Saturday, February 13, 2010


A big thank you to Don, the world's best ex-husband. He made this little cathouse so I can keep feeding the ferals in our backyard. I had a rickety contraption made of a Tupperware storage box and bricks, but the raccoons knocked it over pretty much every night. I needed something to keep the food dry in the rainy weather, and Don made this. It's incredibly cute and a perfect size. Big enough for the cats to poke their heads in and feed, but small enough that the raccoons can't get in. Yay!
Photo of the day: The Real Golden Arches

Stanford. Circa 2009 A.D.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Hallmark Love
I've never been a fan of Valentine's Day. First off, I cannot be romantic just because it says so on the calendar. There are days when I am extra in love with Husband, and days when I am just normally in love. And it has nothing to do with the date, but everything to do with who we are.

Secondly, I don't like the idea that people need a commercial holiday to remember the people in their lives.

The only good thing about losing those you love to AIDS is that it reinforces how important it is to make sure that everyone in your life knows you love them. And luckily it's a lesson that I have learned.

I say "I love you" a lot. And I always mean it. It's not a toss off, or something that I say lightly. If I have said this to you, it is because I love you. Because you are dear to me an always will be. I suppose it is nice, once a year, to get a card or flowers that make you feel appreciated. But I find it means much more when I am appreciated on an average Tuesday rather than on V-Day. Because it seems more sincere, more real.

To be loved on February 14th is a very good thing. But to be loved on August 9th is even better.
Photo of the day: Neverfear, Stpring is Near!

At least it is in my mom's front garden.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Photo of the day: Up or Down

Everyone choses to the escalator. The stairs are lonely.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

It's no surprise, having majored in Classics and Art History, that I am interested in the past. Two years ago I started looking into my family tree, and that of Husband.

I love genealogy and the stories of who we came from and how. Not just my family, but anybody's. I want to know about your great-grandparents and how they left Ireland/Poland/Mexico to come to America. I've just finished watching the first episode of Faces of America, another wonderful Henry Louis Gates special on PBS. This time he's looking into the roots of Americans whose ancestors came to the US for various reasons. He discussed how Kristi Yamaguchi's mother was born in a relocation camp at the same time her grandfather was fighting for the US. And how Mike Nichols' family escaped Nazi Germany just in time to avoid the Holocaust.

My own family story is rather tame. On my father's side we come from French Basque people, mostly in and around the village of Pau (known now mainly for being a stop on the Tour de France). On my mother's side we're originally from Scotland and then from Canada....but I've hit a dead end and cannot seem to go any further. I'm hampered by the fact that the ancestor who left Scotland was named John Campbell -- and it seems every other man in Scotland at the time was named John Campbell. Her mother's family is also a dead end. I can get back to my great-grandparents, but no further.

But, alas, no Charlemagne. No Henry VIII. No royalty or riches. I don't even have any good outlaws. My maternal grandfather did make illegal beer during Prohibition, but that's about the only black sheep I can find. And the only real interesting story is that my paternal grandmother and her family lived through the great 1906 San Francisco earthquake. She was 9 at the time and remembered it clearly. It knocked her out of bed. She lined up in the park for bread. But family stories weren't tossed around the dinner table, unfortunately, and so I knew little about where I came from. Research through various online ancestry websites have helped, as has some documents that come from distant cousins still living in Pau. Those documents get my father's family back to the 1600s, but I must confess to having my doubts as to their accuracy. According to their research, everyone in my family lived to be 80 or 90, which is hard to believe since longevity wasn't one of the hallmarks of the 17th century.

Husband's family is in many ways more interesting. He is African American and we've been able to get back to his slave ancestors. Of course, it's almost impossible to go farther back than that. We're fortunate in that the family who owned his many-times-great grandfather (and I can't believe someone once "owned" his relations) was prominent in the county and there's a lot of information about them. Husband has always been curious about his identity so last year for his birthday I gave him a DNA test to help give him more information about his history.

