Citified

city

Outside my new front door…
hustle & bustle
bucket drums
polish dog & sauerkraut cart
foot commuters
cycles & scooters
sky scrapers
buses & cable cars
lost tourists
hotels & flagships
union square
buskers & beggars
food trucks on Minna
and, unavoidably, at least four Starbucks within a two-block radius

…I’m so happy to be back in the bubble of city living–morning, noon and night.

The Peninsula is an unforgiving land of traffic jams and megamarts, and after two years of commuting south to the hinterlands, I’m so happy to be citified once again.

Oh, San Francisco, how I have missed you! Working my 40 hours for the man is no hardship at all when I get to work it out within city limits.

*muuah!*

-Lo, bubble-bound

Seven by Seven

bridge2

I’ve been thinking alot lately about why I work.

My maternity leave from August to December last year was the first time since I was 15 that I’ve had so much consecutive time to myself.

Granted, that time to myself was largely spent changing diapers and pushing a pram through the park. But still, it was week after week of 40 hours NOT spent locked down at a desk.

And the thing that amazed me the most about it was that I never once got bored.

Ok, yes, there was the whole new mother thing happening. But putting the baby metaphorically aside for the moment, the point is that I had no trouble filling my days. Each morning was a gift of “What are we going to do today?”

The aforementioned walks in the park became a big deal, something I always looked forward to. And there were poems to write and cinépoems to edit and a yard to putter around in and if there had been a dog on the premises, there would have been even more to do.

But then my time was up and here I am again, surrendering 40 precious hours to the machine.

I can’t tell you how many times since December 8th I’ve sat in meetings listening to marketing muckety-mucks arguing about what headline I should write to get people to buy a bunch of crap they don’t really need. And all I’m thinking is, “I could be pushing a pram through a park right now.”

So I’ve been thinking a lot lately about why I work.

And the answer lies on the tip of a western peninsula, within the seven by seven miles that I call home… San Francisco, where the majority of residents are renters because buying a home is too expensive.

When Bruce and I pulled up stakes in Illinois ten years ago, we knew the move was permanent. There has never been any looking back, not even in 2001 when I got laid off six times in a row. (In any recession, it seems the copywriter is always the first to go.)

More than any other place on earth I’ve been, San Francisco is home.

Before Lucette arrived, I didn’t mind working. I have always tried to find the most creative word-wrangling job I can to finance the life I love to live.

But now that our family is one person larger, I have begun to begrudge those workaday hours. And so I have to remind myself why I do it.

Because I don’t have to work.

We could always move somewhere cheaper. Perhaps a nice cul-de-sac in a beige suburb where everyone drives the .05 miles to the neighborhood Wal-Mart.

But the dream was never to hie westward and settle in San Mateo. Or Oakland, Alameda, Fresno or Dinuba.

The dream is San Francisco. And it’s a dream I want to give to my daughter.

I want her to grow up here, in this beautiful city, surrounded by people of all races, creeds, languages and sexual orientations. I want her to wake up to the salt air of the ocean, to sleep to the sound of the foghorns.

I want her to have the Golden Gate in her backyard and the mountains within reach. I want her to own the wealth of used bookstores and know the wonder of world-class ballet.

I want her to eat more food from Farmer’s Markets than McDonald’s. I want her to wear out her walking shoes. I want sand on her toes and sun in her hair.

I want her to disagree without being disagreeable. I want her to know that it’s ok to be different.

I want what all parents want — to give their child the world. The difference is that in San Francisco, I can actually give it to her. Because the world lies just outside our front door.

And that is why I work. For Lucette. For San Francisco. For the dream.

-Lo, whose paychecks fuel freedom

Have Some Pride

mood: cheery | drinking: juice
rainbow-flag

It’s Pride weekend here in San Francisco. The rainbows are out in full force.

And although I’m not attending the parade (or the Backstreet Boys concert to follow), I’ve got my pride on all the same.

