Wednesday, May 29, 2013

I have a new piece up on Haighteration, a backyard profile. It's the fourth in a series I've done over the last year, soliciting neighbors with nice gardens to let me photograph and wrote about them. This was the first time I've profiled someone who wasn't an acquaintance, and it was a cool way to get to know a neighbor. Plus the backyard was real purty.

Check the comments! They are (as of this writing) all positive! There are miracles on the internets.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Going solo

Traveling alone is a special thing. It can be lonely, and boring, and frustrating, but often it's transcendent - it lifts you out of yourself and plops you right down where you are with an immediacy you don't get when you're worried about whether your travel companions are happy or tired or have sore feet. You wander on your own time, indulge your time in a way that simply can't happen when you're in your normal environs, whether in terms of geography or company.

This article gets it very right, in a slightly over the top way. I love this paragraph:
I want to think new things on holiday and the best way to do that is to go it alone, allowing yourself a space — a beautiful space, with any luck — that is circumscribed neither by your need to perform nor your need to blame. Get up when you like. Skip as many museums as you like. Eat or don’t eat. Dance or don’t dance. Swim far out if you want to. Drink Champagne at breakfast. Write a paragraph if you have one to write. Say nothing for days and dream of home. Keep the light on all night.
One of my favorite things to do is to fall asleep with the light on, still fully clothed. It feels deliciously transgressive,  a mini holiday. A few years ago Mike surprised me with a trip to wine country for my birthday, and after we checked into our hotel after a full day of tippling and a big dinner, I fell right asleep. Slightly sunburnt, slightly drunk, completely happy. Every once in a while I would wake up in the big hotel bed under the cool white sheets and ask Mike if I had to get ready for bed yet. He was reading, and I think was more amused by me going to sleep at 9 p.m. on my birthday than anything else. Nope, I didn't have to get ready for bed yet, not if I didn't want to. So I would go back to sleep with a delicious feeling of freedom and happiness, like a snow day and an unopened present wrapped in one. 

That's the feeling I get when I travel alone. I can wander and wander until I find the exact perfect restaurant for my mood, I can have wine with lunch, I can move on to the next city whenever I like. I've taken some wonderful trips lately, with wonderful company, but I'll always be glad for the times I find myself someplace new all alone.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

What it's about

Today I head to New York for a week, for business and pleasure. I'm looking forward to seeing friends and family, but there's always a day or two before a trip where I look around wistfully at my life and don't want to disrupt it. I mean, my friends are going hiking this weekend to a lake with a rope swing, and I'm going to miss it!

Leavetaking pain is nicely poignant, though, especially when I think about what I've been up to for the last couple of weeks. They haven't felt busy, exactly, but we've definitely gotten our kicks. Summer is here, in its own Bay Area form. I'm soaking it up before the fog rolls in.

A few weeks ago a friend was in town from Chicago, and we met in Dolores Park for cocktails. I brought homemade margaritas, which were super tart from the fresh squeezed lime juice. We topped them with some cava and boom, perfect. We wound up back at my place to grill some sausages and eat ice cream. Perfect Friday.
The next day Mike and I made a quick day trip up to Sonoma for a birthday party. It was held at an activist-owned retreat center called Black Mountain, on a hill just outside of Guerneville, and I'm in love. There's a big house with five bedrooms, a separate building with more bedrooms, a big kitchen/living room, a covered patio, a pool, a hot tub, a grape arbor, and a lawn with a stage and a zipline. All of my favorite things in one place.
After Black Mountain, Mike dropped me at a bachelorette in the Berkeley Hills. We stayed at a crazy house - thanks to AirBnb - and went out dancing. My favorite party about lesbian dance nights? You can just use the men's room. And find a working payphone, apparently.

Back at the house late at night, the bachelorette (also, conveniently, a filmmaker) staged a facefirst fall into the pool a la Sean Penn's character in Hurly Burly, which was filmed at the house.
The next weekend was a Wellesley ladies outing to a live performance of Hedwig and the Angry Inch. I thought it would be like The Rocky Horror Picture Show - singing, lots of draggy makeup - but I had no idea what I was getting into. There was pouring of whiskey into audience members' mouths, table dancing, nudity, etc etc. Loved it.
The next day we headed back to Sonoma to visit our friends and their new company, Spirit Works Distillery. The distillery space itself is impressive, with a gorgeous copper still and an office that has the sound graph of a gin and tonic painted on the wall.
They're close to being ready to ship their first pallet of bottles, and I can't wait to start drinking their gin at bars. It's tasty stuff. As you might expect, we got into the liquor cabinet that night. 
A few days later I helped host a mini reunion for my college class. We went with the Tonga Room, a tiki bar, to keep things interesting. I bought some leis for everyone to wear and had the college logo made into temporary tattoos. They came out rad, and now I want temporary tattoos for every occasion. Tramp stamps for everyone!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

A week and a half ago a guy I grew up with passed away. He took his own life. I found out a few days later, via a mutual friend over email, as is the custom. And, also as is the custom, I can't stop thinking about him. His name was Mike, and he was very smart, and very nice, and also very handsome. I'm not going to lie, the latter is really sticking with me. The photos of him that have been posted are just too poignant. I mean, he was dreamy.

