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Could You Just…? (Coffee Edition)

ritualDear Blue Bottle Coffee / Stumptown / Ritual / Intelligentisa / name your artisanal-Williamsburg-wanna-be coffee of choice,

You’ve made it: you are super popular. All the kids who hated you in high school because you wore beige corduroys and couldn’t throw a football worth a damn are queuing up in front of your kiosks to get their caffeine. They wait ten-deep on  weekends to get ONE CUP OF COFFEE.

I get that you are above it all though. That you don’t care what they think of if you, even though you obviously do, in your slouchy knit hat, heavy glasses frames and vintage cardigan. You are painfully hip. Point taken.

But could you, just, please, for the love of God, swing by the grocery and pick up some #$(*&#$! Splenda already? I get that your body is a temple. A very skinny, fixie-riding temple. Mine is not. At least as far as artificial sweeteners are concerned. (FYI, Raw Sugar tastes like crushed up maple syrup, so don’t even start with me on that.)

And – oh – before you go back to practicing your I-hate-you half-smile: could you heat up. the. goddamn. milk? In the name of all that is holy, I do not want a room temperature latte. For $4.25, I should be able to get my coffee at the temperature of the sun.

OK. I’m done. Yes, I know I can go elsewhere and that high temperatures caramelize the delicate sugars in the milk and Splenda is probably made out of chlorine, but I live right over there and could you just…? This once? We’re all in this together. Me, you and your beard kicking off the day with your excellent coffee.

Thanks guys. Really. Thanks. See you tomorrow.

The #$*(! Bird

Not the #$*(! bird. This is a normal chickadee. Note how quiet he is.

I am a city girl. Even when I haven’t lived in a city, I’ve been a city girl.

Don’t get me wrong: I can enjoy a beautiful sunset with the best of them, but please don’t ask me to do it from the doorway of a damp tent or while wearing a piece of clothing labeled “packable.” Or “quick-dry.” Or “bear tolerant.” I like my nature urban, preferably efficient and definitely law-abiding. And by “efficient,” I mean, “with paths,” and by “law-abiding,” I mean, “not violating noise ordinances.”

Case in point, the (*&$#! bird two doors down. Clearly unaware that the laws that apply to that ice cream truck that used to park in front of my place in Brooklyn apply to him too. Namely: you don’t get to park in front of my place in Brooklyn for an hour at a time playing the same fucking music over and over again.

I read a study a while ago where these noisologists  – I know that’s not what they’re called, but for the purposes of this conversation, let’s just go with it because I can’t find that article right now – were trying to find a place to record nothing. I don’t know why. They could have gotten one of those white noise machines if they felt like things were getting a little noisy, but I guess they must’ve had their reasons. They ended up going deep into some national park to see if they could record the sound of silence on tape. They couldn’t. They said it was the airlines or something, but that doesn’t sound like the whole story. I think it was one of these *&$#! birds.

He starts his yelling  birdsong as soon as the sun is up and, when I think to check, he’s still at it mid-afternoon. He must be trying to score. And he’s not that attractive, so I’m thinking he’s doing that thing where he hits on 1000 women so he can score once. Or maybe he scored once already and he’s just talking about it all the time now. Either way, super annoying.

(I assume the *&$#! bird is a him, although I haven’t personally confirmed it. I know some loud women, but it’s only guys – usually cyclists or snow sport fanatics – who a.) get up at some ungodly hour to go about their business, and b.) talk about what they’re about to do, what they’re doing, and what they just did  before, during and after. Most over-talking girls I know at least wait until brunch to get started.)

He’s selected the high ground for his exploits – the top of a tree on the top of a hill – which was a good call generally, but isn’t going to get the job done, if you know what I mean. This is a residential neighborhood. Not the kind of place you’re going to meet lots of available singles. Unless he’s looking to hook up with a baby or a plumber. There are a lot of both on our block. Which is weird. About the plumbers, I mean. Maybe they’re especially into having a view, what with the staring into pipes and what not all day. Anyway.

You’d think someone looking for a mate (or a one night stand – whichever – I’m not judging) would pick a higher traffic location, one with lots of people and maybe some liquor, but the closest bar isn’t for blocks and blocks. And it’s not a nice one either. It’s a kind of dive-y, well-drink-only place. Mostly guys who show up to start drinking at noon or stop in for the game. Unless the bird is gay and completely without standards, he’s going to be disappointed by those prospects even if he did head over there.

Not to say that he couldn’t be gay. And it’s fine if he is. But my impression of gay men is that they’re even choosier than women and those guys leaning on the doorframe at 2PM aren’t a lean, making-an-effort-at-Gold‘s breed, so if he is gay, he’s even farther off his mark than I already think he is.

