Monday, October 23, 2017

German Club--small world

Kinda kooky, but I actually had a woman at my German group this month whose children I had gone to school with back in the 70s & 80s!

She hadn't signed up on the online list, so I wasn't expecting her at the Treff. She had come as the guest of a new group member. They were 'early birds' to the event, so I didn't spot them right away. It was only when I began assembling tables for our pow-wow that they waved me over to their spot in the corner, and asked if I were from the German group. Klar doch!

We got straight to chatting and I quickly found out that the woman, originally from East Germany, came over in '61. She fled East Germany on her own. I think, though, that she'd already met her husband before leaving the DDR. How exactly, I didn't quite catch. They married here in America, I'm fairly sure. Her husband was what was then called a Displaced Person, or DP, from Silesia, now Poland. The woman couldn't remember if she had left the DDR before or after the Wall had been built. I should think it must have been before as it was almost impossible to leave East Berlin after the Wall had been erected. I asked her if her children were around my age. Then I asked after her family name. As soon as she said it, I knew immediately who her kids were. They grew up up the street from me. We were all close in age, but not so close that we ever shared a class together. I recall having walked with her daughter to school occasionally. Her kids seemed really clever, and, I now know why, a little bit different. And I don't mean that in a bad way. They just seemed more reserved than the rest of us kids in the neighborhood. Given their parents' personal histories, I could see why that might have been.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Wildfires & a walk

A woman and her pony evacuate from Napa, California.

When you have to evacuate & your 'house pet' luckily fits into the back of the car. :)

The fires up north have not yet been fully contained. Rain is forecasted for the end of the week, but it won't be much & it won't be widespread. Over 40 people are reported dead, over 220k acres of land burned & over 6,000 building destroyed.

There are new reports of wildfires ignited in Santa Cruz, about 60 miles south along the coast. The fires there are less virulent than those up north. Small consolation to those living there, to be sure.

It turns out my co-worker's beau hasn't been up north fighting fires as he'd claimed. He's been holed up in his flat doing drugs. Oopsie. What a weird-ass lie to tell your partner. Was this his way of letting her know he's not a suitable partner or father to their soon-to-be-born child? I feel for her.

It was unseasonably warm the other night. I took a walk along the beach. There were a lot of us beachcombers out sans jackets, sans shoes walking along the strand line.

It was nearing sunset when I made my way to the bus stop. --took this shot before departing.

Ocean Beach

I rode the bus up to 9th Ave. & got off near the DeYoung Museum in Golden Gate Park. They've a permanent Keith Haring scupture out front. When I think of Haring I think of the AIDS epidemic & Silence=Death & all that. But looking at this piece makes me feel a bit happy.

Walking past the Haring piece en route to another bus stop, the sky turns dusky. I'm standing at the bus shelter & this is the view---

DeYoung Museum & Palm Trees

Friday, October 13, 2017

Asking for it?

Reading first-hand accounts by women who were preyed upon by Weinstein has sparked some memories of my own.

I have never had a massive dude bar my exit from a room while jerking off into a potted plant, but I have had strangers jerk off in my general direction. This always happened out-of-doors & I could always get away. Once, when I was 30, it even happened while I was jogging around a lake. Dude was in the bushes going at it & I happened to glance toward the sound of him. He looked oddly possessed, half-dressed with his dick in his hand. It was freaky. I kept running, my face betraying none of the disgust & anger I felt. -figured that he was looking for some sort of outburst, so I denied him that.

Some not-so-fond memories--

Wearing a bathsuit at the pool. 'You don't look fourteen!', say adult men, poolside, staring at my chest. I felt like crawling into a hole & disappearing.

A bespectacled, newly hired manager called Tucker Nunn kisses me on the cheek after a short chat about work. The restaurant isn't yet open & no one else is around. I am 17 & this is my first real job. The kiss was unexpected, felt icky & I certainly wasn't 'asking for it'.  Later on, I tell a trusted male manager what happened. The next day, a red-faced Tucker comes marching up to me as says, 'How dare you go behind my back and tell the other bosses!' Um, so it was my fault?

I'm 18 & working in a retail shop. A co-worker spends most of our shared shifts following me around the clothing racks, trying to get me to go out with him & trying to touch me. I say 'no' a gazillion times. He might be deaf cos he keeps on with it. I eventually tell my female boss. The guy is shit-canned for that & basically doing dick-all while at work.

Two years later, I'm traveling through Germany with a couple of friends. We're in Berlin. It's just after the fall of the Berlin Wall. I remember hardly anything from the trip aside from visiting a club called Klo (slang for 'toilet' in German) & taking a taxi ride. We put our luggage in the trunk--turns out to be a mistake--and are driven to the train station. At some point during the cab trip, the driver turns to me, saying something, and puts his hand on my knee. I shrug his hand away. He does it again, I remove his hand a second time. I am glad to not be alone with him in the car & wonder how much bolder he would have been had I been a solo passenger. There's further negotiation with him at the train station. He won't release our bags from the trunk until we pay him more money than he's owed. We give him the extra Marks, get our bags & beat feet.

