Saturday, September 30, 2006

Adieu, September

It's been a really wild week--tired from Europe, Murray starting his new job, and then a huge company reorganization on Tuesday. I'll write more about that last bit next week, but for now I'll just say that I benefited from the changes, for the most part. Several friends were laid off, and I've been separated from the group I've worked with since starting at the company, and both of those things make me sad. Transitions are always a bit difficult for me, and I'm a somewhat anxious about the next six or so months. M's been trying to train me to use the word "excited" rather than "anxious." OK, so I'm excited about the next six or so months. I think I'll be even more excited later, after things have settled down.


I'm finally getting more birthday celebrating in: last night M and I took the money his mother sent me as a gift and blew every last cent at Restaurant Charcuterie in Healdsburg. It's been soooo long since we've had a restaurant meal together that was more than take out and it was wonderful and I ate too much. And in just a few hours we'll be rendezvousing with a friend in Berkeley, then walking over to the Greek Theater to see Tom Petty. Next weekend is a bit more of a mutual birthday celebration with my grandma who was also born in September--I'll be going up to Washington to see her, and I'm very excited about that.


Bon voyage to Eliza and Phil! Have a wonderful time, you crazy kids.


Free Hugs Campaign, my new favorite YouTube video.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Adieu Brussels

Grand-Place Guild Halls, Brussels
Originally uploaded by suzipaw.
More pictures here.

Written on the 23rd...

I'm contemplating my last view of Belgium, from the end of the Brussels Airport terminal. It's raining a bit, so maybe it's a good day to leave--sightseeing in the rain is not as much fun, though there are certainly plenty of museums to do here. A wing of geese flew by, and I wondered if there was anyway they could've been the same once flying over my deck a few weeks ago…and then I remembered that whole other continent thing…

The rest of the conference was uneventful, though the days were long. We had a big group dinner out at one of the touristy restaurants just off one of the quaint narrow streets that had been turned into a seafood restaurant row, all yellow signs with the same menu and hawkers trying to bring in diners. Like New York's cheek-by-jowl Indian joints on East 6th Street, I'm suspicious that there's one enormous shared kitchen under the pavement with an elaborate conveyor belt system that send dishes zinging from one end to the other.
Street of restaurants
After the conference ended and before the dinner began I decided to take one last look at Brussels and took a long walk through a business district to Jubilee Park and back again. It was a longer walk than I thought it would be, marching along a busy street as bicycles zipped past on the sidewalk (it was a wide sidewalk and they had their own lane). It was very warm and there were no tourists, just locals going about their business. I sat for a bit in Jubilee Park, admiring the Arc de Triomphe, watching the dogs at play, and writing postcards. I charted a different route back to the hotel for the dinner rendezvous, this time through a more residential area, but upscale--it reminded me a bit of the homes off Fifth Avenue in New York.

I had intended to stay at the same hotel for the extra night, but the room rate reflected every one of the five stars Le Plaza deserves, so I decided to check into the hotel across the street and saved quite a bit. The mere three stars of Hotel President made my day trip to Bruges and my tab at Pierre Marcolini a bit more bearable.

Last night, walking the streets near the Grand Place that had become familiar, I had the same sense that I did at the end of my Amsterdam trip--I could be at home here.

…continued from home on the 25th:

Home now, I notice the dryness, the dust, and wish for rain. The house is dusty again. The last days of summer seem drawn out, overstaying their welcome. It was downright hot today, but the smell of blackberries boiling in their tight little skins on our work walk this afternoon was a pleasant consolation.

I had taken the green of the Belgian countryside for granted, that's for sure. It reminded me of home, in a different season. On my last full day in Europe, a colleague (the same one I traveled to Florence with last year) and I took the train to Bruges for a medieval walkabout. The trip was a pleasant hour of gazing at tile roofs gathered in small herds, sleek livestock grazing by neat farms.