At the risk of getting lost on caveat lane, I do want to say that I don't think it's any less sad or terrible when someone not handsome, not nice, and not smart passes away, let alone takes their own life. In the search for a reason, though - a reason that is sorely lacking when you haven't talked to someone since high school - it's that much more baffling when the person seems to have had a great life. Mike had a girlfriend, as far as I can tell from Facebook. In a lot of photos there's a dog, a black lab. I know he had good friends, because I kept in touch with some of them. I know he had a good job, because I have been Googling. And I know how depression is, because I have been close to it. But still. But still.

Mike played the Beast in our sixth grade performance of Beauty and the Beast. My best friend Stef played Belle; I played a plate (the head plate, I was told, but I later learned that was just because I was the tallest). Later, when we were in high school, I thought about getting my pilot's license. Mike, who later wound up at Embry-Riddle, an aeronautics college, encouraged me. He convinced me it was the best thing I could do. My parents disagreed, and I lost that battle. But over the last week and a half I haven't been able to stop thinking about the teenage boy who checked in with a classmate in the halls on a dream, who handed her pamphlets and told her she could do it, that she'd love being on the wing. It was a much greater show of care and energy than was seemly at the time, and I can't shake it now.

From what I've pieced together, Mike did not become a pilot, as he had wanted in high school, but went into the Marines. He did a long tour of duty in Iraq, where he continued to be nicer than was even close to required. He came home and got what to me appears to have been a fancy job in DC. His girlfriend (again based on Facebook stalking) clearly adored him, and he her. When she changed her profile picture a few days after he died to a photo of him kissing her, someone commented, "Who is that movie star smooching you?" Enough people changed their photos last week to pictures of him that I thought he had gotten married, until I got the news.

I know this is how life goes sometimes. We get older, life gets complex, sadder in many ways, and people pass away. This one rankles though. It really does.

Memory lane

Flickr has opened up the photo archives of its users, so I can now go back and look at everything I posted back to 2005. Damn, we were BABIES.

This one is from 7 years ago; I was 22 and Mike was 28.
And another oldie-goodie. Plus ├ža change...

Monday, May 20, 2013

New post up on Haighteration

I wrote a piece for Haighteration, my neighborhood's blog, that was posted last week. It took me AGES to write because for the first time I recorded an interview instead of taking written notes, and it turns out I hate the sound of my voice enough to avoid transcribing it for months. I'm happy with how the interview turned out, though, and it's getting some nice feedback in the Haighteration comments. Check it out here

A dinner party and a sunburn

On Friday we hosted a small dinner to welcome Caitlin to San Francisco. She starts a fancy new job today. Yay, Caitlin!

The only pictures I took are blurry, a testament to the strength of the cocktails. (I made a big jar o'cocktail with St. George's gin, soda water, simple syrup, rosemary and cucumber. After dinner I added Campari and called it a digestif.) See?
I wanted to share the menu despite my lack of gorgeous food and tablescape photos because most of the dishes were delightful. I've gotten pretty good at prepping my ingredients over the few days before a party so that the day-of isn't insane, but I'm still working out some kinks on actually prepping my house for guests. I bought a few strings of pretty lights that I had plans to hang, but handing early arrivals a hammer, some nails and minimal instruction is a recipe for broken glass, it turns out.

The company couldn't have been better - it's nice to remember where the phrase "busting a gut" comes from every once in a while - and I think we sent Caitlin off to work with some good juju behind her.

Hors d'oeuvres:

Appetizer:

Dinner:

Dessert:
  • lemon olive oil cake (inspired by this one) with fresh whipped cream

The weekend also included a readthrough of a friend's screenplay in the park, a housewarming bbq, and an A's game. I am all kinds of sunburnt, but it was worth it.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Cappadocia

Welcome to post #2 in my dispatches from our April trip to Turkey. Post #1, on Istanbul, is here (or, you know, just scroll down). I'm rolling these out slowly, mostly because I really can't be snarky or wry about this trip, and I'm disgusted by my own use of "wonderful" and "divine". Hyperbole does not become me, but such is the price I'm paying for having my mind blow on this trip.

Cappadocia (cap-uh-dokey-yu, ish), a desert region in the center of Turkey, is wildly different from anywhere else I've been, or even seen in photos. Because of its geological makeup, it has a hundreds of thousands of caves, both natural and manmade, as well as alien-looking rock spires.
Face in the rock!
Cave church
Looking out at one cave church from inside another cave church
You guessed it: cave church
Mike in a...fill in the blank
Don't think we didn't giggle at these "fairy chimneys"

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Oh, Istanbul

I miss Turkey, guys. I was ready for my home and cats and bed when we left, but now I would give so many lira to be able to pop into a cafe in Istanbul for a bottle of Bomonti and some people watching. Istanbul is exciting and amazing and stunning, and its people watching equals its sights. For those not in the know, i.e. me before we went, the city sits between three bodies of water: the Bosphorus halves it into European and Asian sides (it straddles two continents!), the Golden Horn (a Bosphorous inlet) divides the European side into north and south, and the Sea of Marmara hugs its southern shores. Everywhere you look there is water, there are hills, and there are mosques. A sea of mosques, minarets bristling the skyline. I got used to the minarets, but not the calls to prayer, at least not the pre-dawn ones, and especially not when multiple mosques would have the muezzin version of rap battles.

