Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Back in the NYC

You know how happy you feel when you give a gift to someone and the person uses it? A few days ago, my daughter took an old Snuggie and a pilled fleece blanket from our cupboard and draped them over a homeless man sleeping on our block. Now when I walk by him, I get double happiness from seeing him using them and knowing that my daughter was the donor.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

One more thing to worry about

 Posted to a tree on Polk St.:
                  "Aerial Spraying in San Francisco
   "I am a resident in the lower Russian Hill Neighborhood.

   "For four months, I have been recording aerial spraying above our neighborhood and the entire city of San Francisco. Unmarked, jet planes put down grids, X's, parallel lines, and recently, someone sent me a photo where they recorded small circles sprayed above the lower Polk Street area. This photo was taken last week, January 12, 2012 around 1:00 P.M.

   "Since discovering the spraying, I have been paying close attention to our sky. I have found that we are being sprayed almost everyday in some manner. Sometimes the spraying is heavier and more obvious, other times the spray is not as thick and spreads out into a haze which stays above our heads, at times, all day.

   "I contacted our local officials with my photos of grids in our neighborhood four months ago. At first, they tried explaining these away as contrails, but once I sent them the obvious photos, they did not speak with me at all for several weeks. Now they are realizing they cannot hide this.

   "We need to ask our officials what they are spraying us with. I have spoken with some of our neighbors who state this has been going on for years, but they say over the past year the spraying has become very aggressive, as you can see in this photo from last week.


   "I hope we can discover the reason for this blatant infringement on our rights as citizens. Most importantly, I hope we can stop this spraying until we know what its purpose is, what is in the aerosol and how we can protect ourselves on spray days."

Elderly parents, elderly food

Here’s a conundrum: If you’re making a great quantity of, say, tamale pie so you can freeze some for your elderly parents to defrost and dine on after you’ve departed, how do you gauge its freshness if one of the ingredients is way past its sell-by date?

Most of the ingredients are canned, like tomatoes, or staples, like cornmeal (though I’m pretty sure the 10-year-old stuff I’m using has lost any nutritional value even if it’s not actually dangerous). But the recipe requires ground meat. So my dad and I plunged into the deep freeze and surfaced with a package that had a 2010 sell-by date. “That’s the sell-by date, not the use-by date” my dad said, overriding my objections. O.K., but then what’s the use-by date for the completed dish?

That deep freeze is really a cryo-crypt. I’m pretty sure there are chunks of animals in there that date back to the last ice age. And there’s probably a portion or two of a previous tamale pie from the ‘50s.

Monday, January 16, 2012

In the closet

So I’m in SF visiting my parents, and my daughter C is at home in New York on winter break. I got a panicked call tonight: “Mom, everyone else goes into their mother’s closet to find something to wear for their first job interview. But when I went into your closet, all I could find were a bunch of long velvet skirts. What am I going to do?” And I know exactly how she feels. I’ve looked in my closet too and wondered how on earth I was going to find something to actually wear in there. So I just give up and put on a T-shirt and a pair of jeans again. I don't know what I'd do in her shoes. Or in my shoes for that matter.

Walking in the Marina

$#*! My Dad Says

My dad sums up the wisdom of trickle-down economics: If you want the sparrows to eat, you have to feed the horses.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Home truths

Charles Stringham, in A Buyer’s Market: “Parents … are sometimes a bit of a disappointment to their children. They don’t fulfill the promise of their early years.”

Saturday, January 7, 2012


As soon as I saw the title in the Times, I knew I was going to get really irritated not just with the article but with the inevitable I-told-you-so’s from those who read it. The title: “How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body: Popped ribs, brain injuries, blinding pain. Are the healing rewards worth the risks?”


The problem is that many practitioners can’t resist the urge to go for the max. I know firsthand. I’m one of those maxers, and I’ve suffered injuries that have chagrined me and changed my practice. I have to constantly remind myself to focus on the journey, not the destination. 

But yoga is not all about the mat. The mat’s my favorite part, but it’s really a trivial element in the overall philosophy of yoga, and it’s beneficial only if it’s approached with the other aspects well in mind.

As with any physical undertaking, yoga asanas have their risks. But the risks of doing nothing are far greater.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

A dog's life

"I have measured out my life with coffee spoons." —T.S. Eliot ("The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock")

As Other nears retirement, he has begun to measure his remaining years not in coffee spoons but in concrete terms nonetheless. When we replace our 25-year-old deck next year, for instance, it will be our last, he points out. We have one and a half cats to go (if you measure a cat's life as 15 years and count them end to end). Or a couple of dogs (at 10 years apiece). Or four overcoats (five years each). Or 10 health-club memberships (two years).

For the birds

So many things about my daughter’s life seem unfamiliar. But sometimes a fad arises like a phoenix straight out of my own youth. The latest: dry shampoo.

It took a good deal of effort and time to stretch my kinky hair over orange-juice cans or wrap it around my head with clippies, then cook it smooth under a hooded dryer. To space out the ordeal by a day or so, on the third day I would sprinkle my roots with baby powder, let it absorb the oil, then brush it through. The final effect was a little gross: the fragrance of dirty hair and baby powder, the dusty look of fine dandruff. But it kind of worked at controlling the exuberant oiliness of adolescence.

My daughter’s standards are far higher than mine ever were, so even though contemporary tools are more sophisticated—high-tech unguents, professional straightening irons, specialized brushes—the process still eats up time. So she’s tried corn starch, baby powder and, now, a commercial line of dry shampoos. 

But here’s the thing: the notion of dry shampooing has been around for centuries, but it always get abandoned, because it doesn’t do the job as well as the real thing. Unless of course you’re a bird.