July 31, 2009

Six Big Men for Grammie

My Grammie had a difficult time breathing at dinner tonight, perhaps anxiety about my Grampie? My mom called 911 as the rest of us sat and continued shabbat dinner.

EMS arrived about ten minutes later. Six giant men showed up from two fire departments and an EMS crew. Frankly, we were blown away by the emergency response. We were worried about Grammie until she was wheeled out smiling with her parade of men in uniforms.

Mom and I are sitting with Grammie in the hospital. She said the guys were telling her how great the food smelled in our house. I'm telling you, Grammie knows how to get attention.

Rain on Me

What a blast! I went out for a short bike ride around my parents' neighborhood on an old bike my dad fixed up for me last night. Good thing I brought my helmet! As I was doing a circuit of the various dead-ends I heard a sound like running. Perhaps a car was coming? Wind? No, it was rain working its way through the woods. Suddenly I was in a downpour. What fun! It made me laugh like crazy.

As I arrived back home my mom was in the garage waiting for me. "We were thinking about you out on that ride." The rain stopped a moment later. My mom and sister Marlene grabbed their cameras and headed outside for some rainbow action.

I love being home with my family.

July 30, 2009

Back on the East Coast

Having just arrived back in California on Sunday night from the DC adventure I have turned around and am now in Connecticut for a week. However, this is not a holiday. My grandpie is gravely ill and we are coming together as a family to offer support for my grammie. Thankfully I have a flexible enough lifestytle that I can continue to do my work long-distance.

Two Wheels Win

Having had four wheels for a few days I now appreciate the freedom I have with just two. For some reason I was constantly in that car driving all over the Bay Area and running errands. I could feel the tension rising as I attempted to merge into traffic and navigate my way around streets that are so easily ridden on my bicycle.

So, my grand conclusion is that I love riding Ike the Bike. He keeps me happy, healthy, relaxed, and flexible. It is a funny thing to say but I feel like with Ike I have more time to breath. Perhaps it is the BART rides or even the cardio-focus of pumping my own way along the roads. Driving a car is so passive and I was so distanced from life on the street.

Looks like I'll keep using City Car Share when I need it and otherwise take Ike, the bus and BART.

July 27, 2009

Four Wheels for a Week

My cousin Ben and I made a deal: I take care of his cats for a week and I can use his car for the same period. I actually picked up the car last week before heading to DC and stored it in Rene's driveway. I have to admit that it was very convenient being able to drive it home this morning although I did miss chatting with Rene as he drove me home on his way to the train.

Here's what I am already noticing about having four wheels full time. I drove to Trader Joe's and the bank instead of walking and they are just a block from my house. However, these two trips were tacked on to other driving excursions, one being my yoga class in Castro Valley. The car ride to yoga seemed to take as long as riding BART. Some of this time may be attributed to me getting a bit spun around looking for highway entrances.

But I am also noticing that on a bike I can more easily merge onto the road and take spontaneous shortcuts in heavy traffic. In fact, I don't even notice the traffic when I'm bike riding because I fit so nicely between the cars and the curb or in the bike lane.

I am also developing a concern that I will eat at my regular level and not burn the calories. Maybe I should use the high cost of gas as a motivator instead.

Bureau of Bureaucracy

A highlight of our DC visit was the Renwick Gallery where we played a game we invented called, "pick the piece you would buy from the collection if money were no object."

Rene picked a table and set of chairs by one of his favorite woodworking artist Sam Maloof. I chose the Bureau of Bureaucracy by Kim Schmahmann. Both are exceptional pieces of craftsmanship.

During our visit to the Renwick we watched videos on woodworkers Stoney Lamar and Sam Maloof. Watching these artisans reminded me of my summer at Horizons camp in Kents Hill, Maine. That summer I worked in clay, wood, glass and photography with practitioners who nurtured my creativity. I was submerged in the tactile experience of art-making. Reflecting on my current profession of the intellectual pursuit of non-profit arts business theory and practice I felt the recognized the extreme distance I have created between me and the making of art. This chasm has been highlighted as I travel with Rene in his pursuit of woodworking machines to create his art.