A quick note: this post is long, and made longer by all the photos. Where possible I made them large, because I think Istanbul deserves to be shown in high res. That said, all photos were taken with my phone - I haven't even begun to tackle the photos on my camera. Anything that I didn't Instagram is higher res, and therefore larger. Think of it as inconsistency for consistency's sake.

Before we left I tried to gauge what it was going to be like traveling with my boyfriend and my parents for 10 days. It turned out to be lovely - there were more than a few times that I looked around the table after a good meal and thought how lucky I was to be on the other side of the world with three of the people I most enjoy talking to. The time passed quickly, too quickly. Like any vacation, it now seems a little like a dream. So, in an attempt to recapture it, I'm going to post a bit on what we did, what we saw, and (way more important to me than it probably should be) what we ate. First up: Istanbul.
The view from our rented apartment by Galata Tower
Our first days in Istanbul, we rented an apartment in the "new" city, new only in contrast to the southern half of the European side, Sultanahmet, which hosts more of the historical tourist sites. Our neighborhood, Beyoglu, is hip and secular, and is known more for its bars than its mosques. The area of Beyoglu that we stayed in, near Galata Tower and the very cool Tunel area, was packed with restaurants, cafes, nightclubs, boutiques, and people. People people people. The primary street that runs through Beyoglu is Istiklal Caddesi, a pedestrian thoroughfare that was shoulder-to-shoulder with bodies whether it was noon or two a.m. It didn't make for the speediest passage, but it was perfect for strolling. The shops on the main street were mostly chain stores, but the small alleys of Istiklal Caddesi were line with meyhanes (taverns), nargile (hookah) cafes, and every kind of bar you can think of. We found a bar blasting heavy metal, which made Mike very happy.

Folks in Istanbul were so, so nice. Helpful, friendly, knowledgeable, and funny, even when communicating mostly via hand gestures. Most people spoke English, but the quality of it varied, and my Turkish never really made it past thank you (tesekkur ederim, which sounded to me like tesh-eh-gooyah ed-er-em, in case you were wondering).

We were told that Istanbul is quite secular, and found that to be true, at least in the areas we were wandering. The call to prayer goes out five times a day (even with earplugs in it would wake me for a few minutes each morning) but people continue to go about their business. Men wore what men everywhere wear - jeans, tshirts, button downs - but women's clothing varied more widely. Wildly might be the word. We saw everything from women entirely covered up, to (much more common) women in headscarves with their face uncovered but wearing these belted shoe-length trenchcoats that were chic and modest at the same time. On the more secular end of the spectrum, women in headscarves wore regular street clothes, or even teensy little skirts and stripper heels (or stripper heels with the trenchcoat dresses, which tickled me), but always with skin colored pantyhose. Even when wearing jeans and flats. I thought it was a pretty clever workaround - giving the impression of showing skin even if you're not.

When we landed on Friday (after being delayed, of course) we convened with my parents and Caitlin at our rented apartment to toast the beginning of our vacation with gin and tonics, courtesy of the duty free, and crackers and cheese, courtesy of the Newark airport United lounge. We strolled to dinner, then got some sweet treats, and then headed to a very hip bar near our apartment that had Brooklyn Lager. It was also Mike's birthday!
Lokum - Turkish Delight
Not a bad way to ring in 35

Friday, May 3, 2013

Today is a good day. It is 8 a.m. and already in the high 70s, something that happens a dozen times or fewer in San Francisco each year. You can almost hear everyone sighing in contentment. A dear friend has just moved here, and may turn out to be my neighbor. I've figured out how to make one of my favorite drinks from Turkey. Not only that, but my sleep schedule post-Turkey is actually an improvement on my normal one; when the alarm goes off at 7, I can actually get out of bed with a little spring in my step, instead of my usually fuzzy slog to brush my teeth.

So, Turkey. Turkey was amazing. If you haven't thought about visiting before, add it to your list. If you've always wanted to go, get it done. We hit four places: Istanbul (city), Cappadocia (remote, insane rock formations), Ephesus (coastal Roman ruins) and Bodrum (beach party city). It was an aggressive plan for 10 days, but I'm glad we got to see it all. And I've already got a long list of what I want to see and do when we go back!

Istanbul
Cappadoccia (which is a region - we stayed in the town of Ortahisar)
Ephesus (the name of the ruined town - we stayed nearby in Selcuk)

Bodrum
More detail to come when I've pulled the photos off my camera and have rejoined normal life a bit more.