Friday, September 12, 2014

Goodbye, Papaya

Today was Papaya's last day.

Unlike with Ginger, who had to depart rather suddenly, I had a few days to make a decision about Papaya. On Monday, she had trouble standing up. The swelling in her back left leg might have also been bone cancer — but I didn't need to know for sure, because she would not be getting better.

Pops had been staying at my parents' house while I recovered from knee surgery. And it so it went: They continued to take loving care of her, giving her narcotics, feeding her ice cream, and not getting annoyed when she barged into the bathroom. (That never got old for her.) She helped herself to two bagels from my parents' dining room table. While they were home. She was still very much herself.

This is the last photo I took of her, when we arrived at the vet's office. You can see the cowlick on the right side of her neck (where she's leaning on my crutches). I never trimmed that because I thought it made her look unique — and if she ever got lost, it would be an easy way to identify her.

But she never got lost. All she ever wanted was to be near you. "You" could be me, my parents, my friends, the mailman, or anyone with food. Pops, you made everyone feel loved, and we will miss you.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Oh no, Papa, not low selfie esteem!

Pops has always been suspicious of cameras. She'll usually look away.

But I wanted to take some selfies, sans moi, on the couch. Even though the images are pretty grainy, I love how cute she looks with her black gumdrop nose.

(It took me a couple of views to notice that her tongue is hanging out: "Wassuuup!")
Plus I think she looks pretty spry for a 14-year-old dog. Her eyes are bright and her fur is still gorgeous. She's incredibly inquisitive for an older lady, particularly when there's food around. If you're cooking or eating, she's there.
This angle is slimming, don't you think?

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Major haircut, again

Five years ago, I grew out my hair so I could donate it. This summer, after accidentally going three months without a trim, I thought I'd try it again.

And because some organizations accept donations of 6 inches of hair, I figured I wouldn't need to go from super-long to super-short. My new look would be a just-below-chin-length 'do — cute and easy to style.

This was my thinking.

Only on the big hair day, I forgot to tell Matt that I wanted the minimum length cut off.

So he carefully arranged two pigtails and snipped 8 inches from each. (The hair is now in the mail, again to Pantene.) I look forward to the day that I can make stubby pigtails. Matt also suggested bigger earrings.

In the 15 years I've known him, this is the first I've heard him say, "Let's never do this again," even in jest. But never say never; reverse psychology is a powerful motivator. Chop-chop, as they say.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Serious hits by Phil Collins

Two years ago, during lunch at Albanese’s, Jeremy joked that the worst thing about Phil Collins songs was that they ended. Then we got our Phil for almost two more hours.

On a seemingly unrelated note, the employees at Half Price Books were recently mulling over my old sociology texts. Two years' worth of books — “because of their age and condition” — were worth $6.25. Six dollars and twenty-five cents, for real? Durkheim’s Elementary Forms of Religious Life may not be a page-turner, but it’s a hardcover, for Emile’s sake.

I was able to buy only one thing with my trade-in cash.

And because of my age and condition, I couldn't resist getting a sentimental birthday gift for Jeremy: Phil Collins’ Serious Hits… Live! (The punctuation is Phil’s, not mine, though I think the excitement is merited.)

Now you can put "Separate Lives" or "Against All Odds" on repeat. The Phil never has to end!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

A musical blast from the past

When I sat down in Julie Sanford's coin-pearl ring class (which was fantastic, by the way), the woman in front of me introduced herself.

"I'm Lissa," she said. She grew up in Whitefish Bay and looked familiar.

Lissa (pronounced "Lisa") is a metalsmith, swimmer, runner, singer, dog lover, Spanish speaker, and sea kayaker. Among other things.

Turns out that she was also an oboist. And I was a violinist, and we were in Music for Youth together. 25 years ago.

What a small, great world!

Monday, June 2, 2014

S'mores season

After grilling dinner on Saturday, it was time for s'mores.

Peter went for all the hot spots and set his jumbo marshmallow on fire; Carol toasted hers with almost surgical precision. Unfortunately, these "jet puffed" monstrosities ruined the chocolate/graham cracker balance.

