Month: July 2007

07.31.07 skills

The other night Laura listened to me explain the Flirting Research Project, Learning Ladychat, the laborious process of starting to use the phone after a ten year hiatus, and the somewhat random point that I’ve never imbibed an energy drink.

She said It’s like you’re my very own Alf!


Laura grew up in Kitsap County (though I never knew her back in the day) – but she has social skills!

In fact, she is a Master Communicator and one of the most empathetic people I have ever met. And also, of course, a hugely entertaining performer. Today is her birthday and I wish her all the best!


7.30.07 fascinating

This afternoon I picked my younger child up at the ferry terminal, where I somewhat randomly stumbled across the elder child just before she embarked on a journey.

She was sitting in the lobby checking out boys with R, the girl who lived with us for a year, and M, daughter of Sal and Yantra. My kid excitedly exclaimed M doesn’t remember meeting Gabriel – explain!

I blinked and replied We went on a book tour together – you were with your moms in a van, we were driving a Volvo, there was another van full of a band and roadies….

Even then she still looked baffled. I said Um, it was like a whole month and we drove from Bellingham all the way to Sacramento doing performances every night…..

Clarity! She at least appeared to have some dim recollection of the journey. How long ago was that? Six, seven years? These girls are all grown up now – almost completely launched – their childhood memories mutating or vanishing.

The fact that they can forget massively strange epic adventures with itinerant writers, artists, and musicians with complicated love lives is simply fascinating.


7.29.07 born

Thought of the day courtesy of my daughter:


7.29.07 cheating

Funerals are always hard, but my family version is fierce beyond explanation. I arrived back in Seattle with swollen eyes and disheveled clothes, and some friends correctly guessed it would be a bad idea to leave me alone. They didn’t even give me time to change.

When we arrived at the Crescent David looked at me and exclaimed What, no cleavage?!

I replied I’m wearing a respectable dress. Do you respect me now?

Then I informed the group that I was lightly dusted with dead human, leading to all sorts of interesting and macabre reminiscences of scattering remains, including the time David and family tried to discard his grandfather only to find that the tin was sealed and they had no can opener.

Continuing my recent trend of “sharing” and “relating,” when the bartender (not Amber, she was at the party I’ll mention later) told me she liked my glasses I said brightly I wore the scary ones because I went to a funeral today and didn’t want anyone to hug me!

The Crescent is the sort of place where a proclamation of that kind is completely understood.

Not long after, David and Jake announced that they were going home and departed. It was great fun to hang out and watch everyone sing, but when Jody also left the group had dwindled to me, Jeffrey, and Sophie aka his Hot New Girlfriend. Three is not a magic number when two of the people are in lovejail. Just a thought!

Jeffrey offered to make me his famous nachos if I waited til closing, but the Crescent is always odd at best, and an influx of people from the Block Party made the whole place rather intolerable. I decided to go home and sleep, but on the way was tempted by text and phone to continue on to a party downtown.

In the taxi I surprised myself quite lavishly by chatting with the driver, including telling him about the funeral. He informed me that I am beautiful, I was creeped out, and then I was at my destination.

Walking down the sidewalk toward Shorty’s some girl shouted at me Hey, I know you! Are you here for the party? I can’t find anyone! – it was the other person Laura introduced me to the other night.

I blinked and escorted her inside, and who did I find just past the door? David! I laughed and said Ooh, busted! You told Jeffrey you were going home to bed!

He replied I just stopped to see my girlfriend!

I told Jeff I was going home too – we’re both cheating on him! I’m gonna tell!

David rejoined You’ll have to tattle on yourself too then!

I pulled out my camera Not only that, I’ll give him proof!



7.27.07 coincidence

Last night I innocently went out to a cancer benefit karaoke thing because some of my friends were there. In a very cool coincidence, Laura (Crescent dj you might recall from previous adventures) was sitting with the Himsa crew. She had just met them – how amazing!

Though as the evening progressed the twists grew more and more strange, as everyone Byron has ever dated appeared – as if by magic. They all seemed sort of fretful about the situation, though I found it highly amusing.

When I realized that half the people I was sitting near were born and raised in the same odd place I was reared, the situation became pure genius.

