Monday, May 31, 2010

A Goodbye Tour

With our departure approaching fast, we loaded up the car this weekend for a whirlwind goodbye tour of some of our favorite places in California. We set out late Friday afternoon and drove up through Clear Lake, a down-at-the-heels community full of trailer parks, diners, RVs, and a huge, gorgeous lake, which always seems to us like a place you’d go if you were in the witness protection program—in the middle of nowhere, an easy place to disappear. Our destination was Ukiah, a small town we stumbled upon on one of our very first road trips three years ago. There isn’t much in Ukiah except a great restaurant, the Ukiah Brewing Company; a cute bakery; and a farmer’s market. But there’s something peaceful about the place, and School Street, the main shopping street, is full of cute shops. Dinner Friday night, breakfast at the bakery Saturday morning, and a stroll through the farmer’s market kicked off our weekend tour.

Next stop, Saturday afternoon: a market in Boonville for sandwiches, and then on to a picnic at John Hendy Woods, our favorite redwood grove. We’ve seen a lot of redwoods in California, but these are our favorites. Last time we were there, I was pregnant and just beginning to show; this time, Lucia was out in the world with us as we strolled, gazing up at the sun-dappled treetops and taking in the silence. (Silence, that is, until Lucia let out several raptor screeches during our picnic—she scared away the birds I was trying to photograph.)

Wine-tasting was next on our list, and we revisited two favorites: Husch, the winery we belong to; and Roederer, which produces primarily champagne. Strategically timed nursing—on a blanket in the grass outside Roederer, gazing at vineyards and blue sky and bright poppies—allowed me to have a few sips; and Andrew, caught up in the spirit of our goodbye tour, bought two bottles of Husch gewürztraminer and a bottle of Roederer champagne.

It was time to leave the Anderson Valley behind—reluctantly; but we had other places to see. Lucia snoozed in the car as we meandered to the coast, our sights set on Mendocino. What a beautiful little seaside town, perched on a cliff overlooking the jagged coastline; the gardens we saw were wild with flowers in bloom. We strolled for a while, had an early dinner at the Mendocino Hotel, and said our goodbyes to this place, too.

We could have lingered longer in the charming town, but we had other plans for Saturday night. Andrew had booked us a night at the Little River Inn, a gorgeous hotel outside the city that overlooks the ocean, with a fireplace in our room, stacks of wood outside our door, rocking chairs on the balcony—and an unobstructed view of the water. It was a splurge; but we realized that in our three years here we’d never slept somewhere with an ocean view. And it was well worth it. Andrew built a fire, we put Lucia to bed, and then we sat on the balcony for hours, watching the sunset and then listening to the crashing waves as we talked about the changes ahead and drank the champagne we’d bought earlier that day. It’s hard to get more California than that.

Sunday morning, we ate breakfast on the sand and dipped Lucia’s little feet in the icy Pacific. And then we were on our way again.

This portion of our goodbye tour took us to a new place—Healdsburg—where we had lunch and did a quick stroll before leaving the massive crowds behind and returning again to familiar territory in Santa Rosa. After checking into our hotel, and after failing to convince Lucia to nap, we took a drive (she conked out immediately) until it was time for our eagerly awaited dinner in Glen Ellen, at The Fig Café. We got there right as it opened, knowing our good-humored, just-napped baby had about an hour in her before we’d be forced to tag-team our eating. We shared a bowl of mussels; then Andrew had steak and I had roasted quail. We drank (part of) a bottle of Husch gewürztraminer. Lucia, though happy, was full of extremely loud screeches, so we opted out of dessert. (Back at the hotel, once she was asleep, Andrew brought us dessert from the hotel’s restaurant as we studied the calendar we’d brought with us from home, finally confronting the reality of this cross-country move. We have no firm dates yet. It all seems just a tiny bit impossible.)

Today—Monday—we had breakfast at an old favorite, the Omelet Express in Santa Rosa; had cookies and pastry from the Basque Café in the Sonoma plaza; and then made a visit to the Clarks in Napa. And then we headed home.