I have a job at an ice-cream parlor. The owner, Jesse, grabs my boob. It's Halloween & the staff have been encouraged to dress up. My co-worker is a black cat & I am a peasant. The costume is a bit drab and the furthest thing from sexy, not like it should matter. My bosom, never very ample to begin with, is only slightly amplified by the sort of no-frills corduroy bustier I am wearing. I guess this is why Jesse suddenly grabs my boob like it's an old-timey car horn. 'Eee-oooh!' The squeeze hurts my chest. I register upset. Jesse says, 'I thought they were fake!' (Really? If I were to have stuffed my bra, then why would I have stuffed it to such an unremarkable size?) I suppose my boss could have just asked. Or better yet, stayed schtum & kept his grubby paws to himself.

Tit grabs, crotch grabs, butt grabs. There's been a lot of that sort of thing since puberty hit, but none since turning 45. Attention from men, both good and bad, seems to fall off a cliff when we women hit a certain age. Peri-menopausal years are a bit like donning a cloak of invisibility. If it spares me having to see one more furious masterbator in the park, then I guess I'm good with it.

Fire update

Me, working outside & trying to protect myself against smoke inhalation.

When huge swaths of Santa Rosa's residential neighborhoods burned up in the fires, I thought about Charles Schulz, longtime resident of the city. I actually thought about the ice rink in Santa Rosa Schulz once owned bearing Snoopy's name. Will it survive unharmed?

What I didn't stop to think about was Schulz's family home where his widow recently had to escape from before it became engulfed in flames.

Snoopy's Ice Home

From what I understand, most of Schultz's treasured memoribilia & original artwork are housed in the Charles Schultz Museum in a part of town that escaped harm's way. However, what a terrible shame that she, along with thousands of other residents, have been displaced. 

Given the capriciousness of the wind and the extremely dry weather conditions in No. California, fire containment is still a long way off. Since Sunday, the fires have claimed more than 31 lives, destroyed more than 3500 structures and ravaged over 190,000 acres of land. Hundreds of folks' whereabouts are still unaccounted for. 

My aunt, living in the town of Sonoma, evacuated from her home two days ago. A friend's boyfriend, deployed by an organization called Cal Fire, has been fire fighting up north since Monday. He checks in with her by phone daily, but I can tell she's on edge. They've a baby on the way & she wants him home in one piece. 

The smoke continues to filter down south. The haze and smell of smoke are constant. -a very sad reminder of what's happening not very far away. 

Smoky sky at dusk.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Nuts for German

We had a lovely, older client the other day who had a lovely, older Schnauzer. The dog was nearly 15 years old & spent almost the entire time napping in her doggie bed while we cleaned. The woman referred to her dog as 'meed-chin'. Well, that's what the name sounded like to me. I thought it was an interesting name & was about to ask her how she came about it, but then read the doggie bowl, door matt, and dog collar. The dog is actually called Mädchen (or Maedchen, for those of us who don't have an umlaut on the keyboard).

I said aloud to no one in particular, Oh! Mädchen! Spoken aloud, Mädchen doesn't sound like 'meed-chin', to be honest, but I wasn't going to correct this woman's pronunciation. It's her dog, her dog's name & that's that.

I did, however, go Deutsch Lehrerin on her (and then felt stupid for doing so) after the woman told me, 'It means 'little girl' in German.' I said, 'It just means 'girl', actually.'  Then, as I said, I felt stupid. She didn't have us over for a German lesson. She had us over to clean. Technically, you could say that the woman was sort of right. Literally, the word means 'little maid' & its origins date back to the 15th century, I think. In today's parlance, it just means 'girl'.

I have been taking German courses, on and off, for over 25 years. I began learning the language when I was 20 (you do the mathematics).

Needless to say, I dig the language. I also speak German fairly fluently. My accent isn't pegged as 'American' & most people think I'm a native Dutch speaker when I'm speaking German. I'll take that as a compliment, quite frankly. It also means that most folk don't switch into English when I'm conversing with them which further aids in my being able to practice the language. I have some friends whose German is regularly met with English, and they are the worse for it, language-wise.

Recently, I did have someone ask me for German help & I was very happy to oblige. A friend was preparing for his roles both as Emcee & border guard in a local production of Cabaret. He wanted to make sure he was correctly pronouncing the few bits of German dialogue he had. He sent me the page of dialogue with the German. The text did not contain any notes regarding the umlaut vowels. On the page, an 'a' looked like an 'ä', and that doesn't fly. German 'nut' that I am, I sent him this:

A couple of things: 

Remember the ABCs in German for Adam*? After the regular alphabet are the umlaut-vowels: ä, ü, ö.

Your lines feature the ä & ö.

The ä almost sounds like a ‘long a’ in English, not quite but between a ‘long a’ & the ‘e’ in ‘meh’.

You ask for Cliff’s and Ernst’s passports (plural). Then you ask for Ernst’s passport (singular) once Cliff has shown you his without a fuss.

