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a moment of having it all

It's been almost two months since I wrote in here - two months!  A crazy two months.

Yesterday was my last day of work.  I had a party and cleaned out my desk.  I am officially jobless now - not technically unemployed (which implies looking for work) but removed from the labor market.  I can set my own schedule.  Any money I spend comes from a finite pool of my savings.  There will be no more.  I keep thinking someone will jump out of the woodwork and say "just kidding!" and life will go back to normal, but as my boss pointed out yesterday, that person would have to be me.

In less than two weeks I am moving out of my apartment, that I love.  I am giving up the non-working fireplace and the filtered red light from my curtain.  I am not saying goodbye to San Francisco, yet - I freaked out and bought a plane ticket back for most of July - but when I come back I will be a guest, a floater, a visitor.  I am giving up my residency.  I am packing my books away and giving away or selling my furniture.  If I come back - when I come back? - I will have to begin again.  New bookcases.  New dresser drawers.  I hate transitions but I asked for this one.  No one is forcing me to go but myself.

I am sitting in a tea shop now with my friend and roommate Melissa, drinking strong Russian tea and writing.  It is beautiful outside, and somewhere in the city gay couples are getting married right now, after years of waiting.  The city feels happy and bright and productive.  I want to stay here and do this: sit and drink tea and write with a friend.  But I will go broke if I try to do this for too long.  We pay for the blue skies and the trees and the liberal love.  I can have half of everything I want.

The Great Matzo Panic

On Monday, my roommate sent me an article about a matzo shortage in the Bay Area.  Matzo is “unleavened bread” – basically a kosher cracker – that observant Jews are supposed to eat in place of bread for the week of Passover.  Even unobservant Jews, like myself, eat it during the holiday, usually (in my case) during Seders, which are ritual dinners celebrating the holiday.  Matzo is an integral part of the Seder: you eat it, you talk about it, you point to it, you hold it in the air, you hide a piece and make someone find it, and then you buy it back from that person.  

We are giving a Seder tonnight, so the possibility that there might not be any Matzo sent me into a panic.  To steal a phrase from “Little Women” (with slight alterations): a Seder isn’t a Seder without any matzo.

I called supermarkets: all out.  I looked on craigslist: lots of requests for matzo, nobody selling it or giving it away.

I told my aunt and she offered to send me some from Seattle.  This seemed slightly ridiculous, but also like a perfect solution: family coming together to save a thousand-year-old holiday ritual via FedEx.  It’s like a commercial come to life.

Of course, it does raise some issues, starting with: is it really worth $30 to overnight matzo?  If you get past the monetary cost (anything for family and tradition, right?) you are confronted with the less-obvious environmental costs: the gas expended on the airplane used to fly it down, the cardboard used to package it.  It is definitely not eating locally.  Did we really want our Seder to contribute to global warming?  Not to mention the social implications of being able to ship boxes of matzo around when there is a worldwide wheat shortage and people are actually starving in developing countries.

Being terrible at making decisions, I passed this one off to my uncle, who went ahead and FedEx-ed the matzo.  It arrived yesterday, to my office.  The Seder was saved!  Tradition trumped environmental and social guilt!

Of course, a half an hour after I received my FedEx tracking number by email, I got an instant message from my roommate saying that her grandmother (who lives in San Francisco) had gotten some matzo from a friend.  This was followed twenty minutes later by another instant message from a friend who is coming to our Seder saying he has extra matzo he can bring.  Then I went to my brother’s Seder, where they ended up with two leftover boxes of matzo, one of which I took home.  Now, instead of no matzo, we will probably have too much.

To make the whole situation even more ironic, I was asked to drive to Sacramento yesterday for work, so I did not go in to my office.  I asked my brother to pick up the FedEx-ed matzo, but he might not be coming to my Seder, and it is possible it will never arrive.

What is the lesson to take from all of this?  I can think of a few possibilities.

One: Exhaust all local options before turning to outside help.

Two: Murphy’s Law holds – as soon as you don’t need something, it will appear in abundance.  If Doug had never FedEx-ed the matzo, no one would have found any, and we would have been matzo-less.  Since he spent the time and money, we ended up not needing it.

Three: Shop early for dinner parties, especially when they involve unusual foods.