Today my friend Sarah B. wrote down some thoughts about Pride, and I asked her if I could borrow them to share here. I don’t know where you stand on the issue of gay rights, and this is not intended to be a soapbox. Just one person’s view of things, from a very personal perspective…

Shine on, you homosexual diamond

“Years ago, before I finagled my first design job, I worked a horrible gig as an Administrative Assistant for a temp firm in downtown San Francisco. Most of the women who worked there were Marina Girls — you know the type: plucky little boobs, skirt-suits, and those ubiquitous drink-cups with the oversized straws. They were nice, for the most part, except for one — Melanie — who once asked me about my father, who she’d heard was semi-sorta-famous in some obscure way.

She said “Someone told me your father is gay, is that true?” I said yes, yes it was. She said “Oh my god, what was THAT like?”

I told her, “I didn’t mind his being gay at all. What I minded was that he was born in 1931, when it was forbidden to be gay, and that made him hate himself, which made him an alcoholic, and an alcoholic self-loathing father is no fun. But the gay part was fine, really, once I got over the surprise… he just liked other men, that’s basically it.”

Melanie replied, scornfully: “You mean, he just liked a big dick up his ass.”

I can’t remember how long I sat there staring at her in disbelief. Never mind that we were in SAN FRANCISCO, somewhere in the early ’90s. I just couldn’t believe how rude she was. It was almost admirable, in a weird way. Finally I said “No, actually, he was more of a top,” which was, I’m sorry to say, completely lost on her, but I’m glad I thought to say it.

There is so much hatred and meanness in the world. Another adorable homosexual, Morrissey, said it in one of his many witty songs — “It’s so easy to laugh, it’s so easy to hate, it takes guts to be gentle and kind.”

Raised around gay people in San Francisco, going to Pride marches with my dad and his boyfriend Randy (real name!), I think I was in a privileged little bubble. I assumed homophobia was a thing of the past. I was young and naive.

Since then, years of hearing about Fred Phelps, or the recent anti-gay legislation in Africa, or oh, so many horrible incidences of some poor, terrified boy or girl being bullied or beaten or killed, have cured me of the misapprehension that Those Days are Over.

I’ve heard some people lately asking whether we still need a Pride Week. What’s the point? Everyone knows they exist — why must they keep “shoving it in our faces” (a bizarre turn of phrase, when all you have to do is not look, if it bothers you that much)?

And why DO they keep looking? I think it’s because insecure people need someone else to kick and abuse. It is a shameful but true thing, that looking down on other people, mocking them, asserting your superiority to them, feels good. We’ve all done it, in one way or another. It’s so easy to laugh, it’s so easy to hate, it takes guts to be gentle and kind.

My father died in 1996, of alcohol-related cirrhosis. I remember many nights, alone with him at the dinner table in his SF house, when he’d get so drunk he’d break down and sob and tell me how much he hated himself — how he was a disgusting freak and didn’t deserve to live. Years of inculcation into the society of gay hatred had done that to him.

He knew he loved men from as far back as he could remember having romantic thoughts about anybody. He married my mother because he loved her and desperately wanted to be straight, but that fell apart pretty much the day I was born. He tried so hard — he dated women, and snuck off to have illicit romances with men, and hated himself for it, and drank himself to death.

Fred Phelps and his mob would applaud my dad’s self-hatred as appropriate. What it was was terribly, desperately sad. He had a few lovely years, when the Castro scene started up and he became friends with Harvey Milk, when he felt better about himself, and I remember those times as being a huge relief. He was happy! He came out (to Dave MacElhatton, in his living room, on Channel Five, a scene I walked in on with my little Monkees lunchbox, coming home from school — surreal).

He had boyfriends, and hung out at the Twin Peaks, and in misguided solidarity, even bought a gross (!) of The Village People’s first album (I gave them out as Christmas presents for years). He wrote embarrassing masturbatory fiction for First Hand Magazine under the pseudonym of Jack Hoff. And yes — this was all a little weird, but what wasn’t, in those days?