I mostly talked to a writer/musician fellow I’ve never met though he is friends with Jeffrey – and the night was such an oddity I anted up the whole Disneyland with Junkie Auntie story. Haven’t told that one in awhile!

When karaoke finished Laura and Jody were the last standing of the group and we hopped in a cab to hit the hill. I was next to a freshly tattooed arm and thus became the recipient of the chant Don’t touch me! Don’t touch me!

I don’t think a boy has ever said that to me before!

Predictably, instead of a new club or decadent party, we ended up at the Bus Stop. I can’t help it! Michele is super sweet! Skye almost accidentally elbowed me in the throat, but my ninja skills still work when I’m drinking, thank goodness.


7.27.07 round-up

Photo round-up!

Ade is beautiful:

Byron singing This Charming Man


KTS and Alison:

Sophie and Jeff are impossibly cute:

Nickle & J9 at the metaphysical carnival:

Sasha and Mike at the Crocodile:

I’ve been hanging out with people who tell more stories than me:


7.26.07 guide

Somewhere in the haze of this boisterous trip we were walking through Belltown and J9 stopped the whole group to admire Sasha’s shoes.

Byron said Look, Bee, that is ladychat!

I furrowed my brow and commenced to examine the reasoning and goals behind the need to compliment sartorial choices.

The actual ladies (that would include the two females plus Byron) tried to interpret and explain but got exactly nowhere. I remain baffled.

They shook their heads and told me it is better that I just refrain from learning this lesson, as fake ladychat is worse than being a dude.

This makes perfect sense to me, though I think that my skills in the area could be, well, polished.

Though I am now almost capable of receiving compliments! One example: at the end of karaoke on Sunday Ade made the whole bar yell I love you Bee!

And I didn’t even twitch.

We were in Belltown to attend a metaphysical carnival featuring a magician, death metal bellydancing troupe, and heavily tattooed psychic. Byron was sufficiently freaked out he traded seats to avoid an unwanted reading – though he was of course a target anyway.

The psychic stopped in front of Byron and said I like you. I know they dragged you here by the dick, but at least you showed up. I really like you!


7.25.07 drugs

Last night someone offered me drugs for the second time in my entire life.

I was so thrilled I squealed and threw my hands all over the place, much to the confusion of the individual trying to get me high. Then I texted a bunch of friends to inform them of this historic moment.

The consensus (even from the sober ones, tsk) was that I should take up the offer.

Yeah, right! As I pointed out, I’ve never smoked anything, at all, ever – why learn to inhale now?


7.24.07 working

If it is Tuesday I am officially “working.” So far that means sitting around in coffee shops languorously reading River Pigs and Cayuses: Oral Histories from the Pacific Northwest and checking my email. Shh, don’t tell my agent!

Monday started at Le Pichet with Maria Canada – definitely a fortuitous way to embark on a day that included extensive ladychat (poorly executed – but at least I tried!) and watching someone spend several hundred dollars on shirts.

How alarming. Even at my most decadent I cannot conceive of such actions – let alone patronizing a store where the clerks are too snotty to actually wait on anyone. Though it was great fun to observe the antics of the bourgeoisie!

Later I wandered over to Smith to say hello to Mark Mitchell and accidentally crashed his dinner date. During the course of a highly entertaining conversation that also included Kurt aka DJ El Toro and Byron one of us said something to the effect that I do not flirt and Mark shot back She flirts with everyone!

Byron and I both went into jaw-dropping, swivel-head, caricatured shock. I challenged the statement and Mark reeled off a list of things I do that supposedly fit the description of flirting. While it is true that I giggle and twirl my hair, as a general rule I would never act like that around anyone who might hit on me. I’m not stupid, after all!

If a stranger ever approached (and they don’t – I swear) the individual would get the arms crossed, brow furrowed, nonverbal why the fuck are you talking to me? signal.

Mark continued his analysis by pointing at what he refers to as my Legendary Milky White Bosom (LMWB).

Kurt sensibly observed that I can’t exactly help the fact that I have certain physical attributes and I nodded fervently and pulled out my notebook. Mark said She thinks she can tame it by writing it down!

Too true.

An extremely murky series of events eventually found me sitting with Jeffrey in a U District bar crowded with loud obnoxious youngsters. I indignantly opened the conversation with Mark says I flirt!

Jeff sighed and said I’ve been telling you that for two years.