There’s a coffee shop over by the bar. That’s a better target. Trendy. Crumb-dropping. That’s where he should be. Hitting on crabby, starved-looking hipster birds in skinny pants, languidly pretending they’re not interested in anything and listening to – let’s be honest – music that sounds like a slow-speed car crash of an untrained guitarist and an un-oiled baggage carousel.

But no, he’s over here, diving pointlessly up and down from the topmost branch of that tree, singing. And by “singing,” I mean, “repeating the same set of five-note variations 1000 times in a row.” It’s “singing” like a two year old’s tinkling the Fisher Price ivories is “piano playing.” And, unlike a two year old, he can’t be distracted from his efforts by cookies or jellybeans. I assume. Our snack shelf looks like Ronald Reagan and a Girl Scout had an illegitimate diabetic child that they left it in charge of our grocery shopping, but that bird sticks to his tree no matter how many treats get dropped on the way to the car or out in the yard.

I guess if I really wanted to see if he could be lured to decamp by snack food (or anything else – I’m open to suggestions), I could get a T-shirt cannon and fire a pack of Fig Netwons over to the tree.

Come to think of it, I could just get a T-shirt cannon and fire T-shirts over to the tree. A bird is no match for an all-cotton sphere with three decal wolves on it traveling at, I don’t know, 60 mph, right? (Is that how fast they go? Probably not, I guess, or concerts and morning shows would be a lot more like paintball. Which would be cool. I don’t know: 20mph?)

Judging by his current shenanigans though, he’s quick.

Also, while I’m urban, I’m not heartless: I don’t want him dead. Just gone.

Which sounds like the kind of thing you say over that prison phone thing that lets you talk to your hit man through the glass. “I’m not sayin’ I want him dead. God forbid, right? I’m not an animal… I’m just saying – hypothetically – if he did meet with an, um, unfortunate accident, I’m saying I wouldn’t be upset. God rest his soul. Not that I’m suggesting anything.”

It’s hard not to admire his tenacity though. I mean, he’s sticking with his obviously flawed plan every day for, like, eight hours. You have to admire that kind of ignorance of repeated failure, right? It takes a special kind of optimist to get up at the crack of dawn and make that kind of racket. He’s not showing up for his fail work bleary-eyed and sullen, keeping his head down and skipping meetings. No realistic assessments of his personal choices are going on over there. He’s all up on it, like one of those people who thinks every day is a great day when you know full well that statistically that can’t be true every day and you’re kind of braced for the day when they realize that and all those bad days come out in a torrent of tardiness and inappropriately pessimistic comments about this quarter’s planning, so you just kind of nod and keep your mouth shut about that bird that’s been driving you around the bend and, even though it’s nice to be right about things (even statistical ones), you  secretly hope you won’t be around when that one bad day comes. And that they’ll be all right in the end, of course, too. You know, with some therapy about getting in touch with their negative feelings and wearing more black or whatever. I don’t really know how that whole thing goes. I already wear a lot of black and no one mistakes me for an un-self-critical, meeting-attending optimist. (Even though I am. Really.) (OK, yes, I’m usually late for the meetings. And this bird thing is making me kind of nuts. But still: optimist. Underneath.)

Do you think they have bird therapists?

He’s not going to quiet down without that or a girl. More likely the girl, right? I don’t think I’ve ever been pulling more for the loud guy to hook up and head home already. I’ve always felt too bad for the woman who might end up being involved to really get behind his efforts. But there are girls who like that kind of thing though, so who am I to say it shouldn’t happen? Everyone needs their someone, right? So, *&$#! bird, here’s to you finding your someone. As soon as possible. Like yesterday. And don’t screw it up by mentioning your ex-girlfriend or how you’re an early riser. Girls just want you to be quiet for a minute and listen. Please.

The Criminal Element

“If you are a registered sex offender and are out of compliance with state law, do not throw a cardboard box of books at a San Francisco Police Department Patrol Car as you will be arrested.” – Bayview Police Precinct Crime Bulletin Tip, May 2012

San Francisco, I think we have hit a new low, you and I. That is some terrible, boring criminaling right there. Really low-grade effort. Right up there with grabbing stuff out of unlocked garages. God. It’s so – what’s the word?

Oh, right: lame.

It’s no surprise to me that Law & Order never franchised you.

