Monthly Archives: November 2006

100 Things, Part Deux

51. Two of my favorite foods are red bell peppers and pomelo. In China Hulk and I split a pomelo the size of my head. It cost 40 cents.
52. I have both stripped and danced naked in front of a group of 20 people, most of whom I did not know. I did this voluntarily and had a wonderful time.
53. I guess that makes me somewhat of an exhibitionist, though I wouldn’t do it in public.
54. One thing that makes me really happy is when I see or read about fathers who really enjoy their children.
55. My father did not enjoy his children. He enjoys his dog, though.
56. I have late-onset inherited vertigo that first manifested when I was 20 years old. It totally sucks, because I can’t climb trees and have a hard time climbing rocks anymore. I spent my childhood doing both.
57. We had chickens when I was a kid, and two of them were South American chickens of some sort that laid green and blue eggs. I learned that chickens can be really mean because it was my job to gather eggs.
58. We also lived on a cattle ranch, and I learned that cows can be really mean, too.
59. I am pyrophobic, though not as bad as I used to be. But I still would rather let other people play with fire.
60. I have always felt like myself. Even when I was a little kid. I honestly don’t feel any different or more adult or anything at 27 than I did at 7.
61. In a situation in which a lot of blood or pain on the part of someone else is involved, I go into total focus mode and I do first aid or whatever needs doing. I have no problem watching operations on TV or blood and guts on “E.R.” But I can’t stand watching plastic surgery (like on “Nip/Tuck”).
62. While I like music, I’ve never been enough into it to really know much about individual bands or songs. I have no idea what’s popular these days or what bands are good or anything.
63. I have always been afraid to try things I’m not absolutely sure I’ll understand or be good at. Yes, Hulk, this is why I have yet to knit you a sweater.
64. In fact, my first inclination when something is difficult is to give up. I’m so competitive (with myself and others) that I’d rather not even try if I’m not going to win.
65. Most of the time, I make myself do whatever it is anyway.
66. My eyes are green and my hair is brown. Judging by the times I’ve tried on wigs, I would look terrible as a blonde.
67. I’ve secretly desired to be a blonde anyway, but I’m too afraid to bleach my hair.
68. I didn’t eat macaroni and cheese out of a box until I was 10 years old.
69. This is also when I started babysitting my younger sisters.
70. I never once got paid for babysitting my own siblings, but I started babysitting for other people’s kids when I was 12. I got paid for that.
71. I’m still not sure if I want to have kids of my own, but I’m leaning more toward the “have” than “not have” side of that equasion.
72. Yes, it’s probably because I read entirely too many parent blogs for my own good.
73. At least one of my sisters is going to spawn at some point and then I will get to be Auntie Em!
74. There are entirely too many little girls running around with my name. It was mine first, dammit!
75. A shiver goes down my spine every time I take off or land in a plane, but nobody around me would ever know I was a little bit paranoid about that. I think I hide it pretty well.
76. I once had a job managing the house kitchen for my co-op. There were 28 people in the house. The job gave me a lot of good mangement and budgeting skills, but it sucked to have people knock on my door at 2 AM to tell me we were out of pop tarts.
77. In my entire life, I’ve only had a surprise party once.
78. I secretly want one every year.
79. For my 7th birthday I asked for My Little Ponies. I got 3 of one kind (identical) and 2 of another. Also, my dog died that day.
80. She was only 3.
81. My earliest memories are from before age 2. I actually remember my 2nd birthday party.
82. Most people I’ve told about that think it’s weird.
83. I am weird.
84. Most people I know would tell you the same.
85. I like pie.
86. One of the things I like best about fall and winter is the proliferation of pumpkin-flavored things. I love pumpkin.
87. I wear a silver claddagh on my right ring finger that Hulk gave me almost exactly 5 years ago. I wear it in the “in committed relationship” position.
88. In some ways, it sucked being the oldest kid, because I had to wait the longest for everything. Case in point: ear piercing. I had to wait until I was 10. Lissa got hers pierced at 7 and Laurel got hers pierced at 5! No fair!
89. I am Emily #2 for Hulk. He also dated a girl who had the same first name as both his mother and paternal grandmother.
90. My hair has never been shorter than my shoulders, practically since birth. I was born with a ton of hair. No Winston Churchill babies in my family.
91. I wish there was some way I could perform in front of people again. It was one of the things I liked best about ballet and about doing plays.
92. I watch the Charlie Brown Christmas animated show every year if I have the chance, and I dance along with the kids in the dancing scenes.
93. When we were kids, my sisters and I used to sleep under the Christmas tree in our sleeping bags on Christmas Eve Eve. Maybe I will do that one night this year after we get our tree. But also, maybe I will just sleep in my bed, because it’s way more comfortable than a hardwood floor.
94. I slept at a rave in college. Twice. If I gotta sleep, I’ll sleep wherever I am.
95. Unless I’m too cold, in which case I will not sleep at all.
96. For that reason, I kind of dread having a newborn because I’m afraid I would sleep through a baby crying. Maybe that will be different when it’s my own kid.
97. Hulk gives the best hugs of anyone I’ve ever known, and I’ve hugged a lot of people in my time.
98. I’m a very touchy feely person, but only with people I like (I like some of my coworkers, but you’re not supposed to touch people at work).
99. I have a recurring dream that includes a childhood friend who I haven’t seen since 1999. I still dream about him at various ages at least once a month.
100. Sometimes I wish I lived in California again. I’d move back there in a hot second if I could afford it.

