Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Small World in a New Town

“Aren’t you Pat Corrigan, the writer in St. Louis?”

That’s a question I heard constantly in and around St. Louis. Today, I heard it in a small coffee shop in Cole Valley, my next-door neighborhood. Standing there smiling at me as my jaw dropped and my smile grew was Bill Grivna, acting teacher (and now life skills coach and Tai Chi practitioner) from home, on vacation in San Francisco.

“I am,” I said, “except now I live here – have for a whole month!” We both laughed for the joy of it, and then set to catching up.

Michael Max, my friend and acupuncturist from St. Louis (see www.youngkangclinic.com) was with me and Bill was with a friend and Tai Chi practitioner who used to live in San Francisco. We all ended up exchanging information for resources. And of course I told Bill that on opening night at the Rep, he must hug Steve and Champe and kiss Edward for me. I will miss being at opening night – all the opening nights -- so Bill agreed to be there on my behalf as well as his own.

Bill asked where I live. I pointed up the hill, and explained that Cole Valley, just six blocks down some steep streets, is my next-door neighborhood, where I hang out. My apartment is just below Twin Peaks, the two 900-plus-high hills right in the center of the city: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twin_Peaks_%28San_Francisco,_California%29.

Standing at the top of one of the hills on this gloriously clear and sunny day, Michael and I found my building. Then, looking beyond – east to the Bay and north to Marin and west to the sea – Michael turned to me and said, “You did it. You’re here." Then he gestured to the scenic vistas all around us and added, "Look at all this -- you are a super hero!”

Nice, huh?

Also nice is the front-page coverage Sunday in the San Francisco Chronicle on a subject dear to my heart – whales! See www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2010/07/25/MN8K1EJ0U6.DTL or just Google the Chronicle (www.sfgate.com) and type in “whales.” Two weeks ago, dozens of blue whales steamed into Monterey Bay. I may have to run down the coast and see for myself! One whale-watch trip sighted 28 of them – the largest creatures ever to live on the planet.

Speaking of my favorite marine mammals, on Thursday I have an appointment to meet with the director of the Oceanic Society (www.oceanicsociety.org) to discuss a volunteer job. I hope to do some writing for them, and also to get out on the boats to assist the naturalists. Roger Payne offered me a similar job a long time ago, off the other coast, and I was unable to take it. That was then -- now it’s a real possibility!

In Other News, earlier today, I went to one of the three Trader Joe’s stores in San Francisco. Here’s how this works – cars line up in the traffic lane closest to the curb and wait (patiently or im) as TJ employees wave in each car when a spot in the modestly sized lot is vacated. Inside, the store is big and bustling. (And what fun to fill the cart with stuff I love and have been without for over a month!) Outside, I felt the need to hurry to my car and drive off so the next person in line could get in. Strange!

Here at The Crow’s Nest, the best news is that the new bed part arrived at 8:20 p.m. last night and finally I got a good night’s sleep. As I said in the last post, I am finished unpacking, finished stashing stuff into closets, finished running the last of the boxes and the donations off to the Haight-Ashbury Recycling Center. Sunday, I officially started living here, as opposed to being busy moving in. I celebrated that by attending a double feature with Susan at the Balboa – the haunting “I Am Love” and “The Secret in Their Eyes.” Four hours and 30 minutes of movies!

This afternoon, gazing out my wall of windows at my world-class view, Michael said, “It’s all out there, and it’s all extraordinary, isn’t it?” I told him it is – but a lot of my life takes place in this chair, at this desk, writing. I’ve got five assignments right now and a couple more lined up for the future, so that important part of my life remains the same.

Everything else is different. Here when I look out the window, what I see is extraordinary – wee sailboats and huge container ships heading to Oakland or going out to sea (I track the ship traffic at www.boatingsf.com/ais_map.php -- a terrific new hobby) or redtail hawks (thinking of you, Jim Hanselman!) soaring over my building to the Tank Hill nature preserve behind me or – this time of day -- opaque filaments of fog stretching in from the sea.

Super hero? Nah. But I am living her life!