It was a wonderful weekend, a weekend full of reasons why we’ll—gasp!—be sad to leave. Wine—vineyards—the Pacific—lovely food—we have discovered, and become attached to, so much. But we also know that the rolling green hills we drove through will soon be burnt and dry; the breathtakingly gorgeous weather, perfect for picnicking and strolling, will soon give way to the Devil’s Breath, aka the “Delta breeze.” That all seemed very far away, however, during this goodbye tour, and we were quiet on the ride back to Roseville, tired, our heads full of all the things coming our way in the days and weeks ahead.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Friday Bits

What a strange in-between state we’re in: knowing we’re leaving, but having no idea when. We assume it will be by the end of June, but that’s pure speculation. There’s such a big move coming…but, for now, life goes on as usual.

I did do one immensely satisfying project in preparation for our upcoming downsizing: I bought a CD book, filled it with my CDs, and threw away all my CD cases. I may be the last person on earth to have done this, and I probably should have just thrown away the CDs, too, but at least now they’re contained and take up only a fraction of the shelf space they had before. It was, like wrapping coins, the sort of pointless organizational project that I love, and which I have far too little time for in these baby-days. A big move forces these projects to get done. Next up: going through my filing cabinet! I’m giddy with anticipation!

Last night, Lucia, uncharacteristically, woke up at 9:30, 2:30, 4:00, and, ultimately, 5:00. Andrew soothed her quickly back to sleep the first three times; and I fed her and brought her into bed with us the last time. When I lifted her from her crib at 5:00, I realized she was soaking wet—absolutely drenched—which is strange because she rarely has leaks anymore. But she was still sleepy so I just snugged her under our covers and we slept another hour. Only when she woke up and Andrew went to change her clothes did we realize what had happened: Andrew had forgotten to put a diaper on her last night. He was on his own for bedtime while I got my hair cut; and he just forgot. That explains her waking up! Poor baby. And poor Andrew. My head is spinning with moving-thoughts, and he has all that plus new-job thoughts as well.

Lucia has learned how to clap. She claps and claps with a big smile on her face, and sometimes pauses until I encourage her with still more boisterous cries of “YAYYYYY Lucia! Yayyyyyy!” I think she learned because I clap at everything she does. Good eating! Good picking up of your sphere! Good dropping of your block! Good everything! Cute good perfect baby!

Lucia and I had lunch with our friends Emily and baby Emma this week. The babies actually played together for a while—sitting cutely on a blanket. Then I saw Lucia reach over and grab a toy right out of Emma’s hands. To my slight alarm, she did this a couple of times. I always worry that in the future Lucia is going to be a quiet child, out of place among louder, more aggressive children, just as I was—but what if she’s the louder, more aggressive child? I’d never thought of that until I saw her make her entitled, unhesitating toy-grab. Maybe I’d better stop clapping for her so much.

We’re heading out this weekend for a three-day goodbye tour of some of our favorite places in California: Ukiah, Philo, possibly Mendocino, Glen Ellen, Sonoma, Napa. It’ll be our longest road trip yet with Lucia. It should be fun and sad. We know we’ll be back to California-places like San Francisco someday; but I think it’s unlikely we’ll get back to, say, Philo. The first of many goodbyes.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Wrapping Coins

So, we’re moving cross-country. There are plans to make, preparations to undertake, drawers and closets to purge, logistics to iron out. But all I really want to do is wrap coins.

Over the past few years, wrapping coins is what I’ve turned to during large, life-changing moves, when much messier, more complicated activities should warrant my attention. But wrapping coins is a way to tackle one small mess—a few mugs and canisters of loose change. Certainly, one can’t move loose change, can one? I’ve managed, along the way, to convince myself it’s among the most crucial parts of any move. It even made it onto my current, preliminary to-do list. Figure out where to live in NYC. Sell car. Wrap coins.

This move is different; for the first time, we’re being moved, which is both a better way and a somewhat unnerving way to go about it. We’re moving cross-country—but there’s absolutely nothing I can do to get ready for it, at least not right now. Aside from wrapping coins, my instinct is to start packing boxes of books. But that will be in someone else’s hands. All the boxing and wrapping and packing that used to shape my moving preparations are officially off my plate. Which means I now have lots of time to think about the move—without any of the busy-making activities to do that would make me feel like I was preparing for it.

But I can, and will, wrap coins. I will go to the bank for wrappers. I will spill the coins onto a table, unflatten the tightly creased tubes, slide one coin, two, into the bottom, balancing them on a finger until the roll takes shape. Quarters, dimes, nickels, pennies. A separate jar for errant foreign currency and the odd Canadian penny. Then I will take the rolls to the bank and deposit them in our checking account. And then—oh bliss!—I will cross wrap coins off my to-do list, and wait to do whatever it is I’m going to do next to prepare for skipping town.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

We've Missed New York...Right?