100 things, part 1

I take it this was some sort of meme going around lo these many years ago in the blogosphere. Since I’ve never written a blogger profile or done an “about me” section or anything, and since chances are at least one person that doesn’t actually know me reads this blog, I figured I can spend the last two blops of 2006 writing my “100 things” posts.

1. I used to go to church camp, despite considering myself to be somewhere between secular humanist and agnostic.
2. I also went to a church youth group and sang in a choir for a couple of years.
3. I was a high soprano until I was about 16 and couldn’t sing those high notes so well anymore.
4. I was a goody two-shoes in middle and high school and got mostly As even through college, but I actually got Cs in penmanship in the 4th grade. This is why I never write in cursive. It’s a good thing your 4th grade GPA doesn’t count toward college.
5. Also, my mom’s a teacher, and has perfect handwriting to which I could never aspire to mimic.
6. I skipped the 2nd grade because I learned to read when I was 3 and it all kind of spiraled down from there.
7. This means I could only legally drink for 2 months in college, though that didn’t stop me (my friends were either older or looked old enough to buy booze without being carded).
8. No alcohol, save a few sips of homemade kaluha, ever touched my lips until after I graduated high school.
9. But then I went a little nuts and, shall we say, experimented my freshman year in college. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it), everything just made me sick, so I stopped doing any of that illegal stuff in mid-1997.
10. I used to hoard candy because we got it so rarely. I would keep Easter stuff til Halloween, Halloween candy until Christmas, and Christmas candy until Easter. I’d like to say I don’t do that anymore, since now I can buy all the candy I want, but I think I bought some Cadbury eggs a few years ago and they sat in our kitchen for over a year.
11. My favorite Girl Scout Cookies are Thing Mints.
12. I like bugs (except the kinds that suck blood, and also cockroaches because they are gross), spiders, snakes, and most creepy-crawly things. Does that make me ungirly?
13. One time I stole one piece of candy from a store (I think it was from that pick-a-mix bin). I was 6 years old. I felt so guilty about it that I couldn’t even eat the candy, so I threw it away.
14. One of my best friends from elementary school was a child model. She got her period when we were 9 and it scared the crap out of me.
15. I spent most of my school years reading books all day long. Sometimes I would even read in class, and I even got in trouble for it a few times. I would go days without talking to anyone else (except teachers who asked me questions).
16. This was because I was super unpopular and lonely.
17. I spent 15 years taking ballet classes and was actually quite good. If I’d had the right body type (small frame, lean muscles) I might have even been able to go pro. Someday I might blog about ballet.
18. Tequila is one of my favorite hard alcohols.
19. Despite my fondness for wine, hard cider, and many hard alcohols, I don’t drink all that frequently. I’m actually a cheap date.
20. One of the things I love most about Hulk is his voice. Also, I love when he has a really awesome deep belly laugh.
21. I totally hooked up with my travel buddy when I went to Europe in 2000, and I make no apologies for it.
22. When I was a kid I was deathly afraid of growing up, particularly puberty. I actually faked illness to stay home on the day when they played that “this is what happens to girls” movie in 5th grade.
23. When I was a very young kid I was deathly afraid of Gollum from The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. I saw the Hobbit animated version and had nightmares for years about Gollum. He was my own personal boogeyman.