Bruges is one damn picturesque town, I'll say that. From the moment we left the train station, the camera shutters were clicking. What must the denizens think of us tourists, documenting their homes, cobblestones, walls, canals? We wandered to the main marketplace, eyeing the souvenir shop windows. We drank overpriced water at an outdoor restaurant. I fought class after class of field tripping students trying to get to the top of the carrillion by noon to watch the bells tolling while they descended, but their youth vanquished my step-classed preparation to mount all 366 steps in one effort. Lunch of frites and beer by a canal, preceded by a chocolate-strewn waffle by another. Avoided carriages of horse-drawn tourists and bicycling locals on the narrow, cobblestoned streets. Admired ancient cathedrals, inside and out. Met up with other work friends and took in the lace museum and watched a lace making demonstration. These women don't charge enough for their pieces that's for sure. Their fingers played the bobbins so quickly, their motion seemed almost random, and the clicking of the wood was so soothing.
Back in big city Brussels that evening, I decided to try to find a truly pleasant place for dinner. I was worried that it would be difficult to find a table on a Friday evening, but the little street of restaurants I had my heart set on was nearly empty. There was only one gentleman sitting at an outdoor table of the restaurant I had in mind, and he said that indeed, it was a good place when I asked, though he immediately confessed to being the owner and so therefore biased. He brought my half-liter of red wine which I sipped while watching the band of gray clouds grow luminous, unearthly orange, then fade to black. The faint sound of pins striking the walls of lanes in the nearby Super Bowl was a quiet soundtrack. The owner and his wife and I conversed a bit in English and French, then they left me alone with my penne and gorgonzola. I ate as slowly as I could, but still the time passed too quickly.
Toscana 21 street
I had a hard time falling asleep that last night, but made it to the airport a bit early. Twenty more hours of waiting and the vague sense of humiliation upon being searched and questioned and xrayed repeatedly. It was a sea, or desert, of luminous clouds all the way home, the opposite perspective of what I had watched so hard the night before at dinner. They gave up at the Rocky Mountains and it was clear sailing home.

Sunday was a day of pleasant tiredness, happy to be home with M and the furry creatures again, though I felt a bit like Rex, clinging to M and wanting to just trot around after him all day.

And now it's today.


M started his new job today. He looked so handsome in his suit and tie, I wanted to take a picture, like his first day of school.

I'm very tired. There are so many more details I want to write/remember about my trip, but it's going to be a hard day at work tomorrow, so I think bed is the better part of valor.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Of Brussels, Birthday, and Barfing

So perhaps you're not so sympathetic with me, having to spend my birthday working (and on a Sunday this year too!), because of course though I'd be slaving away, I'd be doing it in Brussels. And afterwards I'd be able to go out, chow on some frites and sling back some fine Belgian brew. And truthfully I guess I wasn't so sad about it either. I really prefer to spread my birthday fun over several days, or even longer if I can, so I was looking forward to incremental celebrations throughout my trip. (And even beyond--M and I are going with friends to see Tom Petty on his last tour on the 30th, woo!)

But this year, it really was about the worst birthday I've ever had. I felt fine in the morning and dispatched the busiest part of my duties without incident. But ominous stomach rumblings became urgent just before noon, so I excused myself, ran up to my room in the nick of time, and spent the next four hours stumbling between water closet and bed. The pain kept getting worse (what are Belgian hospitals like, I was wondering--and would I have enough French to avoid getting a limb amputated, or something?) and even though I thought I had given everything I had to that fine European porcelain around hour three, apparently not. Something finally came up, and the relief was immediate. Later in the evening, after more sleeping, a friend brought me bland breads and water; another came bearing fabulous chocolates from Pierre Marcolini. And of course so many kind birthday wishes via email from family and friends (thank you)…so maybe it wasn't such a bad day after all.

I slept a lot and made a brief appearance at the event yesterday, though was able to answer email from my room; today I slept in, but it was a usual long conference day otherwise. And I was so happy to be able to do it. This is a small conference, so I wasn't really missed. I haven't been eating much, and what I do take in has to be done slowly. Maybe losing a bit of weight could be a bonus! And I need to sit down a lot.

I did walk around a bit this evening, just to be outside. I was enjoying myself, wandering around the quaint touristed streets near the Grand Place, when I was approached by a guy who wanted to join me. And though he was polite, of course my natural suspicion of the ulterior motives of strangers caused me to tell him to bug off (politely). It put me in a bit of a grumpy mood. Not what I wanted to deal with. But now I've had a bath and that bad mountain climbing movie with Sly Stallone is on, which somehow seems more entertaining when watched in Belgium.

I often lament not being able to spend more time relaxing in the nice hotel rooms we book for our events. I don't think I'll be sorry again.

