nonBlog: March 2006

Click here for a possibly gratuitous explanation of why my blog is called "nonBlog" and my site is titled "Ceci n'est pas un blog."

You're No Anita—Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Last Saturday night I went to the La Dolce Vita benefit, the one for which I impersonated Anita Ekberg on the invitation and in the Nob Hill Gazette (see March 18, below). I walked into the ballroom to find my picture on a program atop every dinner plate as far as the eye could see. Granted, this is the picture nobody believes is me, so this was only so thrilling. It’s not like people grabbed their programs when they saw me at the door and ran up to ask for my autograph. They didn’t even realize I was the one in the picture. But this is an experience every woman who’s insecure about her looks should have at least once in her lifetime.

One of the people seated at our table was Russ Fischella, the photographer who took the picture (see This was a good thing because it’s impossible to be defensive about a photo no one believes is you when you’re sitting right next to the one person who can vouch for its relative authenticity. After hearing what people were saying about it he apologized for artificially lengthening my hair. “I think that threw everyone off,” he said, ever the gentleman. I believed this for about three seconds before one of my tablemates offered a different theory. She announced, “I didn’t think you had this jawline.”


Babylon and On —Thursday, March 23, 2006

There is the usual baby babbling, and then there is the Ava brand of babbling. Ava has brought babbling to a whole new level. She speaks this Sino-Hungarian dialect she must have learned on her home planet that sounds like a coherent, if exceptionally exotic, language of its own. It involves guttural throat noises and that African click sound you write with a ! and a bunch of utterances using her tongue that I really couldn't characterize.

She looks at one of us with great deliberation and then lets out this string of syllables that generally defy repetition. So we look back at her and parrot the last couple and leave it at that. "Guaya guaya guaya," we'll say. It was one thing when it was Olivia and Greta spouting back the guayas, but last week when Tom and I both babbled the nonsense back at her in concert, I said, "Are we teaching Ava how to speak or is she teaching us?" Every time I engage in dialogue with her, I lose IQ points and she gains them. It's like brainfeeding.


Ain't No Mountain High Enough —Monday, March 20, 2006

Every year on our anniversary, Tom and I attempt to climb Mount Whitney. This is the week that we find out how we did in the lottery system that the National Forest Service uses to limit the number of people on the mountain. Turns out we got lucky; we were given a permit to sleep at the high camp during our first-choice dates in early summer.

I am aware this is not a lottery that the average person would be equally thrilled to win. When people find out that climbing the highest peak in the lower 48 states is our anniversary getaway of choice, they usually want to know why we don’t just check into a spa and call it a day. But for us it’s the world’s most perfect metaphor for marriage, the ultimate day of reckoning. All we talk about from the time we start driving south to the minute we reach the summit—or fail, which has happened just as often—is the state of our relationship. Some years it’s not such a pretty conversation, and the fact that it happens on a remote landscape that resembles the face of the moon instead of at a four-star restaurant is probably a good thing. Other years we are positively giddy and indulge in an embarrassing amount of mutual back-patting. But we always feel like we’ve figured it out—whatever “it” is, depending on the year—by the time we return to sea level.


Unbeautiful — Saturday, March 18, 2006

I went to the Junior League Fashion Show luncheon today to cheer on some friends who were modeling in the show. It’s a day when relatively normal-looking women get to play model, so it was almost fitting that people were telling me their reactions to the photo of me acting the part of Anita Ekberg in the current issue of the Nob Hill Gazette (see the New, or Practically New box at right). The reason for the photo is that my friend Anna couldn’t secure the rights to the movie poster for her “La Dolce Vita” benefit, so she asked Russ Fischella to recreate the image by shooting me against a gray screen and then digitally inserting Rome’s Trevi Fountain into the background.

The problem was that the reaction I was getting could be characterized as ranging from surprise to utter disbelief. This is not what I was going for. “I couldn’t believe that was you!” one friend said. “Even after I saw your name on the picture I still couldn’t believe it was you!” Another wanted to know if Russ had photoshopped my head onto Anita Ekberg’s body. Granted, I am wearing so much makeup in this photo that I looked like a drag queen walking back to my car after the shoot, and the top of my dress is not in fact the top of a dress but a Victoria’s Secret lycra bodyshaper that hides many sins. But that’s definitely me. I guess I just didn’t realize what people think I look like. It reminds me of that time when I was in my early twenties and my mother felt the need to point out to me that I was not beautiful. “Jaclyn Smith is beautiful,” she said. Until that moment I had assumed that all mothers thought their daughters were breathtaking and couldn’t be convinced otherwise.


Slices of Heaven — Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Ava loves many things—dogs, Elmo, the telephone, pulling hair—but none so much as she loves bananas. She calls them “na-na.” The day cannot get started until she has had her nana ration, followed by milk and a diaper, in that order. I am now buying four bunches a week. I keep forgetting to ask Tom if we own stock in Dole.

Yesterday morning I was slicing Ava's banana from on high so that she couldn't grab the knife. I was standing above her while she clapped and squealed with delight in her high chair each time a banana slice landed with a thunk, thunk, thunk on the tray in front of her. Tom walked by. He looked over at me, looked down at Ava, and said, “Look at that, it's nana from heaven.&rdquo


Urban Madness — Monday, March 6, 2006

Back in the olden days when I was a kid on Long Island, my mother barely laid eyes on my school. She went to my chorus performances and parent-teacher conferences, but otherwise she had little contact with my daily world. Her time was her own. I took the bus to school every morning and the bus home every afternoon. I walked to the bus stop by myself from the time I was eight years old. There was a bus that took me to all my varsity swim meets, only one of which my mother attended in the four years I was in high school. No matter how late the school newspaper or student government or the yearbook kept me, there was always another bus waiting. All of the above was free. I didn't have arranged playdates; I rode my bike to friends' houses until I found someone home.

Olivia and Greta need rides to school, from school, to and from sports practices, games, playdates, and after-school programs. Everything they do costs money. Their private school is very fine, but it is no finer than my public school. And all of the above can be traced to the fact that I insist on living in this city, my beloved city, my San Francisco that informs my every thought, my every written word, my every cell that has finally found its sense of place. And yet, if I could change anything, I would embrace my mother's love of the suburbs where the livin' is easy and let myself, my bank account, and my children off the hook. I have long thought that my mother does not possess all her marbles, but when I start listing everything I do just to get each day off the ground in this city—work aside—it is clear to me that I am the one who is looney.


  • Story in the San Francisco Chronicle Magazine about English Channel swimmers who train in the Bay area.
  • KQED Radio Perspective about how Florida has gone into the bumper-sticker business with "Choose Life" license plates.
  • Eat the Press piece in The Huffington Post about Jon Krakauer's curious absence from Outside Magazine's 10th anniversary issue on the 1996 Everest disaster.
  • Double-top-secret book due out fall 2007
    from Adams Media.
  • Fame and fortune; date TBA

2006 Archives






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