24. My first kiss happened on my 8th grade day away at Great America. It was with a guy I met there and had only known for a few hours. I still remember his name. The kiss had tongue, and some other kids from my class saw us kissing, and they teased me the whole bus ride home.
25. I have since kissed many people. In fact, I think it’s on the order of 30.
26. I haven’t kissed anyone but Hulk since June of 2001.
27. Last year, we went to China, fulfilling one of my lifelong dreams. I would go back in a hot second.
28. I grew up in a really really small town, attended middle and high school in a really small town, and went to college at a really big urban public university. It was kind of a culture shock, but I loved every second of it.
29. At said big urban public university, I designed my own major and wrote an honors thesis. It was about the theme of death in American children’s literature and how it changed between 1850 and 2000.
30. I’m not actually morbid, however, and would prefer not to think about death.
31. I still love children’s lit though.
32. Every year that I get further from having been in school, I feel less and less smart. This is one of the reasons I want to go to grad school asap.
33. When I was in middle school, I loved dolphins and wanted to be a marine biologist. I never really thought about how few people actually get to work with bottlenose dolphins in this country. Madeline L’Engle made it sound so easy!
34. Despite his history of painting on commission for creepy men, I really like Bouguereau’s art.
35. Every year, Hulk and I buy toys and books for kids listed on those “giving tree” ornaments at the grocery store. This year we picked up 3.
36. Some years I feel so guilty about not picking up more ornaments that I cry a little.
37. I’m most likely to cry when I’m feeling a really strong emotion – it is more likely to be anger or joy than sadness, actually.
38. My facial hair preference for men is in this order: goatee, trimmed beard, naked, soul patch, moustache.
39. I don’t actually like my job anymore, but it’s hard to give up such good benefits and vacation time (20 vacation days and 12 sick days a year! Who else gets that?).
40. I work for the government. I never ever in a million years thought I would work for the government. It’s a little weird.
41. I can’t remember the last holiday meal I consumed during which I was not, on some level, concerned about the number of calories in the food. Maybe I was 10.
42. If you hadn’t already guessed, I do have some disordered eating and exercise patterns. I do my best to stay healthy, though.
43. Most of my childhood was spent in and out of doctors’ offices for various infections, among other things. I didn’t have a very good immune system. Now I try to eat well and exercise in part to keep my immune system in good shape, because I’m less likely to get sick if I eat well and exercise regularly.
44. Two of the four guys I have slept with told me that they’d like me better if I was thinner. During both of those instances I was pretty much the thinnest I’ve been in my adult life and was probably underweight for my frame.
45. My parents were hippies. My sisters and I each have one regular name and one nature name. They aren’t terribly hippieish, though. They also planted a tree for each of us on the day of our births. Mine’s a Douglas fir that’s now about 25 feet tall.
46. I’ve never smoked pot. I frequently won “I never” drinking games pulling the “haven’t smoked pot” card in college.
47. Once, Hulk and I almost got hit by lightning when we were summiting a 14er. It was probably the most frightening experience of my life.
48. I didn’t get my driver’s license until I was 25.5 years old. That’s right, I’ve only been driving for 2 years!
49. I was born 9 months and 4 days after my parents were married, and I have been told I was concieved under the influence of psilocybic mushrooms and wine. I told you, hippies.
50. Sometimes I pee in the shower. But I don’t do it in other people’s showers, or when Hulk is showering with me, because he doesn’t like it.

