Friday, January 31, 2014

Today at Logos

Another in the dubiously interesting series of reports on my day working at the book store.  As I approached the store today there was what I described as a "gaggle of girls" standing at the $1 book carts outside, laughing and pointing out things in various books.  I would get to know them better as the afternoon progressed.

Two young women inside purchased books.  While the first one was buying 3 children's books, the other one was looking at the cover of "Weird Things Customers Say in Bookstores," which Susan has on display, not for sale.   "Do you have to be well read to get the joke?" the customer asked.  

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Thinking I was helping, I pointed out that the guy was asking for books by Jane Eyre, which was actually the title of the book, not the author.   She shrugged her shoulders and said "Never heard of you do have to be well read to get this book."  She did buy a Spanish dictionary, though.

By now the gaggle had moved inside and was giggling about the fantasy books.  They obviously were well read and it was fun listening to them compare books and plots and characters.

A dapper man who looked kind of like Morgan Freeman and who was dressed in a leather jacket and cap with with a music-themed scarf around his neck came in and spent some time rummaging through the music section.  I pegged him for a jazz man, though he didn't buy anything.

Then a man with a tall masted clipper ship in full sail tattooed on his calf (he was wearing shorts) came in and headed for the section where we would have books about ships, if we had any.  But he ended up buying a book on training horses and a novel by Sinclair Lewis.

The gaggle was now back in Contemporary Fiction and I heard them talking about the plot of "Les Miserables" (one said "No plot spoilers!").  They were sad about Eponine's fate.  They discussed the story for some time, but I was busy and wasn't able to eavesdrop for too long.

At 2:30 a well dressed woman with her hair in copper colored tight curls came in looking for books on California history, but she left without buying anything.

The gaggle had now been there for over half an hour and had moved to the foreign language section, where they were discussion "Candide" and reading books in foreign languages.  I was impressed at how many languages, collectively, they seemed to speak.  My impression of them had risen significantly from when I first saw them outside the store.  Ultimately two of them bought copies of "Candide" in French and were going to compare them to see if there were any differences in the two versions.

At 2:50, Bruce, the monochromatic guy who usually wears a hat he's made out of coffee filters came in.  He's always dressed completely in white (though today he had black shoes) and his skin is rather pale too.  Today he chose a complete illustrated version of Genesis and asked me to put it on hold for him.  He then took one of the bookmarks for the store and wrote a note for himself so he would not forget to return for it.  He then asked me for a stapler and he stapled the note to the raveled sleeve of his cream colored sweater.  Peter told me later that he does this all the time.

At 3, a rumpled student-looking guy dressed all in brown, except for a magenta knit hat perched tall on his head, with sunglasses going over the cap, told me about his neighbor, who has a bird house looking lending library in front of his house, where people can take and leave books.  He expressed the hope that more people would do something like that.

A very nice lady came in looking for a specific first edition for a friend of hers.  She gave me information on the book ("My Life in the Northwest" by Juliet Kinsey) but didn't leave me her name to contact if we ever saw that book, though I told her the chance of our coming across it were very slight.

A guy walked in and told me he was the one working with the Chinese calendar.  I didn't have a clue what he was talking about.  He said he is copying the Chinese characters on his boat and that he hopes ducks don't read Chinese. (I gather this was a continuation of a conversation he was having with someone else and didn't realize I wasn't that person.)  This guy was quite a character, found an architecture book and brought it to the desk to keep until he had finished looking through the store (in the end, he took that book back because he couldn't figure out how to get it to the person he was buying it for).  He sat down on the floor to look at books...

...and then started to leave but came back, remembering that he wanted to look for a book about some war thing and complained that we didn't have a war section.  He ended up buying "The Sculptor's Bible" and a history book.

A guy in a rumpled pink shirt wearing a pink backpack and thick glasses came in and squinted at me and called me Christine.  He wandered around the store for a long time and left without buying.

"My friend" came in at 4:25 and bought three mysteries which totaled $12.96.  When he handed me $13, I laughed and told him that I thought I could make the right change the first time.

Several other customers came in but the last sale I made was to a guy who was looking for anything we might have by Kazanzakis.  He was thrilled to find we had five books and bought them all.  When I was ringing up his charges I noticed that his name was Katzakis.  Kinfolk?

Peter arrived to relieve me at 5:50 and Walt 10 minutes after that and we headed home.  I was reading a book called "My Love Affair with England" during the day, which I'm finding confusing because half of the time she is going to marriage counseling with "Lawrence" and the other half of the time she is traveling with "James."  This appears to be a series of columns, but not put together in any sort of coherent fashion...and I want to know if Lawrence finally gave up or died.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

15 Years

Paul.jpg (33575 bytes)It's so difficult to realize that Paul would have turned 45 yesterday, if he weren't permanently stuck at 30.  Big difference between 30, when you're old enough to be an adult and making adult decisions and 45, when you are middle aged, maybe starting to get a bit paunchy, stuck in the position you have carved out for yourself, maybe making repairs on the house you bought or going to PTA meetings.

Paul didn't do any of those things.  He hung himself, accidentally or deliberately (there will be a debate on that point within this family forever) on the eve of making an offer on the house he and his wife were going to buy. 

They had been married only 8 months, so there was no baby expected.   (His widow now has 3 children, including a set of twins.  I am jealous of their paternal grandmother.)

They wanted to move to Los Angeles and make it big in the movie business.

I had this vision of his becoming a disgruntled old man (he was already halfway there, a disgrungled young man) and working at some job he hated, never making it big the way he expected to.  I was his mother but one look at the talent he would be competing against told me that no matter how talented he was (and he was talented...but not that talented), it was unlikely that he would take the town by storm.  

But each year at this time I get angry when I see actors getting Golden Globe or Academy awards and thanking their mothers for all their support over the years.  That was what I told Paul I expected him to do.  Instead, when I won an award for being co-author of a musical, just weeks after Paul's death, my acceptance "speech" was to hold the award aloft and say "this is for Paul."   Where was my thanks, Paul?

Ned has turned into a handsome, responsible middle-aged man with more grey hair than I have.  He's starting to get age lines in his face, which look good on him.  Every time I see him, I wonder what Paul would be like if he had lived.

(Tom, somehow, seems perennially young.  Maybe having two kids to chase after keeps him younger looking longer.)

Every year on Paul's birthday we go out for sushi, since he loved sushi and we ate it frequently when we went to dinner together (next week, we will go for more sushi on David's birthday--he wasn't as crazy about sushi as Paul was, but it just seems our "thing" to do on the birthdays of our sons, who no longer celebrate birthdays...and later in April and May when we commemorate their death dates.)

The sushi place we used to frequent when Paul and Dave were alive has closed but there are a butt load of sushi places that have cropped up in the past nearly 20 years.  We went to the one closest to our house, which we had not yet visited, this year.  It turned out be my favorite of the ones we have visited in past years.
Walt had sukyiaki (because he's not a sushi purist on these occasions)...

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...while I had something called Bob's Roll, which was delicious.

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So.  One down, three to go. 