I don’t mean to be critical or hurt your feelings, criminals by the bay, but let’s face it: this low-effort garbage just isn’t good enough. The shta-tong can’t help you build up some real drama when all that follows is a police car driving by really slowly a couple hours too late and, maybe – if it’s a super fast-track week and the perp is really, really high – the victim going to pick up a box of the thrilling stuff that was in her trunk (I’m talking about you, red plastic emergency gas can) from a not-at-all-sinister basement evidence locker, like, a month later. That’s just not good TV.

Here’s my point: we’ve hit bottom with this book-throwing thing. San Francisco criminals, it’s time you kicked it up a notch in the originality and innovation departments.

I’m not talking to the violent criminals (of which there are far too many to feel safe anywhere in this city and shame on you and, SF why can’t you get it together to be more like New York in this department?) I’m talking to the idiots who throw boxes of books at cop cars. The ones who break into cars to steal a bag of Doritos or drive half a block after jamming a screwdriver in the ignition. I mean, really. If you’re going to go to the trouble of committing a crime, you should at least make it worth everyone’s while.

Why not reupholster the back seat of your new ride in a snappy, bright fabric from Marimekko? That would get my attention when they pick you up AND showcase some seriously Etsy-ready skills. What about stealing my car and then reconstructing it in my living room while I’m out? That’s a classic. I would be so impressed with you, I wouldn’t even be mad.

And for you iPhone snatchers, let’s all be honest with one another: holding up a terrified nanny – with a baby, no less – isn’t really a notch in anyone’s belt. Add a little class to your act. Why not Italian-Job it up and swing by a crowded bust stop  in the Financial District in a set of souped up Minis and scoop up, like, twelve at at shot? The visual impact alone would be sure to draw applause. What about a Thriller flash mob in the Mission instead of just walking away with my wallet? It’s a double win: you could pickpocket admiring onlookers while prepping for a well-coordinated life in prison.

Call me romantic, but what happened to cat burglars and getaway drivers with hearts of gold? Where are the solid, well-planned, character-driven crimes these days? If you’re going to go into the felony life, for crying out loud have a some fun with it. Spend a little less time focusing on the making money part of it and a little more time really enjoying it, you know? Life is a journey, not a destination, if you see what I mean.

And, for God’s sake, let’s all show a little self-respect and cut out this box-throwing nonsense.

Cheap Date

couroc_frog.jpgMy grandmother bought five-pound cans of Maxwell House and perked it on the stove. A drink in the evening was a rare glass of sherry. Suburban aunts made coffee in machines and their husbands drank gin and tonics out of wide glasses with urbane dancing frogs on them.

This is not my liquid life. I live in San Francisco where the drinks are complicated and expensive and there is nary a dancing frog in sight, let alone an ice cube from a freezer tray or, God forbid, coffee in a tin.

I’m not complaining. I drink well here. On our trip to the mountains of Colorado a few weeks ago though, it was back to basics and a welcome break.

First, let’s talk coffee. In Colorado, all the coffees were hot. Super hot. Mountain hot. Boiling hot. And they cost $3.75 for half a gallon of espresso and steamed milk. Well, almost half a gallon. This is fine with me. Hot, caffeinated and not bitter are my morning baselines. Above that line, I can really take it or leave it, even if I can tell the difference.

Back in San Francisco, I had it out with the barista at Ritual Coffee for delivering my coffee at room temperature for the umpteenth time. (This is apparently kind of a thing for me.) The guy said they had a POLICY that they did not steam their milk above a certain temperature because it carmelized the sugars. Apparently I like carmelized sugars based on my liking of apples covered in same and hot *(&#$#! milk in my cafe au lait.

That’s not to say that I don’t like what’s on offer here in general. Ritual Roasters, Four Barrel and Blue Bottle all spring from the Bay Area. Like Folgers crystals before them, they’re served in the finest restaurants around the country. (Another survey of their backgrounds here.) I’m not going to deny they’re good. Well, Blue Bottle and Ritual are good. Four Barrel I don’t get but a lot of people disagree with me so I’m outvoted there. Can I tell that these $4 cups of coffee are better than other coffees? Um, well, sort of. I can tell that they’re better than instant or coffeemaker coffee. And Starbucks. But that much better than much faster, cheaper, no-name coffee that I should pay twice as much? Probably not. Case in point: Dunkin’ Donuts makes my favorite coffee and I think they’re still on the Maxwell House train. So I’m not 100% sure I appreciate the level of precision that coneisseurship has brought to my morning cuppa.

Perhaps I’m being willfully dense here and resisting developing an expensive taste because then I’d have to spend $4 every morning rather than drinking what I can most conveniently get. I do this with wine. If I got hooked on $40 bottles of wine, I wouldn’t be able to drink the $10 bottle. So while I appreciate the expensive wines when they’re presented to me, I try not to take too much notice. I already spend enough money as it is.