I have a huge bag of marshmallows left, so if you come over for dinner, plan on having s'mores for dessert. Unless you want a supersized hot cocoa or a double recipe of rice crispy treats.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Last thoughts on San Francisco

The best part of my trip was of course catching up with friends and family. But I also got a chance to see the City in so many ways — on the seedy walk to pick up our race bibs, as a jogger, and riding the post-race shuttle with guys dressed as Snoopy and Tweety. Plus I drove up California Street, past Nob Hill and Lower Pacific Heights, where I lived in my very first apartments. I even drove past streets I didn't know if only because I'd never walked or taken the bus that far. It's funny how places change — the City was as memorable as ever, yet there's always more to discover. Cheers to San Francisco!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Bay to Breakers 2014

A month before the San Francisco Bay to Breakers, I decided it would be fun to trek the 7.46 miles. (That’s 12K to those of you who are runners or love math.)

I hadn’t run or even walked 7.46 miles since the last time I did the Bay to Breakers, 20 years ago.

But this would be a chance to hang with Ruth and get back to the City. So I trained as much as I could, running and walking and adding yoga to the mix. At Highlander, Susie and Scott gave me advice and "You got this!" pep talks. Ruth, on the other hand, needed no such encouragement: She just ran seven miles the week before the race.

On race day, we went to our corral with plenty of time to check out the costumes. Fortunately none of the naked runners started in the 10–12-minute-mile group.

As SNL’s Stefon might have said, this race had everything. Tutus, capes, unicorn hats, girls in body paint, men in see-through mesh shorts. People sitting on the course and spectators wandering in.

Ruth and I lost each other about a minute after we crossed the starting line. (To her credit, she actually tried to find me.) I spent most of the race jockeying for a position among the runners and walkers, looking for those mile markers.

Thankfully the only hill was about two miles in. It doesn’t look bad, but I felt it more than I saw it.

After getting Ruth's finish-line text, I decided to run the last bit. Unfortunately I had an idealized vision of the finish line, thanks to seeing too many races in movies: I'd imagined the finish as a straight shot, but the course kept curving around and around.

I finally wound past two penguin-costumed walkers for a finish in 1 hour, 51 minutes: 17,007th out of 28,253, if you must know. But it was a 12K sans incident, with a burger and fries afterward!

Monday, May 26, 2014

Friendship and photobombers

Though Liz and I have been friends for decades, I’ve gotten to know her family in a slow and piecemeal fashion. (One day I hope to finally meet her husband, Michael!)

While I was in San Francisco, Michael was in Chicago with their daughter, Alexandra, whom I met two years ago when she was an easygoing, polenta-eating baby.

This trip, Liz and I hung out at the house with her 2-year-old twins, Hayden and Matthew.

We played with alphabet puzzles and Liz asked, “Who wants dinner?”

“No one,” said Hayden, the redheaded joker. He sometimes looks serious, but then he breaks out into a smile.

Over Mexican food and the frequent opening and closing of sippy cups, we caught up about our lives and what our college friends have been up to.

Then there was basketball and t-ball — Matthew has quite the swing and I stood farther away than was probably necessary.

I snapped some photos, but it was surprisingly hard to get everyone in focus. (I miss my digital camera.) The selfies were also challenging: Why does Hayden look like a shadowy photobomber? Why do we all look surprised? Where was Liz in that last shot, and where was Hayden going?

After the photos it was time call it a night. The boys stood at the window and waved goodbye. And stayed there waving after I left. Liz, thanks for telling me; it's nice to hear.

I hope to see all of you — together — soon. Those will be some crazy selfies.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Linda and the Shanghai dumpling

Last Friday, Linda and I met for lunch in San Francisco.

There are plenty of restaurants in walking distance from her work, but we went to Yank Sing for dim sum (or "deem sum," as it is more likely spelled).

We talked about life over baskets of dumplings, dumplings, and more dumplings. Having grown up with shumai and gyoza, I pretty much love any dumpling, but I have a special affection for the Shanghai dumpling. (Here's Yank Sing's photo of their version.)

Apparently I can experience these dumplings only once every seven years. Unless I can learn how to make them or find a place in L.A. that serves them. Anyone?

When you're in San Francisco, be sure to visit. And get the pork buns, too. And the honey walnut shrimp — because even though it's a bit hakujin, it's so good.