I went to the cemetery in the afternoon and on the way to the boys' grave, I saw a rabbit hopping across the cemetery--first time I'd seen that.  Off to the side were some of the famous Davis wild turkeys, and on my way back to the car I saw a very large, very red ladybug.  All three encounters made me smile.  As Paul and I always had a "thing" about smiley faces, I took it as a greeting from the grave.  

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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

You can't live without it

If you don't take sleeping medication before a flight, I find that you can learn a lot while traveling from point A to point B by airplane.

The SkyMall catalog is a wonderful source of information about the kinds of things that travelers are willing to pay outrageous sums for... and Southwest encourages you to take it home so you can continue to shop after you are back on the ground.  "Free Copy -- Take it.  We'll replace it!" it blares from the top of the magazine where you are not likely to miss it, as you rummage around the seat pocket hoping to find a package of peanuts that the previous passenger might have left behind.

jockeyshorts.jpg (24012 bytes)This was the item that made me take the catalog home with me.  this is the introduction of a "high-performance line of underwear." grannie panties do the job without any performance at all.  Now we're expected to have our underwear do stuff for us.

It is what "real guys need -- odor control, cooling, and quick drying."  "The smell of victory, not your friend Victor!" the ad promises in bold headline and exclamation points.

These $18 (a pair) pants include antimicrobial odor control, moisture management, cotton transformed, and front and back mesh panels for enhanced cooling.   It makes me wonder what men do in their pants that somebody thinks all these features are necessary.  And I hate to mention it, but looking at this picture there doesn't appear to be any ... you know ... opening in these panties, which I thought was one of the perks of being a guy.

Biffy.jpg (39086 bytes)A $100 little "Biffy Buttler" (note cutesy spelling) you can't live without is "a bidet sprayer" which you are encouraged to add to any bathroom and feel the freshness. It fills that void that we have so often complained of, combining the convenience of a bidet sprayer, digital accessory caddy and toilet paper stand into a beautiful bathroom decor accessory.

I love the picture of the sprayer use...I never realized bidets were used to spray legs.

And as for that "accessory caddy" I can see nothing good about combining a device designed to spray water with a device for holding one of my expensive electronic gadgets.  You get that device together with a klutz like me and it is a recipe for instant disaster!

For $50 you can "enliven your daily shower experience by transforming your regular shower into a fountain of brillliant fun with the help of Magic Showerhead's innovative LED technology."  The water in the shower transforms into a rainbow of colors, presumably to enhance the experience of shower karaoke.   Maybe I'll get one for Steve, since he loves karaoke so much.  This, by the way, comes in fixed and hand-held shower heads. Let your mind run free and imagine what you can do with a hand held shower head that sprays you with a riot of changing colors.   Tons of fun.  Big seller in the Castro, I'm sure.

There is a collapsible travel exercise ball - "stay fit, lose weight, no excuses."  Heck, the whole reason for traveling is to give yourself an excuse not to exercise, isn't it?

The newest craze in outdoor games is apparently "the human slingshot" that involves four people slinging each other back and forth within a human sized stretchable band."  Again, a recipe for disaster.  I can just imagine me and 3 me-sized friends trying to sling each other around on a big rubber band.   Not a pretty sight, even mentally.  (That one is only $99.99)

Then there's the "silhouette wineglass" which has a nose hole cut out to allow more of your nose to fit into the glass as you drink. It is "your tool to flavor" allowing the drinker to experience the full flavor of today's wines.  "Your nose senses 10,000 flavors while your tongue only senses 4.  With every sip, youll taste every berry, every spice, every flavor.  Why use anything else?"  Well...maybe because this is $55 a glass, that's why!

Panty.jpg (40841 bytes)The catalog goes on for 75 pages of ads like these, every one something that you can't live without.

I was not, however, tempted by the "magic benefit panty" which "enhances your bottom naturally."  Those guys don't know from "enhancing naturally."  I've been enhancing my bottom naturally from birth and need no $30 panty to enhance it further.  

You know, I have all these kids that I help support around the world.   Most of them do not have running water in their houses, so would not be interested in the bidet, or the colorful shower head.  And while they may be interested in the magic benefit panty to fill out the starvation sized butts, I somehow think they could find better use for the $30 someone might spend on this product.

It is often appalling the crazy things we will spend money on when so many around the world could put that money to such good use just to keep themselves and their families alive.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Fog and Smog

Many years ago, I was on a business trip for The Experiment in International Living.  I was visiting a woman in Temecula, which is in Southern California.  I was flying into the John Wayne airport in Orange County, the first and last time I have  done so.

I remember the flight was smooth and pleasant.  The sky was a brilliant blue without a cloud in the sky all the way, but as we began to approach the airport, if I looked down below, there was this brown gunky smog that covered the air above the ground, so you could not see the airport.

As we began to make our descent, I watched the plane leave the beautiful blue of the sky and sink slowly into the brown gunk, knowing that when I got off the plane, I would be breathing that stuff.  It was a sobering moment.

I felt like that today, when I got to Atria.  I had so completely put my mother to the back of my mind all weekend that it was like flying in that clear, trouble-free, smog-free world above the John Wayne airport.
Visiting my mother this morning was like sinking back into the smog.

It was not a good day.  I could tell when I called her that she was not feeling well, and when I got to her apartment, I could see that she was not. She looked old and worn. She said she hadn't felt well for a couple of days. She still has not made a hair appointment and her hair is long (for her), stringy and she looks like the stereotypical picture you have of an old lady in a convalescent home.  She has to be reminded to brush her hair.  When I mentioned it to her, she ran her hands through her hair and said "Yes, but I just don't feel like it."

The woman who has had her hair done every week or two ever since I've known her, knows that her hair is too long, that she looks terrible, that she is going out in public with this horrible hair, and she doesn't care. That is very sad.  Her nails are also very long, with chipped nail polish and she picks at them constantly, trying to remove whatever is under the nails.  But she didn't want to have a manicure when my cousin Niecie offered to go with her to get one.

She couldn't remember if she had gotten dressed this morning and decided she probaby had because she was wearing a bra, though her pants look like they might be pajama pants (not that there's anything wrong with that, of course ... my sweat pants are often my pajamas ... it's just quite different for her.)

She is coughing and her nose is running, but she doesn't have a cold.   She knows she doesn't have a cold because colds are caused by a bug and she doesn't have a bug.  But she coughed throughout entire visit, with some mild congestion I could hear in her lungs from across the room.  I suggested she might like to see a doctor.  She says that when she has her nap after lunch, the cough will be gone.  (If it's not gone, or at least better tomorrow, I will take her to the doctor, whether she wants to go or not.)

No matter what subject I tried to talk to her about, she changed the subect to one of two things:  1) how old she is and living to "hunnert" and 2) what is going to happen to all her crap when she dies.  I could NOT get her off of those two subjects.  She wants to live to hunnert, but if she dies tomorrow that will be OK, but she wants to get rid of all her crap so I don't have to deal with it.

This is a recording.  An old recording, by now.

And if I die before she does, who will take care of her crap? (that was at least a new, if not entirely pleasant topic to deal with)

I know that one of the biggest adjustments for caregivers is the personality change, the loss of the person you've known and loved and this new person who inhabits the body of your loved one.  I know this is happening.  I've been dealing with it for some time now.

