for me, but the best thing for them to stay together. When I said goodbye to them for the last time, I thought, This is what love is – putting the ones you love first, no matter how much it hurts. I knew I’d never see them again. But my ex and I kept in touch during the final illness of one of them, and when he told me she was gone with the short winter day, my heart broke all over again.
12/13 Direct Link
There must be some logical math-type equation to explain the packing-unpacking mystery of the boxes. When I was packing, it seemed that no matter how much stuff I stuffed into boxes, there was still more stuff to be stuffed. Now that I’m unpacking, it seems that no matter how many boxes I unpack, there are still more awaiting my ministrations. Downsizing has its down side, and I can’t find an up side. Overcome with despair, I look around and wish for I Dream of Jeannie to blink the whole mess away. And whip up a martini while she’s at it.
12/14 Direct Link
I had this fantasy that my new house would be tidy and clean, shining. A place for everything, and everything in its place. My old apartment, the former wood working shop in a Victorian coffin factory converted to lofts, was hard to keep clean with the dust of ages sifting from the wood ceilings and brick walls, the dirt and car exhaust coming in the front door with me, the rough cement floors. I thought the new house would be a new life, one of neatness and order, but I reckoned without my ability to create chaos wherever I go.
12/15 Direct Link
Sunny Sunday afternoon. I’m lying on the couch reading a frivolous novel, though I should be unpacking. But I’ve adopted a Scarlett O’Hara attitude to the maze of boxes today; I’ll think about them tomorrow.

I’m startled from the pages by a loud knocking on the door. Opening it, I see a huge gentleman in his Sunday best. “Ma’am, that your car?” he asks, gesturing to the driveway. “Yes,” I whisper. He puts something in my hand. “Left your keys in the door. I seen ‘em on my way to church.” “Thank you,” I say. “Welcome. Bless you,” he says.

12/16 Direct Link
And in the continuing adventures of the car…

I went to the store this morning to get a baguette for breakfast. On my way home, my head full of thoughts of creamy Brie on fresh bread with crisp green apples and hot, black coffee, I got a ticket.

I was thirty feet from my house – I could see it – and I apparently didn’t come to a complete stop at the stop sign in front of the church.

On the bright side, the paperwork for the car is in order.

The cop car is still there, mocking me.