This weekend I was chatting with Matthew and Rachel's housemate Christina who recently graduated with her MFA and is considering her career next steps. She has prioritized her need to make art and is looking for an administrative or arts education job that can support her art-making. I advised her to "nurture her inner artist" as so many arts managers do not take time to do. She and Matthew put that statement back to me and said, "are you nurturing your inner artist?" You know what, I'm not.

I have crafted my own Bureau of Arts Management Bureaucracy. Like the Schmahmann piece I have hundreds of hidden drawers in which my creative urges have been isolated and hidden away. Seeing the work of these artisans rekindled the desire to work with my hands using my creative eye. Currently, so much of my energy fuels my intellect but starves my heart. Perhaps I could take the business expertise I contribute to my client arts organizations and actually use it to build my own arts business?

DC in 72 Hours

This past four days could be termed "how to do DC in 72 hours". Rene and I had a whirlwind trip, fully facilitated by my generous siblings who transported us and our luggage all around the District. Every day was packed with adventure and thankfully the weather was mostly cooperative.

We arrived in DC late on Thursday evening, delayed in the air because of thunderstorms over the airport. My sister Marlene waited patiently for us at the arrivals gate. Friday morning we were ambitiously up at 7am (4am California time) to get to the Hart Senate Building by 9am to pickup House and Senate tour tickets. Once again Marlene was our driver. We sauntered into Senator Lieberman's offices and asked if we could get a private tour with one of their interns, even though we didn't have a reservation. Sherry, the intern at the desk, suggested that we return at 2pm but she couldn't guarantee a tour. When we did return at 2pm there were two interns ready to give us a private tour. How's that for service?

After our early morning arrival at the Hart building we headed over to Teaism to meet up with my folks and cousin Tracey for breakfast. My parents were in town for a week babysitting grandson Sam-a-liscious. It was a quick cross-over visit but we managed to do some quick catching up.

Marlene, Rene and I then headed over to the National Gallery of Art west building to check out the American art and architecture. Then back we went to the Hart Senate Building for the House and Senate tour. Our two-on-two tour lasted two and a half hours. The interns Alex and Aaron were thorough in their details of architectural and historical information. It was an amazing afternoon.

In the evening we met up with Matt, Rachel and baby Sam for Jazz in the Sculpture Garden on the Mall. Unfortunately I had about one pitcher of sangria too much so the evening became quite blurry. Oh yes, summer in the city.

Saturday we managed to get out of bed at 10am. So much for an early start. Once again the sibs drove us to our destination. Rene and I took the metro into DC and visited the Renwick and Corcoran Galleries. Then we worked our way to the newly rebuilt Eastern Market to pick up sweet desserts for our BBQ dinner back at Matt and Rachel's in Maryland. The evening was spent cooking, chatting and eating.

Sunday we again got up at 10am and got a ride to the Metro. Unlike the previous two days which were mild for DC summers, Sunday was significantly more hot and humid, although nothing like Houston. We took the metro to Arlington National Cemetery where we witnessed the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Extremely impressive ceremony. At the height of our dehydration we took a cab into Alexandria, VA, wandered the streets for historic plaques and then found a fantastic seafood restaurant for brunch. With our flight leaving in three hours we met up with Marlene and Mandeep via Metro in Rosslyn. They generously took us back to the airport where we sat for three hours waiting for our delayed flight. Once in the air we had 36 channels of cable television to distract us on JetBlue as we returned to Oakland.

July 25, 2009

Hanging with the Sibs

What a wonderful but short weekend I am having visiting with my sibs in DC. We've lucked out with fantastic weather - not too hot or humid but a bit wet. My not-so-little nephew Sam is making sound happy and sad sounds all mixed together. We're officially all loved up over him. Happy, happy, joy, joy.

July 22, 2009

Stake in the Ground

I woke up at 1am this morning having a realization - you have to put a stake in the ground and be clear about your needs and intentions. Seems obvious, especially when you are a strategic planner for a living. But applying that to your own life is easier said than done.