But when you have a chance to get away for a few worry-free days, and then come back and find things worse than when you left, it's very depressing and you realize that the big breath you have taken is filled, no longer with the clear clean air of the beautiful blue sky, but with the smog that is daily life.  Once you readjust, life goes on.  But it's an adjustment you have to make again and again, each time you take a bit of time off.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Home Again

Well, it's nice to be home again, but it sure was a wonderful weekend.  We got to the house at 11 last night and I was asleep by 11:30,  Could not keep my eyes opened.  And I slept until nearly 7:30 this morning. I guess it was continuing the trend I started in Olympia--sleeping the night through.  Gabi and Alec's couch was so comfortable, I had no trouble with insomnia at all.

Password.jpg (19029 bytes)The day started yesterday with the way it had been the day before, five techno nerds sitting around "visiting," but with their machines in their hands.  It's nice to be with people who don't feel insulted if you check e-mail, Facebook, or web pages while you talk, knowing that it is possible to multi task without being antisocial.

I was even able to thwart a hacker while we chatted.  I got this warning from Google and since I was in the state of Washington this weekend, not in Poland, I decided I should change my password.  Lemme tell you, changing your password while you are traveling is a pain because it screws up all of your machines.   I thought this particular password had been pretty good because it combined the license plate of the car my parents had when I was born with the license plate of the car they bought to replace it in 1953.  It thus combined letters and numbers, but from the 1940s and 50s.  However it was hacked and I can never use that password again, Google tells me.  

Gabi whipped up a big batch of oatmeal for breakfast.  She introduced Walt to "savory" oatmeal, which means it combines savory seasoning and garlic salt.  (Gabi had a version with peanutbutter.)  He really liked it, so he may be eating oatmal now.  I stuck with the sweet stuff (of course), though since Gabi and Alec live very healthy, even my sweet stuff was healthy.

Our plane was not leaving until 7, but we were meeting my friend Mary for lunch, so we left Olympia around 11 a.m. and drove to the mall very close to the airport.  It was sad to say goodbye, but I got my usual Steve Hug.

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The trip to Tukwila (where the mall was) took about exactly the time it took to play the Steve CD that Gabi burned for me before we left.

Mary had given me the choice of 3 restaurants, knowing full well which I would choose.  I didn't even look at the other two after I saw all the crab options on the menu for Duke's Chowder House. I chose something called crab UNcakes which were fabulous.  No Old Bay seasoning (which I know it is sacreligious not to like) and just loaded with crab, with minor filling...and a sauce to die for.

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We had a lovely, leisurely lunch with Mary.  I can't remember when we saw each other last, but we keep in just about daily contact through the old CompuServe group (now a Yahoo group), which are still some of my best friends though we can probably count on the fingers of one hand the number of times we have been together in the flesh.

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The second most memorable thing about Duke's Chowder House (the crab cakes being #1) were the bathrooms.  This is Duke's, you know, so the corridor leading to the restrooms were lined with photos of Dukes -- the Duke of Edinburg, the Duke of Windsor, John Wayne, Duke Kahanamoko, Duke Ellington, etc. leading to the doors of the Male and Female rooms.

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Inside the ladies' room were a line of pictures of duchesses, along with a row of crowns.

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Mary had to get into the traffic to return home, so we said a sad, but still happy ('cause we'd had a chance to get together) goodbye and then went our separate ways.  We had several hours before our plane took off (an hour longer than we thought, it turned out, since the flight was delayed) and I had time to finish my Armistead Maupin book (just released--the last of the nine volume "Tales of the City" series) and study the footwear of the passengers around me.

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The plane only had 75 passengers, which was great because we could have one row of seats to ourselves, and the flight was a little bumpy, but not too bad.   I almost finished my second book by the time we landed.
So it was quick and painless, the whole weekend, and we had such a wonderful time.  I can hardly wait until Steve decides to do another concert with the Righteous Mothers.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

From the Sublime to the Ridiculous

We have done what we came to do and we are headed home...but my word was it a marvelous weekend!
I write this from Olympia, WA.  We flew here on Friday and we have been staying with our friends Gabi and Alec Clayton and their other houseguest, Steve Schalchlin.  The purpose of the trip was to attend Steve's concert, an evening which he shared with the Righteous Mothers (and if you don't know them, get yerself to YouTube and find out about them.  They are GREAT!)

Gabi and Alec are wonderful, talented, giving, and loving people.  I came to know them through PFLAG.  At the time I met her, Gabi and I had each lost a son.  Her son Bill committed suicide after a gay bashing incident.  She has since gone on to do amazing things with PFLAG the Safe School Coalition, the Gay Straight Alliances, and so many things to prevent other gay youth from suffering what Bill went through.  She's also a talented writer, photographer, web designer, organizer, life long activist, and I don't know what else.  (Check her blog)

(Gabi with Doozie)

Husband Alec is a writer and an artist and also a theater critic (we also have discovered we were both born on the same day in the same year, though I am a few hours older)  He has published seven novels and his web page is full of so many awards and accolades, I could easily make this entry about him and Gabi.  But it's about our weekend.

(That's Alec on the left)

This was supposed to be a big weekend long pajama party with our friend Michael, from LA joining us, but he made up some cockamamie story about association fees for the apartment where he lives.  I think he just doesn't like us any more.

Anyway, Walt and I arrived in Seattle, rented a car, and headed off for an hour's drive into the setting sun to Olympia, the capitol of the state of Washington.

After we had settled in, guests began to arrive for the pot luck Gabi and Alec had planned to let everyone party with Steve.  There were organizers of the concerts, and PFLAG people, both young people and parents.  Lovely group of people.

I was able to spend a lot of the evening talking with Lynn Grotsky, wife of Lisa Brodoff, one of the Righteous Mothers, and also the manager for the group.  Since what I really wanted to come up here for was to hear the women in concert, it was nice to chat with her and get some background on the group.
When all the guests left, we tried to keep Steve on Washington time, instead of New York time, so he wouldn't go sleep too early.

We obviously were not successful.

In the morning we did what a bunch of tech nerds do--we spent the morning sitting in the living room, each with some sort of device, all checking our e-mail, internet web sites, text messages, Facebook and other things. Someone said it would have been even funnier if we were all texting each other!

Steve went off to rehearsal with the Righteous Mothers and the rest of us met him at Traditions Café, where the concert(s) (there were two) would take place.

The Righteous Mothers started the concert(s) and were funny, relevant, with great harmonies.  Just like I knew they would be. And they had Steve join them on two of their songs.

Steve had the second half of each concert and in the first concert, he had everyone crying at Gabi's Song, especially one woman sitting hear the front, who dabbed at her eyes through the whole song.

His song called "Rescue" (about rescue animals) always gets me and so I had big tears rolling down my face, even though I've heard the song many times. The guy does know how to sell a song (don't tell him I said so)
Between the two shows we had dinner.

Then came the second concerts, more or less identical to the first.  They were all having such fun and for the final two numbers, Steve was joined by members of the newly forming Olympia Gay Men's Chorus and the Righteous mothers.

