15% is the new 20%

August 19, 2011 at 1:05 pm (I love my city, plays well with others, present)

Dinner last night at Murray Circle was a performance. (It was also painfully and unexpectedly expensive, but that’s only vaguely relevant and not, in my mind, the fault of the restaurant.) We gathered in a private room off of the main dining room and were split into two tables of twelve. The menu was set except for the entree, so we prepared for four courses. Our head server was just the right kind of attentive and no wine glass was left empty, but the real show began with the soup. Six waiters marched soundlessly to the table, waited for a cue, then in perfect unison placed bowls before the women. There was a brief pause, then a swift motion put bowls before all of the men. The first time this display of Edwardian manners occurred, it created a hush amongst the diners. (And to create any kind of quiet in a group celebrating a 30th birthday with alcohol is quite a feat.) By the time our cake slices landed with military precision, it felt like the final act of a charming period play. They removed dirty plates from the second course before presenting the third. They served from the left and cleared from the right. They were somehow always present, but never intrusive. It was deftly, elegantly, impressively done. And if the server got a $1200 tip (from which he would need to tip out the others who helped, plus bussers, bartenders, hostesses etc.), then he deserved it. Yes, deserved it.

I’m not new to fine dining (though my Michelin star experience tops out at two), but this was utterly divine. And it came the same day I read this Inc. article that led me to the original GQ review. Both recount Alan Richman’s experience with terrible service (which seems to have garnered him an accusation of sexual harassment) at a restaurant in Queens (yes, Queens) that thinks it’s too cool for school. I don’t want to sound all “Good help is impossible to find,” but I certainly agree that when I go out for a meal, I am paying for service (with my tip and the menu prices themselves) as much as for fine food. Over the last ten years much of that service has been sacrificed on the alter of cool so that inked hipsters in whatever they feel like wearing can tell me that the chicken I’m about to eat was named Colin instead of delivering it in the perfect moment between conversations.

C and I enjoyed an amazing brunch on Sunday at Baker and Banker (one of my favorite neighborhood spots), but our server didn’t even attempt to hide her disdain when I asked her to bring a clean fork with the cinnamon roll I was taking to go. And my request that the potato pancake be placed to the side of my smoked trout and horseradish cream so that gluten-intolerant C could taste the fish was met with a barely disguised eye roll. I’m not lamenting the overarching casual turn most dining has taken, I just believe, in my own old-fashioned way, that if I’m paying to be waited on, I’d like courteous, experienced service. Or even some tiny fraction of what we saw last night. And until I do, I will tip the 15% that once indicated a barely acceptable minimum and nothing more.

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My new apartment is a Mercedes

July 29, 2011 at 4:12 pm (I love my city, It's all about me, present)

At 5:30 am this morning, the garbage truck (or “trash people” as I called them in my half-asleep state, which M said made him think of people with no class, while I envisioned piles of anthropomorphized rubbish) came screeching up right below our bedroom window. Not even an early wake-up could ruin my first morning in the new apartment, so I flapped a hand in M’s direction and grunted, which he accurately interpreted to mean, “Darling, would you be so kind as to close the window and then crawl back into bed and warm me up?” He, being the most charming and obliging kind of man, took one long 6’2″ stride to the offending opening and slid it shut. *Shlunk*

Silence.

Not slightly dulled version of garbage truck noises. Not “Nice try, bucko, but this is the City and your windows were installed when booze was illegal.” Silence.

It was like being in a luxury car commercial where you hear the engine from the outside, then the satisfying *thunk* of the door falling closed, then…nothing. Blissful, glorious, peaceful quiet. I think I could get used to the suburbs.

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Yet another regional feud?

January 26, 2011 at 5:52 pm (It's all about me, present)

“Did you see that woman?” my friend asked.

“…”

“She was in sneakers.”

“Sneakers? Like…”

“Like Working Girl.”

[Aside: Why can I not find a photo of Tess in her white high tops? I scoured the interweb for, like, five whole minutes people. To me the sneakers-with-hose-and-a-suit is as iconic (albeit horrifying) a fashion moment on film as that ugly gray sweatshirt.]

We laughed at the silly doctor. Or professor. Or banker. In her ugly, but “sensible” shoes. And then we thought for a bit. Don’t we wear flip flops with everything? After all, this is California. Northern California. I own 10 pairs of Reefs and wear them for the walk from the train*. Even with skirts, even in winter. I change into heels when I get to the office, but that’s no different from Ms. Working Girl who does the same when she gets to her office, one presumes.

Is there a difference? My friend argued that there is, but she’s a Californian too. So I put it to you.

Is it more acceptable to wear flip flops for your commute to work than to wear sneakers?

*In Boston I had snow boots that served the same purpose.

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Obsessed

August 12, 2010 at 5:24 pm (in my head, It's all about me, present, shopping)

Below, my recent obsessions.

