Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Newish kid on the block

Moving from California to London and then from London to Switzerland then back to California all in a six year span has reminded me of all the moving around I did as a kid. Between 1978 and 1988, I changed schools at least 7 times. Leaving school also meant leaving behind school friends. These were kids that I played with after school, whose parents were nice to me and let me eat their Oreo cookies and play Atari well into the afternoon until my mom came home from work.

When I was 10 years old, I lived for about six months in a place called Livermore; CA. for about half of my 5th grade school year. We lived in a cul-de-sac filled with families that had children around my age. There was one girl, Chelon, whom I used to play with regularly. Chelon lived close to the opening of the cul-de-sac next to the Mormon family. The Mormon mom used to joke about being a 'bad Mormon' family because they drank Coke and coffee.  Chelon's parents, Geri and Gerry, drove a late model Camero. I want to say that the car was canary yellow. The car had one of the first vanity plates I remember seeing that somehow managed to spell out both of their names. Maybe it was 'GeriGer'. Anyway, Chelon's mom and dad had the same name, shared the same car, and wore their hair in the same style: a jheri curl. I loved going over to Chelon's house because her parents were very friendly, there was always soul music playing on the stereo, and, after Chelon did her chores, we could play undisturbed outside in the cul-de-sac for hours until we were called home for dinner.

Michael Jackson wearing a Jheri curl.
Esther, a girl from my class who lived over in the 'nice part' of town, became chummy with me and would sometimes invite me over to her house after school. Like Esther, I took my shoes off before going inside the house. I can't exactly remember what we did, but I don't think that Esther was all that into Barbie and neither was I, so no playing with dolls. Esther lived in a lovely, ranch-style home with wide hallways and both a rock garden and swimming pool in the backyard. The hallway carpets were thick and plush and felt good under my stocking feet. The house was quiet and always smelled of cooked rice. And, while I would occasionally hear her mother's voice coming from another room, I never really saw either of Esther's parents.

-prime example of a ranch-style home.
My friendships with both Esther and Chelon were really just beginning when I had to move to a new city at the end of the school year. Chelon came for a sleep-over once after I moved. I never talked to Esther again.

Moving back to San Francisco at 45, I was sort of the 'new-old kid'. Making acquaintanceships is a bit more challenging at this stage. It was pretty darn easy to make friends when I was 10.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Two sides of the same, tired coin: DIY/Bespoke

I remember my time living in London mostly fondly, but if I'd had a penny for every time that I ran across either of the above listed terms emblazoned across a storefront, headline, photo caption or bus shelter ad, then I would have had a shed-load of worthless coins and an even more sour attitude than usual.

I don't remember hand-built furniture being referred to as "bespoke", but now it's being termed as such:
If those are an example of "bespoke" living room pieces, then, um, no thanks.

Would that then mean oil paintings really are just bespoke pictures and stand-up comedy is just bespoke language?

Time was when the term "bespoke" only referred to tailored clothing. And, if I'm correct, it really only referred to fancy, men's suits and such. Back in the 70s, I don't think that I could get away with saying our mom made us kids "bespoke" clothing.  We'd needed something decent and yet affordable to wear to elementary school, and that was that.

I remember my older sister had Mom make her a pair of wide-legged red pants with the Coca-Cola logo recurring all over them. They were ridiculous.  But, hey kids of the 8th grade, don't laugh, those pants are bespoke!

Bespoke coffee

Bespoke mustache
Bespoke gin

And as for DIY, don't use this term if you can't back it up. I noticed that a lot of hardware/electrical supply stores in London have "DIY" written across their awnings. Well, that was the hook to get me into the store as I had some American lamps that I wanted to re-wire.

Lured by DIY storefront signage, I had gone into a one-off hardware and appliance shop to inquire if they had electrical cords, plugs and such for re-wiring foreign lamps. "No, we don't have anything like that. Check B&Q (UK's Home Depot)." I thought: Okay, I guess I'll help you run yourself out business. Or, here's a better idea, stock items that actually pertain to the DIY bit on your signage. (And, no, light bulbs don't count. -neither do screws or nails.)

When my Dad changed the oil on his car, was that DIY?  No, it was a guy changing the oil on his car, as most people did back when I was a kid.

Don't let's label what was and for many of us still is standard behavior as something more than it is, and let's also remember that most of what we pay someone else to do for us we used to do ourselves!