Four: God will bring you matzo one way or another, even if you are not really an observant Jew.
A strange shifting of worlds: last Sunday I woke up in my brother's apartment.  One sister was sleeping beside me.  The other was on the floor beside the bed, looking at a book (she had fallen asleep on the couch so we left her there, but waking in the middle of the night she had apparently decided she would rather sleep on the floor).  I got up, made them breakfast, and took them to the Exploratorium.

Today (Sunday) I woke up in my own bed, squinting at the sunlight, in a house with cupcake-frosting-smeared floors and sixty fading gold balloons.  We had a party last night, and I got around six hours of sleep.  I shuffled into the kitchen, where my roommates and our out-of-town guests were eating leftover M&Ms from the party.  We attempted the Sunday NY Times crossword, cleaned a little, read aloud funny snippets from blogs and from the paper, debriefed on the party and told each other about what had gone on in the rooms we had not been in, and later went out to brunch.

Conclusion: There are different kinds and levels of adulthood.

Second conclusion: I love my sisters, and I want to be a mother someday, but at the moment I am happy that I am 23, and that I stayed up until 3:30 am last night dancing in my kitchen with a bunch of unknown Germans.

The day after a party is always a letdown.  I am groggy and out-of-sorts, even though I had a wonderful time.  My apartment is now a perfect metaphor for my mood.  I went to a movie by myself this afternoon, because I couldn't be bothered to call anyone and make plans, and when I came home, all the balloons had fallen down.  (Backstory: we rented a helium tank yesterday and blew up 75 gold balloons and an assortment of balloons of other colors, some of which have been popped or sent home with party guests or punctured this morning in order to inhale the helium and talk in strange voices for 10-15 seconds a pop.)  Once clustered in two rooms, the balloons have now made their way into every room in the apartment, where they float, discombobulated, between two inches and eight feet off the floor.  As I sit in my bed writing this, a balloon hovers next to me, golden string making a circle on my sheets.  If I touch it it rebounds, bouncing up before settling back just above the bed.  It has a little life left in it, but not much.

Mom for the weekend

My sisters are here.  They came in tonight, and it was such a flashback to the way things used to be, when people were there at the gate to meet you - but this time I was there, watching their faces as they saw me, watching them come running down the corridor (what do you call the thing that connects the plane to the terminal? I want to say gang plank, but I know that is not right). 

Nick and I took them out to pizza, and Vivien said the greasy food made her mouth itch, but all she really needed was to be hugged and jollied out of her attempt to make herself upset.  I said, "Does this ruin EVERYTHING?" and pulled her onto my lap, and she said "No!" and laughed, and we played with her hair and examined the results in the restaurant mirror.

She keeps saying, "I am SO EXCITED to be here!"

When I put them to bed I got in between them and we all snuggled and read a book.  I'm glad they still like to be read to, even though they are both old enough to read chapter books now.  I hope when we are all old they will still let me read to them.

After singing to them, I kissed Vivien goodnight and she said, "Goodnight Mom."  Then she cracked an eye, half-asleep, and giggled, "I mean, Felicity."

The cat does not know what to make of the girls.  He hovered around, anxiously, always just out of reach.  Vivien really wants to make friends with him; Merlyn is a little more wary.  Vivien keeps trying to approach him and play with him, and Merlyn keeps saying, "Leave him alone!  That's not the way to handle it" in her best older sister-ish voice.  Now he is sitting on the pull out sofa bed, having made himself a nest in the covers, looking weary and resigned to his fate, whatever that is.  Poor Simon: so put upon.

what's the opposite of concise? rambling?

Just bought another year for this journal - guess that means I should write more.

I have become scarily addicted to political blogs.  I hate them, and yet I love them.  They all cover the exact same stories and issues.  They refer to each other constantly.  Basically their whole purpose for existing is to refer to each other.  They repeat themselves.  They blow everything out of proportion.  They bicker like children.  They are ruining American democracy, and maybe saving it too: at least they are talking about the issues, sometimes.  Good or bad, I am addicted. 

Another new addiction: the Sweeney Todd soundtrack.  Can it really be healthy to spend an hour every day in my car singing about cannibalism?

I signed up to be an Obama precinct captain, as I may have mentioned, which means that I am responsible for contacting likely Democratic and independent voters in a couple-block radius to see who they are planning to vote for, and as election day nears, to get Obama supporters to the polls.  Only my precinct is not actually near my house.  Also, 80% of the people in it are over the age of 80 (there's an assisted living center smack dab in the middle).  I

 tried to make calls tonight after I got home and had dinner, but it was 8:30 so I didn't want to call any older people who might be asleep already.  Calling only people under 65 meant I could call 1-3 people per page (18 to a page).  I do not have a good work schedule for this.  But I will try to devote myself to it this weekend. 