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Good, The Bed and the Ugly

The Good: The best of the good news is that Maggie and I are together again. I brought her home a week ago. Right away, she bonded with our furniture, found the litter box, had a snack and jumped on the bed for a nap. For three days, she seemed to think we had just a bedroom, bathroom and kitchen. When I put her in her little round bed on the desk by the window, she peered out and then dashed away, maybe alarmed by the scenic vista, the sea gulls or the noise from traffic. Now she seems thrilled with the view and sleeps in her bed on the desk while I type, just like old times.

Every box (except three going to Patricia and Joel’s for storage) has been unpacked, the furniture is in place and every possession has been stored, filed or artfully arranged. Wait – that’s not quite true, because I haven’t yet hung all the art on the walls. Still, I live here now, which is different from moving in. Really different. Delightful! And usually I remember where I have put stuff.

Full disclosure: I have packed and stored here a shoe box full of sea shells. Yes – I seem to have brought sea shells to the ocean! Not just any sea shells. Sea shells I’ve had since I was a kid, sea shells my brother collected (from stores – he never saw the sea) and sea shells I have been given. A friend suggested I drive the shells down to the shore, line them up and wave “bye.” Instead, I have put three on a shelf in the bathroom, filled a huge abalone shell in the living room with others and packed some in a box, to think about another day.

Also good: The brisk, gusty winds that roar through my open windows invigorate me (sorry, suffering St. Louisans…). My neighbors are kind (one from Kansas City, one from Chicago) and also quiet people. I find that even with a tender foot I can maneuver the 38 steps down to the trash room and the private laundry. (David Bonetti said I had to get a place with a laundry, and I did.) The shower is a joy! I care about showers, and this one is terrific. The dishwasher is a treasure – only about one-fourth of apartments in my price range have them.

In other good news, I have found a woman willing to try to cut my hair, I have located a gym I will join soon, I missed only one question on the driver’s license test and so now have a California license and oops -- today I bought another rug, a splendid, unusual rug, this one for the living room.

Susan played hooky and drove with me to Novato in Marin County to have a look at the rug, because one person cannot load an 8-foot by 8-foot rug in the car, get it into the apartment and push all the furniture around. She was kind enough to help, and we celebrated with burgers and a fresh peach milk shake afterward. A word of thanks also is in order here to Michael, Patricia’s brother and Susan’s son, who set up my desktop computer, fixed a shelf, added a wrap rack (as in Saran) to my kitchen cabinet door and fetched a small teak file cabinet that I found at a resale shop. Joel set up my TIVO just in time to capture “Mad Men” and taught me how to work the new TV and DVD player. And Patricia has provided moral support and admiration of what I accomplished here in a short time. She walked in the other night and exclaimed, “It looks like a house!”

Savoring all the good!

The Bed: My beloved Select Comfort bed has a slow leak. I agonized for a day over why and then set about getting the air chamber replaced. It took seven phone calls over five days. Today, UPS brought my new air chamber while I was touring Cole Valley shops with Susan. Oh well…

The Ugly. Blame it on not sleeping as well as usual (did I mention the leak in the bed, leading to a less than firm mattress?) or on unpacking 93 boxes (and finding a place for the stuff and then disposing of the boxes) but I’m really tired! When I am really tired I make stupid mistakes, forget things, neglect to read the grocery lists I make and have to double back on errands.

To make it better, tomorrow I will remind myself that the work of moving here is over. I will make an appointment for a massage – I’m past due. Then I will walk a few steps up the street, sit on an old tree trunk on a hillside and eat my lunch as I admire the astonishing view. The view is the same as from my wall of windows, but I think I need to be out in the wind, to help clear my head.

I live here now, and can at last begin to explore what that means.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Sleeping at Home -- At Last

My champagne bucket is wearing a lampshade as though dressed for a party, the varnish on my wooden rhino appears to have suffered on the trip across the desert and I not only have enough glasses to open a restaurant, I have enough hand towels to furnish a spa.

Still, all's right with this world -- slept in the apartment last night! Hoping to bring Maggie "home" from her second home at Susan's by this weekend.