It was enough, for me, to see happiness replace the constant, haunted misery in his eyes. It was enough when I would come down on my motorcycle for a visit, and me, my dad, and Randy would all go to lunch on our bikes, like some kind of ultra-PC Hell’s Angel’s. Dad was much more affectionate with me and Dylan, because he was okay with being who he was, and didn’t see us as evidence of failure as much anymore. How is that not preferable?

Ultimately, though, he died because the drinking habit that had gotten him through the years of self-hatred in the closet had become a real addiction, and it ate up his liver.

He was a brilliant, weird, talented man, who could play twenty-some-odd musical instruments, had gone to Paris on a Fulbright, sang opera, was a Stormtrooper and the Voice of the Death Star in Star Wars, acted, emceed, made musical instruments, and so many other things… what a waste, for someone that talented and full of possibility to hate himself for so long.

I think of him every Pride Week, and also of his boyfriend Randy, and the various young men who traipsed in and out of his Victorian house on Waller Street. I miss him. I wish the world had been different when he was born and growing up, even if that would mean I wouldn’t have been born.

Pride Week makes me think of all the hundreds of thousands of young people out there right now, maybe not lucky enough to live in a relatively enlightened town, maybe hiding who they are from everyone, or braving it out and suffering the hell of being shunned during the time of life when social approval is most important. I wish I could scoop you all up and tell you to be okay with yourselves…

We definitely do still need Pride Week. Every rainbow-painted set of boobs on a Harley, every wiggling butt on a float, every shiny happy face, gives that terrified kid in Oklahoma hope.

Okay, I’ll stop now, but I love you, Gay People. Have a great Pride Week.”

-written by Sarah B.

-and Lo, wishing a very happy Pride to all her gay peeps out there.

Here’s to New Horizons

mood: list-less | drinking: all done

new_horizons

Everybody and their mother likes to make lists around this time of year. Lists of all the things they loved about 2009. Or hated. Lists of the top songs of 2009, the top movies, the top news stories, the top celebrity meltdowns.

I’m a list lover, too, I’m not going to lie. But this year, instead of looking back at the 364 days behind me, I’m going to look ahead to what’s on the horizon.

So here’s my contribution to the blogosphere’s collection of lists…

Ten Things I’m Looking Forward to in 2010

1. Settling into the new home with Boy and LeeLoo: Unpacking those last few boxes. Building new bookshelves. Sprucing up the backyard. Taste-testing all the neighborhood eateries. Finding new routes to walk to the beach. Discovering a whole host of lovely new things about my new ‘hood.
2. Shooting our new cinépoem: “The Tyranny of the Mirror” is our biggest cinépoem to date, with 8 separate shoots in 8 separate locations and our fabulous ensemble cast of 8 gorgeous ladies (including my very own sister). It’s going to be amazing.
3. Going back to Illinois to see my parents and various and sundry friends: This year was the first year since I’ve moved to California that I didn’t return to my hometown, not even for a quick visit. It was weird. So I plan to remedy that omission in 2010.
4. Getting back into the running routine: I was doing so well there for a couple of years, but the whole house-selling, temporary-apartment-living, house-buying thing kinda messed it all up. Time to get back into the groove.
5. Teaching my nephew new words: He’s two years old now and at that super fun (and dangerous) stage where he likes to parrot everything you say. Fun times for Aunt Lo.
6. Thursday night writing group: More great critiques, more great poems, more great bitch sessions, more great Chinese food. Bring it, girls!
7. Vacationing with Boy: We have a big anniversary coming up, and we’re going to celebrate that milestone in style, come hell or high water. The question is not “if” but “where?” and “when?” (I’ve got Prague on my wishlist, and my passport is itching for some action.) We’ll have to wait and see.
8. Exploring more gorgeous nooks, crannies, and weirdos in this gorgeous city I call home: It seems that every year I find something new here, uncover some previously unknown nugget of awesome about this place. I have no idea what I will discover or who I will meet in 2010, but I’m ready for it.
9. Growing my hair out: Yes, it’s a weird item to include on this list but I just keep whacking my hair off before it reaches the desired length and I swear this time I’m going to curb the impulse to whip out the scissors. Let it grow, let it grow, let it grow.
10. Finding something good in every day: It’s something Boy and I have been trying to do a lot of, a tactic that began out of desperation. In the middle of one of the most difficult years of our lives, we realized that moaning about everything that was going wrong wasn’t making a rough patch any smoother. So we started trying to find something to be grateful for every day, something good in each other, in the people around us, in the smallest, most random happenings. And it works. Not only by making life a bit easier, but by making yourself a lot easier to live with. A good way to go about new beginnings, wouldn’t you say?