“We’re getting to like it…but we miss New York.” I can’t count the number of times we’ve said this over the past three years to people who have asked us how we like California. It’s changed slightly over time—we’re more likely to say we actually do like it, now that we’ve made a place for ourselves in Roseville—but the last part, the missing New York part, has stayed the same. It’s something we’ve been saying to each other and ourselves and other people for the past five years, ever since we left to move to Barcelona.

But now that we’re going back—now that we’ve had almost three months to wrap our heads around what that might mean—I realize that although the phrase still may be true, its unspoken implications are not. All along, by saying we missed New York, we meant that we missed living there and hoped, even planned, to live there again. Now that we actually are going back, we’re excited—but our excitement is equaled by nervousness and, I think, even a bit of reluctance.

We’re happy to be going back East; but the idea of New York is daunting now that we have a baby. I love being able to stroll outside with her in my arms just to get some fresh air, and to sit with her on the porch in the afternoon. We transport her places in our suburban-sized stroller and travel fuss-free in one of our two suburban cars. It’s simply impossible to imagine navigating the subway with her, or not having any readily available outdoor space. Living here is easy, which is good, because it’s not always easy having a baby.

It’s not just the baby aspect that’s given us pause. We’ve gotten used to space—closets, large rooms, multiple bedrooms. We have enough furniture to fill three New York apartments, and a few items that won’t fit into any New York apartment, ever—like our wine barrel. We’ve gotten accustomed to buying big and keeping everything. And we’re at the point now where we’re not willing to sell all our stuff pre-move—we’ve done that twice in the past five years, starting over from zero each time, and we want to keep things now. But where is it all going to go?

Many of the things we loved about living in New York—restaurants, summer days in Central Park, Broadway shows, Shakespeare in the Park, browsing at the Strand, museums—simply won’t be part of our new with-baby life. Surely, other things will fill those spaces, things we aren’t even aware of yet. But I wonder how much of the “We miss New York” refrain referred not to the city itself (though we both genuinely love it) but to the life we had there five years ago--a total of seven city years for me, five for Andrew. I think of my lovely apartment, Andrew’s cozy studio, walks down 5th Avenue in Park Slope on Saturday afternoons, eating bagels on a bench on the Brooklyn Heights Promenade. Watching Andrew run the marathon. Walking to work over the Brooklyn Bridge during the transit strike. Riding to work every day on the 4 train, my feet aching in high heels as I stood, gripping the pole, in the crowd and seeing the skyline as the train approached Manhattan. Wearing high heels.

So much of this will be different now. We left New York unmarried and childless, almost completely unencumbered with anything except books, which we stored at our parents’ houses. We’re now married, baby-fied, and owners not only of books but also of major household appliances, two cars, two queen-sized beds, and, yes, a wine barrel.

Of course we’re happy about this turn our life has taken. But it may take us longer than we thought it would to truly feel like New Yorkers again.

Skipping Town Again

Brace yourselves. I’m going to say something that will take many of you by surprise. It took me by surprise, too, when it hit me:

I like it here.

I like our life here. I like having Andrew work just five minutes away from home. I like our house, our enormous house, with so many closets I have one just for empty boxes. I like being five minutes from Target. I like having a car—two cars. I like feeling for the first time in my life like we are in a settled family home.

Aside from the convenience, I do not like Roseville itself; but that convenience, and the low cost of living, count for a lot. I did not like Sacramento. However, I do like California. I like Tahoe and wine country and San Francisco. No, I love those places, and I love the experiences we’ve had there—discovering the Nob Hill Café; seeing Shakespeare by Lake Tahoe; tramping around Jack London State Park and having dinner at the Fig Café and sleeping at the Jack London Lodge. I love the winery we belong to; I love the members’ picnics we’ve gone to two years in a row. I love the Huntington Hotel on Nob Hill. I love the gorgeous, rugged coastline. I love the crab shack we’ve been to a few times in Bodega Bay. I love the blue sky and the fresh air and the redwoods—the redwoods! The redwoods at John Hendy Woods and Muir Woods and the ones in our yard.

I love the relentlessness with which we’ve gone about exploring California—driven first by our insane hatred of our first home here, Citrus Heights, and then by our curiosity and, finally, attachment to our favorite places. I love the fact that we are expert weekend-trippers—and are becoming decent weekend-trippers-with-baby, too.