To be continued…

Apply directly to the forehead!

I didn’t have much of an opportunity to blog on Thanksgiving; I spent pretty much the entire day cooking (sat down for maybe 10 minutes at one point just to rest my back) and then eating and then entertaining. QIR and Hulk and I played some games with my mom after the company had left. Incidentally, I really like my cousin’s boyfriend – it takes some doing to keep a relationship together when one member of the couple goes on a 6-month trip to China and Mongolia scarcely 2 months after the relationship begins. But they managed, and it’s been over a year, and maybe they will make babies.

So I managed a 2-sentence nod to NaBloFloJo, intending to write that “I am thankful for xyz” entry the next day or maybe when we got home, but had other posts that needed to come first. I know Hulk’s already done it, and done it much better than I could, but I do like to take this depressing, death of the year time to think about the things for which I *am* thankful. Perhaps they are silly, or sentimental, or schmoopy, but here they are for your viewing pleasure.

I am thankful for:

Soft, powdery sugar snow to break up the monotonous gray and brown that is a cold Colorado winter
A healthy body and relatively healthy mind
The good, functional relationships I have with my person, my friends, and most of my family
Friends near and far, many of whom I would never have met were it not for the scary internets. So also, the internets.
That at least one of our cats is a lap ho and also gives ball rubs.
That the other of our cats does sideways head when she is really interested in something.
A job that gives me ample opportunities to surf the internet and lots of vacation time. Also, that pays me money so then I can pay bills and buy shoes.
Books, movies, and pretty yarn.
Our new place that allowed us to have a garden and has almost enough space for all our stuff.
The ability to travel just about anywhere in the world and have adventures.
Dark chocolate covered cranberries.
That my boobs are big enough to look like boobs but not so big that they get in my way or make exercise difficult. Also, they make the most pretty bras in my size.
Seasons – I like them all, but I am partial to spring, especially here in Colorado.
Our comfy bed.
That they don’t play that awful “Head on!” commercial right after Jeopardy anymore.
The smells of holidays – pumpkin, cinnamon, bay, pine.
That Hulk makes me such delicious food. I’m truly spoiled.

I’m sure the list is nowhere near complete, but these are the things that have been on my mind, the things that stand out the most, the things for which I know I am lucky/blessed/whatever.

Train Stories #2: Walrus, Azpen, and Nevaeh (for a boy)

This is what the train was like, both there and back again:

Time lost all meaning. Hours would pass, or minutes would pass, and it was never easy to tell how long it had been since the last time we checked, particularly at night. When daylight means hours upon hours of Nevada or Utah, where things are pretty in kind of a desolate way, it all starts to run together in a blur. Our body clocks got all off and we ate almost constantly because really, there wasn’t much else to do. You don’t know if your’re hungry because time means nothing, so you eat just in case. The enforced lack of exercise plus grazing is going to have me in the gym 2 hours a day for the next month just to make up for it all.

We sat, in the observation car, for hours and hours, watching out the window, reading, playing hand after hand of gin. The trip out, I won most of the time, but the trip back we were not alone – the Red family from the first trip was on our train back to Denver and we taught the two younger boys (8, 11, and 14 incidentally; I was a year off) how to play gin. Hulk also picked up a game book and some new and interesting pieces at a game store in SF with which to play new games on the way back.