Friday, September 15, 2006


(I'm in Brussels. Tired but not exhausted, thank goodness. Had a nice walk around town today, tried to spit out a little French, did some work in the afternoon before meeting work pals for a nice dinner--we eschewed the touristy place for lack of vegetarian options for me and ended up in a much better place. It's almost midnight, time for another go with Mr. Sandman. For those of you worried/wondering, Rex is apparently doing well and only a little lonely. I wrote this post yesterday. I'll try to post pix as soon as I get my camera battery situation figured out!)

I'm writing this in the Heathrow gate area. My first leg was uneventful. I didn't sleep as much as I wanted to on the plane, and not nearly as much as my neighbor, who seemed to snooze from take-off til just before landing. I was so jealous. No problems--or lines--at check-in or security in SF, except for the new security check right before boarding. But that actually made getting settled on the plane much easier, since people were getting onto the plane much more slowly. A much longer security line in Heathrow, and I got frisked. I wonder how she makes the decision whom to search? A British version of a burrito for lunch (folded into a square rather than a log, very attractive), window shopping at the duty-free stores, trying to stay awake and alert for my gate connection announcement…Anyway--I'm definitely fatigued, but better off than last year's trip to Amsterdam. And I'm rendezvousing with some coworkers in the Brussels airport and we'll all take a cab into town to our hotel together. That will be nice not to have to schlep alone.

Prepping for the trip went well. Mom came down Tuesday night, bringing veggies from her garden for dinner. We watched "Bread & Tulips," very enjoyable. One disturbing thing--when Mom and I took Rex for a walk Tuesday evening, as we were entering the field, we watched as a young man on a motorcycle missed the turn, slamming into the curb. His bike tumbled onto the lawn while he did a high, complete somersault, traveling about 15 feet and landing flat on his back. He rolled over, moaning. I was screaming at passing cars to call 911 while trying to keep Rex out of the street--Mom went over to see how he was doing. He eventually got up, other young men had stopped to see if they could help, and he waved us off. When we were finished walking Rex, he was still there, but up and seemingly unhurt. His bike was up on its kickstand, and other people were with him. I can't believe he came out of that unscathed, but I'm so glad. It was pretty scary to watch.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Let the Travels Begin

It's Sunday. M's gone to his training near San Jose. I'm grateful for all the furry creatures around me tonight--a dozen additional feet tapping around the house make me feel a bit less lonely, though Rex, after staring meaningfully at the door for some time, has now taken to bed, staring into space. Little does he know he won't see his dad for two whole weeks! I think that's the longest they've ever been separated. Mom is coming down on Tuesday night to whisk her little granddog away until M's training is done since I'm leaving Wednesday for my conference in Brussels. We're wondering how he'll do. Of course we predict he'll be happy when on walks or beach adventures, but will mope most of the time. Or is that what we secretly want? What if he doesn't miss us at all? I do feel for Mom's cats, they'll be traumatized.

I had planned to work after M left, but a friend called and instead I met her for dinner and a movie, The Illusionist. I enjoyed both, particularly the company of my friend, though it hardly seemed like enough time to catch up with her.

I feel like I have a blog ranting against religion coming on, but it's going to have to wait for another night. Early gym class tomorrow morning, and many miles of meetings before I sleep…

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Variety Blog

Reports from the field:

Mendocino Coast: "A Sea Ranch woman came face to face with a mountain lion on her deck!! So these guys are getting quite accustomed to us humans. Pauline from Victorian Gardens actually saw a lion carry off her pet cat. And when I was taking some pieces out to the lighthouse house last week, Janet told me that she saw a young lion cross Mountain View above our house. She thought it was a bobcat until she saw the long tail."

Bonneville Salt Flats: Though M's friend's motorcycle runs have been speedy (187 and 191 mph), they haven't yet broken their desired goal of 200 mph. Is it me, or does it seem crazy to want to go that fast on a motorcycle? But it's gotta be a rush.

(I'm so glad he's coming home tomorrow!)


Prepare Ye Pastafarians! Talk Like a Pirate Day is approaching. So why not knit like a pirate?


So I thought that I really get enough of this whole leftwingprogressive stuff when M is actually home, but I found myself watching the Daily Show and Colbert Report videos and poking around on his bookmarked blogs last night. I came across a questionnaire about one's Political Compass, and I'm happy to report that I'm in the same quadrant as Nelson Mandela and the Dalai Lama!