One of the women I talked to said that she was undecided, even though she lived Obama better, because she did not want to get too attached to a candidate and be disappointed.  I laughed, sadly, and said, "I'm bad at that."  I really hope I am not disappointed this time.  The Clinton machine is on the attack, and that scares me.  Why does the lowest common denominator always win?  (but it hasn't won yet - and I am going to tell myself, at least for the next 12 days, that it won't win this time)

Other than that, I am taking a newswriting class at City College of San Francisco, one night a week.  The teacher has been in journalism and editing for over 20 years, and he has lots of good stories.  His experience is both an asset and a drawback.  He knows all of the reporters in SF, and at the San Francisco Chronicle - which is cool because he has the inside scoop, but unfortunate because he is unable to separate himself from them or be critical of their work.  We were discussing an article in class yesterday, and he seemed to take criticism of it personally, and rather than admit it might not be perfect, he finally suggested that an editor might have changed it - as if we were criticizing the reporter and not the work.  Institutional thinking - the press defends itself.  I'm interested to see how he critiques our writing, as that is the real test.  I hope he can teach me to be clear and concise.  Obviously, my conciseness needs some work.

I have jury duty today.  I approve of the concept, but it strikes me as odd how one line in our constitution - "a jury of his peers" - has led to this spectacle.  The informational video says that they mail out 5,600 jury summons a week.  Each summons has a bar code, which they scan when you present yourself at the jury office, after which they wave you into an enormous room where videos are playing explaining the duties of jurors.  Justice will have been served (announced the video at the end).  Really?!  Wow!  The man sitting next to me and I rolled our eyes in unison.  I'm not against the concept of a jury - but I think justice is a much more difficult mistress.  What happens in the courtroom is only a small piece of it - just as important is who gets to that courtroom and why, what they're charged with and why, where they grew up, what kind of schools they had, what kind of job opportunities they had, and what kinds of schools and job opportunities were had by the boxful of jurors... Justice is more elusive than 12 "peers" listening to the facts of the case and pronouncing judgment.

I know I've been absent from this blog for a while.  I couldn't post in Dubai, as I said, and then things pile up and there's too much to say so I say nothing at all.  I'm home.  Life has recommenced.  I am missing work right now, and anxious about that fact - the only reason I have my computer here is so that I can hopefully get some work done.  It's nice to be home, even though vacation was wonderful and I again miss all those I briefly did not miss.

I've been pretty wrapped up in the election and election coverage, even though the media drives me crazy and probably the best thing to do would be to disengage.  I'm going to become a precinct captain for Obama, since at this point it is clear that California will indeed matter, very much.

Two points on the election I want to discuss:

1.    The media drives me crazy because they try to reinvent the wheel every day.  Iowa was big and exciting, but declaring Obama the frontrunner and Clinton's campaign - which has been built up for months, for a whole year practically - dead in one night was ridiculous and obviously premature.  Now anointing Clinton's victory in New Hampshire a "comeback" is just as silly.  It was always a two-person race (at least).  There are way too many media pundits desperate to have something to say, so they make up these stories that have very little, if anything, to do with reality.

2.    I read Gloria Steinem’s editorial in the New York Times yesterday about how women have it harder than black men (in the race for public office anyway) and how the media has unfairly attacked Hilary.  I think she has good points, namely that gender is an incredibly strong barrier, one that does not get enough attention (or the wrong kind of attention) and that the media has used a lot of misogynistic language in its portrayal of Hilary.  I strongly disagree, however, with her conclusion – that the bias exhibited by some is a reason to vote for Hilary, and that by supporting Obama, I and other young women are betraying or taking for granted what second wave feminists did for all of us.

I consider myself a proud feminist.  I am very sensitive to gender stereotypes and prejudices.  But I am also a human being.  I am a woman but this is not all I am.  I think that is what second wave feminists were fighting for: the right to make decisions on an equal footing with men.  The right not to be defined by my gender.

There are many reasons I am supporting Obama.  I believe he is a compromiser in the best way, in that he does not compromise his core values, but he is willing to listen to people who disagree with him and learn from them.  For illustration: at a rally yesterday in New Hampshire, there were anti-abortion protestors.  The crowd started booing them down, and he quieted his own supporters, pointing out that this is exactly the problem: we don’t listen to each other.  The protesters were escorted from the building (it wasn't the moment for a debate) but they weren't heckled along the way.

