nonBlog: May 2006

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The Back Seat Sage—Saturday, May 29, 2006

I’ve decided that if we all just listened to my six-year-old daughter Greta, the world would be a better place. We were riding in the car—the kids and me—and listening to that treacly Michael Bublé (that can’t possibly be his real name) plaintively singing “Home” on the radio. It goes:.

I wanna go home
Let me go hoooome
I’m just too far from where you are
I wanna come home . . .

I was thinking what an utterly inane tune it is and wondering what might be on KFOG when Greta shouted angrily, “If you wanna go home, just go home!” Olivia and I erupted in laughter and I considered pulling over. But Greta wasn’t through speculating. She ventured: “He can’t go home because he’s a rock star.” By now I was wiping my eyes. “He’s onstage,” Greta continued, “and he’s stuck.


Rules, Rules, Everywhere—Thursday, May 25, 2006

Every time I tell someone the ages of my three daughters, it starts a conversation about their age differences—regardless of whatever topic we were on at the time. Eleven, six, and one, I say, and the recipient of this information furrows their brow and lets out an ohhh. There’s an uncomfortable silence while judgments and questions about infertility cross their faces as I watch. They notice me watching and then they feel compelled to say something: The oldest one must be very helpful with the baby, they offer, or Do they get along? Invariably the chat ends with the person expressing their amazement at our household’s unusual array of ages and stages.

As many years as I have been getting this reaction, I’m still baffled by people’s bafflement. Am I really the only woman out there to have chosen to have her kids several years apart? Because I did choose it; after each baby I didn’t feel ready to even think about having another one for about four years. The first time it was because I felt so overmatched by my “spirited” oldest daughter, and the second time it was because I couldn’t decide if I should take the plunge and go for a third as a working, urban mom.

I keep noticing a theme in my life: things that feel normal to me don’t feel normal to other people. This is just one example of it. To me having three kids who are each five years apart is a little thing, even a consequence-free thing. I have come to think that there are rules everywhere, some written, most not, that other people know and I don’t. They are on invisible billboards that surround us every day, and I am blind to them.


Anticlimate—Friday, May 19, 2006

The thing that nobody tells you about living in a place that’s always a little bit warm is that, paradoxically, it makes you always feel a little bit cold. Not at first. You move to San Francisco in, say, December, and for about a month you appreciate your constant little-bit-warmness by contrast to whatever storm-battered area you fled. And then you notice that you’re shivering and go to REI and buy a carload of fleece.

The reason is the mass of cold air above the Pacific, which smacks bang into the mass of warm air above the Bay Area’s inland towns and creates a sinister layer of fog over, well, our house. But just before the warm air gets too warm, long about now, San Francisco has the climate it would have had without its contrary weather system. It’s sunny, it’s warm, the temperatures start climbing and don’t stop at 67 like they do on “nice” days the rest of the year. We have actual t-shirt days. You try to remember if you still own any t-shirts. You put them on. They’ve turned yellow.

Often our respite lasts four or five weeks, and then the coldest winter Mark Twain described ever spending in his life—a summer in San Francisco—
descends upon us in a bank of gray. This year our four weeks seems to have lasted four days. I am bitter. Cold.


Greta’s Unique Perspective on Things, Part I—Tuesday, May 15, 2006

The five of us were at the San Francisco Zoo on Saturday. After walking around for a while we wanted to find a place where the perpetually non-walking Ava could crawl because Tom and I were getting tired of carrying her. So we asked Greta if she would like to go to the Insect House. She said, “No thanks. I don’t like insects—they’re too much like bugs.”

Greta’s Unique Perspective on Things, Part Deux

For some reason Greta resists showing her teacher that she understands graphing. She does it perfectly at home, but I don’t think her teacher believes me. She sent home a graph Greta did last week of fish. There were five rows—clown fish, sea horses, crabs, sea stars, and sharks. She was supposed to graph how many of each were in a color-coded picture above. I was perplexed by it because four of the rows were correct, one was wrong and had an X through it, and then there was a column of four boxes filled in to the right that I couldn’t decipher at all. But I hadn’t asked Greta about it. Today she came home from school and saw the graph and her face fell. She said, "Oh, you have my graph with the crab mistake on it."