When it was all over, we thought it all over, but some of the Gay Men's Chorus invited Steve to join them at a gay bar so they could continue talking.  We all went to the gay bar and it happened to be karaoke night.  Karaoke is the thing that Steve hates worst of all.  He and the choir sat in one corner, while Gabi, Alec, Walt and I sat at a table with a drink.  The karaoke was horrible.  A lot of wincing was done at our table.  One guy did Elvis' "Now or Never" and I told Alec that my vote would be "never." Elvis deserved a lot better.  I won't even mention how they murdered Jennifer Hudson!

But eventually we came home. I was determined to finish this before going to sleep.  As I write it, it is 2 a.m. and the heat went out when the others went to bed, so I am FREEZING and think that I'm not going to try to polish it, but merely get it posted before my fingers freeze solid.

Capsule review:  This was an absolutely wonderful weekend and worth every penny we paid to get here.  It had been years since I'd seen Steve in concert and while I never really had any criticism of him, I can see that he has grown tremendously as a performer since he moved into the music and theater world in New York.
AND, I got to cross something off my bucket list.  I have seen the Righteous Mothers in concert and even had a brief chat with Lisa, my favorite of the group.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Bev vs. DMV

I was actually disappointed when I was at the DMV office today.   Everyone has such horror stories that I expected to write this entry about how terrible it had been.  But then it all went bad and I had a horror story after all.

The last two times I've renewed my license I was able to do it on line,  but now that I'm over 70, I needed to go in and take the written test.   Everyone talks about waiting for hours, but I was the second person in line and only had to sit and wait, after I'd registered, for about 10 minutes.  I actually wanted it to be longer because the next person in line was Howard Hupe, of the Winters Theater Company, one of my favorite people and I didn't have enough time to chat with him.

In anticipation of problems with my right eye, I had been to the doctor to get a note saying I was safe to drive with vision in only one eye.  Proud of myself, I turned in the form.  The clerk looked at it, she took it to another clerk.  Two more clerks came over and there was this long confab that went on, including lots of glancing in my direction.

Ultimately, since my vision listed by the doctor is 20/200 in the right eye, which does not meet DMV standards, I have to take a road test.  In the car.  I don't know what they do with people who are missing eyes, but 20/200 with a doctor's message saying that's just fine doesn't cut it with the DMV.

I went through the rest of it--got my picture taken, passed the written test (partly thanks to David and Paul, who both died while drunk, which means I know what the legal limit is over which you are considered drunk -- 0.08%)

The first clerk made an appointment for me for a driving test and went on my way, expecting to return to take my test and have the thing finished.

When I told Walt what time my test was going to be he reminded me that at that time we would be at the Sacramento Airport getting ready to fly to Seattle for the weekend.  Doh!

I searched to find how to reschedule the appointment and finally found a place to cancel, so I figured I would cancel and then make another appointment.   It took awhile to get the "cancel" to take,but I think it did.
But then I tried to make another appointment.  

After filling out all the information and waiting and waiting, I got a message that my appointment could not be scheduled on line, but I would have to call their 800 number.

So I called the 800 number and waded through about a dozen recorded option menus until I finally reached the one that gave me the option of making an appointment.  When I did that, it said that my appointment could not be made using their automated system, but that I would have to talk with a real person.


So I accepted the invitation to talk with a real person.  I was given the option of hanging up and having them call me back, but I was going off to Logos and I didn't know if they would call in time, so I decided to just sit on the phone.

Then I learned that the wait time was 30-60 minutes.

Needless to say, I did not make an appointment.  I will wait until next week and go to the office in person and make my appointment then.  Let's see how that can be screwed up!!!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Today at Logos

Well, this was more like it.  This was the sort of day I envisioned when I dreamed up the "Today at Logos" idea.  It was pretty busy today.  

There was a strange face at the desk when I arrived.  It was a new volunteer, working her first stint.  She told me she had wanted to volunteer for some time, but her schedule didn't permit it, but she finally was able to work it in.   She was a bit nervous and said she had some problems during her time at the desk, but that overall it had been good and she had enjoyed herself.  She also bought the book she was reading.  I told her that was an occupational hazard!

A woman was standing behind her with 3 cookbooks, one of which was called "No Salt, No Sugar, No Fat" and I refrained from adding "no flavor."  The other two books were a Tofu cookbook and a vegetarian cookbook.   I'm glad I don't know her.  I don't think I would enjoy dinner at her house!

The guy who makes his own hats out of paper came in, but just shuffled around for a bit and then left.  While he was there, a couple came in and browsed for a very long time, including time they sat at the table in the front and read to each other.  When they finally checked out we got to talking.  Turns out they were killing time while their Chihuahua was having surgery at UCD for a ruptured disc.   The guy told me he had been born in San Francisco, but only lived there 18 months before his parents moved to Ventura, where he became "a surfer dude."  They were very pleasant people.

Throughout the day there was always someone at the $1 book carts outside, and often more than 3 people there.  Several actually came in and bought a book from the cart.

A tall woman, who reminded me of Bea Arthur strode in, standing erect and looking upward.  I wasn't sure what she was doing until she mentioned that the artist who painted the artwork that adorns the wall this month is a neighbor of hers.

I checked the time when a guy came in and bought "Of Mice and Men" and another literature type book. It was 2:45. By that time last week, I had not yet seen a single customer.  Today by this time I had 10 customers and more standing outside looking at the Bargain Books.

Another volunteer, who introduced herself as "Beth" came in with two containers of donations.  She told me they had belonged to a friend who died and that "some of them are kind of old."  This was inside the cover of a small book of "Uncle Tom's Cabin."  

I had to check on when the book had first been published and it was 1852, less than 50 years before this book was given to the recipient.

For a few minutes there were no customers and I almost got caught taking a selfie.  I was actually going to take a video, showing the artwork, but first I was taking a picture of me in the book stacks again.  But suddenly a big bellied guy walked in and I quickly put the cell phone away.  I took it after he left.

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(I also took a video that went to Instagram and Facebook and which showed some of the new artwork)
An older woman rushed in and asked if I had books on travel to Costa Rica.  I directed her to the travel section, she looked and then rushed out saying she would remember us for next time.

A guy in a  strange cap (coulda been a baseball cap or a fishing hat) over his grey pony tail came in.  He was wearing baggy jeans, but his long shirt covered up what might have been a nice photo for Mary Wise.  He went to the free arts newspapers, waved "thank you" and left.

Next a dad with two sons came in.  The boys were whining and the older boy looked afraid of me as he passed by the desk on his way to the children's room.   For a time there was arguing and whining as Dad tried to calm things down.   Ultimately the older boy chose "Captain Underpants" and the younger one took "The Little Mermaid."  About half an hour later, they passed by the front of the store, still carrying their books.

There was a lull of about half an hour until "my friend" came in (some day I'll ask his name).  I showed him the "Uncle Tom's Cabin" book and he was impressed.  He bought two spy books, "I'm doing real spies and fictional spies this week," he said, as one was non fiction and one was fiction.   As usual, I screwed up his sale and he had to point out that I was giving him back twice as much as he should have gotten.  Why do I do that???

The next woman bought a book called "Fundamentals of Statistical Thermodynamics."  I mentioned that I had typed a book called "Fundamentals of Statistical and Thermal Physics" back in the 60s...and that I had typed it 3 times because there were no computers then. She was unimpressed.