I pointed at Byron. He flirts, not me!!

Jeff replied You have different affectations but you both do it all the time!

I continued to object and pulled out my notebook. Jeff laughed and said That’s the trouble with you Capricorns. You’re clueless but organized and always think “I’m sure I would have written it down if I’d done it…. let me check my notes….”

Just then Byron picked up a song from a passing car and started to sing You Don’t Bring Me Flowers and this reminded me of another research project.

I turned to Jeff and said Nobody ever brings me flowers or sings me loves songs, and nobody ever has!

He frowned and said I give flowers to all of my friends! Haven’t I given you any?

No, like I said, nobody has ever given me flowers! Nobody has ever written a song for me! Nobody has ever written poetry for me! I would have gone on but remembered that the last statement was not accurate and clapped my hand over my mouth.

Byron started laughing and said Tell him who wrote you poems!

I wagged my finger at him and warned Stop or you are in Big Trouble!

Jeff looked confused and said But you don’t even like poetry!

Quick thinker that I am definitely not, I attempted to distract him from a story I didn’t want to tell by saying You’ve dedicated songs to me!

He replied Yeah, lots of times…

Luckily Sophie showed up and talk turned to half-assed guesses about what hankies in back pockets signals in the subculture that subscribes to such things. The best guess was from Jeff, who wagered a certain color must indicate That you’ve read Lord of the Flies cover to cover!


7.24.07 trawl

Recently I signed up for a social networking thing but was in a rush and checked the box that allowed the site to trawl my email and add contacts automatically. If I thought about it at all, I was dimly pleased that I wouldn’t have to laboriously go through and find all of my friends.

A week or so later I received a message that read in part: I know you because you are a famous writer. How do you know me? Because you’ve sent me several rejection letters!

Yikes! We’ll set aside the putative issue of fame (yeah, right – I’m recognized in grocery stores around the world- whatever) for the moment and focus on the utter stupidity of giving a social networking site permission to snoop through my email.

What delights might the bot have found? Hundreds, possibly thousands, of email addresses of real-life friends, ex friends, abandoned acquaintances, ex-husbands and their assorted ex-wives and onward through the range of ex-in-laws, all of the cousins who are literate enough to have email, countless peripheral professional contacts, legions of magazine fans and subscribers and contributors, and every single person who has ever sent hate mail or a death threat.

Now remember – this internet thing has been my day job for over a decade. I’m painfully aware of the security risks of community organizing on the web. I’ve even been served with FBI subpoenas for server records, for goodness sake!

I really, honestly, truly knew better than to check that permission box.

I lead a very public life, but it isn’t necessary to do the internet equivalent of walking into a hometown bar and shouting Hey! Anyone heard from my stalker lately? I’d love to get back in touch!

In fact, I’m much more likely to do that (high school reunion, anyone? I can’t wait) than allow myself to be virtually connected with certain people from my past. I suppose I’m allowed to make stupid careless mistakes sometimes, though this might be edging over the quota for the year – and it is still only July.


7.23.07 daughter

My daughter is a rampaging genius, an artist, a raconteur, a sweet and sincere sister. She is one of the funniest and most dangerous people I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing, and that would be true even if we did not share DNA.

The girl was born fist first and facing the wrong direction, and her life thus far has fully warranted the symbolism of those moments.

It has been an unbelievable number of years since I held that little scrap of a baby in my arms, surprised to find us both alive and setting off on such a grand adventure.

It is never easy to grow up and my kid has endured many challenges – and arrived on the other side still laughing.

Born in poverty, dragged hither and yon by the peregrinations of parental careers, leaving behind friends and loved ones, making new friends just to have it all happen again, illness and the absurd annoyances of adolescence: through it all this girl remains charming, swift, her own dear self, the same person she was the day she was born, while also a new and amazing person every single day I know her.

Right now she is loose somewhere in the city with her friends – a grown-up, a sweetheart, a truly fascinating young woman. I am honored to be her occasional companion as she wanders the world, and I fervently wish her the best on this day and all the rest. Happy birthday, kid! Thank you for being my friend.


7.23.07 wishes

Happy birthday, Gabriel! Friend, confidante, fellow traveler – thank you for years and years of fabulous fun and adventure!