And I said, "What crab mistake?"

"Well,” she said, “I graphed three clown fish and then two seahorses, but when I was graphing the next one I got distracted and graphed the six sea stars in the space where I was supposed to graph the four crabs." She said all of this in a big rush and I looked and saw that all of the numbers were right. "So," she continued, "I put an X over the six boxes with the crabs and I wrote a four so the teacher would know I knew there were four"—and indeed, there was a backwards "4" next to the crab row—"and then I filled in four boxes over to the side so she could see that I knew how many crabs there were."

At this point I was trying really hard not to laugh. So I said, "Did you tell the teacher all of this?"

And she said, "I don't remember. I don't think so."

Absent the above explanation, I can only imagine what the teacher thinks of Greta’s skill set. What I think is that when Greta grows up she’s going to be the CEO of a multinational corporation. Or a master criminal.


Id Run Amok—Friday, May 12, 2006

A friend warned me that once I turned 40 I would lose all capacity to censor myself, but I have to say I had no idea. I am dangerous. I feel like I could say anything at any time. It’s like I’m the cockroach alien in “Men In Black,” masquerading as a human by borrowing a dead man’s skin, and my cockroach arms and my cockroach legs are starting to bust out of the decomposing flesh and reveal my true identity.

For a while there I was pretending to be a mild-mannered blonde, volunteering at the Opera Guild and doing mommy things at my daughters’ school and wearing Escada and having a mostly former writing career. Now all bets are off. I used the “F” word in front of the president of the Opera Guild and she thought it was so uproarious she repeated the story to the entire Executive Committee, who were no doubt scandalized. Then Tom and I signed contracts to move the girls from their Pacific Heights ivory mansion to an edgy co-ed school across town that caters to mini iconoclasts.

As if in search of my third strike, I proceeded to write a sympathetic story for the SF Chronicle Magazine about writers in the SF County Jail that got wolf-whistles from an audience of extremely tattooed people at a reading of ex-inmate work last week. Somebody stop me before I’m rejected by all of polite society and Dartmouth refuses to consider Olivia a legacy when she applies in 2012.


Bush Junior Atop His Empire—Wednesday, May 10, 2006

In the introduction to my nonBlog I promised that I wouldn’t indulge myself with little diary tidbits or rants about Dubya, but I really must tell you what I discovered on a walk near the Panhandle yesterday. I was multitasking as usual, making a phonecall while attempting to get a bit of exercise, when I spied a large, steaming pile of dog poo with a toothpick flag sticking out of it. On the flag was a picture of Bushie’s smiling mug. And that’s what I love about San Francisco.


Thank Heaven for Little Boys—Tuesday, May 3, 2006

Tom and I have decided that what this family needs is a co-ed school.

To understand what a relatively radical decision this is, you have to know that our two older daughters are at an all-girls’ private school that is the grade-school equivalent of Harvard. Or perhaps I should say Radcliffe. But here’s the thing that nobody tells you about an all-girls school, however exalted: it can have a way of narrowing, rather than broadening, certain girls’ options. Why? Well, girls generally do certain things a certain way at a certain time. They read early, for example, and they’re good at sitting still for long periods. Generally. But some early-reading girls are jangly, and need to run around every once in a while, kind of like boys. And some good-at-sitting girls read at the end of their fifth year rather than at the beginning. Kind of like boys.

So if you take the high-energy girl and put her in a co-ed school, suddenly she doesn’t look so high-energy. And if you take the six-year-old who just learned to read and put her in a co-ed school, suddenly she looks precocious. So we’re switching. We told Harvard, I mean Radcliffe, that we’re going across town. To Brown.





  • 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

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