The last customer of the day was a woman who said she was here to pick up a book she had put on hold the previous night.  It was a Diana Gabaldon book, so naturally we talked a lot about the Outlander series and she told me Gabaldon is doing a book signing at the Sacramento Public Library in June, a week after her next book is released.  She took my e-mail address to send me information about it.

A nice way to end the day!  -- a nice busy day and I didn't mention about 1/4 of the customers who came in.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Magic of Ice Cream

There is an old fashioned restaurant in Oakland that we occasionally took the kids to when we were living there.  It's called Fenton's Creamery.  It was the kind of place where you could get a real malted milk shake, sinful ice cream desserts heaped high with real whipping cream and the maraschino cherry on top.  

We didn't go there often, but did  go there on occasion, usually some special occasion.  

Fenton's was founded in Oakland in 1894 and has served generations of happy customers.  It was/is located right across the street from the Kaiser hospital where all of our children were born.

In 2007, it opened a location at the Nut Tree in Fairfield.  The Nut Tree used to be this amazing site that had a great restaurant, playground, train, toy shop, airport, and airplane museum.   It was state-wide famous and rich people could get in their private planes in Los Angeles and fly up to the Nut Tree airport for lunch and be back home again in time for dinner. It had started as a roadside fruit stand in 1921 and just grew like Topsy.

In the years when the kids were little, we used to alternate months and take one child out to dinner in a "sit down restaurant" which they got to choose.  In a year, each child had dinner twice, once with Walt and once with me.   The Nut Tree was a favorite spot because it felt fancy, it had a great aviary with interesting birds flying around you while you ate, and they served us individual hot loaves of bread (also a salad of fresh pineapple with a delicious marshmallow dressing).   It was a great experience.  We always shopped for oddball kitchen stuff, jewelry, t-shirts, and books.

But over the years, the folks who owned the Nut Tree died and nobody ran it like they did and it shut down in 1996.  The famous building was torn down and sat unused for a few years.  Now it is a strip mall, called "Nut Tree Plaza," with hints of the old Nut Tree, like a fun playground with the old Nut Tree merry-go-round.  The airport remains, but there is no restaurant like the old Nut Tree. Instead there are places like Michael's, BestBuy, Chipotle, See's Candy, and a host of other small stores.

But there is Fentons, bigger and brighter than the old Oakland location.

When Jeri was here last month and we had such a good time with the Blackfords, I decided that I have all these women that I regularly have lunch with, but it takes getting Jeri here (or a cruise) to get together with Char, my best friend.  We live an hour or so from each other, and we both have lots of free time, but we never seem to get together.  I decided we could meet somewhere in the middle, and suggested that we get together for lunch this month.

Today was the day we chose and Char decided she would drive farther than half way and suggested we have lunch at Fenton's.

I got there first and stopped at the Jelly Belly store next door.   

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I have worn Jelly Belly socks for some time and I really like them so I thought I could get another pair.  They didn't have the kind I like but they had some new fuzzy socks that I like better, so I was happy.  There was a woman shopping in the store who was so tickled to be there and was taking a video to post on Instagram.   She positively beamed to have found the Jelly Belly store!

Char showed up and we went to sit down in Fentons.  I had checked their on-line menu last night and knew that their specialty was crab salad sandwich, and it was indeed delicious.  I had a whole one.  Char had half of one with a bowl of soup.

And then, because it was, you know, Fenton's, we had to have a sundae.

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(This is their small hot fudge sundae, so full of ice cream, that the fudge overflows onto the plate.)

Between the crab and the hot fudge, we discussed anything and everything.  Books, politics, our kids, the Pinata group.  While I very much enjoy getting together with the women I see here in Davis, nothing beats conversation with lifelong friends with whom you never have to explain anything--because they know it all.
We just missed the other 3 (surviving) women in the Pinata group and so we have chosen a date for our next lunch in February and invited the others to join us.   I live for stuff like this.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014


I'm doing a Swap Bot swap called "The Un-Journaling Journal Swap."  It is supposed to last for the year and each month you pick 10 topics from among a lengthy list and write at least a page about each topic.  One of the topics I thought might be fun was "What are some of your idiosyncrasies?  I thought I would also post it here (especially since I was watching a PBS special about J.D. Salinger that went on much longer than I expected, though it was fascinating and I couldn't leave it....what an odd duck he was...and what a warning for the results of instant fame!)

Anyway, here are some of my idiosyncrasies.

* I guess the fact that I need the TV on for white noise is an idiosyncrasy. I’ve had the TV on in my house all the time, ever since I first moved away from my parents when I was 18. In fact, I think it was the first Christmas that I was dating Walt when his mother gave me a Popeye movie for Christmas because she knew I watched that cartoon so often (I actually rarely watched it, but it was the only thing interesting on when I got home from work each day and I turned it on for background noise). For some reason, listening to music makes me nervous and I turn it off quickly (though I used to listen to music all the time). I have seen every episode of NCIS , Criminal Minds and Golden Girls so often that I hardly pay attention to the plots any more. It’s more like being at a family gathering and having the familiar, comforting sound of family talking in the background to make you feel safe.

* Though I like salads, I hate lettuce on sandwiches. If I forget to order a sandwich without lettuce, or if they bring it to me with lettuce on it anyway, I always scrape it off...which is nice for Walt, who loves lettuce.

* The only time I take my glasses off is if I am lying down to go to sleep. I sleep on the couch in the living room or in the recliner in the family room. If I’m on the couch, I take my glasses off; if I am in the recliner, I keep them on.

* I always have my camera with me and take pictures of everything, though my photos are just snapshots and rarely achieve the status of "photography."

* I am always picking at my nails. I don’t bite my fingernails, but I do try to split the top of the nail from the underneath part of the nail. Whenever I do it, I am taken back to grammar school, when our school playground backed up on the church, which was made of rough stone.  I would spend a lot of time with a bobby pin, rubber tip removed, chipping away at the stone, trying to get flakes off of it.  Now there is an idiosyncrasy!

* I can wiggle my ears, though I rarely do a demonstration.

* I am able to handwrite, but I much prefer typing. My hand can’t keep up with my brain, so when I handwrite something, it’s never as interesting as when I type something.

* I am a good writer, but I write terrible fiction.  I heard about someone who had so many stories in her head that when she went to sleep, she could choose which story she wanted to enter as she went to sleep.  I decided to try creating a story as I went to sleep and couldn't come up with a single one.

* I wear socks all the time, preferably the loose fuzzy ones. I used to be barefoot all the time, but now it feels weird to be barefoot.

* I still count on my fingers and don’t you dare ask me what time two trains will meet if one leaves station A at a certain time and one leaves station B at another time. I sometimes have to use the computer calculator to remember how old one of my children is...or how long Dave and Paul have been dead.

* I compulsively buy post cards, though I have enough in my collection to take me through Swap Bot swaps for the next two dozen years.

* Though I am a fairly good cook, I can't master gravy and never make it.

* I also sewed my very first thing in about 25 years (I hemmed pants for my mother) last week. Walt had shirts needing buttons 40 years ago that he finally threw out because I never put buttons on them.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Rise and Shine

I woke up early this morning.  I lay there under Polly trying to decide what time it clock near me.  I finally decided it must be nearing 6 a.m.  I had been dreaming of baking bread, perhaps a left over from that article about artesian bread that I mentioned a couple of days ago.