Curious about Burning Man? My fab photog friend Duncan has just posted a great set of pix. (The whole Burning Man concept is a little too close to commune memories for me to enjoy, but I'm glad other people I respect find it fascinating.)

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Happy Birthday, Grandma!

From 1934

Monday, September 04, 2006

Monday Blues

It's Labor Day, so I'm not laboring but for reading a few emails (cleaning the bathroom and doing laundry don't count as labor, to me. That's puttering.) But mostly Rex and I are moping around a bit. M claims to be a bad bachelor when I'm away. He does nothing productive and manages to get himself invited over for dinner at friends' most nights. When he's gone, I realize that without him I'd be an utter loner. I'd do things, yes, but almost always I'd do them alone. I keep the radio on. Today it's more music than NPR--the news is still just so depressing.


Thankfully, M called, not just once but twice today. He reports that the timed runs are slow due to the streamliners, that his duties of bratwurst grilling for the entourage were uneventful, that the salt conditions are excellent, though they change throughout the day. In the morning, he says, it feels like asphalt, firm yet with a give, almost moist. It gets harder as the day progresses, burnouts don't leave a mark it's so perfectly flat and glassy, creating a sort of snow-blindness during the midday runs. It's hard to photograph. Then the salt softens again as the evening comes. He was treated to a salt storm today. They all watched as the thick snowy clouds of salt rose, packing up the camp quickly before they were engulfed like a sandstorm from the movies.


Last night I futzed around for quite awhile with the ancient (six-years-old) DVD player and finally got the Netflix selection to play: the first two episodes of "Rome." Amusing. How actually historically accurate it is is hard to say, but it could be an addictive bit of entertainment, a more colorful, X-rated version of "I, Claudius." And what's not to like about X-rated TV, really? It's kind of funny to think that 2,000 year-old Roman culture is more advanced in many ways than the 150 year-old culture of the Western US as depicted in "Deadwood."

Staving off alone-ness, I finished up Julie & Julia over coffee this morning, enjoying it immensely as my cousin predicted (is it OK if Mom borrows it next, Kam?), and proceeded to finish all of my magazines, too late wondering what the hell I'll peruse before turning off the light tonight--maybe I can slide a tome off the stack of the book sale finds that have been sucking up real estate on my dresser for a year?


Summer continues to flee. Walking Rex today and yesterday, we strode the once-tall grasses now prostrate, going from golden to brown to black. We took a hike around the hills yesterday, and thick cracks have split the clay soil on the hills above the housing developments. A couple of the most beautiful, twisted oak trees have a dying-off of their leaves. I ruled out sudden oak death syndrome. Maybe it's just their time? Or maybe they're of a deciduous variety? The days seem to be exhaling their last heated sighs, like the deep breathing before starting from a dream. Autumn is when life begins here, when the rains come again, healing the split soil and raising the green grass. I think I'm looking forward to the rain.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Fortune and Football

Let the Game Begin!
Originally uploaded by suzipaw.
I've been feeling lucky lately. A recent tab at Trader Joe's was $77.77. I've purchased lottery tickets and entered every raffle I came up against. And though I haven't won any of those prizes, it's been a very fortunate week. I was taken out to lunch not once, but twice by kind colleagues. And then another friend gave me two great seats for the last Niner preseason game! That included a parking pass! M and I were thrilled to go. It's so expensive to see pro football games that we just never do it. It was still spendy, in a way--gas and $30 for a hot dog, garlic fries and a couple of beers--but so worth it, and cheap considering what we would've had to pay to if I hadn't been given such a wonderful gift. Out and about on a Friday night! Football! Pro! Live! People watching galore! Only bummer was we didn't dress properly and I felt chilled for a long time afterwards, but I guess that's part of the charm of Candlestick Point.
chilly fans

M is off to Bonneville tomorrow to see his best friend try to break another speed record or two on the salt with his custom Harley. I think I'd have a hard time baking on the flats for four days, but theoretically it sounds like fun. I'll miss him…

After I drop him off at the airport I'll stop off and see a friend in Berkeley, so I'm looking forward to a pleasant day.


Happy Birthday, Ginny!