Enough about me: if you’re looking around to taste the best of the best and have a nice sit-down while you’re in the city, here are my picks, with a heavy bias toward the south side of the city because that’s where we live.

Ritual Roastersoriginal location on the gritty end of Valencia (21st/22nd Streets) will brew your regular coffee cup by cup, as well as serve you any espresso drink (with warm, not hot, milk). Rich flavor gleaned from their blends and their use of whole milk. My favorite of the top three but often crowded (they have free wifi) and they play non-background music – like, edgy, slightly metal indie stuff that’s hard to write to and chat to.

In which case, on a sunny day, you might prefer their new permanent cart in Hayes Valley (on Octavia just off Hayes) where you can sit outside and look in shops with commensurately priced goods of all kinds.

Similar music issues and an even grittier ‘hood, but less crowded and with a Scandinavian vibe, Haus on 24th Street brews Ritual as well and does a good job of it. Bonus: back patio with lots of sun, albeit also the neighbor’s laundry in view. Free wifi and excellent baked goods make up most of the way for the crabby hipster baristas.

Blue Bottle‘s original San Francisco location in a garage on a side street in Hayes Valley has become enough of a landmark that now you don’t have to compete with cars: they’ve paved a little plaza in front. You can also pick up a cup at the super trendy, way-overcrowded-at-the-weekend-Farmers-Market yup-fest Ferry Building and downtown on Mint Plaza. Or – brilliant brilliant location choice – at Spin City, a high end laundromat in chic Noe Valley, Blue Bottle is served at the coffee window.

If you want to try Four Barrel, they have a giant, airy space on the other end of Valencia from Ritual, at 15th Street. You decide if you like it or not.

Let’s get back to Colorado and discuss cocktails. I sidled up to our lodge’s bar the first night to order a couple of straightforward cocktails: vodka cranberry and vodka tonic. No big deal. Nothing fancy. Didn’t want to go out on a pisco limb or anything in a building made of logs. The bartender delivers them in about thirty seconds and says, “That’ll be $7.” This prompts a tiny ethical dilemma. Should I tell him he’s only charged me for one, and at happy hour, well-drink prices even though it’s 9PM?

I ask. Turns out it’s not a mistake. Cocktails are $3.50. Cocktails with premium vodka no less. Living where I do and traveling mainly to other places like where I live, cocktails cost $9. Or $12. Or $14 if it’s that trendy and I’m paying for the slab of polished oak they use as a bar that they imported from a speakeasy in the basement of Versailles. Or something like that.

I will admit that I prefer the high-end cocktails at Beretta to the low-end ones at our old neighborhood’s dive bar Il Pirata. But do I notice if the bar makes their own ice using pure water and a special, I don’t know, vaporizing hyperbaric icebox or whatever? No, I do not. Can I tell if they’re using bottled bitters or homemade ones? Um, no. In the new world order or artisinal bars, I am a cretin and, for that, I’d like apologize to my bartender at Beretta who goes to so much trouble to make me happy.

I might be more of a high and mighty in this category if I drank more whiskey, bourbon or gin which seem to be the base of many, if not most, of the new breed of cocktails. I was a gin girl for a long time but have moved on to vodka and tequila for the most part, with a recent strong liking for pisco. This limits my range but it keeps the choosing simple.

I do wish that all bars offered the option of a straightforward drink at Colorado prices the way restaurants offer tap water or bottled. I can tolerate the tiny sneer that follows my, “Tap, please,” and would happily tolerate another if I could get Ketel One and Ocean Spray cranberry juice with tap-water ice cubes in an Ikea cup for half the price of my extra-special Pisco Punch.

Until that happens, here’s where I go.

For artisinal cocktails, it’s hard to beat Beretta. They have excellent food as well and, if you can get a seat (no reservations, go early), a buratta margherita pizza or chicken liver crostini will tide you over to a third drink if you want to hang out.

Bourbon & Branch is also well-reputed but you will need to plan ahead and make a reservation if you want food. I’ve written before about Range and their excellent food, but beware their hipster-looking cocktail menu: they’ve gone off the reservation in my estimation. Tomatoes have no place in evening drinks, unless by “evening” you mean “morning” and it’s a bloody mary you’re after.

We recently rediscovered Smugglers Cove in Hayes Valley (it used to be a trendy, purple-lit place we didn’t enjoy) where you can get a ridiculous number of pirate drinks made one-by-one by their single bartender. It’s not exactly the high-end science of mixology you’ll get at the places listed above, but tiki has been on an upswing the last couple of years and, let’s face it, sometimes you miss Club Med and their sweet, sweet drinks. (I’d advise only going in the week when the locals stop in for libations. We cruised in once on a Saturday and it was a bizarre mix of drunk, overweight, gay tourist developers and tacky bridge and tunnel girlies on a bender.)