DIY fruit and veg
DIY Hairsalon

DIY lunch

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

In Manhattan and seeing 'stars'

When I lived in Manhattan, I saw a lot of movie and TV actors on the street. I have a decent head for faces, so it's not like they were wearing signs, or walking around with an entourage. I just easily recognized them. Fortunately, I'm not one who goes ga-ga over seeing Hollywood movie stars, or, for that matter, washed-up comedians from Seinfeld who took a wrong turn at an LA comedy club some years back and then found himself jobless, wandering around the Upper West Side.
-same as me when I lived in NYC and was out-of-work. :D

I do, however, have a soft spot for those actors who were on, as my grandma called them, My Stories. For a large part of my adolescence I watched soap operas. I watched, at 11am, one soap on NBC, and then, for the rest of the afternoon, watched the entire ABC soap line-up. There are the powerful and power hungry women: Dorian Lord and Erika Kane; there are the wealthy families with unscrupulous patriarchs: the Quartermaine clan and the Buchanan family; and then there are the lovers: Luke had Laura and Tad had Dixie. Now, we all know that Tad the Cad had his fair share of Pine Valley's finest, but I'd like to focus on that sweet, southern, red-headed belle, Dixie. She was my favorite. I believed in her character so truly. Well, I didn't really think that Dixie was from 'way down south', but the actor did a really good job of portraying her as someone so good-hearted and sweet. 

Amazingly, if I ever needed my Dix-fix, then I could just look up at one of the many TVs on at the gym and see Miss Dixie on All My Children, or I could just look to my left or to my right and REALLY see her. Spoiler alert: the red-hued hair is a dye job, and she probably is of Yankee rather than Confederate blood. Still, it was pretty cool to be sweatin' along side one of my favorite soap stars.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

On the bus

As I was coming home on the 14 bus the other day, a man with a strange glint in his eye invited me to a party this Sunday at a church downtown. He was sure that I'd get along with so-and-so, and so I must come. I gave the requisite polite eye-contact while, largely, letting him speak at length about this must-be-attended event. When there was a break in his monologue, I whispered a "thank you" and averted my eyes. I had survived the uncomfortable bus talk that can sometimes happen when people who are slightly unhinged happen to be sitting near you. I few blocks later, he began an even greater oration directed at all the back-of-the-bus passengers about the church party, and, incidentally(?), about his former life in showbiz and subsequent downward spiral into drug use and general nuttiness. One block later I was off the bus and walking, unmolested, toward my building. To be fair, this sort of behavior is tame compared to what one sometimes experiences on the 14. I consider myself and the other passengers lucky.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

The few, the proud....

the North Americans working at Selfridge's in Oxford Street were a unique bunch. There were only a select few of us in the induction room, but we were, by far, the most talkative, sort of, 'go-getters' of the lot. When I say, 'go-getter', I really mean 'chatty Kathy-types'. The Selfridge founder was an American businessman by the name of Harry Gordon Selfridge, so I guess it only seemed right that I apply to work there. That and I had no other job prospects at the time.  

I recall the induction (what we here would probably call a 'training') as being more of an indoctrination and for almost 7 hours we were treated to information on how Selfridge's Co. became the money-making monolith it is today and how to keep it that way.  It sure fostered my commitment to the 'team' to learn that I, at six quid an hour, would be helping to ensure Selfridge's earns somewhere in the range of one billion pounds that financial year.  Ugh.

Interestingly, the induction leader failed to mention that HG Selfridge, after having lost his fortunes from both the crash of '29 and due to his free-spending ways, died in dire straits in 1947. 

Harry Gordon 'There's no fun like work'. Selfridge

During induction, I had been fortunate enough to sit next to a lovely man from Manchester who had just spent three years in Salt Lake City, Utah before moving to London for work. He and his American partner intended to move back to SLC as soon as they were able. Knowing a little bit about Utah, I would think that being out and proud in Salt Lake would not work too well. The Mancunian found Mormons to be 'very accepting' people. I sure hope he's right. And, he told me, that there are lots of gay Mormons dotting the landscape of Utah. Safety in numbers. 

Walking down to the employee locker rooms (where the wait-list for an employee locker was four months) after induction in a herd of other employees, I couldn't help but overhear the conversation of a few nattily dressed young men (presumably from the men's finery dept., or whatever it's called). One was telling the others of a particularly thick-headed customer that he had been dealing with during his shift. The employee telling the story slipped into an accent that could have passed for American. Then, by way of making an excuse for the customer's denseness, he went on to say that the guy was from the states. Yes, that explains it all doesn't it?

I like to think that I did ole Harry Gordon proud when I reached out, tapped this employee on the shoulder and said in my Californian best, 'Nice American accent!'  His friends fell out laughing while he mumbled something to the effect of: Oh, the shame!


I absolutely love this picture of Mimi. She looks stunning. She's there with her fiance--they had just gotten engaged--celebrating his 23rd birthday at San Francisco's Playboy Club. The 1960s were swinging and they were young and in love. 

Mimi is one of my mother's two long-term friends. She and my mom met working as telephone operators in San Francisco. 