Today I determined that I could not unpack another box until I got rid of the empty ones and discarded another 16 big bags of packing paper. There simply was no place to put so much as a measuring spoon, as every surface was covered in unpacked items, and no way to get through the rooms, as massive flattened packing boxes blocked every route.

The city trash hauler offered to pick up everything free (an annual opportunity) but not until next Wednesday. Then on line I discovered the Haight-Ashbury Recycling Center. I loaded up the 16 bulging bags, drove off and disposed of them in huge bins. I returned home and loaded up every last flattened box -- too many to count. How did I accomplish this with one gimpy arm and two arthritic hands? Three boxes at a time. By the time I got back to the recycling center, I was as sweaty, unkempt and wild-eyed as some of the homeless people I've seen around town, but it felt so good to heave every last box into the bins -- three at a time until I was finished.

Then I marched into the Comcast cable office for the second time to discuss once again my concerns as a new customer. The first time, I went to argue that I was entitled to cable and high-speed internet service NOW, not in three weeks while the company waited for the former tenant's contract to expire. I won that one.

Or so I thought. On Monday when the technician arrived, he did not have a working cable card with him, but said he could sell me a box or set up another appointment. Joel had told me to reject a box and hold out for the card so we could set up my new TIVO, so I did as I was told. I didn't understand the implications, of course.

Last night I fell onto the couch, exhausted, and turned on the TV. "Run Auto Channel Scan," the screen said. I hit "Menu" and clicked on "Run Auto Channel Scan." The TV faltered a moment and then this appeared on the screen: "Are you sure you want to do that?"

It was like talking to Hal in "2001: A Space Odyssey." I ran the scan and discovered I get 12 channels, six of them in languages I do not speak. I spent 20 minutes on the phone with two people at Comcast (the phone dropped the first call) and then indulged in a "Live Chat" online session with someone at the company. The woman said the problem is that I don't have a cable box...

Undaunted, I went to the Comcast office today looking like hell and announced I was there to pick up my cable card. They gave me one! I also asked for a channel line-up for my TV package. Turns out I was enrolled in Bargain Basement Cable -- no Comedy Central, no AMC (and with "Mad Men" starting up soon!) and no Weather Channel. I promptly upgraded my service.

Next I went to hug Maggie and visit with Susan. Drove to Patricia and Joel's to visit with Banjo, their cat. (He yelled at me too.) I'm just a bad cat mom lately. And then I drove the Tree Sap Express (aka my hard-working Little Black Subaru Wagon) to the car wash. The young man who waited on me said, "I'll tell you our choices, you tell me what you want and I will take care of everything." I practically wept. I ordered an outlandishly expensive car wash and bought a Diet Pepsi, which I drank while sitting in the sun and that young man took care of everything.

Then I came home and started unpacking. Again.

Making the best use of kitchen cabinet space is a jigsaw puzzle. I solved it, and then found another box marked "Kitchen." That's why this evening the champagne bucket is wearing a lampshade as a hat. The linen closet is still unsolved. The utility closet is hilarious. The bedroom closet is full of clothes and various items are vying for space on the shelf. The office area of the living room is quite nice, but then I haven't unpacked three boxes marked "Desk." Overwhelmed tonight, I set one small goal: Clear off the kitchen table.

In the middle of that chore, I was inexplicably moved to switch the loveseat with the chair-and-a-half. Why? Because (Edward, where are you when I need you?) once again, just as I did 11 1/2 years ago at the condo, I had put the long piece of furniture on the short wall and the short piece on the long wall. I laughed the whole time I pushed and shoved these big pieces of furniture, remembering that Edward helped me solve the problem last time and surely moving the two pieces would this time, too.

Not so much.

But as my friend Charles always advises, "Live with it awhile."

Right now I am watching waves of fog race across the city. I think the weather is changing, and I say that with confidence -- even though I do not yet have access to the Weather Channel.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Three Weeks Here

New accomplishments: Passed the driver's license written test, got what I wanted from the cable company because I made an office visit (after failing on line and on the phone) and got the parking permit for the moving truck, which comes on Monday.

Who knew?