From the halls of the Sunnyside co-op to the streets of Rome, Colorado to New York City and all stops in between – you’ve driven me across mountains and through the streets of cities, remained true no matter what the crisis, offered entertainment, collaboration, sanctuary and laughter. I appreciate and adore you and hope that we will always be friends. Best wishes today and always!


7.22.07 opportunity

Just before I left Cambridge I ran into David at the grocery store and we traded tales of woe – he has legitimate and pressing work issues, and his wife and daughter are moving to the states a few months before he can join them.

What do I have to worry about? My summer travel plans. And, as I pointed out brightly, Nobody has any sympathy for my problems!

Nor should they. I never complain about much of anything because, comparatively speaking, I have no legitimate problems whatsoever.

Yeah, there is the whole life-threatening chronic illness thing, but I don’t care about that.

My biological family is crazy, but that doesn’t worry me.

I live far away from most of the people I love, but again, while a source of pain, that is a choice that I am happy to live with right now.

This does not mean I am completely tranquil. I have as many problems as I’ve ever had – in fact, if such things could be measured objectively, I probably have more than at any point in the past. In my experience problems tend to scale the same way money does; whenever I have extra cash, I always have an extra crisis that takes exactly the same amount as the reserve.

For as long as I can remember my problems were always about basic survival. Lately that has changed; I have every material resource I need to accomplish what I like. But that means I have to choose between different opportunities, an experience that feels the same as any other problem I’ve ever had.

Last night I skipped from a party to dinner to the clubs, racing from one friend to the next, missing calls and connections, meeting new people and raising my eyebrows over old gossip.

I laughed so hard I lost my voice, fell in love with the city all over again, wondered why I ever left. Then I was offered yet another SF apartment for the duration of the summer. Whatever should I do with myself? How to choose? Why the heck does this seem like such a conundrum?

As Mark Mitchell sensibly pointed out when he called to wake me up this morning (he was lonely), my life is outrageously amazing. Though he also says that we’re both just carnies at heart, which is fundamentally true.

Of course, I’ll make the responsible and sensible choice. I always do, even if it looks like something else from a distance. I even recognize that this particular situation is faintly ridiculous – I’m confused because I have to choose between competing and delightful scenarios.

This isn’t life and death, it isn’t even particularly interesting; just another bougie moment in the neverending drama of my expat existence.


7.22.07 friends

Walking toward Bauhaus I heard someone say I swear I’m not stalking you and turned to see Scott – oh, glorious coincidence! Though given that we all spend an inordinate amount of time at Bauhaus, hardly surprising. We stood around in the rain talking and laughing and then he departed and I spent most of the rest of the day with Mark:


7.21.07 potter

Despite the fact that both of my children are obsessed with the books, I have never allowed them to participate in the madness of the midnight release parties for Harry Potter novels. My daughter may have broken ranks since she is an adult and staying elsewhere in the city (with friends? Grandparents? I have no clue – though she did text yesterday to tell me that the PDX train station restroom is so rad and by the way I really need you to top up my phone).

Last night was no different – the younger was tucked in bed listening to one of his beloved P. G. Wodehouse books on tape and I was watching Pete on television. Yeah, that is exactly what Pete is like in person – and it is true, he really does have a thing for washing dishes. He practically sterilizes my kitchen when he visits!

I suppose we’ll meander over to U Village and pick up a copy of the tome at some point this morning, but then again I may put it off and let him do that with grandparents when he sets off on one of his adventures.

Will my offspring remember this as a tragedy of their childhood? Oh, probably. It’ll rank right up there with My mother made me go to the south of France when I wanted to stay home and read manga! and similar epic complaints.

We missed the premiere of the most recent movie due to a conflict with a Church of England primary school production of Joseph and his Amazing Whatsit and then the flurry of packing to leave for the summer but finally trekked along to see it once we arrived in Portland.

The children wore school uniforms, including ties matching their favorite house, and my son sported a Prefect badge. What did they think of the film? They liked it, though we’re in agreement that the Cuaron is the only one in the series that was actually good.

What did I think? That the HP books are glorified film scripts to begin with and attempting to condense epic plot points into a 2.5 hour format is just plain silly. Other than that I have no opinion.

Though I was deeply shocked by a preview for a film of The Dark is Rising. Why, oh why must all the best kids books be slaughtered by cinematic adaptation?