I decided I was thirsty and so got up to get a drink of water.   When I looked at the clock, it was about 3 a.m.

3 a.m.  

Naturally when you wake up in the middle of the night dreaming about baking bread there is only one logical thing to do:  you bake bread.

I figured that if I dumped everything in the bread maker I could set my alarm to get up in 2 hours to put it into a regular bread pan and we'd have fresh bread for breakfast.

I must say that yes, you can bake bread in a bread maker.   That's kind of why they call them bread makers.  but I have one of the older models that is tall and bake a square loaf and, call me fussy, but I like my bread to look like an old fashioned loaf of bread, so I have taken to using the bread maker to mix the dough and then I transfer it over to a regular bread pan.

It only took a few minutes to toss everything into the machine, set the timer on my cell phone and get into the recliner.  Getting back to sleep was more difficult.  I finally chose to watch the new PBS Sherlock Holmes and, as I figured it would, it put me right to sleep.  An hour later, the timer was beeping.

I got up and put the bread in the loaf pan and set it to rise and then 45 minutes later put it into the oven.

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By the time Walt was coming downstairs for breakfast, I had just taken the freshly baked bread out of the oven.

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I was so pleased that it turned out so well, because my last few attempts had been disastrous, which I finally realized it was because the yeast was old.   But this is brand new yeast and if you have fresh ingredients, it's amazing what a difference it makes.  It all worked out so well, I made garlic-cheese rolls to have with spaghetti for dinner (but they tasted too good and I had eaten two before I thought about taking a photo).

By mid afternoon my mid-night baking had caught up with me and I was really ready for a nap.  While I normally turn on an NCIS marathon and collapse in the recliner, the sun streaming into the livingroom and onto the dogs was looking mighty inviting, so I took back the couch and when the warm sun rays hit me, I turned into melted butter and just sank into that couch and slept for two hours.  When I woke up, Sheila was lying on the floor right next to me, Polly was on one chair and Lizzie on the other.   It looked like I had wandered into a canine sleep study.

But now I have home made bread for breakfast and leftover garlic-cheese rolls for dinner tomorrow night and it's time to refresh the yeast supply for the next time I get up at 3 a.m. and feel like making bread.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Sunday Stealing

This is probably a pretty silly meme for me to do because last night was pretty boring, but it's Sunday and I almost always do a Sunday Stealing so let's give it a go...

The Last Night Meme

From By The Way Sunday, a now defunct meme blog. 

Did anyone call you last night?
It is rare that anyone calls me, so no.  The closest was my sister-in-law answering a text message that I sent her.  Not exciting at all!

How late were you on the computer last night?
We had been out all day and I turned on the TV as soon as we got home so I could watch the SAG Awards, so I wasn't really on the computer at all, other than writing my journal entry, which I finished by about 7:30.  Usually I can still be found draped over this computer at midnight.

What did you have to eat last night?
We had gone out for a huge lunch yesterday afternoon and neither Walt nor I were hungry when we got home.  I don't know if he had anything to eat or not.  I ate a couple of oranges from our new crate of oranges and that was about it.

Did you watch any good TV shows or movies last night?
The SAG Awards.  This is awards season and I do love those awards shows.   Very happy to see Breaking Bad  going out with a bang, so to speak!

Did any news items stand out to you last night?
Since we got home so late, we didn't watch the news, so the only thing that stood out were the winners of the SAG awards.

Did you go out last night?
Nope.  We'd been out all day, so we were happy to stay home last night. 

What was the weather like last night?
Chilly.  I realize that compared to much of the country, California weather is balmy, but we did get down to the low 40s or high 30s last night.

What was the last thing you said last night?
"C'mon, Polly--let's go to bed," which is usually the last thing I say every night, since Polly waits so patiently for me to go to the living room so she can crawl under the blanket and curl up at my waist.

What time did you go to bed last night?
About 11, I think.  Earlier than I usually go to sleep.  The night seemed to drag, for some reason, but once I got onto the couch and under Polly, I went to sleep almost immediately.

As for the 9ers vs. the Seahawks, the 9ers were not at their best, but the Seahawks were no princes either.  I'll be rooting for Denver in the SuperBowl (if I even watch it)

Sunday, January 19, 2014

The Newlyweds

We missed Ernest & Vanessa's wedding because we were flying back to Istanbul that day.  A legitimate reason for missing the wedding, but I tried to talk Walt into skipping Istanbul because I know how much fun his family weddings are.   I guess I'm glad that he talked me out of it and sticking with the Istanbul plan because I'd never have that chance again, but we did miss a good party!

Ern is Ernest Kevin Huddleston Baur, Walt's cousin's son.  We were at his sister's wedding in Maryland three years ago.  Ern was marrying Vanessa, whom we had met on that occasion and whom we fell in love with.  My special moment from the previous wedding was the day after the wedding when we all met at a crab shack for what turned out to be an afternoon party and an evening dinner.  The Baurs just canNOT say goodbye to each other.

At one moment, there was a clump of us standing together -- all the female in-laws.  Me, Olivia's (Walt's sister-in-law), Melissa (Walt's cousin's wife), and Vanessa and we were telling Vanesssa about the infamous "Hour Baur" while she nodded her head in agreement, groaned with us and said that yes, she was all too familiar with those endless Baur family goodbyes.  I knew then that she was going to be a great addition to the family.

Yesterday we had word from Norm (Walt's brother) that Ern and Vanessa were in California and would be having lunch with them today.  He invited us and Ned & Marta to come along.

dempseys.jpg (91260 bytes)We went to Dempsey's, a brew pub in Petaluma (apparently the oldest brewpub in Sonoma County), where Norm had asked for seating on the patio, so we could look out on the river which runs right by the restaurant.

By the time we came to the unanimous conclusion (after the table had been set for us) that it was too cold on the patio, the big tables inside had been taken, so we just bundled up and continued to stay outside.  By the time we had finished our huge lunch, the sun had risen higher and it was a bit warmer and more comfortable to sit there.

The nice thing about this place is it's a great place to people watch.  There is a bridge from there over the river to the old section of downtown, and it was a very busy bridge.  I watched couples strolling hand in hand, parents pushing strollers, dog walkers (one old gentleman was carrying a Chihuahua wrapped in a blanket in his arms...I suggested to Walt that he might like to take Polly out for walks).   Another dog walker had his dog in a stroller behind his bicycle.  There was a grandpa holding hands with his granddaughter, and a group of about four or five bikers, all dressed in electric yellow biking outfits who sped over the bridge, weaving their way in and out among the walkers. 

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Under the bridge were kayakers. But the most fun were the dogs.   

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It doesn't show much at all in this picture, but there are six dogs tied to the fence on the  right and a woman with 3 small dogs on leashes on the left.  Apparently people eating at the restaurant tie their dogs to the fence while they eat.  The restaurant seems to supply bowls for water, because each dog had a matching bowl and when the dogs were gone, the bowls remained.  They were incredibly well behaved, all of them.

