Monthly Archives: January 2008

Powerlessness and disconnectedness, 4.5 years later

The other day I was thinking idly about the Iraq War and how it’s been going on so long I couldn’t even remember when I started, and I happened to look at my impossibly tall, strong daughter, and I realized that I knew exactly how long it’s been going on: as long as she’s been alive. Actually almost 2 months longer: I was arrested in the protests the day the war started, and I was 7 months pregnant with her. In four and a half years a human being can go from 7 pounds of delicate helplessness to a running, jumping, somersaulting, questioning, back-talking, joke-making, reading (almost!), writing, loving person. And in that same time, your country can start a war which kills 654,965 Iraqis, 3,921 US armed forces, 933 US contractors, 307 armed forces from other countries, 112 journalists, 40 media support workers, and 95 aid workers. (From Wikipedia). The scales are too different to fathom, and yet the impact on me of that one little (big!) life is so much greater than all the deaths, it doesn’t make sense. She is my universe. Iraq is a distant, abstract tragedy. I was tempted to call it a nightmare, but that’s at least something I would experience. It doesn’t touch me.

The mapping of the personal and political milestones is even tighter here: Chris and I moved from our old house on September 11, 2001. It was a big leap for us, moving into a house roughly three times the size of the old one and in need of significant attention. It was the start of our new lives, our marriage (very shortly after we moved in) and our becoming parents. It was, apparently, also the start of a new world. The world would never be the same after 9/11. But I’m hard pressed to say how this new world manifested itself in our lives. I don’t know anyone who’s been deployed to Iraq or died there. Our change of neighborhood, on the other hand, has determined so much of who we are as a family now.

There are giant feet-think panes of semi-liquid plexiglass between us and the world we live in. It seemed at the time I was about to get arrested that I was doing something momentous. Greg was with me and he was flipping out. He was convinced I was being irresponsible to my unborn child, and he was on the phone with Chris who was similarly freaked out. I had to steel my courage to get rounded up by the San Francisco police in an intersection on Market Street. Drums were beating, people were shouting. It was loud and chaotic. I was in a brown striped dress with black books; I didn’t look like a hippie, and I thought it would be good for an “older” (oy, that’s me) more conservative person to get rounded up. I wasn’t the only professional in the crowd by a long shot, but we were the minority. I hoped to make at least some small statement, but when I was released (incredibly quickly, due to my gigantic belly and all the liability and PR issues I represented) I realized there had really been no point to anyone but maybe me, and even that was a big maybe. I had cost the good city of San Francisco so many dollars in police and civil servant overtime, and I had made a lot of people very late for work. And my best friend and husband kind of pissed at me. End of story. You can scratch at the plexiglass, but it somehow heals itself right back up. Not that we are willing to sacrifice what it might take to break it.

Corey and Katya and I talked about this the other night at the new wine bar on Lakeshore (review to come – don’t worry; I’ll lighten up soon). What if the next election is stolen too? What if we can no longer deny that the election system is rigged and the will of the people is a joke? What will we do? March? With our kids? Would we risk our precious time, much less our lives? Not likely, because who believes it would make any difference? We need a new form of protest. Maybe it’s just economic. If a quarter of American moms completely ceased all discretionary spending, would it matter? Do we have any power? Or do we need to put on our marching shoes? There are so many hopes pinned on Obama now. He’d better fucking win.

I’d like to post the story of my being arrested here, since I never shared it with anyone after it happened. I can’t find it at the moment, but I think it’s on the hard drive at home, and if I do find it, I’ll add it to the bottom of this post after the jump. Or I’ll post it on March 20, which will be the 5th anniversary of the war.

High Speed Internet Connection

From the instruction card by the phone in my room at the JW Marriott Hotel & Conference Center somewhere outside Las Vegas (which does not offer wireless internet):

All persons wishing to use the high speed Internet service are required to have a functional Ethernet card installed on their computers as well as a Category 5 Ethernet cable at least one meter in length.

Indeed. It would be irresponsible and immoral to do otherwise.

Who writes this stuff?

The JW Marriott Hotel & Conference Center also offers dial-up, by the way, in case you need that. Same deal, must have modem, no short cables.

Clementine-Jennifer Serendipity

Check it out!  Surfing wikipedia today (looked up “persimmon” to remember the name of the ooky variety, then cruised over to “clementine” just because I like to,  and clicked on disambiguation) I find:

Clementine, a large mechanical claw built to secretly raise a sunken Soviet submarine K-129 during the Cold War as part of Project Jennifer.