Casting Lovejoy aka Swearengen as Merriman does not redeem the project.


7.20.07 reminder

Don’t forget, Dishwasher Pete is on Letterman tonight…. his email about the encounter (including green room adventures) was quite hilarious, so I’m sure the show will be super fun!

Mysteriously, I am currently living in an apartment with cable, so I guess I might even see the show. Though the odds that I’ll get dragged out on an adventure later is rather high.


7.19.07 forbidden

Of all the forbidden pleasures I have indulged over the last twelve months, this one is in fact the most taboo:



7.18.07 encounter

Yesterday I was hanging out at Reading Frenzy under the No Talking on Cell Phones sign when my mobile rang. I glanced at the screen and said Oh no! It’s Gordon! Can I answer?

Chloe replied Of course, Gordon is special!

Even so, I stepped outside to take the call. The rule makes sense in that store – it is way too small to bother other customers with chit chat.

Gordon was calling to check on my travel plans and this is the confusing update: as of Wednesday morning I still dunno when I’ll be in SF, because I got caught up in renting an apartment.

I hung out chatting and watching Chloe open boxes of merchandise and of course departed with a bunch of interesting new stuff, including two issues of Craphound and stacks of zines and cards I really do not have room in the suitcase for! Some pics:

Dishwasher Pete’s Mac and Cheese collection:


Chloe gave me a hilarious present – this journal has Dramatic Encounter! printed on the bottom of every page:

Plus, China’s book arrived!


7.17.07 venture

For those following the turmoil, as of 4:45 pm I had no base camp for the summer, after several months of effort yielded no clear results. Base camps are necessary if one wishes to venture forth. By 4:58, I had sorted out the whole thing. Awesome!

Unfortunately, I left my hair drying appliance somewhere out west. I really seriously dislike going to the sort of stores that sell these things.


7.17.07 onslaught

On Sunday when I walked in the Bus Stop Susannah was acting as bouncer so she was the first to spot me. She pointed and half the bar turned to look, then I was swept away by shouts and embraces.

Ade refused to let go but Rodney plucked me away then Ade sprinted toward Jeff and took a running jump. Jeffrey grabbed him and held him high and they twirled around the room – like an ice skating routine. It was simply amazing.

Rodney said You swore you wouldn’t come back for a whole year!

I replied I lasted seven whole months!

Hanging around the bar chatting and catching up it was like no time had passed at all. Then it was time for karaoke to start and I settled near the stage, surrounded by close friends.

KTS and Alison joined us, Xin showed up, and we blocked the view of the crowd with an excited embrace on the karaoke stage. The marvelous host kept stopping the show with glowing remarks about my presence that made me put my head between my legs in embarrassment, or kissing me on the way to a break.

The performances were as always amazing – not the usual drive-by onslaught because so many of the denizens of the bar are classically trained. Jeffrey and Ade destroyed us with a duet of Suddenly Seymour.

Jetlag inevitably forced me to leave. When I said goodbye to Ade he yelled NO!

I insisted so he grabbed the mike and instructed the audience to Say goodbye, asshole!

The whole bar chorused Goodbye, asshole!

I walked out into the night laughing uncontrollably.


7.16.07 porn

Tonight I was at the Vita waiting for dinner to be served when my phone rang. I knew the caller would have something interesting to share so I left my companions at the table and stepped outside to talk. Standing in the brilliant evening sun of Alberta Street I laughed and laughed as a friend shouted down the line OMG I just had hot dirty sex with a porn star!! – and then went on to describe the encounter in excruciating detail.

I was doubled over from the hilarity of the conversation but eventually excused myself to go back inside and eat, well, salad. With tahini dressing. Yum!

At some point I whispered a description of the phone conversation to the adult in the group and asked So, guess who it was?

Knowing my circle of friends, he furrowed his brow and could not name a culprit. Just then the bill arrived and I asked the total. Byron looked at the slip summarizing the damage of four people eating and drinking at an upscale (by old neighborhood standards) vegan restaurant.

He sighed and said Twenty quid. I smacked myself in the forehead and exclaimed Shoot me now!


7.15.07 parking

Last night I was rattling around the back of a dirty old band van as Jeffrey cavalierly dashed all over First and Capitol hills singing Brandy at full volume.