We had huge lunches.  I ordered my cheeseburger with onion rings instead of fries and the waitress brought it to me with fries and grilled onions on the burger.  She let me keep the fries (which were quite good!) while she ordered shoestring onion rings on the house.  They were delicious and even I couldn't finish them, even with help from Ned and Marta!

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But most fun was getting the chance to visit with Ern and Vanessa, hearing their plans for the rest of their time in California, hearing about Ern's new job, and listening to them all reminisce about the wedding.  We were the only ones who had not been there.

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After lunch, we went back to Norm and Olivia's house for some more visiting before we all had to get on the road and head home (I needed to watch the SAG awards, after all!)

Really a lovely day.  I remember when Ernest was a little kid and to see him now all grown up (age 30), married, and starting life as a private contractor for TV sporting makes me realize how quickly the time has passed.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Eye Spy

I usually have an eye exam around the time of my birthday.  This year it was particularly important because I have to renew my driver's license by my birthday next month and over the past year, the cataract in my right eye has expanded so much that it is obstructing my vision to such a degree that "cheating" on the eye exam may be difficult.

I should explain, again, that I have never had usable vision in that eye.  I didn't really know why until I met with the doctor who did the cataract surgery in my left eye several years ago.  He told me -- the very first doctor since my first eye doctor in 1953 -- that there is a congenital malformation in the eye, in addition to the astigmatism.  So it's not that I just have bad vision in that eye, but it's also so misshapen (which isn't visible to the naked eye) that in order to remove the cataract in the right eye would take three surgeries.

We decided then that since I have never used that eye for usable vision, there was no reason to go through that extensive correction.  Should something have happened to my left eye, for example, when I was driving, I had enough usable vision in the right eye that I could see enough to drive to the next off ramp.

It's difficult to explain how I see through that eye.  I am aware that there is some vision there, but since I'm not really using it, my body automatically closes my eye most of the time.  The automatic eye closure has become more often in the last year because I can see that the cataract now covers most of my eye, so that when I close my left eye, all I really see out the right eye is this thick cloud.

At my last appointment a year ago, the doctor and I talked about the right eye again.  This was a new to me doctor and she said that with new techniques it could probably be corrected in only two surgeries.  But the cataract was still on one side of the eye and she agreed with me that there was no need to deal with it unless it started to bother me.

Well, now it's bothering me, a little.  When my body lets my eyelid stay open, I am always aware of the cloud on my right side, so I decided it was time to discuss what exactly would be involved in correcting it (at age almost-71 I wonder what it would be like to have usable vision in that eye.  Imagine--depth perception!   Whoda thunk!)

I also wanted to get a note from the doctor that I was safe to drive with only one eye, in case the DMV decided to give me a hard time about it.  I've been doing it all my life, but I was concerned that this might be the year that they would disqualify me if they know I am not using my right eye.

I left in plenty of time to get to Sacramento in time, and, in fact, sat in the car for about 20 minutes listening to my audio book.

The nurse dilated my eyes, though they never get as dilated as most people's, a doctor told me once.  I was able to continue to read while the pupils were dilating and though I was glad I had my sunglasses with me, I could have driven home without them, if necessary.

The doctor's exam was thorough and confirmed everything I'd been thinking.  We talked for a long time about possible surgery.  She speculates that if I had lived some 60 years without anybody telling me about this congenital deformation, that maybe it wasn't congenital after all, and only looked that way.  The worst case scenario for the surgery would be that in trying to remove the cataract it would fall behind my eye and that would be the reason for one or two more surgeries.  In best case scanario, they could remove the cataract easily, but the vision in that eye would not be improved anyway.

So with that bit of information, I decided to postpone the surgery for a few more years.  She filled out a DMV form for me and I hope to renew my driver's license next week.  Here's your "word of the day."  A pseudophakia is an eye in which the natural lens is replaced with an intraocular lens (in other words, what happens when you have a cataract removed, though looking at the word it sounds like you have a fake fake!)

One question on the form was to indicate when DMV should test my vision again and she put down in 5 years (the maximum).  When she told me that, I could not believe my automatic response.  It just rolled off my tongue.  I said "That's good (chuckle). I could be dead in 5 years. I'm old, you know."  My mother had briefly taken possession of my body and I was speaking in her tongue!!!

Friday, January 17, 2014

My Day at Logos

So I got this crazy idea this morning.  I've been doing so much like books...for Swap Bot swaps that I'm getting into this whole handwriting business -- on a small scale.  And I thought that since what I spend my Thursdays doing is sitting and reading (albeit in  a book store), that for the next couple of weeks, or more, I would make my Thursday entry "Today at Logos," talking about all the weird and wacky things that happen in the book store.  This is inspired by the book "Weird Things People Say in Bookstores" and an article Walt's cousin Ernie sent me, which is not, but reads like it could be, a supplement to that book.

I was so enthused by this idea that I actually took a notebook with me to the store, intending to make it not only fodder for today's entry, but also kind of a journal, in shorthand, of my days working at Logos.

UnFORtunately, I chose to start this project on the deadest, dullest day at Logos that I have spent since I started working there!  However, undeterred, I determined to carry on anyway and see if I can make boring sound mildly interesting.   Ready?  Here goes...

Neither Susan nor her husband Peter were there when I arrived.   Susan had gone off to the Bay Area, and the store was being manned by their son, a nice fellow, and the "dad" of that black dog who dressed in a Santa costume to give verisimilitude to the holiday season for shoppers.  The dog wasn't there today, though.  I got the report that it had been a fairly slow morning.  I was alone in the store at 2 p.m., and the truth of that "dull morning" was demonstrated in that it was 25 minutes before my first customer arrived, and more than 30 minutes after that before the second one came in.

The first guy was looking for books by G.K. Chesterton, or Jules Verne and when he couldn't find either, he bought a copy of Stephen King's "Carrie."  Similar genres, I'm sure.

At 3:08, a woman came in to buy one of our outside bargain books (total cost: $1) and to ask if I knew where she could register for a quilting class.   I did not, but gave her some suggestions of where she could ask.

Next customers arrived at 3:30 (I got a lot of reading done today!), These were two girls carrying cups and with earphones in their ears, who looked around for less than five minutes and then left, without buying anything.

At 3:40 (the intervals are getting shorter now!  WooHoo!) a guy looking like Rasputin in jeans and a hoodie was wandering around the book shelves.   He had a patrician nose.  I'm not sure I even know what a patrician nose is, but that was the first thing I thought of when I saw him in profile.  He left without buying anything.

While I was writing notes about him. a woman came in with a bag of Spanish language books to donate. 
So far I had been there nearly 2 hours and had sold a whopping $5.78.

At 4:07 a round, red-faced man came in with a guy who looked so much like him it could only have been his son. They wandered around for awhile and while there, Dad got a phone call and  started relaying information about, I presume, his wife, who seems to be in the hospital.  Dad and son had just come from the hospital and decided to stop in Davis for coffee and t wander around the book store.  From the report, I gather that the wife is doing well and will be coming home soon. The dad bought a Steinbeck and a Hemmingway and the son bought "Baghdad by the Bay," by Herb Caen and didn't blink when I expressed delight at seeing the San Francisco Chronicle's favorite columnist's book.  (There is even a street in SF named for Herb Caen after he died.)