Recently I was speaking with a friend who said they use to have a fear that they were going to get kicked in the most-private-of-parts. That's a pretty big fear. Makes you hide in your room. The more I think about it the more I realize that this is probably a pretty common fear. Perhaps it can be phrased as the fear of rejection.

At the wee hours of this morning I had an "aha" moment and realized that if you speak between the lines and only imply your needs it is the same as hiding in your room and avoiding the fear of rejection. Speaking between the lines is something akin to implying your intentions but being so ambiguous as to ensure that you never reach your goals and others can't help you get there.

Putting a stake in the ground takes a lot of guts. But as I am learning with strategic planning - it is a necessary move. Otherwise everything is wishy washy. Once the stake is set you are going to get strong reactions of support as well as rejection. Isn't it better to know where you stand and to have a strong foundation from which to grow and evolve?

Certainly there is room for discussion, interaction and perhaps re-alignment once you put down that stake. That's diplomacy.

July 20, 2009

Fire Opera and Steampunk

Have you ever had the experience where you learn a new term and suddenly it pops up all over the place and you think, "why didn't I know this before?" That's been my experience this week with Steampunk. Carolena of FatChanceBellyDance was telling me about a store in the San Francisco Mission called Five and Diamond which sells Steampunk fashion. It seems to be a fantasy genre lifestyle based on the age of steam power invention and centers around Victorian era England.

Here are images from Five and Diamond's online gallery:
On Saturday night Megan and I attended The Crucible's Fire Arts Festival featuring big, noisy, fiery machines. Last year Rachel and David took me to this spectacle and I was literally blown away by, well, the noise. This year I brought earplugs. (As a side note, Saturday I babysat David and Rachel's newborn baby Chloe - another special one-year-back-anniversary experience.)

The intersection of Steampunk and The Fire Arts Festival was the Rootabaga Fire Opera by Emmy-award winning composer Dan Cantrell and featured ShadowLight Productions' puppets and Oakland's KITKA women's vocal musical ensemble. It was all about Steampunk. Here's an image:

Throughout the evening Megan and I pointed out Steampunk fashion and folks. This was clearly their evening.

July 18, 2009

Summer Vibe

To celebrate summer, today I am with Hisun at the Grand Lake Farmers Market in Oakland. We're sitting on the grass listenening to a guitarist play familiar tunes as children dance.

I am figuring out what I want to purchase that will compliment the homemade mozzarela cheese Megan made for me yesterday. I have at least a pound which needs to be started and finished before Rene and I head out to DC next week. Summer pizza may be on the menu, or lasagna, maybe both!

July 15, 2009


Clearly my summer experience is all about food. Today to honor summer I made a burger with bacon, cheese and mushrooms. Instant summer moment.

Citizen Dance

Walking through San Francisco's Mission District is so much like being part of a giant, improvisational citizen dance. People linger, run, pause, panhandle, scream, cry, and meander the streets day and night. The best way to self-choreograph through this dance is to walk with confidence but without aggression, with purpose but with casualness, with certainty but with room for spontaneity. It requires a learned movement vocabulary that is unique to this area of the City.

This dance reminds me of the unique movement of London. Walk on the left or the right, you're never sure but you have to move with swiftness and purpose. You are certain to brush up against other folks with nearly every step. I recall walking down an empty street with just another person across the block. For some reason we both crossed the street towards each other and actually brushed shoulders in the middle of the road. It was a beautiful moment of Londoners finding each other. In The Mission I would say it is an effort to avoid that moment of contact if you want to keep safe.

Stepping into Summer

Yesterday I used my feet to explore summer. First, by walking out to get the mail in bare feet and feeling the bottom of my feet get burned by the warm steps and pavement of our house. Then I walked on the wooden planks and soft sand on Alameda's beach just two blocks from the house. The sand in my sandals was a tickley reminder of summer. Finally, at sunset, I sat on the front steps of Rene's house as he watered the front garden and he splashed my feet with the cool water. Refreshing on at hot summer's day.

July 14, 2009

Where Do I Live?