Alright. You’ve got my list. How about yours? What are you looking forward to in 2010?

-Lo, who’s also looking forward to all of you lurkers figuring out how to use the comment section.

Finding Gratitude

mood: quiet | drinking: koolaid-tasting vitamin water
us_house

In the spirit of the impending holiday, I’m going to make myself a little list of the things I am grateful for.

I’ve realized recently that I’ve spent the better part of this year griping about all the changes in my life. Time to step back and take a breath and notice the things that haven’t changed, or that have changed for the better.

So. Here they are, off the top of my head: Ten things that make me happy to get out of bed in the morning.

1. Boy. Through good, bad and ugly, he’s always there when I wake up. It’s an easy thing to take for granted in the hubbub of everyday living.

2. LeeLoo. She’s had a tough year, and is coming up on her 12th birthday, which in dog years is rather geriatric. But she’s hanging in there and is always ready with a lick and an eloquent Boxer sigh.

3. Our new home. We’ve only been sleeping under its roof for 10 nights, but it already feels like home. It’s cute, it’s cozy, it’s ours. And at night, you can see the stars so brightly and the ocean thunders so loudly. I feel incredibly lucky to be here.

4. My family. Mom & Dad were here just a few weeks ago, and my sister and I were talking about how weird we are, among most of our friends, that we actually enjoy spending time with our parents. I’m grateful for that kind of oddity.

5. My friends. Recently a small group of good people gathered for chicken pot pie at a cozy restaurant in the Castro to celebrate my birthday, and I looked around the table at all these people who love me–just love me, asking nothing of me in return–and I was overwhelmed with my good fortune to have all these lovely ones in my life.

6. Books. I’ve been reading so many good ones lately. Right now I’m nearly finished with Margaret Atwood’s The Year of the Flood. God, I love books. I love getting lost in another world or being enraptured with the turn of someone else’s phrase. I would be lost without words in my life.

7. New acquaintances. You’re never too old to make new friends, and I’ve made two new forays in that direction recently, meeting Louise, the friend of a friend, and Julie, who took my photo for her art project I live here: SF. I love those unexpected moments when you connect with someone new and think, “Huh. This chick’s pretty cool.”

8. Etsy. Yes, I know, it’s geeky. But this website has opened me up to a whole new world of artists and crafters and seamstresses and amazingly creative people. My sister bought me a Lisa Falzon print off Etsy for my birthday this month and I’m totally in love with it. How else would I have discovered an illustrator in Ireland and have one of her pieces hanging on my dining room wall?

9. Creative outlets. My writing group, first and foremost. The girls in this group rock my face off every time we meet, and I’ve written some things this year that would not have been possible without their input. And then there are the cinepoems. Michelle and I just continue to work so well together and continue to churn out new ideas. We just finished “Homogeneous” and already we’ve got another shoot in the works for December.

10. San Francisco. As I said in my last post, I just really really love this city. It’s a beautiful, weird, wonderful place and I’m so happy that I get to call it my home.

As it turns out, there’s so much to be grateful for, even in the midst of a truly crazy year. And I am, I am grateful. And lucky. And blessed.

And so are you.

-Lo, choosing the bright side.

i live here: SF

mood: delighted | drinking: teashalott2

It’s no secret that I’m in love with this city I call home. I’ve been living in San Francisco for just a couple weeks shy of 10 years now, and I think I love it here even more now than I did the first day I arrived.