The train goes faster. The train goes slower. The train stops in the middle of nowhere, because passenger trains have to give way to freight trains at all times. At least this trip there wasn’t a shopping cart on the tracks that made the power go out for 45 minutes. The train is rocking, and you walk like you’re drunk because you’re trying to keep your balance. The brakes smell like burning rubber, and the bathrooms smell like dirty airplane bathrooms, and in between the cars smells like oiled metal.

Hours and hours. More hours. Saturday we watched movies after it got dark (our train left Emeryville an hour and a half late because of engine trouble, so we started off late and got later) – it was dark by Truckee, so we saw the bright awesome lights of Reno and watched Alien and Fellowship of the Ring. Yesterday we didn’t feel like fighting over one of the few precious outlets or dealing with the laptop so we just continued to read, talk, sit, stare at the black nothingness after dark. I had brought a bunch of knitting but never felt like it; the motion of the train and the seats were not conducive to comfortable knitting.

Sleeping was better on the trip back. We were well prepared with pretty lavender eye masks (Hulk looked fetching in his), little pillows, a $4 fleece blanket from IKEA, and (most importantly) EAR PLUGS. Because on the way out, the lady friend of the guy who’d kept us up all night with his apnead vocal stylings told us they’d be on the same train on the way back. We didn’t get to their stop until about 11 PM at which time I’d already fallen asleep, but I was armed with my ear plugs and only barely noticed when they got on the train and sat in seats across from us (ugh).

Poor Red family. They were not prepared for the man, whom the youngest Red called “Walrus Man” for his physical characteristics and frightening noises. Apparently Red Mom and Littlest Red didn’t really sleep at all. In the morning, after Walrus and Companion woke up and went into the cafe to eat or drink or what have you, I went back into the coach to get something and saw that EVERYONE around where we had been sitting was sleeping. I think most people didn’t sleep very well.

Walrus Companion was an interesting person. We had to eat dinner with her on the train ride out because there are 4 seats at a table so they fill all 4 at a time. Our other dining companion, a student at CU Boulder, was lovely, and we tried to have a conversation, and this woman insterted herself into everything – I told her what I did and she asked me where her severely autistic grandchild should be going to school or what programs she should be in. Lady, I’m just a bureaucrat with no specialized knowledge about autism or appropriate environments for autistic kids. Every bit of tid that people discussed, she had a related story or anecdote and would interrupt someone in the middle of a sentence to share. I was glad I didn’t see her much for the trip back. I think she found a kindred spirit in another lady seated near us, because they seemed to spend most of yesterday drinking and playing cards in the cafe car (below the observation car).

We sat in our seats for the last few hours of the ride last night, utterly bored beyond belief at sitting at the same observation car table and staring at the blackness. Walrus, Companion, and Other Lady loudly and drunkenly discussed grandchildren and shared pictures. Companion has granddaughters named Madison and Emily (shocking!) and Other Lady mentioned her daughter, Brandi, and her grandchildren, Azpen (girl) and Neveah (BOY!?!)(“It’s heaven spelled backwards!” she explained when Companion looked confused). OK, so I can see naming a kid Aspen if you’re a hippie or if that’s where the kid was concieved, but this kid lives in New Mexico or something, and the name sounds like a bad energy drink (AzPen! Now with more obscure extracts that will turn your pee purple!), and it should be spelled ASPEN. And I’ve heard of Neveah for a girl, it’s really really trashy (like naming your kid Dezztinie or Princess), but for a boy? He will never forgive his parents.

