Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Of Lone Stars and Longhorns

It was a great trip to Texas. It already seems very far away! Impressions and memories:

We spent the days doing car trips to quaint little neighboring towns. The first stop was Luckenbach, which is not really a town anymore, more like a music venue. We sat under the oaks with other tourists, drinking beer and listening to an acoustic guitarist. He was a very talented guy, and I suspect used us tourists, immobilized by the heat, to hone his comedic chops and/or amuse himself. He sang a song about farts, another with the refrain "keep your hands of my willie" as in Willie Nelson records, and another knee-slapping tune that followed a virile rooster as he got after not only the barren hens, but the dry cow (resulting in eggnog), dog (begetting bird dogs), and the non-budding marijuana plants (with chicken pot pie as the offspring of that flora-fauna union).

We also toured Gruene (pronounced "green"), Fredricksburg, and Wild Seed, not a town but an incredible nursery/garden complex. The towns had a very frontier-feel to the buildings, which put me in mind a little of Virginia City. But these were much more alive in the present. We had a great time poking around in the shops and sampling the local fare. I imbibed some excellent beer and perhaps the best onion rings ever, which is saying quite a bit.

It was unfortunately too hot to sit outdoors and admire the stock at Wild Seed, but I bought a packet of wild flower seeds to sow in the backyard this fall. M is actually pretty excited about it too. Anything to alleviate the expanse of weeds, which we usually describe as our "butterfly garden."

We did get a little outdoor time visiting with another couple who live a little way out of town. They have a lovely spread, though it sounds like a bit of a battle with the elements--as M pointed out, it's unsettled territory. They have two dogs and five cats, so I was able to experience a little kitty-happiness. It did make me a little melancholy, putting me in mind a bit of Veronica…

One of the best parts of the trip for me was being able to unplug from my routine. I left the laptop at home and checked email and Facebook from my iPhone. I slept in til 9:00 a.m. Three days in a row! Incredible. I can't remember the last time I was able to do that. It was so utterly pleasant and relaxing to start and end the day quietly and gradually, drinking coffee in the morning and wine at night, chatting with Dad, Ginny, and Felicia, thinking about the adventure we'd had that day and the one to come.

True to the party lifestyle, however, my sleeping lead was completely blown by our last night, which we spent in Austin. The day started very well, slowly as aforementioned. On the way to Austin we stopped at the mall at San Marcos, truly one of the most outstanding malls ever. Felicia and I thoroughly investigated the Bare Escentuals store there. We dined at The Oasis, a large and quirky restaurant with an equally quirky staff, with a spectacular view of Lake Travis. After dinner we headed back into Austin proper and boarded a boat tour along the river. Our guide was a charming young lady, studying biology, which seemed to come in handy for her narrative as we floated under the Congress Street bridge and watched the bats come out for their dinner. Austin is a great place! I enjoyed hearing a little about its history on the tour. Felicia mentioned wanted to move there several times.

That normally would have been the end of the evening activities for me under normal circumstances, but this was vacation! We knew the newly-21 niece would want to party a bit, so we all girded our loins and headed down the street party that is Sixth Street. It was a Friday night, I think the one before college was to start the following week, so it was pretty crowded, mostly with the youthful, under-clad variety. We walked into the first bar we found with live music and no cover, found a place at the back and settled in for some surprisingly good music. The beer was cheap, we could feel the breath of air conditioning, and so stayed for the whole set. When that ended, we found the next bar with live music and no cover and hung out again for more surprisingly good tunes. Around 1:00 a.m., a time when I normally would have been asleep for several hours, I realized that I didn't really feel very tired at all and had an epiphany: Work seriously gets in the way of fun. So that was a most excellent experience all around, and Felicia didn't seem to mind having her auntie and grandparents along for her first go at bar hopping (or bar hobbling as my friend at work quipped).

The only down sides to my trip were the loud young folk outside our motel who kept me up very late that last night and the heat. I had forgotten how much I take our cool Sonoma County nights for granted. The outside world was never really moderately temperatured, and though I was able to just relax into it for the most part, there were a few dripping-with-sweat moments that made me feel a little socially uncomfortable. Overall, I do need to spend more time in Texas. Just not in the summer. This was also the most live music I've experienced in a long time, and I do need to keep that momentum going.