Well the metaphor is definitely off, but who knew our names were linked before!

La Taza de Cafe (and Camino)

The October 2007 issue of San Francisco magazine was all about Oakland and how cool and hip it is. The whole thing catered right to my crazy Oakland boosterism, but no paragraph excited me so much as this lead in to a review of a restaurant that isn’t open yet.

Grand Avenue is a great place to go if you need a manicure – more than a dozen nail salons dot the eight block commercial strip – but not if you’re looking for a good meal, let alone a prototypical Bay Area dining experience. That’s set to change though, when Camino, the new restaurant from 20-year Chez Panisse veteran Russell Moore and his partner Allison Hopelain, open there early next year.

Putting aside for the moment the fact that there are in fact several places to get a good meal on Grand, the important part is that Camino is about one block from our house! Go to the corner, turn left, follow Boulevard down the hill, and it spits you out right in front of the former Country Home Furniture store, a large warehouse-y looking brick joint that would probably have been turned into a garage if this were New York. It’s been under renovation forever now, and apparently we’re talking serious eatery-style renovation. According to the article, “the focal point of the 80-seat dining room will be a huge stone fireplace being built in Sonoma by a Frenchman who claims his family has been in the stonemasonry business since the time of the Crusades.”

The Crusades! Wow, that’s either really cool or it’s our Oakland-Berkeley down-to-earth hipster narrative going off the rails here a bit. The Crusades were way too long ago, and besides, we don’t use that word anymore. But speaking of the Oakland-Berkeley down-to-earth hipster vibe, the photo of the couple, standing inside the unconstructed space with the Grand Ave scene (including the billboard at our corner which has a habit of carrying unfortunate advertising) backlighting them, tells me this place is going to rule. She’s wearing an Erica Tanov black silk lace-trimmed tank top (I know because I own the same piece) over a short-sleeved black t-shirt, jeans, and Dansko red strappy sandals– very comfortable! (yes, that’s right, I have the same ones in green). He’s wearing an orange, grey and black striped polo shirt, weird vertically striped jeans and what appear to be Fluevogs, and he looks like eerily like a younger, better-fed Christopher Walken who’s done fewer drugs. The menu is going to feature lamb’s leg à la sicelle (hanging by a string in front of the fire) and coils of housemade herb sausages. Except for the name, which sounds like they went to an online Bay Area restaurant name generator and clicked the Give Me Whatever’s Not Already Taken button, I’m in love.

But I am supposed to be writing about the place right next door, La Taza De Café, where Chris and I went for dinner night before last. It was really lovely, and the upshot is that people should go there and try to keep them in business. But unless Camino opens pretty soon I’m predicting yet another sad ending for La Taza, which occupies a space rather cramped with the ghosts of other dead restaurants. When we moved in, it was a generic lunch and dinner place called either Autumn Moon or August Moon or something along those lines. We went there once and didn’t love it. Then it became a Thai place that we never even visited because they used a cheesy wedding-invitation-ish script font that seemed totally unsuited to Asian food; then again it was so short-lived I think we are forgiven for skipping it. There might have even been something else I’m forgetting now, but La Taza has been there at least a year and we finally just made it. It’s Cuban, and there’s dancing on weekends, which is a good thing, because I think you need something extra to make a Cuban restaurant work. Chris and I have been to Cuba, and there’s the thing: food just isn’t one of the better things about the country. It’s an absolutely wonderful place and I recommend everyone go there (carefully, of course, through Canada) and experience the culture and the healthcare system that puts us to shame (I think Michael Moore got that one exactly right). And we certainly didn’t eat badly there, and some of the meals were quite nice. But the mojitos and dancing just kind of outshine the cuisine. Here too, the live Latin jazz band was much better than the sickeningly sweet maduros (plaintains) accompanied by a dipping sauce that tasted exactly like donut glaze (Chris’s observations), and the sauce on the ribs had a serious sweetness problem as well. But the salad with parmesan curls and mango bits was spot on, and the fish (a snapper amandine, I think) was also delicious. The owner came out (I think it was the owner) and gave us shots of dry sherry between courses and he was totally charming in a nerdy sort of way. It was a really nice evening and I think we could make it one of our neighborhood regular spots. But it has to survive.