Tuesday, May 29, 2007

sobre el amor

Just finished reading On Love, a novel by author Alain de Botton. His comic and writing style reminds me of that of Woody Allen, especially the chapter on Marxism, in which he recalls the famous quote of comedian Groucho Marx, "I would never want to belong to a club that would have someone like me for a member." (Same quote conjured by Allen's character in Annie Hall.) Despite the comparisons to Mr. Allen, I thoroughly enjoyed the novel (maybe because I've always been a Woody Allen fan). The story weaved philosophical thought with creative details. I was touched by the author's thoughts on relationships, which I often found relative to my own experience. I prefer not to review books, because I think people should make up their own minds about whether or not they like a certain style of writing. So instead, I give you Alain de Botton's own words on love:

I found myself falling victim to romantic nostalgia, which descends whenever we are faced with those who might have been our lovers, but whom chance has decreed we will never properly know. The possibility of an alternative love story is a reminder that the life we are leading is only one of a myriad of possible lives, and it is the impossibility of leading them all that plunges us into sadness. There is a longing for a return to a time without the need for choices, free of the regret at the inevitable loss that choice (however wonderful) has entailed.

Monday, May 28, 2007

la bamboula will always be la bamboula

I have not learned any more about the unique language of the Alicante region of Spain, because I have been too busy drinking Rioja and Ribera del Duero to learn anything beyond the presence of the many spray-painted street signs.

My dad brought us to a beach he knew of on Friday. He obviously wasn't wearing his glasses the first time he went to the beach because he didn't realize it was a nude beach. Not that that would be a problem. We are open minded people. However, it was THAT kind of nude beach, the kind where creepy men linger. This old guy with no teeth and sporting the shirt-no-pants look decided to pose for my dad. It was enough to make us cut our outing to the beach short and head off for a good laugh and cocktails at bar that overlooked the Mediterranean. Nice alternative.

The party crew trickled in over the weekend. Anthony and Audrey arrived on Saturday from Luxembourg. We prepared a feast at the villa, and between Anthony, my dad and I (Young and Suta barely drink and Audrey only likes white wines), we finished off two bottles of Ribera and one bottle of Rioja. Anthony and my dad agreed upon the lack of haute ciusine in Espana, whereas Suta tried to argue for the case of the tapas. I tend to agree with my dad, not just because he's my dad, and not just because I'm a francophile, but because I fell in love with French food because it tends toward the scrumptious and unforgettable. It seems like most Spanish restaurants serve similar menu items--ham, potatoes, olives, fried fish, paella. Don't get me wrong, the paella is delicious, but there's an art to French food, and the Spanish food seems to be something to keep you going in between bottles of vino.

We picked Sheila up from the Valencia train station on Sunday afternoon. She was happy to report that Barca won the footie game the previous night. We headed off to a paella restaurant, where we had some seafood paella which was delicious, paired with a Rose. The loud and family-style ambiance reminded us all of dim sum on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon in San Francisco, and we all kept expecting the carts to roll around with shrimp dumplings at any minute. After a filling meal, we lazily strolled the harbor to check out the America's Cup boats. Unfortunately, I won't be around long enough to see any of the races, but it was fun to see the boats, and learn about the history of the event.

On the way home, Suta was finally initiated as a true Tieche when we sent her off to steal oranges and lemons from the orchards lining the sides of the roads. My dad always made my brother and I do this when we visited our relatives in Fresno. It seems logical though, since so many of the fruits were lying on the ground going to waste. Young got some photos of my dad and I stealing loquats the day before, and commented that a family that steals together stays together. So, passing her final milestone, we thereby anointed Suta with the new name Sujata la Xara.

When we returned to the villa, Anthony and Audrey made tapas and we drank another bottle of Rioja. Since Anthony and Audrey were returning to Luxembourg the next morning, we were determined to find the bamboula (our code name for party) in this sleepy retirement community of what my dad calls fat Brits and fat Germans. Sujata la Xara joined us (she needs to be prepared for when she comes with us to Paris in 2 weeks). Anthony noticed some spotlights so we followed the light, so to speak. We ended up at a lovely outdoor terrace, but inside was a giant disco ball and dance floor. These local guy showed up and put on a break dancing show, spinning on their heads and all. Sujata la Xara and I finally decided they need to share the floor and so we took over from there. The four of us stayed until they closed the place, and Senorita la Xara earned the position of la princesa de la bamboula. Let's see how she fares in Paris!