I love our HMO, our landlord, our donut shop, our Trader Joe’s. I love our farmer’s market. The market! The flea- and farmer’s market. I love our backyard. Our fig tree. Our loquats. Our strawberries and lemons.

I say this now—nay, I realized all this now—because we are skipping town again. After almost three years on the West Coast, we’re moving back to New York City for Andrew’s new job. My heart is racing as I type this. I don’t know what to do, what to think, how to prepare, if preparation is possible.

Gentle readers, I’ve been keeping this from you for some time, and now I can finally write about it here. This all began in February, when Andrew first applied for the job. Then, about two months ago, Andrew heard he was jpotentially going to get an offer. (That kicked off a lengthy process of further interviews and applications that I won’t go into here.) When I heard the news that day in April, the only thing I could think to do was change Lucia into an I Heart NY onesie—which I did, promptly. I watched her that afternoon in her little onesie, bouncing in her doorway bouncer, completely unaware that her little life was About. To. Change.

I don’t know too many details yet; and I’ll write more soon. For now, all I know is this: we’re going home.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Friday Bits

Driving this week, I saw a white SUV with writing scrawled over its back window with white paint, or soap, or something. BOYCOTT ARIZONA, it said. I was surprised and pleased to see such a message. If I had any dealings with Arizona, I would certainly be severing them now. But the next part gave me pause: SUPPORT DRUG DEALERS, MURDERERS, AND CRIMINALS. What a strange invitation, I thought, and how strangely it contradicts the other imploration. Then I realized that this person was attempting a kind of cause and effect: “IF you boycott Arizona, THEN you’ll be supporting drug dealers, etc.” Why, pray tell, are right-wingers so terribly, terribly bad at grammar?

In line at a shop today, the woman behind us remarked on how cute Lucia was. “I miss that age. Mine’s a monster!” she said in a near-shout. “A monster!” “Well, she can be a monster at times,” I said with a smile, trying to follow the gracious-mama script. “Mine’s five, and he drives me nuts!” she said. Then she said it again: “Mine’s five, and he drives me nuts!” She spoke in a high-pitched, false-sounding voice that might have either been for Lucia’s benefit or her actual voice. I couldn’t tell. I inched further up in the line as the woman continued her strange cackling.

When I was at the check-out counter, the cashier spent a few moments extolling Lucia’s cuteness and trying her best to get Lucia to smile. Although Lucia almost constantly smiles at home—whole-face grins, crinkled eyes, the works—she is a quiet, serious, appraising baby in public, resistant to smiling even with the most strident of coaxing. She gave the cashier—bleach-blond highlights, too-tight t-shirt with bra visible underneath, long fake nails—a serious, nay, judging gaze. “What’s that look?” the cashier said suddenly, defensively, frowning at Lucia. “Oh, she’s just shy around strangers,” I murmured. Back outside, I told Lucia, as I always do, that she doesn’t have to smile at anyone she doesn’t want to.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

An Eternal Mess

I need a clone of me.

Lucia is a precious cherished baby whom I adore etc. etc. etc. But today was frustrating. I unwisely took on an additional freelance project, intensifying an already full workload for the next week and a half, and the lack of work time I have these days just seemed more pronounced today. Lucia got up much earlier than usual, setting her on a Fusskins path she never managed to snap out of; she took a good nap this morning, but a much-needed nap this afternoon—which was hard-fought—lasted for…twenty minutes. Another good nap later on helped, but not much.

An orderly person like me sometimes feels overwhelmed not only with the unfinished work hanging over my head but with the sheer chaos that is my house by the end of a typical day. Dishes are everywhere. The dishwasher may or may not be unloaded. Pans of tepid water from heating milk for cereal and for the bedtime bottle of breastmilk clutter the counters. Newspaper sections cover the table. Laundry, if there was time to do it, is either forgotten and soggy in the washer or loitering in the dryer, sometimes for days. Laundry that managed to get removed from the dryer is probably doing its time in a laundry basket somewhere. Junk mail is piled on the table. Lucia’s books cover the couch. There are bills to pay, trash to take out, plants to water, the flotsam of everyday life to be returned to its proper place.

I don’t have time to do any of it. Even with Andrew diving into the mix as soon as he gets home from work, the house sometimes seems to stay one step ahead of us.