The train backs into the station in Denver. Just when you think you’ve arrived, you have to wait another 15 minutes so people getting on the train to Chicago have “a view”, though I’m not sure what of at 11 PM. We finally got off the damn train into the cold Colorado air and waited nearly 45 minutes for our luggage to be carried the 5 feet from the train to the station. Red Kids were all punch-drunk, particularly Littlest Red (btw, those kids all had good names, not a Jaeden/Braeden/Cayden in the bunch), and I felt bad for them having to go to school in the morning. We finally got our luggage and ran for the solitary mall shuttle that tools around at that hour on a Sunday. We got home at 10 minutes to midnight and I had just enough time to blop, after which we hosed off our stinky 2 day train ride bodies and collapsed into bed. The kitties are still with HulkRents because our train was so late (the original plan was for them to pick us up at the station and bring us and kitties home) and I think we won’t see them until Wednesday. 😦

The train ride was probably some of the most relaxing travel I’ve ever experienced, but I don’t ever need to do it again. Spending 4 of 9 days on a train pushed my tolerance for enclosed spaces and sitting and shared tiny stinky bathrooms and gin playing and I am so glad to be home.

Jumping Jeebus on a pogo stick we are home

Train 4 hours late
Snoring man again
2 days on train
Luggage took 45 minutes to unload; no ride because we were 4 hours late
had to walk home. with all of our stuff.

holy fuck am I tired.


This is what we already know we’ve left behind (and have no way of getting, since it’s at my sister’s or my mom’s house):

One pair of shoes, purchased at Shoe Pavillion (sister’s house)
One Nalgene (sister’s car)
One hair clip big enough to hold all of my hair (whereabouts unknown)
One bottle of this year’s beaujolais nouveau (Mom’s fridge)
A few months’ worth of Trader Joes chocolate/candy supplies and peanut butter pretzels (Mom’s house)

What else will we leave behind? Who knows, but it’s time to go catch our train. I hope people aren’t averse to mailing things to we who are so good at leaving things behind.

Don’t things come in threes?

Wow, with that many people working in the kitchen for hours and hours, dinner all suddenly went from being cooked to being done at the same time. I personally made pumpkin pie, apple crisp, steamed broccoli, butternut squash soup, chopped veggies for the stuffing, roasted pumpkin seeds, stirred and refrigerated cranberry sauce when my mom walked away in forgetfulness, helped lift the turkey a few times, and cleaned as I went. QIR, Hulk, and my mom also assisted in the creation of the dinner, but I feel like I ended up doing the bulk of the work, as I expected.

I tried to start the day before. My mom had two sugar pumpkins left over from her Halloween decorations that I thought would work to cook down and process into a delicious pie (“There were no other pumpkins left on October 30 in the store, so I got those”, she said.) I pulled out the seeds, scraped the stringy guts, and stuck the halves face down in the pan with some water. They went into the oven for the appropriate amount of time, and then my mom informed me her blender was no longer functional.

So wait, no blender? “Use the hand processor,” she suggested. You mean that thing that’s at least 30 years old and you once used to make my baby food? I looked at it dubiously, its heavy aluminum construction, the ricer-like holes, the hand crank. Hmmm, I thought. And so I tried it when the pumpkin came out of the oven, all warm and squishy. Tried, and failed.

“Have QIR and Hulk pick a blender up on their way,” was the next suggestion my mom had. “Or I’ll go get one at Longs.” But we didn’t want to lose the sweet parking space, at a premium in the little subdivision in front of my mom’s house. Laurel was out visiting with friends, and had my mom’s car. So we sat. Eventually, Laurel came home, and QIR was called and told NOT to buy a blender, and my mom went out and bought a cheap-ass plastic one at Longs. She got it home, I put in the pumpkin, and nothing. It wouldn’t work. Well, it worked in that the blade went around, but it didn’t WORK to process the pumpkin.

“I do have a food processor,” my mom said, and Hulk pulled it out of the cupboard because it’s also 30 years old and weighs about 897 pounds. At that point it had been hours since the pumpkin came out, and it was kind of dried out and really, really stringy. I threw up my hands in disgust and someone went BACK to the store to get canned pumpkin, and although people were nice and told me that the pie was tasty, I ate it too and I know it should have been way better.