Free advice: Avoid feeling smug. You know -- here is the more traditional saying: Pride goeth before a fall.

After tallying up my many accomplishments, heading out again I missed the last porch step at P&J's house and landed on the sidewalk. Joel, who was following me, asked if I would prefer to sit on the step instead of on the sidewalk, but I was taking inventory. When I decided everything was where it should be and seemed to be okay (though it hurt), then I got up.

Drove off to the apartment with a load in the car, took everything inside and was wondering what to next when my injured ankle shouted, "GO HOME AND PUT ICE ON THIS FOOT!"

So I did. It's good to listen when the body talks.

My ankle is much better this morning (though still swollen) and so my mind is doing the organizing, sorting and prep work that needs to be done at the apartment. Just as well -- today is a big family picnic, so I was taking off the day anyway. Best news: In addition to attending a picnic in the woods with my new family, I have a $10 filet mignon to grill in the park!

Or to let someone else grill while I sit with my foot up. Still, it's all good!

More later.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Oops -- I Bought a Rug

Just finished measuring and cutting shelf paper -- fun! The task involves math and cutting in straight lines, neither a skill I possess, but it's done. So be it.

More fun was shopping for a metal basket that clamps to the wall by suction cups -- perfect to hold the electronic toothbrush charger -- and a stacked fabric shelf thingy to hold tee shirts in the closet and a second attempt to purchase a plastic bin to hold ice in the freezer. Making ice is one of my specialties, and a person needs a bin to keep it in.

"What's your recipe," asked Joel, pretending to care about my hobby of making ice.

I could not retort with a "Nyah, nyah" because he was in the bathroom constructing an over-the-toilet etagere with shelves to hold makeup and whatever else one keeps on shelves in a bathroom. It's been so long since I left my HUGE bathroom with two linen closets and miles of vanity counter surrounding the sink that I can't remember what I used to have out, but now I have a new place to have it. Out.

Yesterday I met a lovely family selling a sturdy tv stand (one with places to put DVDs!) on Craig's List for just $40. I bought that, though the family's 3 year old worried about what he would use as a train table once it was gone. "We have a lot of other stuff," said Keri (the boy's mom), "like rugs." Susan (Patricia's mom) and I meandered into the garage to have a look.

The next thing I knew, I had purchased a beautiful wool Oriental rug to go -- well, I wasn't sure where it would go, but it was incredibly appealing at the time and we liked it even better when we got it back to the apartment. The rug likely will help define the "Let's Sit and Stare at the View (or the TV)" space, but right now it's lying in the middle of the room and when I'm at the apartment, I really want to lie on it for hours and just imagine living there.

I'm not living there yet -- my Stuff was loaded on a truck today in St. Louis. Tomorrow someone else's stuff gets loaded on the same truck and then the driver maps out his route. And so I wait.

Joel has been referring to my apartment as "The Hut" and "The Cottage." I announced today I like "The Crow's Nest" because I am so high up. A moment passed and he said, "The Crone's Nest," in reference to my advanced stage in life as a crone, which comes after maiden and then mother. That has some appeal. But it's so not nautical, and here I am surrounded by water! Speaking of which, with the binoculars, I can clearly see the lighthouse at Bonita Point from my wall of windows.

While I was out playing "And Then I Bought..." I briefly considered a welcome mat for the entryway just outside my door. I don't like welcome mats that say, "Welcome." I did see one that said, "You are here," which is funny, but in the end I spent money on new cabinet knobs. The ones in the apartment are brass and huge and very flashy -- not that different from my old door knocker -- so I have changed the tone of that for now. Obsessing over cabinet knobs really annoys me, so I didn't spend a lot of time at it.

Next on The List is to get a driver's license, get a library card and join a gym. But first, maybe I'll spend some time lying around on the new rug. Stay tuned.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Two Weeks Down, Decades to Go

Driving up, up, up a hill, noting the sign "Abrupt Grade Change" and then driving down, down, down a hill, I suddenly realized where I"d seen all this before. Weren't some of the best car chases ever seen on screen filmed here in San Francisco?