And we have just one kid.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

First Tahoe of the Season

Saturday morning, we set out for Lake Tahoe—our first trip of the season. Tahoe is my very favorite place in NorCal—a place I can actually imagine us returning to even when we’re living back East one day. We were very excited to introduce Lucia to the lake and the mountains and pines surrounding it. And to snow, it turns out—the Sierras are still snow-covered, and hard-packed snow covered the forest floor by the side of the highway as we inched up in altitude. The temperature was pleasant—high sixties, low seventies—but the snow seems to be sticking around for a while.

We arrived in late morning and went straight to King’s Beach, our favorite part of the lake. We ate the sandwiches we’d packed and then sat for a while on a blanket in a shady spot under a tree, just taking it all in and enjoying the alpine peacefulness. Around noon, we drove to Incline Village, Nevada, and checked into the Hyatt—a luxurious resort with a private beach and fabulous swimming facilities. After hauling our ridiculous number of bags to the room, we went down to the sand and determined that Lucia should nap while we read on a blanket. And she did, for a while; Andrew took a walk with her in the stroller, and she fell asleep; he hastily pushed her back to our blanket. But just when we’d finished congratulating ourselves smugly on our sleeping baby and our ability to read on the beach, she woke up. No amount of strolling would put her back to sleep.

We decided it was pool time. All three of us changed into swimsuits—Lucia sported an adorable yellow and white ruffled number—and went to the Hyatt’s kiddie pool. It’s the best kiddie pool I’ve ever seen, with a sloping entry that allowed Lucia to simply sit in a couple of inches of water while she got used to things. She really loved it, and eventually she sat waist-deep (with Andrew holding her tightly, of course), slapping the water with her little hands and looking at her underwater feet. We took her into the adult pool next—gloriously heated—and she swam happily with Andrew, even kicking her legs when he put her on her tummy. I was on hand to wrap her immediately in a towel to keep her from getting chilly in the cool mountain air.

Despite her swim and some nursing back in the room, no amount of rocking and singing convinced her it was naptime. Finally, with some trepidation, we went to dinner at one of the Hyatt’s many restaurants—a casual bar—where she let out some happy/threatening yells but was otherwise perfectly pleasant. Andrew pointed out that if we were tempted to say Lucia had had a difficult day, the actual truth is that she was absolutely fine—she just didn’t do what we wanted her to do. There was no fussiness, and we all had a lovely afternoon.

Once Lucia was asleep, Andrew kept watch in the room and I went back to the pool area. By nightfall it was in the thirties, but I slipped into the steaming hot tub and barely noticed. It wasn’t yet fully dark, and I could see the snow-capped mountains; eventually, a slim fingernail moon and one bright star emerged in the sky. It’s difficult to overstate how peaceful and beautiful and satisfying the whole scene was; gazing at that clear mountain sky, alternately swimming in the pool and basking in the hot tub, made me love Tahoe even more.

Then it was Andrew’s turn to roam; he took a quick hot tub dip as well and then headed to the casino (we were in Nevada, after all), where he won $1.50 at the penny slots.

Today we once again swam—Lucia really does seem to love it, kicking her little legs and not minding when she gets a few drops of water in her mouth—and then headed to the room for her nap. She slept for two hours—we had to extend our check-out twice, which the Hyatt graciously allowed. Sadly, we then left the resort—a really wonderful place that, unfortunately, we won’t be able to afford once it’s actually in-season. We headed back to King’s Beach, got burgers and shakes to go at the Char-Pit, and ate our lunch at a picnic table overlooking the lake. The breeze was quite cold; once we got to chilly, we loaded ourselves into the car and journeyed home.

A lovely Tahoe weekend, and two weekends in a row of a good traveling baby. Now if only we could get Lucia’s overnight necessities down to a backpack instead of an entire station wagon.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Letter to Lucia: 7 Months

Little Lucia,

According to the right, logical calendar, you’re seven months old tomorrow. Seven months! That’s a real baby! And what a baby you are these days: sitting, playing, trying to crawl. You get cuter every day. I feel certain that’s an objective observation, not just your mama’s. There’s something about you sitting on your play blanket, playing with little toys, that just overwhelms me with adoration. A baby!

We’re made some important steps this month. Perhaps the biggest is that you now sleep in your own room, in your crib, instead of the bassinet in our room. You took to it without even a blip, and you now sleep reliably from 7:30pm to 5am. After I feed you at 5, you almost always will sleep at least another hour or hour and a half in bed with me and Daddy. This is my favorite part of the night—having you snugged in right next to me, sometimes sleeping with your forehead touching mine.