I find it hard to grasp the reality that there is slavery in his past. It's even harder to accept the more recent racism. The fact that his grandmother, one of the most beautiful and admirable women I've ever known, had to ride in the back of the bus just burns me. This is my family, the people that I love, and yet at one point they were discriminated against, hated and, most unbelievable of all, owned.

So my sheep-herding Basque ancestors had the easy life. But dull. And I have to admit, if there were going to do a PBS special on my family, nobody would watch. Including, truth be told, me.
Photo of the day: Lost at Sea

In the Presidio, looking out towards Land's End. A monument to those lost at sea during WWII. How beautiful, and how sad, to spend you days looking out on an ocean from which they will never return.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Photo of the day: My Namesake

Thanks, Decca.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Address Unknown
An unassuming little volume that nevertheless packs quite a punch. Address Unknown by Kathrine Kressmann Taylor is a powerful anti-Nazi short story, written in 1938. It is a series of letters between two business partners, one a Jew based in San Francisco, the other a gentile who has returned to his native Germany and taken up the Nazi cause.

It is surprisingly short, but equally as impressive. And quite devilishly plotted. I cannot explain fuller, or else I would give the plot away, but I have to admit that I found this book lived up to its reputation. It was hugely influential when it first came out, providing one of the first glimpses into just how bad things were for Jews in Germany. After the war it became somewhat forgotten but a new edition has been released and certainly deserves a wider audience.
Photo of the day: Cheers

In honor of the Saints. In fond remembrance of a trip to New Orleans, and drinking shots out of test-tubes at a cheesy tourist bar on Bourbon Street.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Chopin at Midnight
Sometimes I don't mind being an insomniac. There's a nice sort of calmness in being up all night. I can watch movies or catch up on whatever I've saved in TiVo. I can read trashy books all night or do something improving like delving into Dickens or browsing through the Brontes. Sometimes I'll listen to music, try to find something suitable for the book, the weather, and my mood.

When I'm in a classical mood I always turn to Chopin. More specifically, Chopin's piano works played by Vladimir Ashkenazy. I'm surprised I haven't worn a groove in my CD because I play it so often. It's perfect for a rainy night and a good book. Oddly enough, the same music is also perfect for a heat wave and total brain-candy-trash. Quite versatile, that Chopin.

The classical realm is one area of music where I will gladly admit my ignorance. I can beat anyone at world music knowledge (thank you KZSU), and I'm pretty good at blues, certain genres of jazz, and bits of bluegrass and country. I know my 80s pop as well as anyone, and have a fairly good grasp of what's new in the world of music. But when it comes to what's old well, there I'm lost. I've been to the symphony, but not too many. I've seen operas, but don't particularly like them. And yet I love opera CDs -- not entire operas, but certain singers performing selections from many composers. My favorite is Jose Cura, who has a warm and delicious voice. His music is reserved for intricate and cryptic literary novels full of delicious passages of prose. I cannot put on Jose Cura and curl up with, say, Nora Roberts. But he goes quite well with Arturo Perez-Reverte.

Oddly enough, since I'm surrounded by jazz, I tend not to listen to it on my own. Husband is both a jazz radio DJ and a jazz journalist (in fact he's just gotten the gig to cover the Portland Jazz Festival for JazzTimes Magazine later this month). His collection of jazz is huge, varied, and intimidating. It's so intimidating that it's in it's own room. The front room has my music and our joint collection of classical and blues. But the music office is his domain. I am perfectly free to go in and select anything I want, but I wouldn't even know where to begin. So I keep my own selection of favorites out here. They're pretty thin, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, the big bands of WWII. The Brubeck and the Monk, the Coltrane and the Pharoah Sanders, they're all in the music office.

But tonight, it's Chopin and The Pre-Raphaelites in Love by Gay Daly. Excuse me, won't you, Frederic is calling me.
Photo of the day: A Capital Idea

Ah, my deep and abiding love for Corinthian capitals. All those lovely acanthus leaves. Modern architecture is so dull, isn't it?