Oh, and I wasn’t wearing a seatbelt. Living dangerously in my old age!

It is very odd to be back in car culture after such a long absence. Jeff actually seems to like the tedious process of finding a parking spot in his neighborhood every night – I proposed it must replace his rural huntin’ and fishin’ habits or something, because he is far more gleeful about the whole thing than can be otherwise be explained.

When we finally found a spot we were laughing helplessly and he exclaimed Oh you know you like it – you just had a parkingasm!

The jetlag had kicked in big time before I finished eating dinner so my memories of the hipster bar (something new next to Top Pot?) are dim at best, aside from meeting Jeff’s Hot New Girlfriend. My goodness! They are so incredibly cute!

He won our Have a Crush on Someone Good for You for Once bet, absolutely.

Then Soul Night at the Lo Fi, anyone? Fun! Though walking down the hill I realized I was just too tired and had to bid my friends farewell at the door.

Earlier in the evening Mark Mitchell tried to figure out what my overall schedule is this summer and I cheerfully replied I have no idea! There is a funeral one weekend, and beyond that, I have made no plans!

There was a flummoxed pause and he answered You foolish, foolish girl!

True. Though half my friends are world-class flakes, those who might be described otherwise have complicated schedules, and a few people have gone mysteriously silent. My public administrator brain can’t really differentiate between the possible reasons for lack of planning on the part of other humans so I have to assume that if people wanna see me, they’ll make an effort to do so.

If not, oh well…. it isn’t like I lack for invitations!

Speaking of which, my day is filling fast with breakfast, lunch, and dinner dates, not to mention the sheer genius of Ade in the evening. And I can see the Puget Sound from where I’m sitting. This city drives me crazy and fills my heart with joy.


7.14.07 imposter

My pal Dishwasher Pete will be on Letterman next Friday…. and this time he actually plans to show up instead of sending an imposte!

In other news, I realized that my stateside sim card went walkabout. Goodbye, NYC phone number! Real-life friends: I’ll have a new number later this weekend. The UK number works in the meanwhile, or you can catch me on the back channels…. presumably you know those numbers!


7.13.07 goodbye

Last night I crashed a librarian leaving do (as the British call these things) for Sarah as that was the only way I would get to say goodbye in person before she moves back to the states.

After the real grown-ups left Byron turned up and we three had a rollicking conversation about various sketchy episodes in our pasts. This included a story about an underage Arasay buying tequila for a Gordon birthday party, under the influence of someone known to piss in the crisper drawer.

Since Byron knew me back in the day he helpfully told the story that summarizes why I do not drink rum. Though he didn’t get as far as the reason I won’t touch whiskey!

Sarah and I are both the practical sort so much of the chit chat was about the quandaries of splitting bills in community houses. Remember when phone calls actually cost a lot of money? And there was always one housemate who would deny all knowledge of calls placed to their hometown?

Oh, how hilarious at a distance of a couple of decades!

I didn’t take many notes but there was more racy chit chat than I would normally expect when hanging out with Sarah. She made a few points I won’t repeat then asked How do you feel about middle aged meat?

When she saw me whip out my notebook she commented I can’t believe I just said that!

Gordon introduced me to Sarah before I relocated here and she was endlessly helpful. Her knowledge of the technical parts of the process of emigrating, and her practical understanding of life in Cambridge, made a huge difference as I moved.

After I arrived she proved to be a hilarious and deeply entertaining companion. Over the course of these three years we haven’t spent nearly enough time together, but when we have it has been entirely rewarding. I mean really – I’ve never had ladychat with anyone else in my whole life!

Beyond that, she has contributed to my professional life in a startling and deeply appreciated manner by advocating for Lessons in Taxidermy as a respected librarian in two different countries.

It has been an honor to know her and to watch her family grow. We’ll be friends after she goes back to California – I’ll probably even see her this summer. But Cambridge will not be the same.

Goodbye, Sarah. I’ll miss you!


7.12.07 lucky

Guess who will coincidentally be in Seattle this weekend? Hmm?? KTS!!! I may pass out from lack of oxygen cause I’ll be laughing so much.


7.09.07 free

Jeffrey joined the opera; how awesome is that? If you are in the NW you can see him sing chorus in the Flying Dutchman this August.