While the man and his son were there, a man rushed in from outside with one of the bargain books in his hand.  It was "Sewer Root control" and he paid for it and left so quickly that I had the impression his sewer was bubbling up through his front lawn and he was going to run home and fix it immediately.

Another woman with coffee and an iPhone came in and thrust the phone at me to show me the cover of a book by Paul Tuffts called "How Children Succeed" and wanted to know where she could find it.  I should have told her that her best bet would be at the new book bookstore down the block!  

Those four customers had come in between 4 and 5, which is traditionally the busiest hour of my day, and has been since I started working at Logos, though today there were significantly fewer people, but still the busiest hour of the day.   Usually the guy I call "my friend," because I don't know his name, comes in during that 4-5 hour, but he was a little late today.  He always buys something and his tastes run to very eclectic, from history to science to art to trains to origami.   They are all over the place and today he was thrilled to find old maps and bought them.

I have developed performance anxiety around this guy.  I always screw up his sale and have to do it over at least once (tonight it was 4 times).  I don't have a clue why, except maybe that he watches me so closely and lets me know when I've made a mistake.

I had been slogging through my book, "Day of the Locust," an ugly book by Nathaniel West about Hollywood in the Depression, but not the glamorous side of Hollywood, the seedy side with a hero named Homer Simpson.  This book was written in 1939, so I guess we all know now where the name of the cartoon character came from.  Anyway, around 5 p.m. I had gotten to a cock fighting scene that was entirely too graphic for my taste!

A family with 3 kids came in and I did a bad thing.  When they spent time in the children's section and the oldest boy came out holding a book and beaming, I asked him, brightly, if he was going to take that one home with him.  He smiled and nodded.  Then Dad had to convince him to put it back and I felt guilty for making him think that it was going to happen.

I guess I was still rattled from my "friend's" sale because the next customer, who had two literature books, came and I rang her up wrong too.  Bad Bev.  Bad Bev.

At 5:30 another Dad with 2 kids came in. He was looking for Vampire books for kids.  They ended up buying "Scary Stories for Sleepovers," and his son proudly told me that his friend was thinking about having a sleepover and he wanted to be ready for it.

Someone asked the name of the Canadian author who had just won a Pulitzer and I was able to find it on my cell phone (no computer at the office), which made me feel proud.  (It was Alice Munro.)  We didn't have any of her works, but he bought two books of poetry for $9.72.

The last customers before Peter returned to the store to relieve me were an older couple who came in and expressed delight at Logos' policy of donating profits to Doctors without Border and Save the Children.  He wandered around in the fiction section, she browsed cookbooks, but they didn't buy anything.

So that was My Day at Logos today.  I don't have a clue if it was interesting or not, but I may try another one next Thursday because it's fun to take notes and then to put together an entry like this at the end of the day.

Thursday, January 16, 2014


I was surprised to discover today that, in San Francisco, at least, the newest food thing is the least likely food you would consider becoming the "latest artisinal food craze."  It's toast.  Yep...slices of bread transformed into something with brown color on it.  Toast. Whoda thunk.

In an article in Pacific *Standard, author John Gravois discusses this puzzling new trend, in wonderful purple prose.
All the guy was doing was slicing inch-thick pieces of bread, putting them in a toaster, and spreading stuff on them. But what made me stare—blinking to attention in the middle of a workday morning as I waited in line at an unfamiliar cafe´—was the way he did it. He had the solemn intensity of a Ping-Pong player who keeps his game very close to the table: knees slightly bent, wrist flicking the butter knife back and forth, eyes suggesting a kind of flow state.
Clearly I have not been paying enough attention to my toast-making technique.

The aforementioned slices of toast sell for $3 a slice.   Gravois' review was positive, if succinct.  "It was pretty good. It tasted just like toast, but better."

In deeper search to uncover the reason for the new craze, Gravois did some traveling.  He visited a "toast bar" in Petaluna, across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco, and a few miles up the road.  Back in San Francisco, he visited a cafe he describes as "a big light-filled cafe and bakery with exposed rafters and polished concrete floors, like a rustic Apple Store. There, between the two iPads that served as cash registers, was a small chalkboard that listed the day’s toast menu. Everywhere the offerings were more or less the same: thick slices of good bread, square-shaped, topped with things like small-batch almond butter or apricot marmalade or sea salt."

Toast.  Imagine.

I was ahead of the trend.  I've been making "toast" all of my life and never knew I was being trendy.

I'm rather picky about my toast.  We have his and hers breads around here these days.  Walt's is a hefty loaf loaded down with whole grains and seeds and I don't know what all.  You could get a hernia trying to carry a slice of it to the toaster.  

Mine is white.  That's it.  White.  Not into the multi-grain breads (because they sound entirely too healthy for my carefully maintained deplorable eating habits).  Not balloon bread, mind you.  I have some standards (I save that for tomato sandwiches). But something with a little heft to it. Right now I seem to be gravitating to Buttermilk bread, but sometime I go on a potato bread kick.  If I'm really feeling daring, I might use an English Muffin.   But not the whole wheat ones.  On special occasions, there is cinnamon bread, which is really eating dessert for breakfast, but since it's bread, I tell myself it's OK.

And I don't like it toasted dark.  I like it just barely toasted, slathered with real butter and only rarely anything else added.  Sometimes I'll have a bit of jam, but then I'm disappointed because though it sounds like a good idea, it's really too sweet for my taste buds for a breakfast food.

When Peggy was spending six weeks here, I made my "special toast" for her one morning, early in her stay -- slightly toasted, and with lots of butter.  She was indignant.  She wanted TOAST, she told me--not warm bread.

I remember when our Brasilian daughter Sonia (now an American citizen for a long time) was first living with us.  She made a lot of toast.  In fact, "make a toast" became kind of an in joke around here.  I haven't seen her in a long time, but I'll bet she'd still "make a toast" for me.

Now I understand why my having toast for breakfast has become so ritualized around here.

I get the bread out of the bread drawer and put the slices into the toaster.  Almost immediately, Polly's head pops up from where she is sleeping in the recliner and she doesn't take her eyes off of me.  Lizzie comes sauntering in from the family room and watches my every move too. Everyone waits with bated breath until the toaster pops.  

I slather the toast with butter and take it to Walt's chair in the family room, where I eat it while watching The Today Show.  By now Sheila has joined the other two and all three of them sit around my feet, watching every bite.   Some days, while watching me enjoy my toast, Sheila begins to drool and after she has moved away, I find a little puddle of saliva on the floor.

When I have eaten all the inside parts of the two slices of bread, I break the crusts into six pieces and each dog gets two.  They are very polite.   They know that Sheila gets fed first, then Lizzie and then Polly and then I repeat the gifts.  When all six crusts are gone, I hold up my hands, palms out, and say "that's it" and all three go back to wherever they were before I opened the bread drawer.

This has become such a normal ritual around here for so many years that when I am not at home and am eating toast, I still carefully eat all the soft parts inside the crust and then wonder what I'm going to do with the crust with no dogs to feed it to!  Somehow it doesn't feel right to it!

I think tomorrow when I'm eating my toast I will let the dogs know how lucky they are to be sharing the latest artisinal food craze.

I don't think they will be impressed.