Passport is ‘Pass’ in German. Passports is ‘Pässe’ in German. Pass is spoken with an ‘ah’ sound. As in when the paediatrician used to say ‘open wide’ and we’d say ‘ahhhhh’. Pässe is spoken with the combo ‘long a’ and ‘meh’ sound. (Ask John**to demo this!)

With respect to the ö, I think it’s harder to describe, given that English doesn’t possess this sound at all. I do think, however, that French*** uses an equivalent sound. I could try and send you a voice mail making the ö sound, if that would help.


Officer: Deutsche Grenzkontrolle (German border control). Ihre Pässe, bitte. (Your passports, please).
English, English, English....

Officer: Ihren Pass, bitte (Your passport, please).
Sie waren geschäftlich in Paris? (You were in Paris on business?)

Ernst: Nein. Auf einer Urlaubsreise (No. On holiday).

Officer: Bitte, öffnen Sie ihren Koffer (Please, open your suitcase). The ‘o’ in Koffer sounds a bit like the ‘o’ in the name of former UN head Kofi Annan.

Officer: Haben Sie nur diesen einen Koffer? (Do you just have the/this one suitcase?) Certainly, by inserting the word ‘einen’ (meaning ‘one’) in the question you’re placing emphasis on the fact that you’re scrutinizing the fact that Ernst has just one suitcase (or does he?).

I went to see Cabaret & noticed that not only did my friend not take on board any of my pronounciation advice (doubt he'd even read the above note I sent him), but also that the passport control officer's dialogue had been reconfigured to exclude the German word for 'passports'. Still, as Emcee, my pal did a wonderful job!

*I drew an ABCs auf Deutsch sheet for his son, Adam.
**His husband, John, speaks some German.
***My actor friend speaks some French.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017


Multiple wild fires have destroyed more than 100,000 acres in Napa, Sonoma & Yuba counties in No. California.

The fires began Sunday night. We could smell smoke down here in San Francisco, some 50 miles away. The smoke smell was so strong that I thought a neighbor's house had caught fire. It's now Wednesday and it still smells like 'fireplace' in my flat. 

These 'before and after' images show a suburban neighborhood in the city of Santa Rosa called Coffey Park. There's nothing left. 

Friends and family living in the affected areas are, knock wood, all right. No one I know has had to evacuate yet. Fortunately, the winds have died down & fires are being contained. 

At least one hospital in was successfully evacuated of its patients. I can't imagine how emergency crews were able to pull that off, but they did. 

An aerial image of the Waldo Canyon fire--

It's been reported that there were 15 such fires burning at once. Fire fighters from various counties have been needed to help contain the multiple blazes. 

I've read that So. California is dealing with its own wildfires currently as well. Our governor has declared a state of emergency in the affected areas. The president, presently concerned with whether or not sports figures are standing for the national anthem, has yet to address the situation. 

Friday, October 6, 2017

Sharp Park

I got off work a bit early yesterday and decided to drive the scenic route home up Highway One. It was a beautiful day. October in the Bay Area is lovely. -little fog, blue skies, mild to warm temperatures, and low humidity. I made a pit stop at a supermarket in my hometown of Pacifica, then drove to the beach in Sharp Park, one of about ten districts that make up the city.

When I was a kid, Sharp Park was known as the 'stinky' part of town because that was where the wastewater treatment plant, what we locals simply referred to as the 'sewage plant', was located. The treatment facility was just across the street from the beach in a residential neighborhood. Unable to contain its odorous output, on certain days of the week most of Sharp Park simply stank.

It's been at least 5 or 6 years since the wastewater treatment facility closed (couldn't find actual closure date), moving its operation elsewhere, but I still expect Sharp Park to smell everytime I visit. I am surprised that it doesn't, and, of course, glad. The old sewage plant was built in the style of what I might call 'California Mission' & its grounds took up one square block. I know that there has been talk to relocate the rather cosy Sharp Park library to this site, but nothing has yet come to pass. Behind the still-standing office building, what looks like a quarry/building site is fenced off to passersby.

Semi-permanent building site.

The old treatment structure collecting dust.

This is the beach at Sharp Park. These views are to be found directly across the street from the old treatment plant. I can imagine that the city is desperate for some mixed-use, tourist-friendly buildings to be erected on the old sewage plant site. The added revenue from a hotel, shops and what-not certainly couldn't hurt Pacifica's coffers.

There has already been a recent spate of posh condominums going up in Sharp Park near the ocean. They stand in sharp contrast to the sand-worn apartment complexes and wee wooden bungalows that still dominate the area.

Old Sharp Park

New Sharp Park

These condos don't appear to be lived in yet, but I assume they are already sold. I saw no signage to the contrary. Guess where they were built? Just across the street from the derelict sewage plant---

Nice view?

I'm glad that Sharp Park has outgrown its unappetizing reputation, but I wonder what the fresh, ocean air might bring to this area. I'd wager more 'grand designs' and Porsche SUVs are to come. And won't that, too, be 'stinky', but in a different way?

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