Having lived in so many places sometimes I awake in the morning and before opening my eyes I forget in which bedroom I sleep. This morning, hearing the sounds of the summer birds chirping, I thought I was back in my bedroom in Stamford. Then, as I drifted further, my mind wandered to London. Again I wandered and this time it was Houston. In the end it is Alameda in which I live.

I am reading a story about Marie Antoinette and the early days of her marriage have touched my heart as it reminds me of the seven years I lived in such sadness. I think that is why I am dreaming of so many homes.

Image of Kristen Dunst from the film Marie Antoinette directed by Sofia Coppola

July 13, 2009

Ice Cream Sundae Dinner

My first activity to honor summer is having an ice cream sundae for dinner. I feel good about the indulgance since I just finished a yoga class and am riding my bike

Honoring Summer

When you're an adult the seasons pass one after another with very little celebration, unlike when you were a kid and each season had its activities and holidays. In California, with its endless summers, it is even more difficult to distinguish the seasons as each day blends into another.

So, in honor of summer I will find a way each day to take a mini-holiday. Criteria is that it has to be cheap or free, within walking, biking, BARTing or City Car Share distance, involve outdoor activity, and summer attire.

Let the summer games begin.

The above image was taken on July 4 at the William Randolph Hearst Memorial State Beach.

July 12, 2009

Test Driving

There is a hot little Mazda Miata at a used car dealership down the street from my house. Today, after renting a City Car Share vehicle, I decided to take the sexy little Miata for a spin. It was, well, OK. I felt quite contained and close to the ground. The dealer kept saying, "cute, very cute" as I asked about the high mileage and every suspiciuos sound.

I then proceeded to test drive a Saab, Saturn and Chevrolet. The grand conclusion is that I just need some cheap and cheerful. Perhaps a not-so-sexy pickup. Although, frankly, I think a woman in a pickup can be quite cute.

Jim Kweskin in Concert

Last night I had the opportunity to see my cousin Jim Kweskin perform live and in person at Freight and Salvage in Berkeley. His performance was a pleasure and I especially appreciated the stories in between tunes. This was my first time seeing him perform except for a few tunes at my cousin's wedding about seven years ago. The set was a mix of blues, folk, jug band, and ragtime. Jim was tight with a fiddler and bass player on either side of the stage.

Also saw some long lost friends and cousins in the audience. Continued to socializing today with a bit of a cousins reunion lunch and it was wonderful to connect. So much to learn about and from each other. Ah yes, we Kweskins are an interesting lot.

July 9, 2009

New Yoga Home

My yoga teacher, Nancy Leigh-Smith, has opened a new yoga studio in Castro Valley called Yoga in the Middle. Today I made the 45 minute journey out by bike and BART. Castro Valley isn't really a destination and as I searched for the studio, housed within a souless strip mall, I had this horrible feeling of being somewhere not vey zen. But then I thought, well, you have to change an area one step at a time and that's what Nancy's doing.

Having locked up Ike the Bike I still wasn't exactly sure of the studio location but then I saw a familiar face fr our Alameda class. Mike! Instantly I was at home. Nancy gave me a big hug and Mike chatted with me, something we never did in the year that I've been practicing Saturday morning yoga with him. It was clear that he was happy that I made the journey out. I was welcomed with open arms and open hearts.

July 7, 2009

Hit the Limit

I'm at an indoor shooting range for Megan's birthday and I'll need some work getting over my fear of guns. The amazing steps I took were that I actually held, loaded and shot blank bullets out if a Glock 45. Then I entered the shooting gallery and was able to be in there for about 15 minutes until the shotguns started. The noise was just too much.

At least I took these few steps. If I actually shoot a gun the next fears to overcome will be riding on a motorcycle and bungy jumping. What can be left after that? Flying a glider?