Recently (like, yesterday) voted Best of the Bay for their unique happy hour – whoever orders first after 5PM, that’s the discount drink – we’ve latched onto Asiento of late for a not-dive but not-too-trendy evening drink accompanied by crazy good little plates. We haven’t made it there on a Sunday yet, but I hear they serve tater tots. Eighties lunchroom trashy trendy. I like it.

Although I enjoy all the developments in drinking my generation has ushered in, I (and my wallet) miss those dancing frogs and wish there a Dunkin Donuts at the end of my block. Until I find that block – or open a frog/donut outlet of my own – I’ll enjoy what San Francisco has to offer.

Oh, and if you’re in New York, don’t miss the Pisco Punch at Pegu Club. Best. Ever.

RIP Ti Couz

ticouz-thumb.jpgSan Francisco’s crepe institution, Ti Couz, closed several weeks ago to little fanfare and, on my part, not much regret. Their decline to the point of my not regretting their passing is almost sadder than their demise. Or perhaps it just softened the blow. If they had gone out on top, we would have really missed them.

They used to be our go-to place for cocktails and crepes on a Friday evening after a long week. To avoid the delay of finding parking, we’d take the dodgy crosstown bus from the corner by our tiny, bright apartment and, eight minutes of watching the drug-addled homeless and a mother ignoring her too many children, we’d land half a block from Ti Couz’s comforts. But things have been sliding gradually for at least a year and our final visit in May would have been our last even if they hadn’t closed their doors.

They opened in 1992 and in their hey day they served excellent, reasonably priced Breton savory crepes. These were nicely preceded by their variations on the Cosmopolitan, the Lemon Drop and their signature champagne cocktail, the Ti Couz 10. When I visited San Francisco just after graduating college, on the fateful trip that convinced me that maybe someday I might like to live here (beware tourists of the siren song of a sunny day in the city by the bay!), a friend and I went to Ti Couz.

Oddly, since I had been to France and was a huge crepe fan, I’d never had Breton crepes. They’re made with buckwheat and look like the wheatberry and the HealthyForYou/TastesLikeCardboard bread loaves I bypass in the bakery aisle. Also, they’re huge, like a foot diameter tucked to a flat, square 8″. I was a rolled crepe, white-flour girl, raised at Boston’s long-gone and much-missed Magic Pan. Viva la crepe revolucion of the 1970s!!

Let’s digress here for a shout-out to that best of crepe-y institutions, The Magic Pan. Founded by Hungarians (??!$^%!) here in San Francisco and eventually and briefly a successful chain, they made crepes on the bottoms of pans, which is a tricky method only for professionals, like poaching an egg in a pot of water using only a spoon. (I don’t even want to hear about it if you can do this. Really. Just be quiet. You’re hurting my feelings even opening your mouth.)

Right behind the maitre’d’s desk was a guy standing in the middle of a ring of fire. Really it was a circular stove burner, but to a five year old it was Vegas. Above the flame rotated a frame built for ten or twelve pans. The chef had a bowl of crepe batter. When a pan came by, he’d dip the base in the batter and put it back on the frame. When it got back to him, he’d flip it and send it around again. F’ing brilliant.

They made ham and cheese crepes, lightly fried to seal them, and served with a sweet mustard cream sauce. Dude. So. Good. They put the “Mmmmm,” in Mmmmagic Pan. (Ham crepe and mustard sauce recipe here, cheese here, and don’t skip the apple dessert crepe. Don’t. Just don’t.)

The point is, I’d never had buckwheat crepes until Ti Couz. Theirs were excellent, especially their specials. I’m a terrible decisionmaker, so asking me to construct my own crepe from 25 options just spoils my dinner. Ti Couz put together some odd but always tasty combos of things like shrimp and mushroom with chipotle cream sauce. The reliability of those specials, along with their wildly satisfying Euro salad (excellent greens with magic vinaigrette or crudite salad with every possible vegetable in it nicely chopped) made it a comfort location supreme.

Then, last year, they discontinued their specials for what our waiter described as “financial reasons.” That didn’t sound right – if you’re picking it, why not choose a combo made up of this week’s cheapest ingredients? – but we sighed and kept going, doing our best with the arduous task of selecting our own combinations unaided by the increasingly lethargic staff.