1. The Man’s cat was bleeding late last night and mewing with big sadkitty eyes, so we ended up at the emergency vet’s past midnight. This morning, after what I can only assume was a harrowing night of shaving, draining, and cleaning a ruptured abscess, the poor guy looked like this:

Kitty John tries to look dignified

And I realized that this is one of my favorite adorably pathetic (pathetically adorable?) things. Furry animals in cones!

2. Furniture with silhouettes of turned legs made out of industrial materials.

This was on Etsy, but apparently someone else was obsessed with it too as it has disappeared.

Image from IKEA

3. Approximately 1/3 of the items in the Christie’s Interiors, South Kensington, June 22 auction catalogue including these girly chairs with upholstery that looks like kitchen towels, these Greek key handled silver salts, a pair of Arts and Crafts menu holders, and all of the Ronald Searle cartoons.

Image from Christies.com

4. Super pig and other whimsical meat sections art.

Super Pig, drywell art by alyson on Etsy

5. This dress-me-up/dress-me-down silk georgette Shoshanna maxi that should arrive next week. Particularly with gold accessories and a salmon silk wrap.

Image from bluefly.com

6. “Slow” everything, but particularly this Slow Home Manifesto from Department of the Interior.

7. My new fun little scarf/wrap that is big enough for the beach and light enough to wear through a San Francisco fall.

8. Maceo Parker at Stern Grove.

9. OPI’s new Swiss Collection, especially Ski Teal We Drop.

Image from eBay (cleopatrastyle-usa)

10. Burpees. I effing hate these things, but if the (free to me) personal trainer tells me they’ll boost my metabolism in a hurry, then I’ll push on through and learn to love them.

Image from marinesmagazine.com...I think

11. The facade of the Paul Thiebaud Gallery in North Beach. Talk about announcing your visual brand language from the sidewalk!

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Happy

July 6, 2010 at 11:02 am (It's all about me, present)

Once again, to combat an inexplicable bad mood, I’m looking on the bright side.

Things that have made me happy…

in the last 5 minutes.

This song. And um, yeah…that’s Hanson.

[Excuse me for a minute, I’m still bouncing in my chair.]

in the last 5 hours.

Power nap on the train this morning.

in the last 5 days.

An afternoon spent fantasizing about a nice little weekend house in Woodside. With a pergola outside and a huge stone fireplace in the great room.

in the last 5 months.

The Man hears me. I bring up things that are bothering me or changes I’d like to make. Sometimes it’s part of a larger conversation and sometimes it’s an off-hand comment. Sometimes I don’t even remember that I’ve said whatever I said out loud. And yet he hears me and helps. He suggests a street festival because I said I want to do more city things. He remembers that I don’t like bananas though I’m not sure I ever told him. He takes me to inspect three different Caltrain stations because the commute from his house to work is starting to take a financial toll. He hears me. And almost always the first time.

in the last 5 years.

California. Still. Nothing will cure this bad mood faster or better than the swim I’ll take in an hour…in an outdoor pool…in 80 degree sunshine.

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Getting all proactive on that pesky pendulum

February 24, 2010 at 6:02 pm (plays well with others, present)

Do you ever feel that the goodness in your world is out of balance? That lately you’ve been taking more than giving? That your friends have been spending too much time listening to “OMG he didn’t call!” or “OMG he did!” instead of talking about their own successful (or humorously miserable) dates? That you’ve received too many favors and flowers (*sigh* flowers) and rides and free Little Star pizza lunches? That you’ve been saying yes too often to offers to help you move furniture (“and oh, by the way, we’ll bring you food”) or deliver a latte before you’ve truly woken up or remind you daily to breathe?

Well I’m there. I’m SO there.

So tell me, what can I do for you?

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New Business

January 26, 2010 at 2:29 pm (present)

1) Something is wrong with Open ID. Or it just decided to stop working for me. That happens. So if I’m not commenting, it’s not because I’m not reading and it’s not because I don’t have things to say (I always have things to say).

2) You may have noticed (but probably didn’t) that some old posts are now password protected. There will be more in the future. Why? Because I’m not brave enough to attach a name and a face to every single post over the last five years. Baby steps, people. Email me for the password for future posts if you’re interested.

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Bringing Back Shabbat

January 19, 2010 at 12:46 pm (if I ruled the world, in my head, plays well with others, present, the fam)

My local NPR station has a series they call Perspectives. In essence, any local resident can submit a two-minute piece on any topic with regional significance.  It has long been one of my favorite segments because of the narrative style, intimate feel, and range of topics. Today a journalist talked about a Yosemite camping trip where everyone brought his/her cell phone. It could be argued (and I might argue it) that Yosemite is one of the most beautiful places in the United States. Like my favorite National Park, its sights and sounds and smells can make you believe in a higher power. It can make you feel incredibly small, yet infinitely connected. It is an experience, I firmly believe, where one should be deeply present. The moral (resolution would be more apt) of the journalist’s piece was that he learned to turn his phone off when spending time with nature. I took it a little further.