When I was little, I remember mom driving up to the city for regular afternoon visits with Mimi and Sweetpea, her pet cat. Sweetpea, named after Popeye and Olive Oyl's little one, was a very mellow kitty and let me pet her. I 'played' with Sweetpea while mom and Mimi caught up on things.  

At some point in the 80s, Mimi and her hubby relocated to the wine country. Although I no longer saw much of Mimi, she would regularly send me a birthday card & book. I looked forward to the birthday books every year. Mimi steadily sent me books until I reached high school age. After that, she continued to send me cards. I treasured her contact & always made a point to respond with a thank-you note.

When Mimi's husband died five years ago, my mom called to share the sad news. I sent Mimi a condolence card. After moving back from Switzerland in 2015, I was living in a suburb where, incidentally, Mimi's sister-in-law lives. Mimi often came down to stay with her in-law, and during one of those visits we were able to meet up for a coffee. I hadn't seen Mimi in about thirty years. It was wonderful to see her, but strange as well. As a child, I had literally always looked up to her. This time, I was looking down at her. -such a strange shift in perspective. I felt I could scoop her up in my arms if need be. The things you don't forget about someone were still there: same voice, same stunning blue eyes, same humor. We chatted for over three hours. I guess that's just about one hour for every decade gone by. It was a tremendous visit. 

When we moved to our current place two years ago, I invited Mimi to our housewarming. Long-term friends and family had been invited as well as a cast of newer acquaintances. Unfortunately, Mimi had fallen ill at the last minute and couldn't make it. I sent her a get-well card and filled her in on who all had been here and what folk were up to these days. Last year, I had another soiree at the house and again invited Mimi. She again fell ill and couldn't make it. I sent her another get-well card. 

I had lunch with my mom a couple of weeks ago. She told me that Mimi had just gotten over a bout of pnenumonia. I sent Mimi a greeting card letting her know that I was thinking of her and glad she was on the mend.

My mother rang me today to let me know that Mimi had died in her sleep last night. I certainly wish I could have seen her one last time, but I am glad that she did not suffer. And I will very much miss our correspondence.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Inside-your-head voice.

Recently, I was at the local upscale market buying yet another piece of a really rezent Alpcheese they've had in stock for the past month. It's really lovely, and, for us Americans, really nicely priced. The CH cheeses we usually see here tend to be both fairly uniform and super costly. I'd say the norm for such cheese is anywhere between $25.00 and $30.00 per pound. This particular market was selling, in my opinion, its finest CH cheese for about 12 bucks a pound. To be honest, I think that they must've received some freebie wheel o' cheese and just priced it at whatever to get it off the shelf quickly. Well, it worked. I've been buying it up something fierce. They other day I went in and noticed that all of the smaller wrapped portions had sold & a half wheel sat on display (just waiting for me).  I asked at the deli counter if they could cut off a portion. As the young woman was slicing the cheese, she said to her colleague, a man standing directly opposite me, 'EWW, THIS CHEESE STINKS!'  What a class act. 

I am inspired to share an older post from when I first moved to Manhattan some years ago. Apparently, staff training is lacking on both coasts. Ha.

From January 2011---

Keep it to yourself....


So, I've been knocked out by a really horrible cold for the past two days. Today, I've finally found enough energy to shower, get dressed, and go the local supermarket to buy some much needed food. Not that doing any of this has been easy. Just the act of putting on clothes and blow-drying my hair made the back of my neck sweat. And, it doesn't help that we're on some sort of "blizzard alert" today. It's been snowing for the past five hours, and I'm waiting for cars to "go missing" under piles of white.

Armed with shopping bag, wallet, and, in case I get lost in the snow, cell phone, I make my way to the nearest, but certainly not best, store. When I moved here last December, I couldn't pronounce the name of this place. It's spelled, G-R-I-S-T-E-D-E-S, and I thought it was called, "Gristeeds." I soon learned, as any local will tell you, that people here call it, "Gris-tee-dees." Three syllables that are synonymous with overpriced product and crap service. Not just crap service, like you find at many other markets, but, like, workers-being-extremely-thoughtless service. Maybe it's just another NY thing that I don't understand.

After using all of my energy going up and down all the aisles trying to find fixings for chicken noodle soup--since I hate shopping here and try to come as infrequently as possible, I never remember where shit is--and some other food staples, I make my way to one of two checkers open. I soon see and hear that they are having what should be a private conversation with each other above the heads of the customers whom they're helping. Their talk is loud and off-putting. The chick who's scanning my food, at one point, picks up the sausages that I'd remembered to buy for the boyfriend and says to her co-worker across the aisle, "Uhhhh, don't these look like intestines? Gross!" I'm thinking: That's my food, bitch. But wanting not to cause a small scene by saying anything, I keep a thin smile on my face as I pay for the food and get the hell out of there. Sometimes, I find, it's best to keep one's mouth shut and just get on with it, and, really, the checkers at Gristedes should do the same.