Then they put up a banner reading, “Thank you San Francisco for 19 great years,” which panicked everyone that they were closing. But, when asked, they said they weren’t. It was just an anniversary thing. Which was weird. ‘Cause 19 isn’t a special anniversary is it? Should I have gotten them something? What is 19? Flour? Dirt?

In the fall, they bizarrely surrendered their liquor license. I don’t know much about the liquor license process, but I do know it’s damn hard to get one and I assume it pays for itself. They billed their regression as, “getting back to their Breton roots,” which apparently are soaked with slightly-alcoholic cider. I billed it as, “taking away the second of the two reasons I went there.” We toughed it out without our specials or our cocktails a couple of times, but the deed was done. We were out.

Apparently, so were they.

Despite their slow, disappointing decline, I will remember Ti Couz for their former days of tasty cocktail and savory crepe glory. And they will always hold a tiny special space in my heart: two days before A.’s premature arrival, we finally settled on her name (and the second choice which no, I won’t tell you in case I need it later) at a corner table in the back.

So farewell, Ti Couz. I’ll try some Magic Pan recipes at home and hope that someplace else steps up with a wide open, non-trendy space serving sweet Friday cocktails. Bon voyage to the great crepe pan in the sky. Say ‘hello’ to the Magic Pan for me.

Barista Business

latte-art.jpgDear Barista With the Dorothy Hamill Haircut,

I am having a hard day already. I’m sorry to have to break it to you, but you made it worse. I don’t mean to hurt your feelings, but there it is.

I hope that haircut is meant to be ironic. Some things aren’t meant to be brought back. Like fluorescent socks. Maybe your Dorothy Hamill haircut is supposed to be like hipster boys growing beards that are so sincerely frontier terrible that they must be ironic and therefore attractive. But most of them are so actually terrible that they double back over the irony attraction into well, just plain terrible.

Does your boyfriend have a beard?

See, Wednesdays are my Day to Get Things Done. They are the only day in the week when I have the whole day to attend to business. Writing mainly, multi-step projects that require some thought, lots of we-own-a-house-now business, some no-way-can-I-do-this-with-a-toddler errands. A day to be able to start a task and finish it. Wednesdays are my Day of Satisfaction.

Why are you wearing a nautical stripe shirt? I’m just asking. Not that I don’t like the shirt. It’s fine. It’s just there’s no boat, and I’m in a bad mood.

I should have just told you that my hot coffee was cold, that you didn’t heat the milk past just-below-room-temperature and I wanted you to make me another latte, but because I’m already having a rough day, that extra effort seems impossible right now. I’ll just sit here and steam like my milk didn’t.

I don’t book appointments on Wednesdays because having to be somewhere at a specific time disrupts the whole start-to-finish thing. Today I made an exception to that rule. Now there’s an unpleasant block interrupting the middle of my Day of No Interruptions. This was a mistake. Not yours, BWTDHH, I agree, but that first Mistake made your Bad Job the third Bad Thing in the day instead of the first. Keep in mind that your small straw might be the last small straw for someone else.

That’s something I’ll try and remember myself. Do your job well because you don’t know when someone else’s day might depend on it.

Competence Karma.

No, scratch that. It sounds like a cereal.

When I tried to get out of the house early, our green car glided from 10 mph to 2 mph a block from home and a big red exclamation point came up on one screen and a picture of a car with another big exclamation point over it appeared on the other screen.

I assume that that car in the picture is supposed to be our car even though our car is shorter. If the car in the picture were shorter though, I guess you wouldn’t be able to see it behind the giant exclamation point. Which might make the emergency seem worse, not being able to see your car for everything that’s wrong with it. It still seems pretty bad though. I should do something to make that exclamation point go away. Getting rid of exclamation points was not on Today’s Plan.

So that was the Second Thing.

None of this stuff is that big a deal if you’re on a roll, but I was not on a roll. I came by to get some coffee to get rolling. I just needed a cup of milk and espresso and some time at a table. It’s true I have the table. But an inaccessibly cold cup of coffee taunting me with its flattening foam isn’t the table companion I was hoping for.

Anyway, Dorothy Hamill, I hope you get better at your job. Today you did not deliver on your $3.75 commitment to serve hot coffee, which does seem like a basic job requirement for a job which involves serving hot coffee.

Maybe you’re a good person behind your poor milk management. Maybe. It’s just hard to see you behind the giant exclamation point that’s come up over the screen in my head.

Yours in passivity,

Me. I’m at the table window. I’m pretty sure I look really irritated. Yup, you see me now.


expletivebubble.gifOK, so you’re in your car with someone else and you live in California so you are constantly getting cut off by $#&*!, um, let’s call them “people” driving 4 mph in a 35 mph zone who have no idea where they’re going but decide that this left turn, yeah that one right there 20 feet away, must be the one they need to take even though they’re in the far right lane, so they nearly kill everyone in their path, not to mention slow traffic speed to a standstill, so they can make their turn.