M very kindly picked me up at SFO that Saturday evening. We drove into the City and over dinner at Il Cane Russo, he could no longer contain himself and shared that he had purchased a '97 Kawasaki Concourse, a large powerful motorcycle big enough for both of us large people. The "two" part was key to my support, which he was smart enough to realize. On Sunday morning we donned our leathers (I think I've worn my MC three times since moving from NY a dozen years ago, but now I'm glad I hung on to it) motored over to the Cycle Gear shop, and I picked out a new full-face helmet and gloves.

For our first ride together, we headed down to Petaluma for lunch, and after a little stress at the beginning, I relaxed and really enjoyed myself. M's been using it as his daily driver all week and has taken it on a few day trips since, so it was fairly smooth sailing out to Tomales Bay and another lunch on Sunday. He's looking for a backrest for me, and that will make a big difference in my comfort level.


Last weekend was more small victories for lifting myself out of Ye Olde Rut. I splurged for a pedicure on Saturday, which turned out to be more of a splurge than planned since I got my first parking ticket! It was just a space-cadet moment, I fed the wrong parking meter. M has advised me to try write and try to get it expunged, which I will do. Later that afternoon, inspired by Ginny, I baked a pineapple upside-down cake for a friend's tiki-themed birthday party. I tried very hard to have a good time and engage in conversation rather than flee as is my first thought with social situations where I don't know anyone and there is no central activity. And I think I succeeded fairly well. I need more practice!

(I also practiced my sociability in SFO, flying out to Texas. I started up a conversation with a woman in the waiting area and we spent a lovely hour chatting about her son in NYC supporting a young woman who doesn’t want to work nor have children, and, one of my favorite topics, Indian food. She gave me her card as we parted ways and I think I'll send her a note. Perhaps we'll stay in touch.)


I'm very eager for the weekend: M is coming with me to Washington, DC! We're doing the red-eye on Friday night, and so I'll have a free though probably groggy day to spend with him on Saturday and much of Sunday. He'll play while I work and we'll return Thursday afternoon. We often talked about him coming to conferences with me, but it's only happened once or twice in all the years I've had this job. So yay for more doing things differently!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Felicia in Austin

Felicia in Austin
Originally uploaded by suzipaw
Yes, I'm working on a post. Thanks for your patience! In the meantime, please enjoy this shot of my delightful niece and the Austin skyline.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Off to Texas

So I'm just about packed. I'm trying to really pare down my bag and I think of done a good job. So good that I'm now regretting paying the 23 freakin' dollars it costs to check a bag on most airlines these days, but I tweaked my back yesterday and the idea of dragging a bag around, hoisting it up into the overhead compartment, and then hoisting it down tomorrow just sort of made me ache in advance. I'm reducing more than I have in a while in one significant way: I'm not taking my laptop! So I can't check work email while I'm gone! This is a big step for me. I figured I can check on everything and clear out the spam on Sunday before I go into the office. And since I'm going to Texas in the summer, no need for any outer garments--that helps too.

A big part of this no-laptop decision is due to the fact that I am now the proud owner of an iPhone. Yes, it's a used device, handed down to me from my loving husband when he upgraded to the iPhone 4. And yes, I'm still as cheap as ever--it's not even a phone yet since I don't have a calling and data plan, so it's basically just a "Touchey" as my nephew calls it, though with one very crucial addition. A camera! That's a big deal to me. So I can upload photos to FB and Flickr sans computer. M was a little offended when I deleted a number of his news apps, but hey, it's mine now baby. My first app purchase was the ocarina app and I'm determined to learn how to play it, but I can already tell it's going to take some practice. Like any instrument, eh? I was thinking I'd download some podcasts to listen to on the plane, but I think I'll just stick to a regular ol' book. A friend has loaned me a mystery, and I'm quite enjoying it.

Another part of the paring down motivation: I read a New York Times article recently about people who are trying hard to live with fewer possessions and instead focus on living within their means and have experiences rather than stuff. For the most part we do live within our means, but--sometimes stuff is part of the experience. One couple, who were determined to maintain just 100 items each, only had two pans and three pairs of shoes (does that count as six items or three, I wonder?). But M and I love to cook together, so the idea of just two pans seems counter to the goal of creating experiences for us, but I guess that's all pretty subjective.