That’s why I was eager to be a part of a very cool art project called i live here: SF.

Last week I spent a few hours on a fine sunny morning at (and on) Stow Lake in Golden Gate Park with Julie Michelle (aka TangoBaby), shooting a bunch of pretty amazing pictures for her website.

Julie has been chronicling the faces and stories of the people of San Francisco for nearly a year now. In her own words, “It is my goal to share some of the spirit and fascinating layers of this city through the eyes and visages of those who live here.”

I’m happy to be a part of Julie’s art. My photo shoot and story are featured on her blog today. Go check it out (there are more photos if you click through the link at the bottom that says “see the rest of LaDonna’s photo shoot”).

Be sure to read all the tales my fellow San Franciscan’s have to tell, too. And if you’re a San Francisco native or transplant and you want to be a part of the i live here: SF project, just drop Julie a line at ilivehereSF@gmail.com.

Fair warning, however — you could spend hours on her site. (They’d be hours well spent, though.)

It seems to be a good day to be featured on SF blogs… “Homogeneous” got a shout out on Muni Diaries today! Check it out.

-Lo, trying to work a Lady of Shalott sort of vibe.

In Escrow

mood: overjoyed | drinking: raspberry tea
housefront1

There’s a funny thing about tunnels and the lights that sometimes appear at the end of them…

When there is no end in sight, you feel as if the state of limbo, of darkness, of uncertainty will stretch on and on and on into infinity. You begin to feel like you’ve been there for so long, you can’t remember what it is to live any other way.

And then, suddenly, light! And though you’re still within the tunnel, though you still haven’t reached the end, everything has miraculously changed. Suddenly you are certain that the end is, blessedly, near. And somehow you find yourself laughing at things (*cough* drunk frat boys outside my window at 3 a.m. *cough*) that, a week ago, made you feel like turning into a cutter.

All of that to say this: After 4 months, 134 houses, and 15 offers, the search is over. We’ve got a house.

Or, more accurately, we are in escrow. Apartment living shall continue for the near future. Keys to our adorable new house are not yet in hand. But there is suddenly an expiration date on Limboland, and that changes absolutely everything.

There were 7 other offers on this house, as is common in San Francisco surreal estate. But this time, finally, we were the ones who came out on top, thanks in no small part to the efforts of our most fabulous realtor, Jennifer Rosdail. And also to a letter I wrote to tell the sellers why Boy and I would make such wonderful buyers.

Turns out that sometimes people really do care about who buys their house, not just who has the most cash.

Our new home will be just a couple of blocks from the beach–you can hear the thunder of the Pacific Ocean when the windows are open. We’re also pretty close to Golden Gate Park, one of my most favorite places ever. So we’re pretty pleased about that.

The house isn’t huge, but it does have an extra bedroom, a nice garage for Boy and a big huge backyard for LeeLoo. It was built in 1939 and the previous owner bought it brand new. She took very good care of it, leaving the original details intact, so it’s a very charming little place with hardwood floors and sweet little alcoves.

We’re pretty much in love. (And one of us may have been overtaken by the repeated and spontaneous desire to do some booty-shaking in celebration, much to LeeLoo’s confusion.)

One of the things Boy and I kept telling each other throughout the last few months was that we couldn’t settle. We couldn’t just pick a house to have a house and be done with it. We had to end up with a house that made the whole ordeal worthwhile. We had to choose a house that we loved, that could become a home. A place that we could see ourselves in for years to come.

We feel like we’ve found it. And in about 30-ish days, it will truly be ours.

So here’s to lights and ends and certainty. A new adventure begins…

-Lo, in escrow.

Be a Renegade

Mood: Anticipatious | Drinking: Later

sf2

I’m heading to the Renegade Craft Fair tomorrow with my friend Kathy, and am very excited to see some of my Etsy favorites in person, like this girl.

If you’re in the San Francisco neighborhood, you should go, too! Support your friendly DIY artists.