What do you do?

Take a breath? No.

You yell. You say bad words about stupid people and curse this state’s lax law enforcement and poor driver’s education that allows clearly incompetent, aimless people on the roads with the rest of us.

I’m not saying this is the most constructive response for my blood pressure, but you don’t know: maybe my head would explode if I didn’t let some of the steam out.

In the last year or so though, there’s been an increasingly large wrench in those mechanics, namely that the passenger with me is very small, facing backwards in the backseat, unable to see the offending event, and, even if she could, unaware of traffic laws (written and unwritten). So she understandably believes that the loud expletives from the front seat must be meant for her, same as the little chunks of cheddar cheese that magically appear over the back of her seat with soothing reminders that we’re “almost there”.

It’s probably good that I learn to curb the yelling now before she starts imitating the content which could lead to some X-rated exchanges that’ll get her kicked out of preschool in a couple of years.

Generally, I’ve been trying to keep a handle on what goes into her ears while I still can, but, even before she falls in love with ska and playing the trumpet in the basement, it’s already a seriously heavy lift.

I’ve refrained from introducing A. to our music list beyond our classical collection because she’s always been sound-sensitive and our tastes veer towards heavy beats (too loud) and complaint rock (too whiny). She prefers easy to understand single voices with obvious instrumentation. Like Raffi. And cowbell.

But I can’t listen to that indefinitely, so, since she’s gotten more noise-tolerant lately, I tried our local techno radio station last week. Ah, Rihanna:

” ‘Cause I may be bad, but I’m perfectly good at it. Sex in the air, I don’t care, I love the smell of it. Sticks and stones may break my bones, but chains and whips excite me.”

Let’s let the issue lie of what the hell she’s thinking putting out a song like this after her personal experience with getting the crap kicked out of her by a boyfriend and take up what a one-year-old mind would make of these lyrics.

Probably nothing, right? But I’m not starting that sex-me-up diet this early. She’ll get that from billboards, magazines and the internet soon enough.

(Not to be old-fashioned but, holy God, what twelve year olds are wearing these days is the equivalent of what I wore to college parties when I was feeling particularly sure-I’ll-go-home-with-you. I was walking behind what looked like a pre-teen yesterday and I wasn’t sure she was wearing anything between her giant sweatshirt and her Uggs. Going entirely pantsless is pushing the, “But I’m not cold!” excuse a little far, isn’t it? No? OK. Whatever. I guess any sentence that includes the phrase, “these days” marks me as uncool already. And A. is only one. That doesn’t bode well…)

I switched the station to NPR. The voices are soothing and A. bounces to the theme music. But then I had to turn that off too: a steady stream of bad news, and particularly graphic bad news, about civilian casualties in Libya, pedophilia, tsunamis, reactor meltdowns and the infallibly depressing coverage of our dysfunctional Congress aren’t much better than S&M enthusiasts.

I guess it’s back to swearing and Raffi. At least it’s preparing her for fending off bullies and chatting with longshoremen. That’s something, right?

The World Series – It’s All About Me

world_series.jpgThat said, the World Series is the latest worst thing to happen to us re: our delayed move. (We own our new house as of today, but the old owners have until November 30 to move out, sadly for us.)

One of the big down sides to our current place, aside from the size and the outside noise, is the inside noise. We’re on the top floor but, due to some engineering oddity, hear everything that goes on in the apartment below us.

Every alternate tenant has been fine. The problem couple a few years ago was a girl and her 250-lb. boyfriend who owned a local bar and would bring that night’s band back to the apartment at 2AM for an impromptu, drunk jam session. I can’t imagine why we had a problem with that. After he threatened me one night when I complained, our landlady shook their lease at them and they piped down. Kind of. Sometimes. Eventually they moved out, but not before they started a successful company that makes waffle batter in aerosol cans. I don’t like to talk about that.

The couple after that was perfect. She was a yoga instructor and he was a landscape designer. We never heard anything. Ever. I don’t think they spoke to each other. Which worked out well for us but probably contributed to them breaking up a year later and moving out. Remember children: communication matters.

The latest couple introduced themselves to the building by setting up their stereo first thing and moving in to a throbbing beat at ear-shattering volume with their front door open. That spells Trouble, with a capital T, which rhymes with P and stands for “Phuck you.”