12/17 Direct Link
One of my kittens discovered a hole in the broom closet floor. The hole leads to the storage space under the house – to which I don’t have a key. Called the landlord, got her voicemail, told her about the problem. Decided to get bolt cutters and a new lock. Went to the car, where my neighbor stopped me and said hello. She also informed me that there is raw sewage flowing from my house under the bush in front. Called the landlord, got her voicemail, told her about the problem. Went to hardware store. Rescued cat. Not a good day.
12/18 Direct Link
I’m watching “Double Indemnity” on this rainy winter night. It’s cozy and quiet in my little house, the kittens curled up asleep and the lamplight glowing. My house, I realize, is the same vintage as the one in the film, though on a smaller scale, and only a couple of hundred miles away. Fun thought. As the train scene plays out, I hear the long, mournful whistle of a train outside my window. I wonder if it’s the legendary Coast Starlight, the train that goes from Seattle to San Diego – the southbound version of the train in the film.
12/19 Direct Link
It’s very quiet here, surprisingly so for a city. I love not having neighbors above me or below me. I love not having the reciprocal worries of their making too much noise at an inconvenient hour, or doing so myself. I can’t quite get used to it, so sometimes I feel a little guilty about playing music loud early in the morning or late at night. Occasionally, an ice cream truck drives by, playing a tinny version of “Pop Goes the Weasel”, but I never see kids running out to catch it. Every night now, I notice the train passing.
12/20 Direct Link
The rush of cars on the freeway is always in the background, but it’s a gentle swishing noise, the urban version of wind in the trees. A few times a day, a car drives down my street pulsing with bass so loud it shakes the glass in the windows and I wonder how the driver can stand it, up close and personal. It must be deafening in there. A few times a week, someone pushes a shopping cart filled with garbage bags and other miscellanies past my house. Eventually, I will be asked for a cigarette, which I never have.
12/21 Direct Link
Took little June in to the vet to be spayed. It was so hard to leave her there, even though the staff was so nice and the vet very well-qualified (in addition to advanced degrees from Davis, she had worked at the San Diego Zoo). She is amazing: so stoic and brave, never complaining, no matter what. Called later and was relieved to hear that she was doing just fine and was the center of attention. Picked her up the next day and everyone kept telling me how brave and beautiful she is. I couldn’t wait to get her home.
12/22 Direct Link
Clever June managed to get her plastic cone off. It was fastened by gauze tape, and she scratched at it until she had pulled all the threads off. But once she had the cone off, she didn’t touch her stitches, so I just left it off. It’s beneath her dignity anyway. I’m sure that her naughty little sister Audrey is definitely going to need the cone. The vet mentioned that June was already going to into heat, and I wonder if Audrey is, too, and that’s why she wants to get out so badly. Hope the appointment is soon enough!
12/23 Direct Link
It’s nearly Christmas, but I haven’t put the tree up. Partly because I’m convinced the kittens will knock it over and possibly hurt themselves and the tree (it’s a 50 year old white sparkly artificial one), and partly because I’ve been so busy unpacking and despairing of ever finishing unpacking. It’s not that I’m trying to avoid Christmas; I just don’t have time for it. It’s a wonder I sent out any Christmas cards, though I now realize there were some glaring oversights, which I corrected by email. Better than nothing, but not good enough. I’ll do better next year.
12/24 Direct Link
Christmas always makes me nostalgic. My thoughts drift to the past, recent and distant: my wedding, seventeen years ago, and how that bride is gone forever; my father’s visits, every other year, and how he, too, is gone forever; and the childhood Christmases with my mother’s parents, in snowy New York State, long gone but never forgotten. Sometimes I feel that life is just a long series of farewells. But then I realize how lucky I am to have been loved so much, and remember that the sadness is the price of the love. And there are happy memories, too.
12/25 Direct Link
It was a peaceful, uneventful Christmas – a wonderful change from last year’s waking nightmare of stress and anxiety. Never again. I made a nicer than usual dinner (roast chicken, lemon herb risotto, broccoli) and sipped champagne while watching the candles flicker in the fireplace. Wished my remaining family merry Christmas by phone – we spent Thanksgiving together this year, but my sister was working over Christmas and her husband recovering from spinal surgery. Despite that, it was a happy day. No shopping. No worries. Next year we’ll get together and celebrate. But it was nice to be alone, too.
12/26 Direct Link
My sister and I had a sleepover in the city last week. We figured it must have been years since we did that. Her husband had spinal surgery and had to stay in the hospital overnight. Since they live more than a hundred miles away, she stayed in a hotel for the night. So we decided to spend the night together, watching “Gilmore Girls” and drinking wine, relaxing once we knew her husband was recovering. Despite the circumstances, we had a happy, giggly time together. She never ceases to amaze me with her strength, lovingness, and wisdom. My little sister.
12/27 Direct Link
There is no-one like Patrisha. Despite having a vile, vomitous ‘flu, she put on her boots and coat and brought Christmas dinner through the snow to some neighborhood strays: the feral cat colony in what she calls Stixhollow under the railroad bridge and Peter, an aging artist living in a tiny room on a pittance. She reported that the cats were warm and happy together, Peter’s cupboards literally bare. But there’s no-one to care for her in her illness. I wish I still lived two doors away and could be as good to her as she is to everyone.
12/28 Direct Link
Precocious Audrey has decided she's ready to date, though she's not even 6 months old yet. Like most parents, I disagree on this point. She seems to have her eye on the stray grey cat who lounges on the back porch, the cat equivalent of a leather-clad, tattooed and pierced older guy on a motorcycle. Of course she wants to go out with him.

Her escape attempts have increased along with her demands to go out and have fun like all the other kittens. Today she actually climbed up the chimney, which is fortunately blocked.

These kittens today.

12/29 Direct Link
Random thoughts:

The people in the house behind mine never, ever turn their outside light off. Even in the brightest sunlight.

I had a dream last night that I was having lunch at a spa with my (dead) mother and Peter from The Brady Bunch. After lunch, I couldn’t find my white trench coat and refused to leave until it was found.

Outside my window, there are two teenage boys with their bikes leaning against them, hitting each other with yellow flowers until the blossoms fall off. Then they get on their bikes and leave.

I have nothing to wear.

12/30 Direct Link
Once I brought Audrey home from the vet’s, she raced up and down the length of the house like a crazy cat. I think she thought she could get away from the dreaded cone on her head if she could just move fast enough. I was terrified that she'd pull out her stitches or cause some unspeakable interior harm, so I put her back in the carrier until I could locate a kitten sized straitjacket. When I let her out, she seemed to have calmed down, though she managed to get the cone off in 0.02 seconds, the little Houdini.
12/31 Direct Link
I left June in charge last night and ventured into the City to see Jersey Boys with my partner and his stunning daughters. I have to say, going into the city to do things, instead of actually living there and doing them, makes me feel like such a LOSER. Here I am, leaving the suburbs to go into the big city! Oh boy! Look at them city types, Harold! Ain't they somethin'? The show itself was your basic Broadway musical. I might have enjoyed it more if we weren't stuffed in the back under airline conditions with an abbreviated view.