The fair is happening today and tomorrow from 11am to 7pm at Fort Mason, down by the water. Check the Renegade site for details

I’m ready to get spendy. But first, I’m off to Hogwarts with my pal Michael to get my Potter on.

Happy weekending.

-Lo, all chilled out. For now.

Biblical Battlestar Ballet

Mood: Chilled | Drinking: Chilly Tea

facade

Saw this Newsweek article about “The End of Christian America” today and found it to be an interesting read. Although I’ve been in the post-Christian era of my life for some time now…

———-

Those who know me know that I’m a big Battlestar Galactica fan (the reimagining, not the cheesy original). I loved that show for years with the same burning fiery love I’ve harbored for all Joss Whedon’s creations. Which is to say, a metric buttload of lots.

So I found this Onion article about Obama and his depression over the end of the series to be quite amusing. Although my depression over the end of the series is not as amusing, since it’s very real!

———-

I went to the ballet on Friday night with some girlfriends — the second performance of the San Francisco Ballet I’ve attended this season. (Boy and I saw Swan Lake in February. And yes, he enjoyed it.)

I’m a big ballet fan, but a rather uneducated one. I couldn’t even accomplish a cartwheel as a kid, much less attempt the splits, so I have no natural dancing ability or technical understanding of what it takes to make ballet look so effortless.

But I appreciate it nonetheless, and am so pleased to live in a city with such a world class company. They are truly amazing, and if you live in SF or are coming to visit I highly recommend that you catch a performance — or buy tickets to see them on tour if they come to a city near you!

———-

-Lo, heading out into a sunny Sunday afternoon.

I Ran So Far Away

Mood: Rested | Drinking: Water

tiffany

Last year at this time if someone had told me I would run not just one but two half marathons, I would have fallen over laughing.

But change is possible. With a smidgen of faith, a lot of hard work, three pairs of running shoes, and a little help from my friends.

Last year at this time, I had just started running. I could barely run for a block or two before feeling like my lungs might be full of fire ants.

And now? Now I’ve got 13.1 competitive miles under my belt — twice. Not to mention a couple of 5ks thrown in for good measure.

It’s an amazing thing.

So is running with 20,000 other women (give or take a few brave men). The Nike Women’s Marathon and Half Marathon in San Francisco is billed as a women’s race, and marketed with a whole lot of pink banners.

And I have to tell you, it’s very different, running a race course with a bunch of women. A woman bumps into you and actually says she’s sorry. Women on all sides cheer (and sometimes drag) each other on, mile after sweaty mile. Compliments about hairstyles, t-shirts, and choice of footwear are easily passed about between strangers.

I never really considered a half marathon to be a nurturing environment, but in this case, it was.

I ran my first half marathon in Phoenix back in January, after training for 3 months with Team in Training. This time, I trained myself (with occasional accompaniment from my fabulous running buddy, Allegra).

On race day, Boy dropped me off a block from Union Square in the wee dark hours of the morning and from that point until I crossed the finish line, I was on my own. I trained on my own, ran on my own, and finished on my own, and goddamn, am I proud of myself! 😉

I finished the Phoenix Rock-n-Roll Half Marathon course in 2 hours, 55 minutes, on a hot day over flat roads with only 3 months of training to back me up.

My goal for this Nike race was to beat my own time, and I did: 2 hours, 52 minutes, on a foggy morning over San Francisco-sized hills with a year of running experience behind me.

The best part, besides crossing the finish line, was all my friends who got up early to come and cheer along the way, including my juicy nephew, Jude, and my parents, who just happened to be in town from Illinois. Thanks to all of you!

The other best part? Turquoise Tiffany’s boxes held aloft on silver platters by handsome tuxedo-ed men. And one of them (the box, not the tux man) is all mine.

I’ve been resting up all week, after a nice post-race soak in the ocean, and I think I’m ready to run again.

Time to go pound some pavement…

-Lo, who doesn’t photograph well when sweaty.