Journal: 2009


There’s been a fabulous medical breakthrough:

Yesterday morning when i took the dressing off my arm to change it, i discovered that finally finally finally after two and a half months, i have a real, honest-to-goodness scab where the skin is missing. I would have tap danced for joy except i was standing in the shower and prudence prevailed.

This little shred of good news has so turned my head around that i am positively ebullient. What slough of despond?

I was so excited that today, in the course of a routine maintenance at Luscious Garage, my fabulous new auto shop that i cannot too highly recommend, i accessorized my Prius.

Well, it was that or spinning hubcaps.

Oh, and here’s Carolyn, my new mechanic, on a Segway test ride inside her garage:

Carolyn at Luscious Garage

And unlike my previous mechanics, she writes entertainingly. Here’s her blog, and note the date of this entry.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment


The menu for tonight’s dinner for Ian, my visiting Canadian anthropologist/linguist/lexicographer friend, who deserves a good American home-cooked meal, having spent years in a thatch hut in the wilds of Borneo with the Penan while learning their language and writing a dictionary and grammar for it.

Seeded Sourdough Baguettes from Noe Valley Bakery. When i went down to the bakery this morning to pick up the bread, the staff were wearing their new tee-shirts, “Born and Raised in Noe Valley.” I was laughing so hard over this that i was back home before i realized that if it had been “Born and Risen in Noe Valley”, it would have been just as funny and grammatical to boot.

A salad of dry farmed Early Girl, Golden Globe, and Purple Cherokee tomatoes on a bed of baby spinach and adolescent arugula, dressed with a vinaigrette of Stonehouse Lisbon Lemon extra virgin olive oil and my own raspberry vinegar.

Wild Coho Salmon poached (while the groundskeeper’s back was turned) and served cold with caper mayonnaise, garnished with brined and lightly pickled red onion and Dasher cucumber.

Fresh Cranberry beans simmered with Chantenay carrots and generic yellow onion, lightly augmented with epazote from the Castro Farmers’ Market that i dried myself.

A stir-fry of okra, red and green Jalapeño, and red onion (I’m putting enough Jalapeño in this that there’ll be no complaints about slime.)

Willie’s Crisp made of blackberries and the last of the season’s yellow nectarines, optionally dressed with quark from Oakdale Cheese.

And speaking of epazote, yesterday afternoon i’m Segwaying to the Castro Farmers’ Market to get the cucumbers, and in the next block down speak to a woman on the sidewalk. She’s curious about the Segway and i give her a trial lesson. Turns out she lives around the corner from me on 21st Street and is headed to the market herself, never having been to it. So i fall in beside her for the remaining three blocks, touting the market up one side and down the other enroute. As we arrive, i excitedly point out my epazote vendor and say, “I never saw anybody with it before, but she usually has fresh epazote.”

My new friend replies, “I grow it in my garden.”

Game, set, harvest.

Speaking of gardens, here’s a friend of mine in Stephen’s:

Strelitzia reginae

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Becky’s Visit

Oh, tra la. My excitement knows no bounds. My beloved baby sister is here for her first visit in ten years or so, and better yet, she’s brought Charlotte with her. I’d not spent much time around Charlotte, especially not since my doctors got me off those meds that were screwing my brain up, so it’s not all that surprising that the more i see of her, the more i enjoy her.

I remember her wonderful coup in 2000 when she managed to get my sister and me into the brand new Denver International Airport immediately after the opening ceremony when it was still fully illuminated but no human besides ourselves and a handful of maintenance and security folks remained inside. Picture having all that space to yourself and with a knowledgeable guide leading you to all the best vantages. When we’d had our fill and were driving home just after sunset, Charlotte stopped the car about a mile away from the terminal so that we could get out, look behind us, and see it rising from the prairie, brilliantly illuminated from within and without and glowing like not an emerald city, but rather one of diamond.

Nothing so dramatic this time since i was the expedition leader, but I did get to take them up to meet Gloria in Santa Rosa, have a fine lunch at Rendez Vous Bistro (where the food is much better than their French), and drive them home down the coast. We spent an hour at Stinson Beach on a day when the air was so warm that the sand was packed with people and there were even a few folks in the icy water.

I think it’s against the law to fail to post a pic of your sister when she visits, so here she and Charlotte are on Stinson Beach on probably the hottest day of the year:


Becky (on the left) is the light of my life. I adore her. We marvel at how lucky we are to be so devoted to each other when we see so many other people at war with their siblings.

But it’s not surprising i love her since she’s so kind and thoughtful toward everyone. For example, she recently learned that a friend of hers in Denver wanted to make our mother’s famous pie, for which i had painstakingly described the preparation in my recipes (see The Pie). Anyone but my sister would have just sent her friend an email containing a link to my recipe. But no, Becky is so loving that she went to all the trouble to copy the entire recipe and then painstakingly edit out all the entertainment and background material before she passed it on, leaving only the minimal necessary information and sparing her friend the ordeal of slogging through the quagmire of my prose.

How could anyone not love a sister so thoughtful?

And yes, despite Becky’s background as a journalist, her own prose is not the “nasty, short, and brutish” stuff that Stella Gibbons accused journalists of writing in Cold Comfort Farm, but i have to admit it sure is to the point.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment


This remarkable video of a polar bear playing with a sled dog got me to thinking about our relations with the animal world and how we categorize various animals differently.

For example, Rina loves pigeons and throws food scraps to them over my protests that this is a violation of San Francisco’s health code. Well, she’s Dutch, and one of the things i love about them is their brazen disregard for little rules. What i don’t love is pigeons. I hate the damn things and consider them flying rats but without the high level of personal hygiene observed by rats.