From what I’ve seen, Clinton is the other kind of compromiser (and I think Bill Clinton was too): the kind that compromises to get ahead.

I also think Obama has a much better chance of winning the general election, which, let’s face it, is important.  In the last debate, Clinton tried to equate Obama with Bush, by saying he was doing well because he was “likable.”  Not only do I think this is a ridiculous comparison (Bush is likable in that people felt they could sit down and have a beer with him, Obama is likable in that he is well-spoken and inspiring), but let us not forget that Bush won the last two elections against politicians with a great deal of experience who came across as awkward, stiff, and ultimately… unlikable.  The Democrats have proven their ability to pick losing candidates using Hilary Clinton’s formula for success.  Why not pick someone who appeals across party lines?  Why not pick someone who excites people?  Why not pick someone without the baggage of the Clinton years, who is respected and liked by a lot of Republicans and Independents, rather than hated and vilified?  Why not pick someone who can win?

Mostly, I support Obama because I see how he inspires people, especially people of my generation - cynical youth, constantly berated by their elders for trying to work within the system instead of rebelling against it.  This is the candidate we have been waiting for, this is the one we will take to the streets for - why should we now be berated for that too?  Because our candidate is not the candidate our parents might choose?  It's funny that people like Gloria Steinem, who set themselves up as anti-establishment, should so buy into the establishment, and tell young women they're blind if they don't follow.

I want to see a female president.  The thing is - I believe it will happen in my lifetime.  In fact, I believe it will happen in the not-too-distant future.  Which is why I am making my choice based on all the things that make me an intelligent human being, and not panic that this might be my only chance to see a woman in the White House.  That kind of attitude is selling women short.

Update: Dismissed from jury duty!  Back to work.

And one more thing: I don't have cable, so my news coverage is the NYT and NPR - that's what I was citing when I said that the news coverage of Clinton that annoyed me.  After reading this interesting article, I'm wondering whether I missed the stuff that would really have pissed me off (on the cable news channels).  Anyway, I recommend and get behind this article (the same one - written by a young woman for Salon, talking about how she's not a Clinton supporter but still sees the misogyny in the news coverage).

traveling styles

My time in London is coming to a close.  Already!  The three days here have flown by.  I can't believe that tomorrow morning I will be in Dubai, with Rawaan and Annie.  It feels like a marvelous enormous present waiting to be opened, so marvelous and enormous you can't do anything but stare with wide eyes.

Lots of walking over the last two days: yesterday I went to the Tate Modern, walking there along the Embankment, and then wandering through looking for the Rothko Room.  It was the last place I looked, of course, but that was okay because they cycle their permanent collection and there were lots of new things to see.  Today we went to St. James' Park and up into Mayfair and down into Belgravia.  I wanted to see the great old squares, to gather finishing details for my romance novel.  Christian accompanied me (he had school and errands on Monday and Tuesday so I wandered alone) and it was a different experience.  When I find a square I have been looking for, I meander all around it, and then sit usually, and stare at the houses, and take pictures, and scribble in my notebook about the air and the other people around.  Christian is more goal-oriented.  When we got to Grosvenor or Belgrave Square, he was immediately ready to turn around and find the next place, while I sort of sighed and followed more slowly after him, my head turned over my shoulder to see what shape the windows are, what color the facades.  He did save me a lot of aimlessness though, and my feet thank him for all the buses he got us onto.

Apparently LiveJournal is blocked in Dubai, so I may not be able to post about the rest of my trip.  Rawaan can access it from work, but I'm not sure if I will get around to stockpiling entries for her to put up.  So if I don't post here for the next two weeks, don't worry: I have not been kidnapped by terrorists.  I am just in a county where speech is not entirely free.  I'm not sure about Flickr - I will try to update photos regularly.


Flaneuse-ing in London

A wonderful day that completely made up for the mattress debacle last night! 

I wandered from Charing Cross Station through Trafalgar Square, Chinatown, Neal's Year, the British Museum, Russell Square, the British Library, and then back down through Bloomsbury, Charing Cross Road, Soho, and down Regent Street to Picadilly Circus.  My feet hurt (now). 