7.4.07 trawl

One of the most brilliant parts of socialized medicine is the fact that they cut off your supply of medication if you skip the routine check-ups. Otherwise, I would never go!

For those of you who have never lived here, the NHS is kind of like a vast HMO, except dirtier. In theory you have a GP in your neighborhood (and they make house calls, apparently, not that I would ever think to call for one even if I needed it) and that person tends to all standard medical complaints, and many you would expect to see a specialist for.

If you have something the GP can’t treat, you can sometimes get a referral – but that generally entails long waiting periods. If the wait is too long and you have private insurance you can ask to skip the queue and go to outside hospitals.

These are slightly cleaner though entirely carpeted, and you can order alcohol in your room. Other than that, the quality of care is the same, as the facilities are staffed by NHS doctors.

Medical care is by no means efficient, but it is extremely brisk. The three (yes, only three) times I’ve begrudgingly gone to see my GP the visits have followed the same pattern – walk in, sit down, state problem, get referral or prescription, leave. It never takes more than 5 minutes to accomplish this, because the doctors simply do not ask any questions.

Particularly since I arrive with an agenda and know more than they do about my disease, we have less interaction than I do with the clerk at the grocery store.

This morning I was forced by necessity to go to an appointment – I need enough medication to last while away all summer, and I’m about two years overdue on the blood tests they take the persnickety perspective should be performed every three months.

I’ve been taking the same dose of the stuff since 1983, it hardly seems necessary to undergo the scrutiny!

I went in with three requests. When I rattled off the list the doctor was bemused, then picked up a pen. Wait a minute, repeat that again?

She asked if I’ve had some standard genetic tests and I replied No, only the rare ones!

Then I was, horror of horrors, subjected to a hands-on exam. Thump!

But even with that and two conspicuous hand-washing rituals, the whole appointment was over within approximately twelve minutes.

Since I’m one of the only people in the whole country who takes a certain drug there was a risk the chemist wouldn’t have enough in stock, but lucky me, they did!

In the states the appointments, tests and procedures ordered on my behalf today would cost something like seven thousand dollars. Here? Absolutely free.

I’m not even allowed to pay for meds! Apparently socialized medicine brings out my sincere love of the exclamation point!


7.08.07 trepanation

Today I was telling Byron about an exasperating social situation and he rolled his eyes and asked What does Gordon think?

I answered Gordon is pro-chaos!

He replied Great. I agree with Gordon. In fact, how about you assume I agree with whatever he says, and skip telling me!

I furrowed my brow. Do you really think it advisable to appoint a San Francisco cheesemonger my sole confidante?

His answer was instant: Yes!

That might be interesting, though I really doubt that Gordon wishes to hear all of the random stuff burbling around in my brain. Though recently he said If you ever get rich and famous enough to hire an entourage, I call dibs on the position of your personal social interpreter.

I replied I definitely need an interpreter. But how would you signal things? Winks, sign language, cue cards?

He replied Microphone implants in our skulls.

My answer: Trepanation! One of my favorite things EVER!


7.07.07 fete

I forgot to mention the fete to Jean, assuming he would not want to attend, but then sent a brief message just as the festivities started. Imagine my surprise when he showed up minutes later!

We made a circuit of the various booths, including Toss a Teddy and Throw a Sponge at My Face. Then we abandoned my child with the industrious and appropriate parent who actually wanted to run his stall (Throw Tennis Balls at Plastic Cups) and dragged chairs into the shade.

It has been quite wet here lately so the legs of the chairs sank slowly into the muddy field as we caught up; we haven’t spoken since mid-March so there was a lot to cover!

Jean is endlessly entertaining, and his conversation is littered with words like plangent. This is fun for me, though sometimes annoying to other people, who make him stop and explain. I can provide the dictionary definition, but he alway reports the Latin (or other language) root of whichever piece of vocabulary troubles the audience, then we laugh and laugh.

For the most part I just listened to the concerns and quandaries of this ever so debonair and cosmopolitan young man, but eventually he paused and said And what of you?

I would have shrugged, but remembered that I am officially Sharing and Relating these days, so I gave him a four sentence summary of my recent and potential adventures. He blinked and remarked That is complicated – my life is by comparison quite conventional!