But then one day during her visit last June we were out in the Strybing Arboretum in Golden Gate Park, and there were these cute little squirrels politely, even graciously, accepting crumbs from kind strangers. They were just adorable, and even i could grasp the hypocrisy in my desperately wanting to feed one as i sat beneath a “Please Don’t Feed the Animals” sign knowing full well that if i had had a single crumb on my person i would have tossed it to the cutest.

And now my sister has just left after a brief visit during which she updated me on the progress in her decades-long war with those rats with fluffy tails that occupy her backyard trees and have made her life miserable by getting into the walls of her house and other atrocities.

So i’m sitting at the kitchen table this morning and look up to see a new sight: one of them sitting pretty on the banister of my balconette. Remembering my sister’s warnings, i grabbed a piece of bread out of the refrigerator. Alas, he was gone before i could get to the door with his treat.

The Welcome Wagon has placed on the balconette an introductory platter containing a wedge of cheese, a chunk of bread, and a few almonds to let him know that my balconette is an excellent place for a mid-day snack or an afternoon nap curled up cutely and safe from cats.

Actually, i’m getting ahead of myself there, as it’s now late afternoon and the food is untouched. Of course if he comes back i’ll be headed out to Costco for a fifty pound bag of Purina Squirrel Chow.

And since i don’t have a pic of my little bushy buddy, here’s one of yellow door i like:

yellow door

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Washandje Redux

I like having guests, i love having foreign guests, and i most especially love foreign guests who haven’t been here before. Fresh and impressionable. And under ideal conditions, they see or hear things for which i can supply a translation. Harm Jan and Mark meet all these criteria except for virtually never needing a translation, so i’m having a blast.

Actually, the blast started on their first morning when, after they’d showered, i jumped in the bathroom for my shower and discovered that their towel bars had sprouted washandjes.

I had written about Rina bringing her washandje last year, and this is clearly the final piece of evidence required to prove that the Dutch consider it so unspeakably barbarous to bathe without one that they carry their own wherever they go.

And damn me. I have at least three of them in my towel cabinet, all given me by Dutch friends in an attempt to civilize me, but somehow i forgot when i was putting their towels out that my visitors were Dutch and that i had the opportunity to blow them away by providing an unexpected amenity.

No, wait. I wouldn’t have put washandjes out even if i’d thought about them because i was trying to make the visit as strange as possible for them. So i thought it was a nice touch to make their bed up using a top sheet in the American style rather than having the comforter directly on top of the bottom sheet in the European style. And to make sure they didn’t cheat and just crawl in on top of the top sheet, i stuck a really hairy blanket in there beneath the comforter. The bed linen Nazi, that’s me.

I had great fun with them and ran them around the city to as many farmers’ markets and grocery stores as they could bear, having to remind myself that all tourists are not as obsessively focused on local foods as i am. To give ’em a break, i took them to the Marin headlands. Here they are with the Point Bonita lighthouse just barely visible above Mark’s head in the background:

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment


I spent both Thanksgiving and Christmas with Gloria, as we cooked for folks on Thanksgiving and wanted to do very little on Christmas. I offered to take her out to some place in Santa Rosa that was doing dinner on Christmas and then somehow, damn me, let her talk me into letting her cook for me on Christmas. Just the two of us.

And then my friend Bob got me an invitation to a Christmas Eve dinner that i’ve been hearing about for years at Saratoga Springs, so the plan became to drive up there on Christmas Eve, have the dinner, and then drive back down to Santa Rosa on Christmas morning. Airtight.

Well, until i got there after the beautiful drive and unloaded my contributions to the dinner and then started discovering things i’d failed to bring. Like a pillow, which sounds trivial except that my degenerative disk disease makes it necessary to prop my head in just the right position at night. And then i realized that i hadn’t brought enough warm bedding since the place i’d be sleeping was cold. And then i started trying to socialize with all these people i didn’t know by sidling up to a group of them and eavesdropping until somebody said something that gave me a conversational opening. And then realized that i’d forgot my hearing aids, which i really need now if i’m in a group of people.

So despair swept over me and i told ’em i wasn’t feeling well and left. Had a hamburger and chocolate milk shake for a Christmas Eve treat in Hopwell on the way home.

Got up on Christmas morning and drove back up to Santa Rosa, but on the way, on the first block of Scott Street there between Duboce and Waller, a block i’ve traversed literally hundreds of times over the past 35 years, i spot for the first time a sight so fine that i turn around and stop the car and get a pic:

scott street

When i arrive at Gloria’s she’s making a wonderful Christmas dinner for us featuring a roasted chicken with dressing on the side, good veggies, and for dessert a lemon meringue pie that was the best i ever ate. Sorry, Mother. She’d brought her cymbidiums in from the freezing night temperatures, so it was like eating lunch in a greenhouse. Afterwards she led me over not far from her house to a fairly new commercial development that was built around a spring they accidentally uncovered at the very beginning of the development. Handsome place:

Santa Rosa development

And to close the year out, here’s a bachelor household tip i developed just this morning.

That handsome rubber coaster beside your keyboard for your coffee mug?

If you don’t hose it off periodically, the crud buildup will reach the point that the coaster will briefly adhere to the bottom of the cup as you raise it; but before the cup reaches your lips, the coaster will release and fall to the desk, dramatically reducing the weight of the coffee cup and causing you to involuntarily jerk it upwards. Sensing in a millisecond that this is not desirable, you will abruptly halt the upward motion of the cup….but not, alas, that of the remaining coffee.

Shirt, pants, desktop, keyboard, and floor.

The mouse, alarmed by my great oath while the coffee was midair, scurried to safety.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment