Sunday, December 30, 2007

Favorite December Moments

1. Eating (and saying) "Sweet Nuts" at the Dickens Fair with Amanda, Anna, Becky, David
2. Sharing new year's hopes over Swiss fondue at Matterhorn with Amanda, Anna, David (and of course, Dan - a given in most of these!)
3. Napping in the car on the edge of the Pescadero cliffs as the waves crashed in below us
4. Hobnobbing at the Guardian and Anchor Steam Christmas parties
5. The "onesy" show and 'Slap talk' over a rousing birthday meal for Manka at 1300 on Fillmore with Amanda, Anna and Karen
6. Ongoing "What Not to Wear" commentary & a Papalote lunch with Ali
7. Hearing Bobby's amazing story at the Old First Pres. homeless dinner
8. Watching unexpected fireworks from Scott & Louise's library window
9. Observing a brilliantly colored hummingbird with Dan in Golden Gate Park's Arboretum
10. Fresh mango hamachi roll at Ariake on a Tuesday lunch with Chesna
11. The best Corned Beef on Rye at a weekday Vitrine lunch with Dannee
12. Afternoon movie escape with Manka to see "The Kite Runner", dissecting the film (compared to the book) and the emotions it stirred over drinks at the St. Regis afterwards
13. Drinking free wines and ports in Sonoma with Dan on a crisp day
14. Drunkin' Pumpkin cocktails at Fish & Farm for my birthday dinner with Manka, Anna, Amanda, Scott, Louise and Dannee
15. Another two hour talk of tears and prayer with my Kristy in Australia
16. Reading "Dracula" aloud with Anna by candlelight over peppermint hot chocolate as "The Village" plays hauntingly in the background
17. The entire week Dan & I spent in Oklahoma with Mom, Dad, Drew, Amy & my relatives
18. One of, if not the, best dinner of my life at Michael Mina with my man for my birthday
Currently watching:
Jesus Camp

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

the dignity of a hidden world

Reading about Edith Stein in Patricia Hampl's, "I Could Tell You Stories" (note the gorgeous phrase about her love of Latin language: "[she spoke in Latin whenever] her passion quickened at the edge of the inexpressible"), I am struck by these passages:

"... her 'conviction that I was destined for something great'. Such greatness should not be confused with mere ambition, for ambition revolves endlessly, and finally hopelessly, around the individual's sense of stardom... The urge towards greatness, on the other hand, is oddly aligned with humility. The purpose is not the fulfillment of a self, or its aggrandizement, but the deft insertion of the self into an overwhelming design... It always carries as well a charge of relation, of service... Ultimately, a life seeking greatness is about the loss of the self in the service of a more complete reality. It is a disappearing act."

She's described as not for 'evangelism', though she was a Jew who converted to Catholicism and became a nun, yet was killed as a Jew in the Holocaust. She seemed to understand the sacredness of God's communication with each person, well acquainted with mystery: "... the dignity of her 'hidden world'... her strangely instinctive solitude... the mystery of her conversion... what she knew each person must find alone, in the locked tabernacle of the self."

Currently listening: The Village
By: James Newton Howard

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Wisdom of Milosz

I'm reading a number of books lately that weigh on my spirit in ways I cannot assuage... this is the outcome every time I hear of the persecutions the majority of the world suffers in our time. I read "The Kite Runner", "Jia: A Novel of North Korea" (by Hyejin Kim) and of Eastern Europe under the Iron Curtain through Czeslaw Milosz. I am always chilled and humbled by the ease we have known in America. Will I "escape" the horror men do to one another? Most of all, why cannot we stop it all from happening? I feel helpless in the wake of the gruesome woes done to human beings every day.

"...unless we can relate to it ourselves personally, history will always be more or less of an abstraction, and its content the clash of impersonal forces and ideas... Doubtless every family archive that perishes... every effacement of the past reinforces classifications and ideas at the expense of reality."

Of his faith: "... [the newfound] bitterness of dualism, the Absolute saved at this price, intoxicated me like the feel of a harsh surface after a smooth one that is impossible to grasp."

"... the individual who lives his journey from childhood to old age against an almost unchanging background, whose habits are never disrupted by the ups and downs of the social order, is too susceptible to the melancholy of things that are simply here, yet are opaque..." - from "Native Realm" - Czeslaw Milosz
Currently watching:
No Country for Old Men

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Winter's Chill

Shifting through dreamy otherworlds of culinary bliss
Roaming the streets of Londontown as it once was
Singing free like Maria on the peaks of Austria

Transported back to Switzerland's pine wood warmth
Hobnobbing with those who might shed some light,
drinking with those whose names I cannot know

Southern goodness with laughter so hard it becomes tears
Dinners with those without homes
who reflect refreshingly tender humanness

Plants of the world, breathing in the dead of winter
Running the moors of England
through their imprisoned passion

Drinking eggnog in an 1800's tavern
Befriending exotic birds on a farm
Picking out our own little tree of green

Staring into eyes that accept me fully
In the glowing blue light of our home
Warmed from Winter's Chill by love
Currently watching : The Lives of Others

Thursday, December 06, 2007

where you can say anything...

Some lines from passages I liked while reading Patricia Hampl's "A Romantic Education" this week:

p. 11 "For the first time the lilacs came to me nostalgically because I noticed them... the knowledge that objects carry their dense bundles of significance out of unconsciousness all the way to - I could almost sense it ahead - the end of the line. To death."
p. 15 "Finding one's 'voice' is, essentially, getting to the point where you can say anything."
p. 63 "... I wanted a city. Not a town, not even the capital of Minnesota, but a city. It was the Midwestern desire that, in part, creates or sustains the empire quality of New York, of Gotham. New York, left to its own devices, without Podunk dreams and ambitions flying to it generation after generation, would hardly be a city, but a collection of steamy, squabbly neighborhoods where everybody is selling sandwiches to each other, the ethnic diversity forever unmelted."
p. 90 "My aunt and uncle were aesthetes. The art of living was their form."
p. 97 "But trying is exactly what beauty is not. Beauty is the absence of effort. It is the casualness that announces: this person is special, was born special."
p. 112 "[Referring to feminism]: We Aren't Beautiful, Lovely is Lousy, Female is Ugly. But we didn't mean that either. We meant... but that is the suicidal part: it is hard to sever the cords that tie us to our slavery and leave intact those that bind us to ourselves."
p. 237 "Only a city can sustain the truth of this fact of beauty - the brokenness - because, unlike an old woman who was once beautiful, a city can perfectly balance, in its architecture, the fresh loveliness of form and the ruined, irreplacable qualities of age."

Currently reading :
Secrets in the Dark: A Life in Sermons
By Frederick Buechner

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

a life is passing

Sylvia Plath:

"I want to get back to my more normal intermediate path where the substance of the world is permeated by my being: eating, food, reading, writing, talking, shopping: so all is good in itself, and not just a hectic activity to cover up the fear that must face itself and duel itself to death, saying: A Life is Passing!" So achingly true.

"The mighty abstract Idea I have of Beauty in all things stifles the more divided and minute domestic happiness... but I must have a thousand beautiful particles to fill up my heart. I feel more and more every day, as my imagination strengthens, that I do not live in this world alone but in a thousand worlds - No sooner am I alone than shapes of epic greatness are stationed around me..." This is my girlhood truth.

Currently watching:
The Buccaneers

Monday, November 19, 2007

where I have been...

"It is a mistake to regard age as a downhill grade toward dissolution. The reverse is true. As one grows older, one climbs with surprising strides." - George Sand

The sky opened up. Change leads the way, possibility the name of this season. In response to months of prayers... beyond words... change has come, bringing hope.

I don't know where it will lead, but I do know it had to happen - even more than I realized. Once it did, the sigh of relief within my gut was so huge, I've been deflated in its wake. Yet simultaneously energized by clear direction and brilliant possibility.

These last two months have been rife with change, sleepless nights, expectation and worry, elation, goodbyes, hellos, world travel, rich times with friends, an excess of visitors, celebration, new jobs for both Dan and myself.

The past weeks flood streams of memories across my mind's window: a brilliant two weeks in Lake Como, Italy, and Switzerland with Dan's family (photos here:; Arts Night; family visiting en mass (Steve & Christina, Mitch & Peanut, Drew, Luke, Ben, Ben & Corie, the Stumpf family - whew!); The Roots with Manka & Dan; Film Nights in Union Square ("Rebel Without A Cause"); reading & discussing Nouwen with my girls; afternoons with Amanda and Manka over tea or lunch; "Emma" musical with Anna; music at Miraloma; great meals and talks (always!) with Scott & Louise; cocktail nights with the girls (Tiki night & Bourbon & Branch); leaving Genentech; starting our new jobs at McKesson (Dan) and the Guardian (me); celebration dinners for Dan & I's new jobs (at House of Prime Rib for Dan and Quince for me); I won tickets to a KFOG lunch (Manka went with me) and a New Orleans on Nob Hill concert through SF Jazz Fest (Dan & I) - Dan won tickets to a Patty Griffin private show!; we went to the weddings of Jason & Tammy and Janet & Brent; The Vampire Gothic Ball with Ben & Corie put on by the Period Recreation Society; private 10th anniversary party at Citizen Cake with Annelies; The Swell Season (from the movie "Once") concert with the girls; the Guardian's Goldies ceremony; serving dinners with Grace Cathedral at the Mentone; Shannon & Ephraim visiting; a seven course meal with our 'crew'; and so much more.

Yes, it's a daunting list that does not begin to tell of inner changes, musings, a consistent "letting go" happening in my life and faith, Dan & I's long talks and realizations (tearful & joyful), talks with my dear girls and sister; the overwhelming sense of gratefulness that permeates my waking and sleeping hours.

There has been fear, strain and uncertainty before these changes hit... then Dan and I both had news about our jobs exactly the same week, gave notice on exactly the same dates, started our new jobs on exactly the same day. It's been strangely unified, though separate changes for us both. A friend said it seems its a sign of how we are being led into new horizons not just individually, but together. We feel this acutely along with humble awe at the meaningful, significant shift that has taken place.

Though no job or change is by any means perfect, with this particular shift, I sense a directional change that is strategic, purposeful and hopeful. Time has been returned to me. Creative, unusual possibility has entered a space conformity and a growing drudgery were filling.

Space is opening up inside me as it is around me. Not only with time, but in environment, direction, horizons. The wind whispers, "It is possible", even as I know not what to do but take the next step right in front of me.

"Those who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night." - Edgar Allen Poe, "Eleonora"

Currently watching : The Darjeeling Limited

Wednesday, September 05, 2007


confines of boredom
lack of challenge
or inspiration
or human spirit

make up the world
we must be ruled by

while our core fights
wrestles within... for more

beyond the mundanity
beyond the shallowness
beyond the irrelevant importance
of what matters not

as we rot
will we care that the bottom line was met
or that people who's souls are dead
were not pleased

the sky screams... blue
the clouds
the breeze caresses... now
the sea roars... YES

Currently listening :
Exit By k-os

Wednesday, August 22, 2007


Luke & Allison are engaged... over the wild Pacific on a sheer blue day so glorious, it hurts. I took photos afterwards, warmed at their joy and obvious soul mate connection; a sweet week spent with them celebrating, exploring Napa or relaxing at our home...

Ben here for a weekend where we just delighted in each other's company whether over perfect island drinks at Forbidden Island, dancing through another time period at the "Pride and Prejudice" picnic, taking photos in "Choopie" or watching ridiculous birds.

Sonoma with Justine & Jason for another vibrant day tasting & seeing that IT IS GOOD...

Serving and eating dinner in the Tenderloin with raw, honest people who are dying to share their stories, keeping me there long after everyone else has left...

Long talks with Kristy in Oz, about the passion to DO & make the world different, which eats us up inside...

Long epistles written between my Anita & I, redolent with our lifetime of memories, current trials & joys, tied into our girlhood hopes...

Dan & I atop the stunning Saratoga mount where Mountain Winery resides, savoring wine & BBQ as good as any in the South (thanks, Uncle Frank's), bundled up for rowdy & smooth blues under the stars, staring out into a sea of lights so shimmering, it blinds us...

This month has been full but so very sweet. And I am grateful for each lingering moment.

"All that is necessary to break the spell of inertia and frustration is this: act as if it were impossible to fail. That is the talisman, the formula, the command of right-about-face that turns us from failure to success." - Dorothea Brande

Currently watching : Notes on a Scandal (2006)

Monday, August 20, 2007


"Moses led his people in circles for forty years so they could get ready for the Promised Land, because they had too many ideas and preconceptions about what a Promised Land should like." - Anne Lamott, "Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith"

I realize that growing up, if allowed to happen, is a journey of deconstruction. Dreams and ideals are built in the tender soil of youth... the most accurate intuition of our whole life... which we spend our adulthood trying to get back to. The pure joy of youth signals our innermost matter: WHO we were meant to be from day one. The traces are there, all the way back, in the simplest, most surprising places.

But to return to that pure essence - the joy of what we were created to do, without need for approval or acclaim, simply out of love for it... as it is WHO we are - takes a lifetime of deconstruction. Periods of wandering the wilderness (40 years if necessary), to dismantle all our preconceptions about what that promised land was going to look like.

Once we finally let go of this most agonizing struggle of all - the ideal of what we heard and thought it was going to be - can we see what the Promised Land actually IS.

And it overwhelms us with vast open spaces and wild beauty. We need only come... and run free.
Currently listening : 20th Century Masters - The Best of The Ink Spots

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Richard Rohr

Quotes from "Enneagram II":
p. 12-13
"Predestination and deism are two extremes: predestination puts excessive reliance on so-called grace and deism puts excessive reliance on self-responsibility... locate divine providence right in the middle of the two...
Can you imagine... that every moment God is trying to expand your freedom? ... and God is even using your mistakes and sins to bring about good? ... I believe this is what the providence of God is all about. God is working for our wholeness, our liberation, our truth, and our freedom...
Co-creation spirituality, which enjoys a longstanding tradition among the Judaeo-Christian people, provides a way of looking... at God & we as a team... The most surprising, perhaps scandalizing point, is that God uses our passions and our compulsions in our favor!"
p. 15
"The truth is that you have to go through the dark night, you have to endure a period in which your feelings don't make a bit of sense... they are leading you into a place of meaninglessness. It is important to pass through these places on your journey.
We desperately need spiritual direction that teaches us to walk through that kind of terrain... hold it, observe it, and trust... it. Those who can help us through the dark night are great teachers. Those who say the dark night must be avoided or that it is always the result of sin or some problem are not good teachers at all."
p. 24
"What do you think is the most dangerous path? I think it is the path of religion... the path of law and duty and religion has detoured the erotic, creative, life-giving paths toward God and has pulled many people into a misdirected path of self-serving salvation. Consequently, these people must deal with a self-image that is constantly protecting itself instead of surrendering itself."
p. 28
"Perhaps in a spiritual sense it was not good to separate either heaven and earth or light and darkness, because the fundamental task in the spiritual life is precisely to try to rejoin the unity that got separated... to be at home at that place of our initial, original creation, that center where God from the beginning said it was good. Most of us spend our lives trying to get back to that place."
p. 31
"Jesus doesn't walk around saying, 'believe this' or 'believe that'. Instead he says 'follow me' through passion, death, and hopeful resurrection."
p. 149
"There's no point in blaming your parents... don't hate [them] for giving you your woundedness. They have to give it. They can't avoid giving it... You're going to pass on to your children some of your unlived life, some of your mistakenness, some of your compulsiveness... That's your finitude. Courage is to accept that we are finite."
p. 166-167
"We stay here fighting it out & killing one another... pretending we love God when it's obvious to everybody else that we don't.
Helen Keller ...wrote, 'Sometimes I fear that religion is, in fact, man's despair at not finding God'. We practice our religious rituals to placate this angry, distant God. We just keep offering the incense and going to the services, reading the Bible and getting self-justification, precisely because we haven't experienced that radical other-justification: that I am hidden with Christ in God, that I came forth from God and I will return to God, and in between I learn how to dance.
... God doesn't demand that we dance perfectly, just that we dance: that we stay in the process, stay on the journey, stay on the path all the way through. During every faith crisis, one or other of our images falls apart. It's either the self-image that we hold on to feverishly, or the God image that we hang on to tightly. That's the unfortunate conservatism of religion. It says, 'Don't question my God image. If you do, it means you're a disbeliever.' And further, let's use this toxic image of God as a validation for a static and often sick image of myself. What we lose out on is what we were created for: love.
People who really believe are people who know how to doubt. Healthy doubt is the other half of faith, and if you tell me you don't doubt, I don't believe your faith. What you have is religion, not faith.
Real faith struggles, like Jacob & the angel, wrestling with the mystery of God...
The Jewish people were wise. They wouldn't give a name to God. They understood the first commandment... when you give a name to God, you think you understand God and you stop the journey. You stay on first base..."
p. 171
"You can trust your gut, your heart, and your head. For most people, that's too much freedom... St. Augustine put it clearly: 'Love God and do whatever you want.'
... Just stay on the path, the path toward love. It's the only path. What God's trying to do is bring us by our free choice into the love God is.
Each decision, each moment, each faith crisis is a chance for another 'yes'. God is expanding your freedom so your yesses can be more free. Usually pain is the only way to do that."
p. 174
"... the Eucharist is a representation and an integration of all that is, not just a way to get holy... [it says] that all things are holy, even the bread and wine. Even dangerous things like intoxicating wine. Jung makes a great deal of the symbol of wine. He says he finds it interesting that in so many languages, the word 'spirit' is used for liquor... Sin & potential sin are also potential grace. And that place where you can be most wounded is also the place where you can be most gifted... the poison itself is the antidote." (Numbers 21:8-9)
p. 175
"... we have a strong example of our unwillingness to let God be free. Many people insist on a masculine image of God... if you're not ready to let go of God as a purely masculine image, you're not going to be ready to go to second or third base where God is just as much woman as man. Whatever maleness means, whatever femaleness means, that's who God is in God's totality. A lot of people are afraid of a female God. What does that say - especially when a woman is afraid of a female God? What does that say about her attitude towards her own body? Toward her own soul?"
p. 182
"To move forward in faith, your God image must periodically fall apart. Your self-image must periodically fall apart as well. If you are willing to let go of both of them, you will really grow. But it really takes faith when they both fall apart at the same time... at this point, you better learn how to pray. Those are the dark nights of the soul, when you must pray, 'Lead us not into temptation and deliver us from evil'.
When the spiritual darkness begins, most people will jump back into past securities. But if you're willing to hang in there with the hidden God, if you're willing to trust and wait in hope, I promise you a new faith will be revealed and a new self will be revealed. And these two new realities will know how to live together... when your self image changes, your God image will soon have to change. If it doesn't, you're in major dissonance."

"The act of faith that it takes to accept the infinite mystery that you are to yourself and the act of faith that it takes to accept the infinite mystery of who God really is are finally the same act of faith." - Karl Rahner
Currently watching : Half Nelson (2006)

Thursday, July 26, 2007

moving inward, moving outward

"Take care of the small circle around you. When you have succeeded with them, then move outward one small step at a time." - Audrey Hepburn

The circle narrows, even as it has always been wide... focus comes. Regular calls, offering to help each other in our daily lives, meeting over drinks... to talk, to connect, sharing meals and movies at home. Reminding each other of what is most important, while allowing the freedom to try, fail, rest, try again.

Recent weekend trips to Yosemite, with dear McClellands, camping on the Merced River, and time alone for Dan & I... as well as a 'rip-roaring' weekend in Paso Robles with wonderful Amanda & her delightful brother & parents... I am warmed by the life of these dear friends we have. It's amazing to know such people & share laughter, hopes, pains and "aliveness" with them. It also thrills me to share beauty and revelation. The craggy glory of Yosemite or the brilliant blue of the sea & sky from Hearst Castle... both were moments of glory to share and bask in with my Dan and those precious ones around us. I am awake in it - I see it. And I realize... this is IT.

"For attractive lips, speak words of kindness. For lovely eyes, seek out the good in people. For a slim figure, share your food with the hungry. For beautiful hair, let a child run his or her fingers through it once a day." - Audrey Hepburn
Currently watching : Viva Las Vegas (1964)

Thursday, July 19, 2007


I am haunted by two artistic endeavors lately:

1. The film "Little Children". Painful, bleak and beautiful, Dan and I wept at the incredible ending. Our choices for today. Choosing now. The agonizing past, but always... the future. Compelling, it stays with me, hitting me in the last moment of the film full force... with truth.

2. The book, "Falling Man", by Don DeLillo. The most chilling account of 9/11 in subtly nuanced ways. A cathartic, mesmerizing read for me. The image of the Falling Man haunts my dreams, as the brutal, loss-of-innocence threshold I crossed on 9/11 marks my life since.

"Although the wind
blows terribly here,
the moonlight also leaks
between the roof planks
of this ruined house."
- Izumi Shikibu (Japan, 974?-1034?)

"This poem reminds that if a house is walled so tightly that it lets in no wind or rain, if a life is walled so tightly that it lets in no pain, grief, anger, or longing, it will also be closed to the entrance of what is most wanted.
" - Jane Hirshfield, "Nine Gates"

Currently reading :
Falling Man: A Novel By Don DeLillo

Monday, July 02, 2007

Preservation Hall Jazz Band

They played a free show at Stern Grove yesterday - such a spectacular park it is, deep in a ravine, lush green, tall Eucalyptus trees, lush foilage, and, today, bright sun.

Local Lavay Smith opened with her big band, as we savored a fresh picnic sweet Amanda prepared. Then Preservation Hall Jazz Band began ( New Orleans' legendary band. It's a dream of mine to see them in Preservation Hall when I finally make it to New Orleans. This, a rare, free show of classic Dixieland, Ragtime and Jazz.

By the end of the show, we were dancing on a log (a felled tree beneath us), alive with the spirit of the music. The entire park, hundreds of people, were dancing joyously as this Southern symphony of men played on, a number them almost a century old, now childlike souls beneath the swaying trees of Stern Grove.

"The gradual transformation from an attitude of self-hatred to a spirit of self-acceptance is what occurs in the process of trying to be honest." - Brennan Manning in "A Glimpse of Jesus"

Currently watching : Designing Woman (1957)

Saturday, June 30, 2007

The Month of June

I love life in the city... such friends and love (Dan) I know. Precious memories made reveling in the beauty of art in life I see so clearly when most myself.

The past weeks held sweet, summer delights like Opera in the park, picnics, visiting friends, always the discovery of restaurants, and unusual cultural events. A few June highlights:

- Amazing nights with "my girls": Out of Africa" (w/ Moroccan Mojitos!) and "Six Feet Under" nights; Wednesday Nouwen talks; "Maniac Mondays": drinks, dancing or meals

- Nights home with my Dan are precious: cooking together with new recipes, watching movies, reading, working on The Perfect Spot newsletter

- Seeing an excellent film, "Paris Je'Taime", with Dan & Annelies (after a luscious French meal at brand new Cassis). Alexander Payne's vignette, the final of the many vignettes (some enchanting, some decent, most good), brought tears to my eyes, touched my heart. Simple. Eloquent. Deep.
- Long nights of drink, food and conversation about all the important (and not so important, but delightful) aspects of life with Scott & Louise at home or favorite spots: The Alembic, Rye, Chutney, Hidden Vine, Redwood Room, Le Colonial (birthday celebration for Scott!)
- Endless savory meals with friends or my Dan at Salt House, Joe DiMaggio's (third time!), Jovino, Umami, Chez Spencer, Red Box Sushi, 900 Grayson in Berkeley, and so on

- Eight of us enjoyed "Casablanca" Film Night in the Park (Union Square), complete with chocolate, red wine, delicious German food (thanks, Bjorn and Lea), the classic film, clanging trolleys going by, wrapped in blankets

- Dannee and I went to a brilliant blues show by Guy Davis at "Biscuits and Blues" on June 28. Not only was it a cozy, intimate show, his musicianship and voice evoked the Old South, life, sadness, sexuality and humor. The song about his father, "Hooking Bull at the Landing", is soulfully beautiful, giving me chills of understanding deep in my gut.

Currently watching :
The Painted Veil

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Thoughts on Age

I'm reading Malcom Muggeridge essays ("Vintage Muggeridge"), finding his style refreshingly straightforward and his predelictions of society, religion and the future of the world as we know it, chilling. All this and written 20-30 years ago.

In his essay, "Am I A Christian?":

"You have in a small area of the world [the US] an economic system which only works in so far as it constantly increases its gross national product. This is our golden calf, and year by year it must get bigger. In order that its getting bigger shouldn't create chaos, people must constantly consume more and want more, so that we must dedicate some of our most brilliant talents and a huge proportion of our wealth to making them want what they don't want... At the same time, while this is going on in one part of the world, in another part of the world, people are getting poorer and poorer and hungrier and hungrier."

In his eulogy, "Dr. Johnson Looks Heavenward":
"[Dr. Johnson says] I have neither mother to be delighted with the reputation of her son, nor wife to partake in the honours of her husband. I have outlived my friends and my rivals... Youth is delighted with applause, because it is considered as the earnest of some future good, and because the prospect of life is far extended: but to me, who am now declining to decrepitude, there is little to be feared from the malevolence of men, and yet less to be hoped from their affection or esteem... Riches would now be useless, and high employment would be pain. My retrospect of life recalls to my view many opportunities of good neglected, much time squandered upon trifles, and more lost in idleness and vacancy. I leave many great designs unattempted, and many great attempts unfinished. My mind is burdened with no heavy crime, and therefore I compose myself to tranquility; endeavor to abstract my thoughts from hopes and cares, which, though reason knows them to be vain, still try to keep their old possession of the heart; expect, with serene humility, that hour which nature cannot long delay; and hope to possess, in a better state, that happiness which here I could not find, and that virtue which here I have not attained."

In his essay, "On Humanae Vitae":
"When you are old there is something that happens that I find very delightful. You often wake up about half past two or three in the morning when the world is very quiet and, in a way, very beautiful. And you feel half in and half out of your body. As though it is really a toss-up whether you go back into that battered old carcase that you can actually see between the sheets, or make off to where you see in the sky, as it were, like the glow of a distant city...
You are aware of these two things: of the old battered carcase of your life in it and this wonderful making off. And at moment, in the sort of limbo between the two, you have an extraordinarily clear perception of life... what you realize with a certainty and a sharpness... is how extraordinarily beautiful the world is; how wonderful is the privilege of being allowed to live in it... of how beautiful the shapes and sounds and colours of the world are; of how beautiful is human love and human work, and all the joys of being a man or woman in the world... that as a creature, an infinitesimal part of God's creation, you participate in God's purposes for his creation. And that whatever may happen, whatever men may do or not do... those purposes of God are loving and not hating. Are creative and not destructive. Are universal and not particular. And in that awareness, great comfort and great joy."

Currently watching : The Queen (2006)

Monday, June 11, 2007


the wind has stilled on this starry night
our star glowing bright over the twin peaks tower
sign of home
sign of hope

lost though we are, we feel your caress
your whisper
your vision emblazoned across our minds' eye

woven skin to skin
tender intimacy following wild devouring
we pray private prayers
in the aftermath of the storm we find quiet

then, surrender

we fall into you
nowhere left to turn
nowhere we want to be
our last... and first... resort

like our bodies, exposed
we are raw
we are yours
simple children
unable to forge our path
emblazon our trail
leave our mark
but that you make way

tension of desire
seeps into trust
we accept
and dare to ask
for the moon
all of it

then step onto the roof
witness our star
find confirmation
that you heard the brutally honest words
uttered from our cozy cell
taking simple abandon
to build that long-awaited masterpiece
we may see it
or we may wander till death

yet we know in this instant
that all manner of things shall be well

Currently reading : The Baron in the Trees By Italo Calvino

Saturday, June 09, 2007

what dan said

"The longer and deeper I know you, the more I see your motives, your heart... When you sound extreme or intense on one side or another, I realize that you really aren't imbalanced as much as have to test out the extremes, examine worst or best possible scenarios, process out loud, face your fears or express your loves. I realize you aren't judging or hating the opposite even as it may feel that way. I realize you have a very loving heart that accepts easily, right up front, without questions. I love your heart."

Healing, gentle words for a self-judging soul who always agonizes over why she can't come across as she wants and means to due to her intensive, passionate, at times extreme, personality... and coming from one who sees her most and knows her best.

Currently listening : The Essential Taj Mahal

Friday, June 08, 2007


oh, ache of endless aches
flesh burning for all-consuming purpose
radical explosion of unmistakable truth

dreams woven together since girlhood
into a woman's complex desire
craving outlet, seeking release

yet the world cannot encompass my passion
my body cannot create my visions
my mind sees larger than what reality shows
my heart holds more than compassion reasonably allows
my soul knows its immortality

as i burn for all
i look to the sky, my stars and radiant moon,
and see you.. the resolution of all that is only hinted at here

Currently watching : Babel

Tuesday, May 22, 2007


I am reading short stories about world traveling writers who have made their homes elsewhere from the place of their birth. Isabel Allende, well known Peruvian writer (famous for "The House of the Spirits"), writes about Marin - ending up there as she married, saying it is more home than even South America was. Her thoughts on Marin (the adjustment it took to move to "paradise", as she calls it) and about California, are fascinating:

"I love this country in general and California in particular. Diversity fascinates me. All the races of the planet come here with their traditions and their dreams. Everything new or important starts here or comes here. I like the awareness, the sense of future, the generosity of the people. The young and optimistic energy of Californians is so attractive! Also their sense of freedom: this is as far West as you can get." - from "A Home in Paradise" (2002)

Currently watching : The Graduate (1967)

My Food/Dining Newsletter

I've launched it so sign up if you love food, travel (I'll cover mulitple cities) or San Francisco...

Click on the link below to sign up for the first issue of my The Perfect Spot SF Newsletter.

Please forward to anyone you know who is a "foodie", traveler, lives in the Bay Area, is visiting San Francisco or who is interested in the culinary world.

I will send monthly newsletters with San Francisco news as well as reviews from my travels.

Currently listening :
The Best of Miss Peggy Lee
By Peggy Lee

Monday, May 21, 2007

culture hound

There is always a sea of options in a city like SF so wading through cultural events and happenings can be overwhelming, especially for a broad arts lover like myself. I have to curb my desire to embrace and drink it all in, to, rather, fully drink in what I do partake of...

4/9 - Muse at the Bill Graham Civic Center; though the crowds were obnoxious (think sweaty teenagers & overcrowding moshers), the music was enthralling and encompassing; I became lost in the roar of operatic vocals, crunching guitars and flowing piano; the spirit of Queen (mixed with modern alternative rock) lives on!

4/13 - Vivienne Westwood exhibit at the DeYoung Museum; a stunning collection of sometimes shocking, sometimes hideous but inventive fashion (some outfits I'd LOVE to have myself); the exhibit had an intriguing flow and we went for the Friday night party replete with live opera, jazz, cocktails and fashion show to highlight this only in SF (in the US) exhibit.

4/14 and 4/15 - Old musicals at the Castro Theatre: Gene Kelly day and Fred & Ginger day; I was weaned on classic films from a mother who knows everything about them, imparting her extensive knowledge to me; it was a delight to see these classics again, especially on the big screen in such a historic theater as the Castro; they played "On the Town" & "Singin' in the Rain" (Kelly) and "Top Hat" & "Swing Time" (Astaire & Rogers); Gene Kelly is still my favorite dancer in film history: such athletic, manly agility, accompanied by graceful precision.

4/27 - SF Film Festival, "Black Sheep"; hardly 'high culture', this New Zealand horror movie about bio-engineered sheep attacking a farm community in NZ was more disgusting hilarity than anything else. I'll never see sheep the same way again.

5/4 - Thelonious Monk & John Coltrane Carnegie Hall concert played by Joshua Redman, Brad Mehldau, Christian McBride and Brian Blade at Herbst Theatre; some of our favorite jazz musicians (and the best living today) playing music of our favorite jazz musicians of the past in a rare SF Jazz Fest show. Brilliant, unbelievable musicianship... enthralling; we have the CD of Monk & Coltrane playing this show originally in the 50's so it was genius to see it recreated here by such profoundly skilled musicians. We went with Schram, 'Tash and her family - it is sweet to share with friends who appreciate it as we do.

5/18 - The incomparable Regina Carter at Yoshi's; Dan and I had a perfect 'date' here. Her avant-garde arrangements, particularly of "Little Brown Jug" and "Georgia, On My Mind" mesmerized us; she is even better live than on her CDs with violin playing so pristine and clear - not a hint of a mistake; her fellow musicians a delight (clarinet, piano, upright bass, drums); their joy in playing was obvious, enlivening the set.

5/19 - Bjork & Joanna Newsom; thanks, Brian & Liz, for taking us to hear one of my favorite performers, Bjork, and a new favorite of mine, Newsom. Again, the crowds were obnoxious, but the show & musicianship, riveting. Bjork is an enchanting pixie with her voice a luring siren, even as she moves into her 40's. As the electronic dance strains of her music escalates, it's trance-inducing and all you can do is move in childlike glee, as she does - she must be the best dancer ever as she has no slick, choreographed moves, rather, she's like a little girl just moving as she feels it. Newsom a uniquely skilled harpist and lyricist, even if her vocals are an 'acquired taste'.

There is more but this is but a taste of some of the events that have flavored my month with diverse richness.

Currently reading :
The Nasty Bits: Collected Varietal Cuts, Usable Trim, Scraps, and Bones
By Anthony Bourdain

Monday, April 30, 2007

spicy Luther

My dear Amanda shared this spicy (for Luther) Martin Luther quote with me:

"Who loves not women, wine and song remains a fool his whole life long. Be a sinner and sin strongly, but more strongly have faith and rejoice in Christ. Every man must do two things alone; he must do his own believing and his own dying.

Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree. Blood alone moves the wheels of history. For where God built a church, there the Devil would also build a chapel.

If I am not allowed to laugh in heaven, I don't want to go there. Peace if possible, truth at all costs. Pray, and let God worry."

Currently watching :
What's Up, Tiger Lily?

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

to ponder

Some interesting things I have been reading lately...

"The Language of God" - Francis S. Collins (p. 42): "... while the long history of religious oppression and hypocrisy is profoundly sobering, the earnest seeker must look beyond the behavior of flawed humans in order to find the truth. Would you condemn an oak tree because its timbers had been used to build battering rams? Would you blame the air for allowing lies to be transmitted through it? Would you judge Mozart's The Magic Flute on the basis of a poorly rehearsed performance by fifth-graders? If you had never seen a real sunset over the Pacific, would you allow a tourist brochure as a substitute? Would you evaluate the power of romantic love solely in the light of an abusive marriage next door? No, a real evaluation of the truth of faith depends upon looking at the clean, pure water, not at the rusty container."

Dietrich Bonhoeffer: "Time lost is time when we have not lived a full human life, time unenriched by experience, creative endeavor, enjoyment and suffering."

Augustine's "Genesis" essay: "... it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all mean to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show a vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but the people outside the household of faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of Scripture find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books and matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods on facts which they themselves have learned from experience in the light of reason?"

Currently reading : The Stream & the Sapphire By Denise Levertov

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

the soul should stand ajar

"The soul should always stand ajar. Ready to welcome the ecstatic experience." - Emily Dickinson

i am ready
... but imprisoned
too frail for earthly values and structures
that weigh heavier until my spirit is crushed
from seemingly meaningless matter such as work
daily conformity
societal structures
a cruel word
or demanding schedule

"The work of art which I do not make, none other will ever make it." - Simone Weil

So how do I make it?
Leave my mark?
Take the bottled-up passion and explode into final fullness?
Is the afterlife beyond death the only place where this can be?

Currently reading : If Grace Is True: Why God Will Save Every Person; By Philip Gulley

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

taste and see

Beautiful thoughts from Chapter 9 of "Take This Bread", by Sara Miles; mirrors my thoughts and current state:

"[The stories of Jesus both pre and post resurrection, eating and meeting with people - revealing himself in bread and wine] point to ... a radically inclusive love that accompanied people in the most ordinary of actions - eating, drinking, walking - and stayed with them, through fear, even past death. That love meant giving yourself away, emrbacing outsiders as family, empyting yourself to feed and live for others. The stories illuminated the holiness located in mortal human bodies, and the promise that people could see God by cherishing all those different bodies the way God did. They spoke of a communion so much vaster than any church could contain: one I had sensed all my life could be expressed in the sharing of food, particularly with strangers..."

"Conversion isn't... a moment. It's a process, and it keeps happening, with cycles of acceptance and resistance, epiphany and doubt... I began to understand why so many people chose to be 'born-again' and follow strict rules that would tell them what to do, once and for all. It was tempting to rely on formula... that became itself a form of idolatry and kept you from experiencing God in your flesh, in the complicated flesh of others. It was tempting to proclaim yourself 'saved' and go back to sleep.

The faith I was finding was jagged and more difficult. It wasn't about abstract theological debates: Does God exist? Are sin and salvation predestined? Or even about political/idealogical ones: Is capital punishment a sin? Is there a scriptural foundation for accepting homosexuality?

It was about action. Taste and see, the Bible said, and I did. I was tasting a connection between communion and food - between my burgeoning religion and my real life. My first, questioning year at church ended with a question whose urgency would propel me into work I'd never imagined: Now that you've taken the bread, what are you going to do?"

Currently listening : Underneath the Stars By Kate Rusby

Monday, April 02, 2007

foodie heaven

As she shares of faith, food and feeding as a spiritual act, local San Franciscan Sara Miles, mentions the heavenly 'foodieness' of San Francisco... so true.

"San Francisco was possibly the most food-obssessed place in America. My brother had left New York restaurant work to become executive chef at a culinary school in Vermont. His interns begged to work in San Francisco; his graduates settled gratefully among the oyster fanatics and organic strawberry farmers. San Francisco's fanciest restaurants had become glamorized as high culture, with chefs as local pundits and celebrities. Even neighborhood cafes offered baby mache salad and grilled fennel, lavender creme brulee and pedigreed beef. All over the city, gleaming botique markets displayed the perfect organic peach, the rarest handmade goat cheese, twelve different kinds of artisanal bread. There were stores that sold only chocolates or only virgin olive oil or only rare coffees. It was foodie heaven." - "Take This Bread", by Sara Miles

Currently Watching: Who Killed the Electric Car?

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

building a kingdom

yes, the scars still show
remnants of brutal crushing of ideals
of faith that words reflected the heart of its utterers

years past and present
collide in a sea of well-meaning, yet shattered promises
brushing over a willing servant for flashier, needier souls

but the call must be solitary
before it can ever be for all... corporately
to lead, one must act in the middle of a sea of rejection

to forgive... the path of freedom
to create what was lacking before
making space for those who want just what you could not find

the ever-present wounds are watered
by the few who at core remain true
who dream big but take the small steps we frail humans must take


to reach a land bigger than we can realize alone

Currently Listening to:The Milk-Eyed Mender - By Joanna Newsom

Thursday, March 15, 2007

making room for vastly great

"naked and on my knees
years of good enough were callously stripped away
an angel took mercy and held my hand
fear not my love
good was merely insulating you... from vastly great."

- Kristen Jongen

Stripping down to make way for the great is hellish agony... yet I cannot go back to compromise, even for good things, anymore. It is like being unfaithful to do the things 'of old'; tormenting me so that I cannot go back to what once comforted, desperately as I want to retreat oft times.

I can only plunge ahead into unchartered territory, unsure where it will lead but knowing that I must leap if I am ever to fly.

Currently reading : The Secret Message of Jesus: Uncovering the Truth that Could Change Everything By Brian McLaren

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Paula West at the Plush Room

Every year I look forward to Paula West's month at the Plush Room. My favorite jazz singer to hear live... and a Bay Area local... it's a magical experience every time - and I've seen her once, if not twice a year for six years. Her voice may not be an Ella or Billie or Sarah (who is these days, really?), but it is well crafted, honed and robust. Her articulation and craft is immaculate... and her song selection unbeatable.

That's my favorite part about the whole thing: waiting to see what she will sing next. Other than her infamous, "The Snake", her encore for every performance (sometimes accompanied by "The Ides of March", which both she & Jane Monheit seem to be known for singing), her song list is different every year. Never the same songs twice.

Variety is the spice of life for me... and, so it seems, for her. She'll sing the classic jazz standards, occasionally well known, often obscure, but she'll surprise by throwing in a Bob Dylan ("Mr. Tambourine Man"), Johnny Cash ("I Walk the Line"), Hank Williams ("Honky Tonkin") tune. Or an Irish ditty ("The Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond"). Or songs from a Broadway musical ("Trouble" from "The Music Man", "I Have Dreamed" from "The King & I"). All of these in fresh, original jazz arrangements. I don't know who does her arrangements as she plays with a different band every year: this year's George Mesterhazy Trio may have been the best I've seen her with yet (he's a brilliant pianist; his middle Eastern sounding arrangement of "Nature Boy" is chillingly good).

Always surprising, I wait with bated breath for what will come next. As I am one weaned on classic literature, music, even TV (all shows I watched were 1960's and prior)... each song is not only a step back to my childhood but also a step into melody that I hold so dear.

Music is the great love of my life - it's always been true. And I am no respecter of styles: I embrace it ALL. Still, there is something about jazz that is more haunting, enchanting, seductive, soothing, mesmerizing, relaxing and transporting than any other style. These nights at the intimate (if overpriced) Plush Room, what a jazz club should be, are magic for me... and I was privileged to relive it twice this February, first with Dan, then with Manka and Chelsea.

The funny part is, I keep running into Paula West frequently around town. I never say anything to her - not sure what I would say anyway - but it's interesting that I have seen her a good 5 or 6 times this year: sat next to her at the bar at NoPa, saw her at Westfield Shopping Centre, another time at Neiman Marcus and then ate breakfast at a table next to her at Dottie's this weekend. We're either fated to meet or it's just a coincidence of people with good taste colliding in our fair city.

Currently reading : Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela By Nelson Mandela

Monday, February 19, 2007

night walk

A gorgeous weekend... we had a spectacular Saturday in Napa with Scott & Louise. Breathtakingly beautiful and warm all day long. The two hour talk on the front porch of the brilliant Victorian house of St. Clement Winery drinking a bottle of buttery Chardonnay while talking of faith, church, life, was the highlight of a perfect day.

Today, Dan and I roamed our city. We slept in and ate banana pancakes I made, then had a leisurely, long Italian lunch at Perbacco in the Financial District. Afterwards, we went to SF MOMA since we have free membership through Genentech to go any time. It was nice to head in for an hour just to check out the latest exhibits (a Picasso exhibit opens next week so we must return soon.)

There was a fabulous photography exhibit of Henry Wessel, a California artist (born in NJ) with a simple, clean style approaching what might seem like every day, bland subjects: tract housing, run down homes, people waiting in line, bushes, etc... Yet there is a haunting quality coupled with realism in his photos. Something very magical, especially in the "Night Walk" series, my favorite. It completely captures the spirit of a moonlit walk, so many fairy-like walks I've had, through neighborhoods at night: the glow emanating from each house, literally taunting me to come inside; the stark outline of trees against the night sky, illuminated by the moon. In my childhood, I'd take night walks often, in Orange County and in New Jersey, with the gentle stillness of the nighttime hours soothing me as each home settled in to sleep. I love these walks still, especially now in my own neighborhood with its gorgeous Victorians, unique homes, delightful corners and unexpected views from the hills. "Night Walk" captures the enchantment exquisitely. I found a website that shows these photos and others of Wessel's:

Wessel reminded me how much I enjoy Robert Doisneau's photography. I know some of his photos are so popular it borders on cliche to be a fan, but I am enveloped by the romantic, lyrical, beauty of his work:

We finished the afternoon sitting overlooking Yerba Buena Gardens with the glowing sun warming us, the surreal blue of the sky encompassing, the soothing downpour of the waterfalls, the birds bathing in the pool, people laying in the sun, reading a book, talking with friends, children splashing in the water. It is good to be alive and be warmed not only from without but from within by our Creator who crafted all of this simple, profound beauty.

Currently watching : The Science of Sleep

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


From my dear Annie Dillard's "Pilgrim at Tinker Creek", a soul book of mine for more than ten years now:

"You don't run down the present, pursue it with baited hooks and nets. You wait for it, empty-handed, and you are filled. You'll have fish left over."

These lines hit me as a promise of hope back in 2000 when I had finally started dating Dan and was so afraid and unsure of where it would all lead. They are a promise to me again now as I wait, rather than run down, the uncertain but strangely freeing present... wait for the woods to open up to wild meadows and cliff side vistas.

Wait. It is coming.

Monday, February 12, 2007

the essential for the trivial

I love what C.S. Lewis' stepson, Douglas Gresham, said about him when being interviewed in Christianity Today for the book he published last year on his insight into "Jack's Life":

CT: Americans have latched on to C. S. Lewis, and yet here's a guy who was a chain smoker, who liked his pints, who told ribald jokes, and in general, wouldn't fit what we think of as the "typical evangelical." And yet we've all wrapped our arms around him. Why is that?
Gresham: One of the reasons is that through the—if you can excuse the expression—the bullshit that has come to be taken so seriously in American Christianity, through all of that, they can still see the essential truth that Jack represented. The problem with evangelical Christianity in America today, a large majority of you have sacrificed the essential for the sake of the trivial. You concentrate on the trivialities—not smoking, not drinking, not using bad language, not dressing inappropriately in church, and so on. Jesus doesn't give two hoots for that sort of bullshit. If you go out and DO Christianity, you can smoke if you want, you can drink if you want—though not to excess, in either case.


Currently Listening: Begin to Hope - Regina Spektor

Friday, February 09, 2007

And yet...

Reading Wendell Berry poetry again today and this passage from his "Sabbaths" series (2000) hits me powerfully, capturing the hope on the other side of despair:

Days without strength or hope,
days that pay the cost
of the always losing battle
that is never lost, and yet
in no foreseeable lifetime
is ever to be won. "And yet,"
I say again to myself,
"And yet.. . "

Currently watching : Conversations with Other Women

Thursday, February 08, 2007

the wild sea

A beautiful day with our dear McClellands... their family is in town and we enjoyed a day of pursuits together, from lunch on the beach, to watching the Queen Mary sail in, to the Super Bowl at Scott & Louise's place.

Scott's sermon was excellent this morning - about my long-held belief of God NOT being contained in any of the boxes we all put God in, even some of the good ones. I've written a number of poems about this from a young age, so it obviously connected with me right away. He shared images of God a few steps of ahead of where we've landed and settled, doing the next thing, in unexpected places, through people or things we didn't know God would move through. A truth I know well from experience in my short life thus far, but one I am thankful to be constantly reminded of... especially in this time of transition, loss, letting go of structures that have not helped, mostly hindered, despite the fact that I love people in those structures, know them inside and out, and do not want to let go of the safety of trying to make it work within them. But as always, tiring and frightening as it is, I know I must let go, release, set out to the wide open sea where God is working marvelous storms and beauty. Now is a whole new level of release and uncertainty.

I hate to leave many I love at the shore, realizing that I haven't figured "it" out anyway and must remember they're on their own journey, too, even at the shoreline. But I do know for a fact, as I always have, that God is not found in safety, sameness, complacency or in conformity to structures when the wild sea is calling.

Currently reading: "When the Powers Fall" by Walter Wink
Currently listening : "Freefall" By Kenny Barron & Regina Carter

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Las Vegas

A welcome change of pace and a birthday celebration for my Dannee... we escaped on a Wednesday from work to fly to Vegas and get a gorgeous suite at the Venetian for a third of its normal price (thank you American Express for the deal!) A living room, large bathroom with marble tub and glass shower, TVs in both the living room and bedroom - perfect.

Neither of us had been to Vegas in ten years and we remembered why: too fake, flashy, obnoxious, overpriced, lacking in anything real. YET... it was a mixture of hate and delight as we enjoyed the decadence of Sin City. We could wait another ten years to go back but it still was over the top fun for a couple days.

The first night we stayed out till 2am exhausting ourselves by walking around and checking out all the hotels that are new since we were last there... the fountains at the Bellagio were among my favorite things about the whole trip. Mesmerizing, we watched at least five or six shows over these couple days ... I could have watched more. The second night we came back to our room after a long, wonderful dinner and got hot chocolate and exquisite chocolates downstairs in our hotel, then took them up to our room where we ate & drank chocolate in bed while watching Letterman and late night TV. An ideal night.

Our favorite hotels were the Wynn Las Vegas, Mandalay Bay (best food strip - so many big chefs in one spot) and the Venetian. The ultra-modern lake at the Wynn was not only the backdrop to two of our three dinners, but was the perfect spot to sit with mojitos on the deck overlooking the stunning lights and flowing water under heat lamps. That is, until weird, random things popped out of the lake every half hour to remind you you were in Vegas: such as a giant frog who sang "What a Wonderful World" - Louis' version. Strange and whimsical.

Despite the overpriced ridiculousness of Vegas restaurants, we had some fabulous meals in stunning dining rooms (knowing me, I thoroughly researched ahead of time to try and narrow down some of the best reviewed).

For Lunch, we dined at:
- Spago at Cesar's Palace (not our choice but last minute resort as a lot of lunch spots were closed since we flew in mid-afternoon): excellent gourmet pizza
- Burger Bar at Mandalay Bay (our local SF Fluer de Lys chef, Hubert Keller's creative burger joint - fun and hearty; mmm Blue Cheese Burger)
- Mesa Grill at Cesar's Palace (the famous Food Network chef Bobby Flay's Southwestern/Mexican restaurant - excellent tamales, the best pumpkin soup I've ever had!)

- Bartolotta Ristorante di Mare in Wynn Las Vegas (incredible seafood flown in fresh every day from Mediterranean; TOO expensive but a delightful, one-of-a-kind experience; the lobster/crab/langoustine pasta was to die for!)
- Okada in the Wynn (sleek Japanese/sushi restaurant at the base of man made lake and waterfalls; great sushi, though not as good as in SF, and robata grill along with your token top-notch miso cod dish)
- Delmonico Steakhouse in the Venetian (Emeril's steakhouse for Dan! Insanely huge, juicy steak; banana bread pudding with oreo ice cream; addictive beer, steak & cheese fondue with homemade pretzel sticks to dip in it)

We had breakfast one morn at Pinot Brassiere in the Venetian and brought pastries & foamy cappucinos into bed the second morning from Bouchon (our local Thomas Keller's spot). Drinks were had at some sleek bars including the Napoleon Cigar Lounge in Paris Las Vegas and at the Wynn/Parasol Up.

All in all, a memorable escapade mid-week to celebrate my Dan.

Currently watching : Da Ali G Show - Da Compleet Seereez

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Mamacita Restaurant Review

The biggest downside to any restaurant in the Marina, is the Marina crowds/ clientele. If you can get past that, or better yet, go to Mamacita early or on a weeknight, then you will have some of the best, most creative Mexican food in the city.

The tacos are tiny, though you do get three per order. But they are exquisite! Not your hearty, authentic Mission District tacos, but traditional with an experimental presentation. The fish tacos are some of the best I've ever tasted, even in Mexico, but each taco (pork, steak, prawn, etc...) is richly layered with flavors - a surprisingly perfect taste with each bite. Seafood dishes are top notch. The tequila selection, and the flights especially, are pleasing. The margaritas are strong - but not as good as the margaritas at former Cafe Marimba that was in this space.

For creative Mexican, you won't find better in the city - it's slightly better than Maya and Colibri. I am already dreaming about more of those tacos...

Currently reading : Heat: An Amateur's Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany By Bill Buford

Sunday, January 21, 2007

a long night's journey into day

"A Long Night's Journey Into Day"... beautiful title (a reversal of the classic story of the opposite name). A stirring, painful documentary on post-apartheid South Africa and the TRC (Truth and Reconciliation Commission). Watching just four of the thousands of stories of horror and pursuit towards healing from the apartheid years was draining and challenging. The final story: a group of mothers who forgave the slaughterer of their sons - a staged death of many young men for political gain - when they weren't sure if they had it in them to even try to forgive. It was raw, and one of the most Christlike moments possible. You know when you see it in action... and it leaves you stunned.

Currently reading : Between Noon and Three: Romance, Law, and the Outrage of Grace By Robert Farrar Capon

Wednesday, January 17, 2007


some friends touch your life for merely a season or in one area of your life... others, much fewer, are lifelong and touch multiple areas.

my girl has returned to australia and there is a gap where her sweet spirit, refreshing authenticity and realism, truly unconditional acceptance and "cheering on" were. not to mention one who loves food, writing, poetry and beauty, and sought those out with me. i have a wealth of friends here and around the world - have connected with too many people to count, in one way or another. i have my lifelong kindreds, about four of them, who are the closest of the close, spread around the country, anita being the longest and most kindred of friendships over my lifetime.

but when a precious friend is lost where you live, there is a gap, a hole, that yet another long distance relationship won't assuage. there is strength from all too rare support that disappears. those nights of long meals and wine, heart to heart talks, shared poetry, tears, favorite films and shows... will have to end. no person is replaceable. there is room for more but there cannot be a replacement.

here's to the time we had and to those who have remained faithful over the years.

Currently watching : The Illusionist

A poem for Kristy before she leaves, 1-15-07
in smile and heart
She conveys openness
through arms of acceptance
when you cannot
in your own goodness,
cheering on your plans
cradling pains
sharing hopes

Unexpectedly she came
as a supporter of what is most dear
a ray of light in dark night
a partner in creative dreams
a reminder of who you are
when it feels as if no one can see

She is a gift of God
on that will never be forgotten

Saturday, January 06, 2007

dannee's birthday

the surprise birthday party and gift from friends and family all around the country is still coming. as is the flashy, 'live-it-up' vegas trip (neither of us have been there in a decade) to wine-and-dine in a great hotel (got a deal) to celebrate his big 3-0 ...

but, today, his actual birthday is a day of spontaneously simple pleasures. the sun illuminates the rich, blue bay area sky. we head to the ocean, as if instinctually. on such a pristine day, it radiates. the waves are wild and massive, crashing over every rock with a loud bang. dan's new camera takes gorgeous pictures with fine details of sea spray and water rivulets.

breakfast at the cliff house bistro is surprisingly perfect: ocean view, warm atmosphere, lots of fresh crab, an eye-opening bloody mary (for dan) and soothing pisco sour (for me).

photos on the rocks, feeling the spray on our faces, warmed by the sun, we then progress to golden gate park for more photos, more beauty - lush, green, moist.

we went to the de young museum because we still hadn't been. it was time we did: a museum to be proud of in our city. fascinating architecture, interesting layout, and top notch art collection. the current Ruth Asawa exhibit, "contours in the air", was oddly enchanting. the view from the tower of the park, bay and bridge was yet another stunning SF panorama.

as the sun began to set, we sat on the lawn in front of the conservatory of flowers, catching the last patch of sun on the grass, for a hearty cigar smoke and more photos capturing the smoke snaking through the air from dan's mouth.

though it was his birthday, dan had written me a long love letter of the old fashioned kind: heart professions, the history of our love magnified by the fact that it grows only better with time, the oneness of our souls. the perfect birthday gift to me as we sat there on the grass... always thinking of me, a heart of true unselfishness, he is a man who deserves so much. and i want him to have it all ... and more.

Currently reading : What Jesus Meant By Garry Wills

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Everybody's Waiting

The final episode of what has been the most powerful viewing experience, Six Feet Under. Dan and I watched the final episodes last night with Skylar who has likewise been dramatically impacted by it. It feels tragically sad to end it and leave these characters who have become like friends, reminding you painfully at times of your own family, your own fears.

Claire's final drive across the country from LA to New York as Sia's haunting "Breathe Me" plays is a perfect ending. Nate whispers in her ear as she takes a photo of the family, "You can't capture this moment... it's already gone". The tears flow as this evocative phrase is exemplified by the lives and deaths of her entire family, and her own self, passing before her eyes as she drives the open road. The swiftness of death. How we are old even as we are young.

Nate also says to her that morning as she awakes, "Come on... everybody's waiting." The one comfort in this brief vapor of life as we know it, is that they will be waiting for us when we cross over to the other side.

Currently reading: "The Life You Save May Be Your Own" by Paul Elie