But tomorrow is off to Barcelona for the girls, and Senor Tom, or as Young calls him Mr. T, will go back to being Citizen Kane in his castle, and the European adventure for all of us continues.

Friday, May 25, 2007

se habla espanol.... NO!

I arrived in Madrid yesterday morning, having hardly slept a wink on the plane. The Madrid airport was thankfully quite easy to navigate, and I found the customs officials to be friendly (flirtatious, even!), which is quite a difference from our Department of Homeland Security. After having received my luggage, and taking 300 Euros from the cajero automatico, an equivalent of 418 US dollars (ouch!), I took the Metro to the Atocha train station. Again, extremely easy to navigate and very clean! The only train that was available to Valencia was the omni, so it took 6 hours, and I wondered to myself why I didn't book a flight all the way to Valencia. After several hours of sitting on my arse, I finally met up with Suta, Young and my dear old dad. We drove about an hour to the villa in Javea, which indeed has fabulous views overlooking the Mediterranean.

Which brings me to my main observation since arriving here. Apparently, the Spanish don't really speak Spanish among themselves. It's either Catalan or whatever language they speak in Valencia. Here in Javea, people have spray-painted over all the street signs, re-writing the names in the local language. So Javea is Xabia, and I'm finding that I have a lot of learning to do! More on this topic during my next post! Ciao for now!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

mix tapes

I've made a mix tape for my 18 year-old cousin Laurel. She likes Justin Timberlake. I had a hard time picking music that I think she might like. I was ambivalent about putting Björk on there (wasn't sure if Laurel would like her or understand her), but decided that she should hear her music anyway. Here is the list of songs I burned her already:

Lloyd, I'm Ready To Be Heartbroken, Camera Obscura
Sunshowers, M.I.A.
LDN, Lily Allen
Lo Que Pidas, Julieta Venegas
Wraith Pinned To The Mist And Other Games, Of Montreal
Earth Intruders, Björk
All Is Full Of Love, Björk
Swimmers, Broken Social Scene
Make-Out King, Eleni Mandell
That Teenage Feeling, Neko Case
The Bleeding Heart Show, The New Pornographers
Sénégal Fast Food, Amadou & Mariam
Solta O Frango, Bonde Do Role
If I Ever Feel Better, Phoenix
Nothing Really, Kinky
Once In A Lifetime, Talking Heads

Basically, it's a combination of songs that I think teenage girls can relate to, and some of my favorite songs that I think she should be exposed to.

She left me a couple more cd's for me to burn since she needs new music. So I burned her Feist and the Teddybears as well. I have one more to burn, and I'm trying to decide between Manu Chao and the Postal Service.

Yesterday, we had party on the beach. The boys and men of the McCann clan played wiffle ball as I took photos. Laurel even had her at bat. It seemed symbolic to me, as she is about to begin this new game of college, with life throwing her all sorts of curve balls and sliders in the years to come.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

dis-moi que ce n'est pas vrai!

I saw this item (#2) on the menu at a restaurant in Jacksonville, Florida and was shocked!

I thought it was a myth, but apparently Bill O'Reilly isn't the only in this country one who perpetuates this sheer madness!

Saturday, May 19, 2007


My friend is completely nuts. Here is the proof.

the difference between here and there

Late last night, I arrived in Jacksonville, Florida. My 18 year-old cousin Laurel graduated from high school today. I believe this is the first high school graduation I have attended since my own in 1988 and, of course (silly me, how could I forget), the graduations I attended as a teacher in Mississippi.

My cousin is adorable. She has long blond hair, is very slim and wears a ton of black eyeliner. She is a typical teenage girl in that she speaks in stream-of-consciousness and segues into new topics without even taking a breath. She even speaks in text. For example, today she was running out to a friend's party, and said to me, "BRB!" Okay, I know BTW, TMI, FYI, BFE, NFW and a few more, but it pains me to admit that I am not cool enough to understand what she was trying to say to me. "Be right back," my 21 year-old cousin Tim had to explain.

The graduation ceremony itself was typical. A lot of "climb every mountain" and "when one door closes, another door opens" and "follow your dreams" type of talk. The valedictorian had a 4.86 grade point average, which I did not even know was possible (God Bless America! What will we think of next?). The experience of being at the high school ceremony brought me back to my own graduation, where our valedictorian urged us, jokingly, to "Stay in school. Don't graduate! That would mean you have to get a j-j-j-job!" And another kid decided he would kiss the principal, and it wasn't just a kiss on the cheek. I mean, he dipped her and planted one right on her mouth, tongue and all. She was a good sport, or just finally used to Tam's eccentricity by the end of her first year as principal.

Naturally, I couldn't help but compare all these graduations. Today's graduating class was about 450 students. Because of the high dropout rate, the graduating class of the high school in which I taught was about 40 (as opposed to a freshman class of about 200), and there were no 4.86 grade point averages. Over 90% of the kids today were going to 4-year and 2-year higher education programs. Many of the kids at my high school went on to Yale, Stanford, Berkeley, Penn, Harvard, MIT, and the like. The kids at my cousin's school are largely staying in Florida to pursue their college degrees. The kids in Mississippi barely left their county. Today's experience reminded me of how different we are as Americans and young Americans.

Later on, at dinner, my cousin told me how much she loves George Michael, and she has saved his song "I Want Your Sex" as her ring tone, and her mother can't stand it.

Then again, maybe we're not so different after all.

Friday, May 18, 2007


I have to leave for the airport in seconds, literally. Just got word from Jon that the apartment in the Upper Haight is mine, so it looks like I'll have a new furry white roommate in July.

I just ran out for last minute supplies and a cup of coffee here in Noe. In the independent bookstore on 24th, I impulsively bought Walks Through Lost Paris by Leonard Pitt. I irrationally and impulsively love Paris, and so I couldn't help myself.

I haven't heard from Alexei in 3 days. I think he took a trip to the eastern part of the island with his friend, so that would explain why. Three days doesn't seem like much to some, but when a daily e-mail is all the love you have to cling to, it's an eternity. And so, as I'm walking down Church Street, listening to the beautiful sounds of San Francisco--the J-line passing, stroller wheels rolling, birds chirping in their nests--I miss Alexei. I want to hold his hand, all the while my heart breaking for someone else, and with every step along the sidewalk, a heaviness overcomes me, and I can't wait to get on the plane and fly into the clouds above.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

hoax or no hoax?

I had lunch with my friend Chloe today at Samovar Tea Lounge at 18th and Sanchez. Very cute place. We were talking about Judi Dench's outstanding performance in Notes on a Scandal, and she mentioned an article that she read in today's Guardian by Michael Billington about Laurence Olivier's brilliance in acting. So while searching for Billington's article, I found a blog posting about Danish film director Lars Von Trier. Apparently he is depressed, and he has announced that his filmmaking efforts are on hold while he seeks treatment. The author asks whether or not his depression is a hoax to garner publicity. This posting ushered in a wave of comments, mostly in support of Von Trier.

My opinion? I agree with many of the commentators to this blog posting. I think Lars Von Trier is a complete freak and anyone who is masochistic enough to put himself and other filmmakers through the grueling production process he insists on (see The Five Obstructions) must be a looney-bin. I do, however, LOVE his films, and hope he gets better soon.

the very hungry...

This morning, I was editing the promo for the film I'm doing with Jessica. I propped my computer onto the dining room table, so I can look outside at the trees and birds that fly by. I was startled by two turkey vultures who were circling the back yard, and very close to the window. These birds usually never visit our yard. I usually see robins and jays and blackbirds. I wondered if there was something dead back there that they were scavenging.

On the ironing board inside the house, I found a tiny caterpillar. Seeing as there was nothing for it to eat on the ironing board, I quickly brought it outside and placed it on my mom's begonias. She'll hate me for that, but it's such a cute fuzzy caterpillar. Its coloring and design remind me of a Persian rug. Bon appétit!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

jessica/bernal heights

A photo from one of our shoots:

philosophizing cat

When I was growing up I had a cat named Panther. He was a stray cat who adopted us. For the most part he was an outdoor cat. He hunted. He left gifts of birds and mice and even one time a snake on our doorstep to show us his appreciation for providing a lair for him. He was my cat. I was the one that fed him and put him out at night, and cared for him. My brother took care of the dog, but Panther was my pet and best friend.

He was also a philosophizer. Or at least, that's how I interpreted it. He would spend hours staring at a wall with a happy grin on his face. I knew he was not just a dumb, fat and happy kitty (well maybe fat and happy, but certainly not dumb). I thought he was pontificating life, and in his little cat language in his head, he was solving life's mysteries, seeking answers to the great questions.

In high school, instead of taking French class at Tam High with the rest of my classmates, I enrolled in a night course at the community college because I thought our high school French teacher was useless. I was the only teenager among a group of 20 or so adults. Near the end of the semester, we decided to have a potluck dinner party so we could socialize en français. So I offered my house (well, my mom's house) as the location. When I told my mom that I was hosting a party the following week, and making crepes as the main course, she nearly flipped her lid, but she knew me well enough to be sure that I would pull it off sans problème.

Which brings me to the point of this post. The group came over. I made mushroom crepes, which were delicious. I don't think I was a wine drinker at the time, but I'm sure some of the adults brought a few bottles over. And of course baguettes and fromage. We all sat around the living room on pillows on the floor in front of the fireplace and conversed about films and books and travel. All of a sudden, Panther walked into the middle of the circle and sat down in front of one of the men in the class, and began to stare, with that same happy grin on his face. Panther's gaze made the man nervous, and he finally looked at me and asked, "What does he want? What should I do?" I laughed, and wondered if Panther had been following our conversation all along and somehow wanted to partake in it.

I found this picture through a link on my friend Libby's blog. It reminded me of that evening and my philosophizing kitty.


My adorable goddaughter Fiona, at Easter:

Friday, May 11, 2007

judi, cate and philip

I watched Notes on a Scandal last night, and was very impressed by the film as a whole, but especially impressed by the superb acting ability of Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett. That basically goes without saying. Also, from the very first frames of the film until the very last, I was moved by the film score. So I must add that composer Philip Glass was another star of the film. I think I'll start adding films that he's scored on my Netflix queue. I also recall that the San Francisco Ballet has paired some of his arrangements with some of their choreography. In any case, I would recommend Notes on a Scandal for the musical score alone, but it also happens to be quite a well-put-together film and a very enjoyable watch.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

just like that

Yesterday I got a phone call from my friend Jon who informed me that his sister Bonnie (who works at The Fillmore) scored him 2 tickets to the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club show last night, including drink tickets. He asked me if I was interested, to which I did not hesitate to respond with a resounding "HELL YEAH!" So just like that, I had evening plans. I saw the BRMC at Coachella a few years ago and they totally rock. I have one of their albums, Take Them On Your Own. The last time I saw them, it was a short set out there in the desert, and they mostly performed songs from that album. I remember that once during their set, the amps broke down and they quickly whipped out their acoustic guitars and continued playing until the tech guys fixed their equipment. And then they continued to rock.

Last night's show totally rocked. The band spoke to the audience about 4 times, once to say, thanks for coming, twice to introduce a song, and one last time to say, you've been a great audience. The rest of the time was Rock and Roll all the way! They looked like a typical garage band, with bad hair, dressed all in black. The best part of the show for me was when they put aside their electric guitars and played an acoustic set, so you could really feel their talent at songwriting. People even raised their lighters. I told Jon that I didn't think people still did that. He said they don't. They usually hold up their cell phone cameras.

