One of the women in the group recently retired, and she asked about my experience with that transition. We agreed that the most startling part is the lack of structure, and how a day could slip by so quickly with nothing accomplished. I said that initially I had used the gym and water aerobics classes to provide structure and that I also continued to work part time for someone I respect, like and trust -- myself.
Moving to San Francisco, of course, was another transition. I joined a gym, I continue to work part time and I play tourist periodically, exploring neighborhoods new to me. The woman mentioned she gardens and cooks. I agreed those are good activities but added that I found I needed a life of the mind, as well.
Theater is my go-to cultural experience, with museums a close second. Both can be expensive, but I have learned to buy theater tickets on a preview night or a weeknight, farther from the stage than I used to sit – and that’s okay!
I do make exceptions. When Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen came to Berkeley Rep in Pinter’s “No Man’s Land,” I had to be there. Mikhail Baryshnikov will be here in February in a play crafted from two Chekhov stories, and I have a ticket. I have seen Baryshnikov dance – twice – and I want to see him on stage.
Some museums here have free days for specific ZIP codes, and my bank sponsors free days as well. The smaller museums here are not expensive, and they are terrific, especially the ones that deal with San Francisco history. I also have attended several operas and gone to the symphony, always on discounted tickets.
Lately, I have been dashing out the door to lectures. A ticket to hear Simon Winchester (author of the compelling “A Crack in the Edge of the World,” about the 1906 earthquake here, and other books) was just $15. Seeing Billy Collins as he read his poetry for an hour cost almost twice that, but was well worth it.
After the conversation with new friends in that blissfully warm water, I realized I have figured out how to live happily (and mostly modestly) in my new city, taking advantage of much that is available here. And of course when I’m not busy earning money or out enriching my mind, often I am in my living room, playing choo-choos with Milo or teaching him to sing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”
He especially likes the part where we count strikes.
Weight Loss Secret: Speaking of counting, six weeks ago, I cancelled my online account with Weight Watchers, saving myself $18 a month. Since then I have lost six pounds.
How did that happen? I have no idea, but I know I was weary of paying attention to numbers instead of to food. Nothing against Weight Watchers – that’s how I lost 70 pounds starting in 2001 and an additional 10 about three years ago. I have kept off all but that pesky 10, but I have decided that now is the time to ditch it for good. Heck, maybe I’ll even drop an extra 10 over the next six months. Slow and steady does it.
And apparently, freeing myself from so many numbers.
A Public Reading: So I am in Books Inc. two days ago, looking for a book on colors for Milo, and a mom is seated in the children’s area, reading to her two-year-old. When she gets to the end, I ask politely if she knows Sandra Boynton’s “Barnyard Dance.” She does – it’s a favorite.
As we talk, the little girl is looking at me with some suspicion. Why is a stranger talking to her mommy? I smiled and said, “Stomp your feet…” Her mom said, “Clap your hands…” and together we said, “Everybody ready for the barnyard dance!”
The little girl’s eyes grow big but by now she is grinning. “Bow to the horse,” I say. “Bow to the cow,” says her mom. Then we collaborate on the next line: “Twirl with the pig if you know how!” Then all three of us laughed.
I recommended Boynton’s “Not the Hippopotamus” and then went to pay for the book I wanted to buy, imagining twirling with pigs and skittering with mice. Fun!
One More Thing: Sometimes, you get what you wish for. The drive home from Calistoga was full of scenic vistas: The red and orange leaves on deciduous trees, the vast sweeps of golden leaves on acres of dying grapevines, the gently rolling hills. All this, and many world-famous wineries!
I wanted to stop, to taste, to buy, to bring home a trunk full of wonderful wines. I love the names of wines, the stories told by winemakers, even the labels chosen by the wineries -- and most of all, the wine.
I didn’t stop. First of all, a tasting at my favorite port winery is now $20, so I doubt I could afford an actual bottle. Secondly, I hardly ever drink, except at Full Moon Cocktails or dinner parties. And I have nowhere to store great quantities of wine. So I contented myself with reciting the elegant names of wines as I drove.
An hour after I got home, my upstairs neighbor called to say he had a package for me. We met in the hall, and the package turned out to be a box stuffed with bottles of wine, wonderful wines that he wanted to share as he had just gone on a case-buying binge.
Now, in addition to my traditional contribution to Thanksgiving dinner, I’ll be bringing lovely wine.