Not exactly true, but interesting perspective nonetheless. Eventually we were joined by a couple of unexpected people (they are fans of fetes, not connected to the school), then my elder child showed up, and the younger one wandered over holding a toy car made out of raw onion.

Someone walked up with a charity bucket and explained that their friend was attempting to break a world record and raise money by Crawling for Cancer. We looked the way she was pointing, and sure enough, a middle-aged academic was slowly and painfully crawling past.

Jean said Tell your friend that is simply appalling! We do not approve! Though since we both have cancer, we’ll contribute.

The person holding the bucket was quite unnerved but then gleeful when we emptied our pockets.

Near the time to leave one of the people who lives on Drunk Bench decided to join our group, first chatting with my son about his Onion Car.

My kid does not talk to, um, almost anyone, let alone strangers swigging from bottles of rum, so that one didn’t go very well.

The fellow started to dance around, growling at children and shouting Rascals! Rascals! I’m known all over England! I’m the ruler of England!

The afternoon was in fact a very good representation of life in Cambridge.


7.06.07 killers

The other day I was reading a detective novel and knew who the villain would be within the first twenty pages. Not because it was obvious – the book was cleverly constructed. I predicted the resolution of the plot because someone I know once attempted to execute the same crime.

Presumably he borrowed the idea from this book.

He was not an especially clever criminal, and that is why he is serving a life sentence for murdering his wife.

I grew up in a place – and family – where murder was common. This fact is not explored in Lessons in Taxidermy because my editor felt that the bloodshed was excessive: two whole chapters of mayhem were chopped off the manuscript as it went to press.

My agent doesn’t know or she would probably try to convince me to write a murder memoir.

This would not be advisable, since certain people of my acquaintance would take offense and they are not the sort to limit their response to a frosty letter.

My life is so, well, improbable.


7.05.07 trivial

In other completely trivial news, I figured I probably went sliding down the riverbank because I’ve walked the tread right off my shoes. And then straight through the rubber base – I’ve been wandering around mostly on insoles for awhile now and ignoring the fact that my feet get wet.

So I cautiously ventured to the shoe store (yes, there is in fact only one… at least in terms of anything I can wear) to grimly poke through the available options.

Wonder of wonders, there was a sale on! This means I saved a whole twenty quid when purchasing The Most Ugly Shoes in the Universe. Hurray!

How much did said ugly shoes cost? Eighty pounds, which seemed a bargain. Until I let my internal calculator point out that is one hundred and sixty dollars. I don’t even spend that much on airfare!

The only consolation is that I maintained my stubborn resistance to sandals. Never! I wrote to tell Mark about my excellent purchase and he replied I’m going to have to wear really fancy shoes today, to restore the pretty that your shoes are sucking out of the universe!


7.04.07 banner

Today I was cycling down Trinity Street when I heard some music and noticed a crowd had gathered to stare up at a crenelated, gargoyle-bedecked roof at St. John’s.

I stopped to listen as an invisible orchestra of horns played out The Star Spangled Banner. A dozen of us, strangers to each other but obviously North American, started to sing along.

Some English children next to me exclaimed Why are they singing, Mummy?? and I felt an absurd longing to be back in some random stateside street or field with incendiary devices flaming all around.

When the music stopped a tourist fell into conversation with me and a man I’d never met, who revealed himself to be a Midwestern chemistry professor here on sabbatical. Of course – who else would stand around conversing at great length about abattoirs, NASA, and the nature of scientific inquiry with anonymous strangers?

I have more to say on the subject of Independence Day but I just cleverly managed to slide down a muddy riverbank on my knees, narrowly avoiding ending up in the river. At least nobody was there to witness this folly!


7.01.07 predicated

I haven’t been following the news closely since, hmm, reviewing mental files – oh yes! Waco, Ruby Ridge, and the Oklahoma City bombing.

This means that when I decided not to fly to Berlin last night I didn’t know about the second London car bomb (and yeah, I spent a large part of the day in Piccadilly ignoring swarms of police).

Or that there had been a terror attack on Glasgow airport.

Let alone that Scotland’s Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill described those behind the airport attack as “not born and bred here” (quoted in both NYT and BBC).

Hmm. Seems like a premature comment, unless all the participants have been apprehended. Commitment to particular ideologies would appear to be the source of the attacks, and that isn’t something that is predicated on passports.