Linda, thank you for the years of friendship and the wonderful lunch. I'll try to see you again soon!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Jim's 50th birthday

Jim crossed the half-century mark on Saturday, and Lisa planned a surprise party to celebrate. At one point, we weren't sure where he was (Doug lost him), but then he came in from the garage and was indeed surprised.

Sandy, the gnome's previous owner, couldn't be there, so Colleen presented him to Jim. We talked about where he's been and where he'll go (the gnome, I mean).

Great conversations were had. Heavy topics covered:
• Why Colleen never answers her phone.
• Where to store extra hangers. (What if your closets are really small?)
• How smokin' hot Scott and Wendy know Jim.
• The omnipresence of sugar.
• How Dave pulled a hamstring at Jaws.

The pasta and wine were free-flowing, and we ate both of Cindy's cheese-and-grape pizzas. So good!

Thanks to Jane and Sophia for helping decorate the cupcakes. When I worried that I didn't make them a consistent size, Sophia put it in perspective: "He can deal with it."

That also sums up Jim: He can pretty much deal with anything (unless it's a missed overhead, then he gets super emotional).

Happy birthday, our well-preserved Jim Jim! Enjoy the gnome.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Happy 14th birthday, Papaya!

Today was Pops' birthday: 14 years old (or 98, in people time!).

I almost didn't post this first photo because she looks a bit frail and off balance. But sometimes she is, because she's 14 years old, for pup's sake!

As a senior, she's getting fussy: no interest in the chicken-flavored Nylabone I gave her (she used to enjoy chomping on those), and only mild attention to unwrapping her new frisbee. Gnawing and shredding things don't hold the appeal they once did.

Now, she prefers staring. Not into space, thankfully, but into your soul. And staring while we eat. My dad does give her noodles and ice cream (and today, potato chips), so her begging has paid off. This is but one photo in the cheesecake series.

I'm glad my good buddy is developing new interests. Cheers to your birthday, Pops!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Pops' visit with Sandy and Jeff

Pops got the royal treatment when she stayed with Sandy and Jeff.

Sandy updated me every so often about their guest's activities:

She can catch a pasta noodle in the air with ease, she knows all the hot spots on the block for her walk, wakes me up gently peeking up by me in bed then just looking at me with that cute face saying "Mornin! Here I am! Ready for my walk and breakfast!"

Pops was mostly polite, relaxing during the Australian Open and only peeing in the house once (not counting the two times before I left). I'm so glad she received such wonderful care. And so did I — dinner together before my trip, and tea and homemade chocolate chip cookies upon my return. Thanks, my friends!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Hitting backhands

I got a great tip on my backhand from Mark, the tennis pro here in Newport Beach: "Have a longer relationship with the ball." Makes sense. When I tried it, though, he said, "Don't smother it." Something to work on!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Newport Beach 2014: Tuesdays with Julie

During last year's annual visit, Julie and I vowed to keep in touch more than once a year.

Either one of us could've texted, emailed, or Skyped, but we didn't.

Instead we caught up as we usually do — in person. At Tavern on 2, a gastropub in Long Beach, we talked about work over fries, mac and cheese, and fish fry.

Then it was off to La Creperie for catching up on everything that wasn't about work. It's hard to cram a year's worth of life into crepes and cappuccino, but we managed just fine. And this time, we made no promises to keep in touch. That will just give us more to talk about in 2015.

It's pretty astounding what can happen in a year. Cheers!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy 2014

A few weeks ago, we said goodbye to Pat, who's retiring in beautiful northern California. We got together to share chili and salad and cornbread, perfect food for frigid temps. And look — we barely fit in the photo, because that's how many Highlander friends Pat has.

I'm a bit jealous that she will no longer have to shovel — or de-ice, or sprinkle salt, or repeat that whole process while sweating in a parka.

But I can't complain too much, because this year started with a great tradition: New Year's Day tennis with the Highlander gang. And it continued with brunch, where we talked about tennis. After a brief rest, I went to Katy and Paul's for steak, potatoes, red wine, and cookies. And board games! I feel lucky to have enjoyed these things, all in one day.

I wish you days like this — minus the shoveling – and a happy 2014!