No surprise -- everyone here drives as though they were chasing someone or being chased. Hurry, hurry! Pass that car, go around that taxi, dare that old woman to open her car door and try to get out before zooming past her! After just two weeks, I get the intensity, the purpose, the sense that time is passing us all by and life is short, so we should all drive fast. I can drive like this, too, and I admit it's fun, especially on the outrageously steep hills.

But how big a hurry must I be in to get to Pier One? Yes, I was eager to see the $129 chairs on sale for $89, but I took my time, savoring the quality of light over The City, noticing the flash of the sun off the water -- what a beautiful place this is!

As it happens, I was given the gift of a dining room table. I checked Craig's List for dining chairs. Hmmm...not surprisingly, most people seek to sell chairs along with the matching table, not individual dining room chairs. One listing mentioned Brand New Chairs, $50 each. They looked nice. One listing offered just three, and I was in the market for four. A couple of listings advertised chairs for $10 each, and well -- you get what you pay for.

I emailed the person with Brand New Chairs. Then I found a nice-looking chair on the Pier One web site. The store on Geary had three. The downtown store had one. I was in possesion of a splendid parking place, and the time was 6:30 p.m., a time after which there are no available parking spots on any streets in San Francisco. Or so I have been told. Was I going to let the fear of never finding a place to park keep me at home? Or was I going to boldly go to Pier One and stare at chairs?

Off I went. As I pulled into a splendid parking spot outside Pier One, my phone rang. Or more accurately, quacked. I have set my ringtone on "Duck" and I find it highly amusing. Calmly, I parked. I listened to the message. It was the young woman advertising the Brand New Chairs, inviting me to come by. First, I visited the chairs in the store. I liked them, but with tax, four would cost over $400. I drove to the Marina to see the four chairs that would cost a flat $200.

The young woman's mother had bought the table and chairs for her daughter, and she didn't want them. She was willing to keep the table, but she wanted something entirely different in a chair. "Did your mother buy you a tv stand that you would like to sell as well?" I asked politely. She had not,though the young woman was thinking of selling all her bedroom furniture.

I bought the chairs, which will serve me well. The I drove them to the apartment. I unloaded them one by one, I took them inside one by one and I carried them up my seven steps one by one. I put them in the living room and ran out the door -- dusk was fast approaching and I had to get home and find a parking place!

This morning, I had three people lined up trying to sell me the same bookcase, a modest piece of low-end furniture from Ikea. One woman wanted $10. A man wanted $35. Another woman was asking $40. Joel rented a truck and off we went in search of the $10 bookcase. Is it in perfect shape? No, but it is perfectly serviceable and will do exactly what bookcases are required to do.

We (mostly Joel) got the bookcase up the steps and into the apartment. He installed a curtain rod and hung my sheer panels. He hung up the new shower curtain -- I got white fabric, to cut down on the overall pink mood of the room. And he constructed and installed the hanging file apparatus for my file drawer in the office cabinet that goes with my splendid new (used) desk.

Here's what else I have in the apartment: A kitchen cart, a microwave, a wicker etagere for the kitchen, baskets for the etagere, four bamboo placemats, the perfect white plastic trash can for under the sink (that took some doing), two big storage bins, six small storage bins, a Brand New Digital Television Set, a handful of new clothes hangers, a shower caddy and miles of shelf paper, just waiting to be installed. Oh, and ice cube trays.

My goal from the beginning was to get what I needed in advance so that on the day the Stuff arrives from St. Louis, I can devote my time to unpacking and start to actually live here inhstead of living any longer in limbo. Living here got easier this afternoon when I discovered the little shopping plaza near the apartment has a huge Safeway, a decent-sized Walgreen's, a Post office, a Pack and Mail, a dry cleaner, a hair salon, a branchette of my bank and a veterinarian's office. And plenty of parking! This area is different from what will become my hanging-out neighborhood, which is Cole Valley, just six blocks down a steep hill from the apartment. But how nice to know that both are near.

Now all that's left to look for is a tv stand. Maybe a rug for under the dining room table. And a compost bin. That's a short list, and does not call for fast driving!