This was the second culinary fiasco of our trip, the first being Hulk’s creation of a delicious homemade pizza (even the crust from scratch!) for my sister and Curtis on Monday night. Everything went swimmingly until he went to transfer the pizza from the peel to the stone and it wouldn’t budge. We somehow ended up coaxing it onto a large square cookie sheet (no lip made it easier) and it wasn’t round anymore, but came out looking, smelling, and tasting yummy. The one problem was that we forgot to coat both the peel and the pan with cornmeal or oil or anything so the pizza stuck mightily to the pan, and we only got most of it off for consumption.

Things are supposed to come in threes, right? Because we only had two cooking-related incidents (so far, and we’re going out for sushi tonight, so I don’t know when else we might have the chance). Also, two injuries today in leaving Clovenhoof and returning to the Bay Area in preparation for our train tonight – Hulk hit his head on a high thing projecting out from a shelf at Trader Joe’s, something that apparently short people would never see, but Hulk managed to whack himself a good goose egg and scare the crap out of me. Then QIR bit her own finger, which wasn’t as scary, but still quite painful. I sat cowering in the back seat of the car, wondering when it was my turn and which body part I’d injure. So far, I’ve managed to avoid pain or injury today (knock on wood), but things have come in pairs this weekend, so maybe I’ll be lucky.

We get on the train tomorrow morning at 9:15 – I’m going to post before we leave, attempt to wartrain again, but there are no guarantees. What I’ll have to do is have a post ready to go and spend some time trying to steal internets just to post. Tonight is sushi and Casino Royale and perhaps one more tasty beverage for the road. This time we’re armed with earplugs, sleep masks, tiny pillows and a blanket from IKEA, and the knowledge that there’s hot water available for oatmeal and no need to eat in the dining car for dinner. I hope the world doesn’t end when we’re in the middle of nowhere, Nevada, because we won’t even know about it until the sun comes up in southwestern Utah on Sunday.



(will be back tomorrow with actual content, just blopping)

Saint Crisco

It’s become somewhat of a tradition that when Hulk and I visit California, we spend a day or an afternoon with QIR in The City, aka San Francisco. We do some shopping, we get egg tarts in Chinatown, we have lunch somewhere, we have a drinky poo. It’s so very lovely and comforting and enjoyable, spending time with two people I love so much in a city I know about as well as anyplace I’ve never actually lived.

The thing about hanging out with QIR in SF is that she knows that place like the back of her hand. She can navigate like a pro, get from one side of the city to the other on the best streets, dodging double parked delivery trucks and motorcycles and opening doors and small children that run out in the streets. She’s good at the parking and is as aggressive as one needs to be to drive defensively in that city without ever making you feel uncomfortable or afraid or anything like that. This particular time, we met over near the panhandle, window shopped on upper Haight, had noodles at the Citrus Club, and then headed over to Chinatown, managing to get there with a minimum of fuss. We even found a parking spot right away, and wandered through the least touristy parts of Old Chinatown and never heard those stupid animatronic cricket chirps or had to sidestep throngs of tourists huddled in their San Francisco sweatshirts.

It took a while to find our egg tarts to which we have become addicted, and we popped in and out of several bakeries. We managed to get the other things we liked as well, and also found a place selling that green tea I really liked for only 95 cents – still probably five times what I paid in China, but this is San Francisco. We skirted around and down to North Beach and popped into Vesuvio, where the bartender was happy to surprise us with interesting and fruity yet unsweet cocktails. Hulk had an Anchor Steam – go local, right?

QIR is a fantastic host, though she no longer lives in the city. It’s a city I love to show to people who have never been, and also a city I love to discover anew through QIR when she shows us David Eggers’ pirate store or tells us about a church we pass or takes a particular street to give us a fantastic view of the bay. I know the city by foot; QIR knows it by car, and could give any cabbie a run for his money. I love hanging out with QIR.