Though you started off as a champion eater, devouring every new food with gusto, you’ve become more discerning in the past couple of weeks. And by “discerning,” I mean “picky.” Surprisingly, you did not love pears; you eat them, but with an expression of wariness, as though any second they’ll turn on you. And mangoes—you hated mangoes. This was the first food you truly and completely despised. I took a little video of your expression after having a bite of mangoes, and it is just priceless—you react as though I’ve just fed you acid. Today you tasted prunes and seemed to accept them. Your favorites are still sweet potatoes and butternut squash.

You’re a lot of fun these days; you’re starting to enjoy new games and toys. Your doorway jumper is your current favorite. Just a couple of weeks ago, I’d put you in it and you’d just lackadaisically spin; and then, one day, you got it. Now you bounce wildly, with an expression of pure joy on your face. You jump and spin and babble and squeal. I usually put some music on, and, at times, you bounce in rhythm. It is endlessly entertaining to watch you. (And, since the jumper is in the doorway of the office, your rapture even gives me some time to pay bills and check email and glance at the news.)

You also enjoy sitting in your saucer “activity center,” a hideous plastic contraption, the sort of thing I swore, before you were born, that I’d never buy. But I did buy one. I realized I just needed somewhere to put you sometimes—like when I’m getting dinner ready, or cleaning up the kitchen, or trying to get the laundry into the drier. Inside the house, you’ll accept being put there for a short bit of time, and you casually chew on any of the toys that happen to be closest. But it’s when I take the saucer outside and sit with you on the porch that you really love it. You look out at the street, watch the many birds and neighborhood cats, and gaze seriously at the occasional passerby. Sometimes you remain completely, happily occupied for half an hour or forty-five minutes; and I get to read a book or The New Yorker or the Times. We occasionally exchange smiles, just two girls hanging out on a nice afternoon.

Today we did something new: sat outside on the grass. You wiggled your toes in the grass, and touched it with your hands. When I sat you directly on the grass for a photo, however, you did not seem to like it. You let out some little whines and jiggled your legs; it looked like ants were biting you (they weren’t) so I picked you right up.

We are thrilled that you seem to be a good traveler, and we’re marking your seven-month birthday with a trip to Tahoe. The last time you were there, it was September, and you were still in the womb; I was incredibly hot all the time and swimming in the cold lake was pure bliss. We are excited to introduce you to the lake and the mountains and the pinecone-laden firs.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Mother's Day

Yesterday was my first Mother's Day. Last year, I was pregnant; but this year, there was a squirming, squealing baby greeting me in the morning, and I realized with a shock that's a bit absurd considering I'm with this baby all day, every day, that I'm her mother. Mother's Day belongs to me now.

Andrew and Lucia gave me a gift--a kit to create a paving stone with my and Lucia's handprint in the cement, which we made in the afternoon--and then went to get donuts, which we ate in bed. We spent the rest of the day relaxing around the house as I tried to wrap my mind around the fact that Lucia is not just a baby, but my baby.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

M-T-N View

I feel techier today. We spent Friday and Saturday in Silicon Valley—our first time in the area—and perhaps something rubbed off on me as we made our way through Mountain View. (Or, as our GPS said, “M-T-N View.”) TechLink, Gemfire, Force Networks, Brocade—the techy names on the sides of glass-sided office buildings flew by as we made our way into the city. Behind those walls, something was being coded; something was being engineered; something was being data-warehoused. I don’t know what those things mean, but somehow I could feel them going on around us. It was a gorgeous Bay Area day—low 70s, not a cloud in the sky. It felt like we were in California, the California of myth and icon, not the one of strip malls and electric wires.

Our hotel room promised, according to the website, to stimulate both the left and right sides of our brains; in one desk drawer were standard office supplies (stapler, scissors, Post-Its), while the other held a Rubik’s Cube, an Etch A Sketch, a deck or cards, and a gyroscope, whatever that is. All the furniture was on wheels in case we felt like moving it around (something that wouldn’t have occurred to me had the hotel’s website not invited me to “unleash your inner decorator”). The halls were decorated with cool artwork from 1930s-era Russia. Since we have a baby, we did not make use of the “hi-fi lounge,” but it sounds geeky and fun.