As it turns out, this has been a bad weekend to feel smug-ish about not consuming, which I sort of was, however unjustifiably. M brought our larger charcoal grill up to my mom's some time ago, so we've been using our teeny hibachi for our barbequed dinners. Which means we often have to grill the various items in stages, and I just couldn't take it any more, so we went to our local home improvement store and bought a new kettle Weber. A slightly more deluxe model, which captures the ash in a safer way, which is very important, right, when you cook on a redwood deck near a cedar fence? And on the way home from that purchase, of course M wanted something tasty to experiment with on the grill, so we stopped at Costco to get a rack of ribs and they happened to have a sound bar that was very affordable, something we had on our wish list for some time. I will say that this is the first Costco sojourn in some time where we didn't need a basket. And then today, while I successfully resisted the purchase of a smaller suitcase with the all-directional wheels, I fell prey to the siren song of cute little black Sketchers, another item I'd been wanting for a while. They're kind of a cross between sneakers and loafers, perfect for travelling. So there it is.

It's been a great first day of vacation. I slept in! I watched most of Master and Commander for like, the fourth time. I washed about four loads of laundry and was once again reminded of how many household chores I'd get done if only I didn't have to go to pesky work, but again, there it is.

And now, time to continue on that path: walk the dog, fix dinner, enjoy the sound bar.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

2,000 Words

Photos that should have accompanied yesterday's post.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Eight Nine Ten

It's been a while since I've been at such a loss for words. For so long. Is it because I'm knitting? Summer ennui? Summer that is shuffling softly into fall, escorted by the honking of geese that seem to pass south at exactly 9:50 every morning. People are complaining about our cool summer and the morning fog. I'm not complaining. I think it's great. But every day starts out darker and damper and with less of the usual summer verve. So yeah. Maybe that's it.

But I'm at a Starbucks in Petaluma with the other Pointy Pals, so I'm compelled to at least pen a post if nothing else, so here goes.

A week ago Saturday, M and I attended our first political fundraiser. The dean of his law school is running for judge, so combined his 50th birthday party with a request for donations. It was very interesting, going to the candidate's 1950s suburban home (located in our dream neighborhood--O ranch house, how could I ever have scorned thee in my youth?), hearing people get up to speak and flat out ask for money in a such a jolly setting. It is a bit of a shame that judges even have to run. But the speakers were good and not too long and there was a country-western band made up of other judges, which was also entertaining. I'm still in the habit of thinking that 50-year-olds are quite a bit older than me, and of course that's simply not the case anymore. I had a very pleasant chat with a woman at my table, who couldn't remember momentarily if she had just been at her 30th or 40th high school reunion. She seemed a little older to me, so I reinforced the 40th thought. And then--of course--she mentioned that she graduated the same year I did. I'm having a hard time getting used to the middle aged thing, I confess, and recognizing "older" people as actually being my contemporaries. But, as with all other ages, this is the youngest I'm ever going to be, so I should enjoy it while I can and not brood too much about getting older if I can help it.

Last weekend was pleasant and quiet. I went to a clothing swap on Saturday and brought back about as much as I contributed, which is contrary to my clothing swap tenets, but I'm happy with my "new" duds. (When I sat down this evening, Rebecca recognized my shirt, which was awfully close to a shirt I had brought, so we suspect we did a mutual swap which is always a pleasant realization.)

On the way to the swap, I stopped off to have a mug of tea and a chat with friends. I was, like, totally visiting! That never happens! I was very proud of myself. On the way home from the swap I stopped at a yarn store and dropped $50 on yarn for a shrug for myself. I have observed that I often cheap-out on yarn for my projects and end up with sub-par objects as a result, so I've resolved to try to break this habit. However, I'm nervous I'm not going to like it once it's done and will have spent much more on a sweater than I ever would have a Ross, not to mention the time involved and the ruining of the lovely gray superwash wool, but there it is. Nothing ventured and all that.

More visiting ensued on Sunday. I spent more than an hour on the phone with a friend, just catching up. Then as M and I were doing some chores, my brother-in-law came by to drop off some vegetables grown by brother Jay. I realized I hadn't bought tomatoes yet this season, and it was a joy eating them yesterday and today and sharing a few with friends at work. I think I'm spoiled for the home grown ones.

Time to head for husband and home.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Back to the Fair

Fair filmstrip
Originally uploaded by suzipaw
I left work a couple of hours early yesterday to meet M at the Fair. Our goals were to bet on the horse races, see the rest of the exhibits, and take in the hair-tacular double bill of Foghat and Blue Oyster Cult. Unfortunately, we lost on the ponies and there just wasn't enough there there to keep us occupied until the concert, so we wandered home and listened from the comfort of our bedroom--the acoustics weren't good, but it sounded like everyone was having a rockin' good time. In fact, we both regretted not staying for the music. We realized we should have planned to just go to the concert yesterday. It was nice to go on a weekday--the Fair was busy, but not crowded.