They’re friendly and pretty responsive but still a regular noise nuisance. We have a truce that they shut it off at 11PM, which they do 98 times out of 100, but when you’re up three times a night with a baby, sometimes you want to go to bed at 8:30, which you can’t when their thrice-weekly dinner/furniture rearranging parties are in progress.

I’m guessing that they’re in their late 20’s, not malicious or aggressive but doing what people in their late 20’s do, namely being oblivious. R. reminds me regularly that we used to be them, waking our 40-something upstairs neighbor regularly at my old apartment across town. He’s right, of course, but his rightness just makes me a tad more irritated, not less (as true but inconvenient-to-my-present-argument statements often can).

Here’s my point: just because they don’t mean to upset me and little A., just because it’s an intention-less crime, doesn’t make it not a crime, right? Don’t they watch Law & Order? I’m not saying it’s murder noise – it’s manslaughter noise. But you still go to jail for manslaughter, right? Not that they should go to jail. Just their stereo. And maybe all their furniture, which apparently just can’t stay in one place.

Which brings us to the World Series. (See? I get there eventually.) They’re sports fans, these rowdy neighbors of ours. Which relieves us of the necessity of watching any of the World Series games because every time the Giants get a run, the floor heaves with their cheering. Keeps us abreast of the home team’s progress and makes sure no one up here settles in for a quiet evening at home. Which, you know, keeps our civic pride alive. And keeps any nostalgia that might be setting in about our cute little studio apartment firmly at bay. *sigh* That’s a good thing, right? So now I’m just tense about moving to a bigger place and not being settled in in time for a cozy Christmas and I can’t wait to vacate our current place. Maybe we should just rent an RV and park outside our new house until the current tenants (previously the owners) get creeped out and move out more quickly. I think that’d be a lovely way to kick things off with our new neighbors, don’t you?

Weird Clean

firehouse44.jpgWe saw a four a half million dollar house this weekend. Down from $6.3 million, so really a huge bargain. Yes, it was posh. And super cool, which, at least in San Francisco, are two things that don’t necessarily go together. The interior is modern, gorgeous and hip, with art and a lot of the cement-colored paint that seems to be everywhere these days. It was a firehouse until 1959 and, when it went private, the owners, God love ’em, kept the facade, the firepole (sweeeet) and the garage door front. In the late ’90’s, it was renovated again and it’s been back on the market for two years. You’ve got to see this place: You should really buy it. And invite me over. Permanently.

The “basement” is a cigar room and wine cellar. That’s it. (See images 13 + 14 under Photos/First Floor). The main floor is living spaces, indoor and out. The second floor is dining and cooking (two kitchens – you know: for the help). The third story is guest quarters (three bedrooms – if you have a $4.5-million home, you also have lots of friends who like to stay with you) + more living space. The fourth floor is your floor: main bedroom, two bathrooms, one with steam shower, the other with a tub looking out on your private deck. There’s a fifth floor that’s not listed – a “viewing tower” at the top of a spiral stair. That would be my office. And I’d want to be able to retract those stairs, by the way.

And there’s an elevator. And two staircases.

But here’s what’s weird. There are four bedrooms to four full baths and two half baths. That’s more than one bath per bed, two for the master suite alone. That is one clean millionaire. And not really a selling point for me. (Theoretically, anyway – I checked the sofa and my jeans pockets and I can’t find those extra millions I misplaced last Thursday).

I was saying to R., the owner should have just gone full OCD while s/he was at it and put in sinks every few feet for obsessive handwashing. I mean, even if I’m a germaphobe, I’m not really looking to shower every time, right? Although hazmat showers would have been good if you were already laying new plumbing. There’s room in the foyer by the firepole. Right next to where you store your boots made of gold, you could discreetly put a hook for your suit and helmet and a floor drain for the decontamination shower. No problem.

San Francisco

“A city can’t be too small. Size guarantees anonymity–if you make an embarrassing mistake in a large city, and it’s not on the cover of the Post, you can probably try again. The generous attitude towards failure that big cities afford is invaluable–it’s how things get created. In a small town everyone knows about your failures, so you are more careful about what you might attempt. Every time I visit San Francisco I ask out loud “Why don’t I live here? Why do I choose to live in a place that is harder, tougher and, well, not as beautiful?” The locals often reply, “You don’t want to live here. It looks like a city, but it’s really a small village. Everyone knows what you’re doing” Oh, OK. If you say so. It’s still beautiful.” – David Byrne

This is exactly why I don’t like San Francisco. Not that I’ve failed a lot publicly here, but it feels insular and homogenous, like a sprawled out small town masquerading as a real city. Give me New York’s anonymity any day.

Full article here.

(Thanks Swiss Miss!)