My personal relationship with technological connectedness mirrors the ebb and flow society as a whole seemed to experience. I COULD NOT put the iPhone down when I first got it in 2008. I even began bringing it into the bathroom. (Yes, seriously.) I checked work email on weekends, checked personal email every five seconds, went status-update crazy on Facebook, started writing blog posts from the backseat of cars, learned to text while driving (not the cause of any of the four accidents I was in in 2009, by the way), and spent weekends at my parents’ house seeing more of that little screen than their two big hairy beasts. Then began the backlash.

I’ve found a balance that works for me. I check work email every morning, but don’t respond on weekends. I turn my phone off when I go out to dinner. I text only at red lights. I see the days when the phone gets left at home as opportunities to look up more. And when I forgot a charger in Colorado, I relished the day and a half of dings and rings and beeps not inciting a Pavlovian response.

As I sat at home this morning eating a real breakfast* and thinking about the Yosemite anecdote, I was reminded of the old Jewish custom of Shabbat. It’s an ancient practice that the Orthodox (and some others) still observe. Over the years, it was more or less translated into the Gentile notion of Sunday dinner. It’s a day of food and family and togetherness, but technically, it’s a day of rest. For me, it’s a day to be exactly where you are. To let tomorrow happen tomorrow. To return to a quieter time.

I think I want to bring it back.

My parents practice some version of Shabbat (though my father would scoff at the notion that anything he does has any connection to religion) in a very simple way. Since they moved into their new home in 2006, they’ve instituted a very strict rule about television. When dinner is on the table, the television is off. Period. And if more than one person is home for dinner at the same time, then dinner is eaten at the table…together. There are no exceptions, no excuses, no breaking of the sacred ritual that is focusing on each other for 30-60 minutes four to seven nights a week. It wasn’t the rule when I was growing up (then again I typically had dinner in a dance studio), but I want to institute it now.

Just one evening a week, I want food cooked slowly and eaten without the interruption of texts, calls, emails, Facebook, Twitter, or Google Reader. I want a rest from whatever isn’t right in front of me.

I want Shabbat.

What about you? Do you disconnect regularly? Or do you have any strict rules about your phone?

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I went to a bar alone tonight…

January 13, 2010 at 12:16 am (in my head, On dating and mating, plays well with others, present)

and had the time of my life.

OK, well, maybe not the time of my life (that was a Friday in 2004…or a Saturday in 2000…or I’m making this shit up), and maybe it was a restaurant with a bar, and maybe it wasn’t totally my first time (though similar forays in my hometown where alone really means, “Oh, but I’ll know someone there,” don’t count), but it was a grand ol’ time and it was the first time when alone was intentional and it was the first time in my city that is truly a City. So yeah, IT. WAS. GRAND.

I walked in from work (and a Target run), dropped off my things, and turned right around before I lost my nerve. I figured that if I wanted to meet single, available, local men (who aren’t 25), then I should put myself in their way. Doesn’t mean I wasn’t scared. As it turned out, I should have been anything but afraid.

I met an Australian winemaker and a distributer of Australian wines. (They were not the same person.) I explored wine/art parallels while eating half a burger. (A really GOOD burger.) I chatted with two tech geeks who talked (and looked) like bartenders and waxed nostalgic about fried chicken, which I hate. I read. (A little.) I found the driest cucumber martini in town. I found my new favorite drink (said cucumber martini softened with simple syrup and lemon juice) and my go-to Tuesday night bar. I found a new winery with grapes from my favorite district. I found AMY, bartender extraordinaire, who, I swear, spent the evening reading my mind. This is what bartenders do (and why I went through a phase of crushing on/dating/making out with the boy version). Amy knew just how far to take the “21st digit” banter with the Australian winemaker. She knew how to ignore the tech geeks to make them feel at home. She knew how to read my body language when I was uncomfortable, or nervous, or in need of another drink. In short, I will be visiting her again. Soon.

In short, I will be going to a bar alone again. Soon.

When (and how) was the last time you challenged yourself?

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Lately

January 8, 2010 at 2:54 pm (in my head, On dating and mating, plays well with others, present, the fam)

Lately I’ve been about the present. About the silhouette of a tree and the soft patter of bare feet. About the five distinct smells on the walk from Peet’s to my office.

Lately I’ve been about putting down the iPhone and turning off the television.

Lately I’ve been about the real and the possible. About the polite stranger who offered his bar stool and the kind neighbor who saw I needed a hug. Not about the handsome Southerner who is a walking contradiction in a thousand perfect ways.

Lately I’ve been about time outside breathing and exploring and moving.

Lately I’ve been about family. About those related by blood and those I’ve chosen. About making sure it doesn’t take a funeral to gather us all in one city.

Lately I’ve been about showing people who I am, unapologetically and relentlessly.

Lately I’ve been about acting my age (but not looking it).

Lately I’ve been about choosing my tempo. About eating, dancing, running, thinking, deciding, talking, cleaning, planning, and changing at my pace.

Lately I’ve developed a raging crush on Neil Patrick Harris.

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