After our lovely evening with Leah and Simon, and after our day in Berkeley, and after our unexpected sunshine in San Francisco, I find myself wistful and homesick, wishing that somehow we could magically afford to move to the Bay Area. I don’t know if it will ever happen, though. 😦

Train Story #1: Three Families

We found that traveling by train is, in several ways, by far less stressful than driving or flying. Driving from Colorado to California takes about 19 hours, not counting stops, and would necessitate one of us to be driving at all times. Airplane travel gets one there in either 2 hours (for a direct flight) or 5-6 hours (for a 2-leg flight). However, one is totally confined to a very small space, too small for many people to be comfortable. One has to worry about luggage being lost, whether the person in the seat ahead is going to recline his seat and shove one’s tray table into one’s legs, and whether the refreshment cart is going to catch one’s elbow if one has an aisle seat. One goes through a big rigamarole on either end and it’s all a big hassle.

Train, travel, on the other hand, has a lot to be said for it. One’s seat has more than ample leg room, the seat reclines almost completely, and a leg rest comes up for ease in sleeping. One doesn’t have to fasten a seatbelt, and one is completely free to get up and move around. The train we were on had an observation car complete with booths/tables for playing cards and having picnics, and comfortable side-facing seats for ease in viewing the scenery. There’s a cafe and a dining car, and they don’t mind if you bring all your own food. You can walk around and around, play games, watch movies, and watch the world go by, not having to worry about connecting flights or stopping for gas.

The one drawback, of course, is the amount of time it takes to get anywhere. Our train ended up being about 2 hours late and so we were on the thing for nearly 36 hours, which pretty much became a drag after a while. We didn’t take advantage of any of the stops (some people did – there was no smoking whatsoever allowed on the train, so the smokers hastily sucked down their carcinogens in Glenwood Springs, Grand Junction, Salt Lake and Reno) and so we went nearly two days breathing train air, confined to the cars.

All this time on the train gives passengers ample time to get to know one another. We spent so long confined to the same small spaces (and had to share tables in the dining car) that we all had an opportunity to talk to the other people riding the train. It also made for excellent people-watching opportunities. Several families had taken the train to kick off vacations or take advantage of the low fares for children (no kids’ discount on an airplane!). There were two families aboard the train that I think were mennonite, or some kind of pentecostal. Both families consisted of a young father and mother. The women were wearing simple homemade dresses with elbow-length sleeves, mid-calf length hems, and those little black yarmulke-like things pinned over their hair. The men were wearing jeans and button-down shirts and had closely-trimmed beards. Both families had babies and one had a toddler, and at one point on the first day the families spread out a picnic across two booths in the observation car.

I gotta tell you, this was the oddest thing. They were drinking Pepsi and eating potato chips. Their food was all store-bought and processed. The babies were eating Gerber. If not for what the women were wearing, they could easily have been, you know, not obviously of a religious group. I was sitting close enough to hear them talking to one another and they had very slight accents. Then, one of the women pulled out a cell phone and called someone! This was the oddest scene – a woman in modest dress holding a baby girl in a homemade pink dress talking on a cell phone.

Another of the families that shared our journey all the way to the Bay Area had three boys – a 13-year-old, a 10-year-old, and a 7-year-old. All three were tall for their ages, skinny, with freckles and bright red hair. Three boys who had so much energy and were confined to a train for two days. The parents trusted their kids to behave and they did, which was lovely. For that family the train ride was part of the vacation, to experience seeing the country from the perspective of the observation car. They’d brought a portable DVD player, cards and a poker set, chess, scrabble, and decoratable gingerbread cookies. It was lovely to see such a secure, functional, loving family – the parents knew they had good kids, and the kids completely lived up to their parents’ trust.

There were a lot of other passengers, of course, some of whom were families, but these three stuck out from the crowd – one because of the odd juxtaposition of the looks and actions of the families, the other because of their obvious functionality. I can only hope that we’ll end up with similarly interesting fellow passengers for the trip home.