I've remembered the smell of London, and the way my heart beats faster here when I encounter something particularly wonderful.  I am overcome with the fact of being here.  How I love to simply sit in the middle of a small square, on a bench, watching the fallen leaves and the tiny red flowers blooming from beneath them, the statues, the sunlight coming in and out, the men in pink button down shirts eating lunch, the fountains, the skeletal trees, the old buildings with their faded brick and rows of white windows.  Or in the cafe, where I had tea from white china, and you never have to ask for milk, it is just understood.  Or in the British Library, where the beautiful old books live, where I heard Gertrude Stein reading a poem, and T.S. Eliot, and looked at manifestos from the 1910s, when everything seemed possible, when that century was as young as this century - only now we are postmodern, and believe in nothing, certainly not ourselves. 

Pictures of the day here.

Off to bed.


sleep or bust

According to my computer it is 1 pm at home.  That makes sense, since it is 9 pm here (in London).  My body does not understand this distinction however; it doesn't understand much right now besides the desire for sleep.  Unfortunately, my dear host bought an air mattress "with a built in inflation device" only the inflation device turns out to be a pump, which you have to pump by foot, or hand, in a really careful and specific way, for at least a half an hour.  I have already been pumping, taking turns between various limbs, for about twenty minutes, and the mattress, while puffed up, feels like there is nothing inside if pressed on.

My host, Christian (a friend from San Francisco who is now attending the London School of Economics) went to a movie with his roommates, at my urging, because I thought it best to go to sleep early, and it would be quieter and easier to do so if he was out.  He appeared to be under the impression that the mattress would inflate itself.  I am approaching the end of some kind of very very short rope.  It's my birthday, but feeling bad for all the trouble I am already putting Christian to, I found no easy way to slip this into the conversation, and so I didn't tell him.  I will celebrate in Dubai with Rawaan and Annie, and have already celebrated in San Francisco with my friends there.  Still, I am tired enough that this feels fairly disastrous at the moment: sitting alone in a strange house on my birthday with aching arms and legs and a half-inflated mattress between myself and sleep.

But.  I am in London.  My flight went well.  I found Christian's house easily.  We had a nice dinner at a Singaporean restaurant that happened to have replaced a restaurant Lily and I went to once (the old one had a better name, something about the people's revolution, but this one was still delicious).  On the way home we walked across Westminster Bridge, which has the best view: Parliament and Big Ben lit up against one side of the sky, and St. Paul's against the other.  Tomorrow, assuming I someday get to sleep, I will be rested and happy again, and I will spend all day wandering around the streets, thinking about Victorians and discovering Edward Monkton cards, and drinking tea.

Okay, enough of a break.  Once more into the breach: I will inflate this mattress or fall asleep trying.

on the verge

My room is slowly disassembling.  (Not really: being stripped of its frippery is a more accurate description.)  In three days, I will get on an airplane and a stranger will start sleeping in my bed.  Only briefly.  One month, even less.  I will only be out of the country for a little over two weeks, which is not so much time if you think about it.  But I'm leaving work for a month.  I'm putting all my odds and ends in boxes to shove into them into the utility closet.  I am preparing to say goodbye to normal life for a little while.

I have been panicking, the last couple days, because I was on the verge of getting sick, sick in a really nasty way that would have made it almost impossible to get on a plane on Saturday.  I didn't realize how much of myself I have hung on this trip until it became endangered: The pieces of me that have been living in London all this time.  The pieces of me that feel right and well only when sitting with Rawaan and Annie, as we gaze at each other in mutual adoration.  The pieces of me that hate going to work every day.  The pieces of me that love watching movies on airplanes. 

The danger seems to have passed.  I am still on a knife's edge, though I think now everything is okay.  And of course, it would be okay anyway.  Even if I had to push my flight back, I would still go.  Even if I didn't go, all of those pieces of me would survive.  They've survived the last year and a half, or longer, and they will keep surviving, waiting for their turn.  But I really do very much hope their turn comes on Saturday.

Work is ridiculous.  I want to say, it will be over soon, I will be gone, but I have a terrible feeling that even though I'll be gone it won't be over, and it will haunt me all through the month of December.  Maybe I am just overwhelmed right now though.  They won't be able to get to me when I am half a world away, unless I let them.

Oh, I finished NaNoWriMo!  Last Sunday.  I reached 50,000 words (plus 90 or so) and have not touched it since.  I have a lot of novel left to go, and I do want to write it, but I haven't had time.  Maybe on the airplane.  Maybe in Rawaan's garden, giggling and smoking shisha and scribbling away.