Andrew had some business to take care of Friday afternoon, so Lucia and I set out on a long walk around our neighborhood. We saw gorgeous flowers in every yard—roses are in full bloom right now—and some huge houses with three-car garages. We walked around a park, where I sat on a bench and read for a bit while Lucia snoozed. When we got back to the hotel, we sat by the pool, where Lucia seemed entranced by the water.

When Andrew rejoined us, we headed to Castro Street, the main downtown area, and explored. We stopped for brownies and baklava at a bakery, where I saw my first iPad in the wild and overheard conversations peppered with phrases like “we still have our day jobs” and “right now it’s just a three-person startup.” Then we had an additional snack of a barbeque pork bun at an Asian bakery. We looked at houses and peeked at the brochures in front of homes for sale. When the restaurants opened for dinner (dining-out dinner hour for us is 5pm these days), we found a Thai restaurant with outdoor seating and had a fantastic meal. It was lovely to sit outside on a gorgeous evening, with our good little traveler sitting good-naturedly in her stroller next to us, people-watching and trying to guess which of the scruffy young guys walking by was a programming/coding/software whatever genius.

Soon we were back at our hotel for Lucia’s bedtime. We took turns going outside to use the hot tub and pool while she slept, and then we slept ourselves.

Saturday morning, we went to a nearby park for a huge “garage sale” consisting of probably fifty sellers spread out on tables and blankets. We found a few treasures, and then we headed to San Jose to yet another flea market—one we’d heard about a few weeks ago on a documentary about flea markets we came across briefly on TV. It was less than we’d hoped for, but we strolled around and had tacos for lunch and then escorted our hysterical, nap-needing baby back to the car, where she slept all the way to Napa for a visit with the Clarks.

And then we were home again. It was a really fun couple of days in a new part of California.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Night and Day

Yesterday, a woman from a gutter cleaning service called me to arrange a time for our gutters to be cleaned. She'd spoken to our landlord, and he specifically told her to arrange the cleaning with me so I could make sure they didn't come during Lucia's naptime. This was so thoughtful, and it wasn't the first time--he always calls before doing lawn work, etc. to make sure he comes when she's not sleeping.

I had to write about this since it's such a far cry from my landlord in Brooklyn, who surprised me on moving-out day by a) driving up from his home in Florida and ringing my buzzer early in the morning wearing a fishing vest and gangster-style sunglasses, b) bringing with him a bowie knife and a whole lot of crazy, and c) proceeding to go into all the shops on my street while I loaded my U-Haul, telling the workers he owned the block and taking pictures as "proof" of who knows what.

I don't think he would have cared about Lucia's naptime. In fact, I think I may have felt the urge to hide Lucia in his presence.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

A Great Day for Books

Now and then, all the stars align and Andrew and I find ourselves on the receiving end of a ridiculous number of new books, all given to us for free. It helps that Andrew works in publishing; three or four times a year, he can select five free books. The latest five arrived yesterday. We also write book reviews for a local publication and greedily request as many books each month as they're willing to give us; nine books arrived yesterday. In total, yesterday we received 2 paperbacks, 7 hardcovers, and 5 hardcover children's books.

It was truly a great day for books.

You Keep "The Change"

Lucia and I take much the same route every day on our walks, and each day I pass the same large vehicle on a street near our with the following decal on the back windshield:
I’ll keep my money, guns, and freedom
You keep “The Change”

Today I noticed that this person liked this decal so much that he got one for a second vehicle parked near the first as well. I’ve seen this before and, as always, I discreetly rolled my eyes. (Very discreetly, since the presumed owner of the vehicles was tinkering with his large motor home in his driveway. Such a person would tinker in a driveway, and would have a motor home.) But today it struck me how very, very annoying this decal is.

The problem isn’t the first part. Fine; let this lovely person keep his guns. The problem is the quotation marks. I don’t think Obama ran with a slogan called “The Change.” Change was, indeed, his hook. But “The Change”—this is much too menopausal to be a political slogan. To put “The Change” in quotation marks—and to capitalize both words in the phrase—draws attention to itself for all the wrong reasons. You’ll keep your guns, and I’ll keep my hot flashes? What?

Whoever made this decal clearly didn’t parse the punctuation too carefully. Neither the capital letters nor the quotation marks are really needed. “You keep the change”—it doesn’t make much sense, but at least it makes use of a common saying—“keep the change.” If this person were really set on quotation marks, then he or she should have put them only around “change”: “You keep the ‘change’” (smirk).