Unaccustomed Earth

I recently read Jhumpa Lahiri's Unaccustomed Earth, a compilation of short stories about transplanting and reseeding yourself into new families, countries, jobs, and relationships. The New York Times Book Review has a beautiful description:

...America is still a place where the rest of the world comes to reinvent itself — accepting with excitement and anxiety the necessity of leaving behind the constrictions and comforts of distant customs — is the underlying theme of Jhumpa Lahiri’s sensitive new collection of stories, “Unaccustomed Earth.” Here, as in her first collection, “Interpreter of Maladies,” and her novel, “The Namesake,” Lahiri, who is of Bengali descent but was born in London, raised in Rhode Island and today makes her home in Brooklyn, shows that the place to which you feel the strongest attachment isn’t necessarily the country you’re tied to by blood or birth: it’s the place that allows you to become yourself. This place, she quietly indicates, may not lie on any map.

July 6, 2009

I Will Drive 1000 Miles

This past weekend Rene and I once again drove down the State of California to LA. In the past six weeks I've been to LA more than the entire cumulative 15 years I've lived here. Each time is a new adventure. We started in San Jose, drove down to LA, continued on to the edge of San Diego the next day and then up to Hearst Castle for a two day stop.

On this round we made visits to yet more woodworking machine shops and met some outrageous characters. Our first visit was the dodgiest by far. We were in some industrial area of LA and met up with a character called Bitzalel. Turns out he was a chassidic Jew with a hankering for woodworking and a taste for Hawaiian shirts. I was overdressed in high heal shoes as we squeezed between trucks, dodged broken glass and climbed into many unbelieveable places - all in the name of an Oliver lathe. I made it through the adventure with just a dirty bottom to show for it as I sat on the edge of the truck avoiding a potential sprained ankle. I knew immediately that I could reveal to Bitzalel in just a word or two that I was also Jewish. After feeling out the situation I told him my Hebrew name - that secret tribe language. He asked if Rene was also Jewish and his emphatic response was, "I'm Mexican" to which Bitzalel and I both replied, "so, you can still be Jewish." At the end of our visit Bitzalel asked me if I light the shabbas candles and when I said no his response was, "it only takes 15 seconds". Ah yes, a reminder of why I am turned off from these traditional Jewish women roles.

Next we went to Century Machinery and explored lathe parts. Well, Rene explored the equipment while I changed into less dirty pants following my back alley machine adventure. This all may sound rather boring but we love to debrief after each of these visits on the characteristics of these characters and the signs, signals, postures and positioning that are conveyed in these testasterone filled visits.

From here we drove down to Temecula where Rene purchased a planer. I'm getting good at remembering these machine names and uses. Comes in part from my summer at the family lumber yard, Plotkin Lumber, and in part from the summer I worked on a lathe at Horizons Camp in Maine.
The rest of our weekend was spent at Cambria and Hearst Castle taking in the sites, sounds and tastes of life along the ocean. A breathtakingly-beautiful part of California. This was yet another ideal way to celebrate my one year back in California.


To surprise I received a $50 BART travel voucher in the mail this morning. It is a thank you gift from the Alamada Bicycle Coalition for participating the Bike To Work Month event. Yet another factor making me question my bike vs car choice. In fact, renting and driving a car this past weekend made me realize how expensive it is to drive and how easily road rage emerges.

July 2, 2009

The Many Faces of Frida

I've created a felted portrait of Frida Kahlo which has been accepted into an exhibition called The Many Faces of Frida hosted at the State of California building in Oakland. Runs July 13 - August 28.

Sailing on the Bay

Last night was the perfect evening for sailing on the with John, Maureen, Lucy, and Skipper Jeff. I took a corner seat on the starboard side and was often close to the water as we were facing into the strong winds. What fun to be nearly kissing the water.

July 1, 2009

One Year Anniversary

I have been back in San Francisco for one year, a full year, 365 days, 12 months. Honoring this moment is important for moving forward. This evening I will be sailing on the San Francisco Bay with some close friends - both old and new. What better way to get perspective?

The year was both fast and slow. Sometimes I can't believe I've been here that long and there are all those days between me living in the UK and now. Other times it feels like a blip on the radar screen of life. So much has changed, all for the better. Ultimately, I am living my dreams and reaching my goals. This week has been a bit emotional and I suspect that this milestone may be at the center.

Here's to savoring every minute of the next year, connecting with friends, building new relationships and getting creative.