Jon is moving to Los Angeles to live with his girlfriend and take on parenthood. So he's leaving his 1 bedroom bachelor pad in the Upper Haight come June. He has a beautiful white cat named Snow who likes to vomit that he can't bring with him. But she is so cute and friendly. Jon's apartment is in a typical 1970's building, but his place has a view of the Golden Gate Bridge, Mt. Tam, Golden Gate Park, St. Ignatius Church and of course the Pacific Ocean. He's going to ask his landlord today if I can take over his lease. And so, just like that, come June, I may once again be on my own, and a pet owner. It never ceases to amaze me how your life can change so quickly.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

fire on the mountain

The fire that has been raging in Griffith Park in Los Angeles is right next to where I used to live. My friends so far have all reported to be ok, except for not being able to breathe the air outside. I know fires and disaster can strike anywhere, but I'm glad I'm no longer living there.

classic, or should i say excellent

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

definitive breaks with the past

Last night, before I fell asleep, I decided to write in my journal. I used to write almost every day, until I started this blog last year. When I picked up my journal and saw that I hadn't written in it for about a month, I realized that I have replaced journaling with blogging. Thus last night's entry focused on the notion of lost arts, journaling being one of them, letter writing the other.

All my life, I was an avid letter writer. I even had a pen-pal who lived in the suburbs of London since the age of five. When I was a kid, I wrote my cousin in New York once a month about the silly things that little girls write about. In high school, after I had lived abroad for a semester, I used to love writing those foreign addresses, and buying special stamps that my friends in Belgium could save and add to their collections. I sent postcards that I hoped they would save and, in turn, I too have a collection of postcards mailed to me from remote and not so remote places in the world.

In the mid-nineties, I sent my first e-mail. I was living in Mississippi at the time, and my first e-mail buddy was my friend Anthony in Paris. Another teacher at my school showed me how to obtain an e-mail address through the school district, and all of a sudden, I was online. Anthony and I wrote messages to each other all the time. Every morning, I would go into the classroom, turn on a special computer that was connected to this magical stratosphere, and receive words that Anthony had written to me while I was asleep. No need to wait a few weeks for an envelope with a foreign return address and "par avion" stamped on the front. No need to spend lots of money on a short phone call abroad. It was that easy.

Then I discovered Hotmail, and my letter writing days were over. In addition to my European pals, I e-mailed friends from Bangkok to Tehran. My friend Christine from Belgium sent me a joke a day. And then there was spam. Back in the nineties, my e-mails were all composed in paragraph form, using proper grammar, spelling and punctuation. Now when we e-mail each other, it's often one-liners with no capitalizations and abbreviations such as thx!, c u!, and countless others, which I too am guilty of using.

I love e-mailing. I love being in daily contact with people half-way around the globe. I would not have been able to entertain a relationship with Alexei for the last two years if e-mailing didn't exist. But I miss letter writing. I miss receiving something handwritten or even typed in the mailbox that isn't a bill or some kind of advertisement.

I also miss the hours I once spent writing in my journal in cafes and on the Muni (when I lived in SF). I still buy pretty journals. The one I'm using right now has a purple butterfly on the front. But I wonder if my little nieces will ever have the experience of writing a letter by hand, and I wonder how old they will be when they design their first myspace page.

My friend Michael yesterday called attention to generational indicators that represent a definitive break with the past. His post reminded me of what I wrote last night by hand in my journal. And so, let it be on this electronic record, that I feel that the "oh's" have seen the end of letter writing and possibly the end of journaling. And with the permanency of e-mailing and the growing popularity of blogging, I mourn the passing of these fine arts.

Monday, May 07, 2007

le jour de gloire est arrivé, pt. 2

Just heard on KCRW that on this day in 1972, the Rolling Stones released Exile on Main Street, in my opinion, their best album, and possibly my favorite album of all time. The album was recorded in the basement of Keith Richards' home in the South of France, probably while they were all strung out on heroin. Favorite songs from album: Loving Cup, Let it Loose, Shine a Light.

le jour de gloire est arrivé

No, I am not speaking of the Sarkozy victory in France. However, congratulations to him and I hope that he can get the Vème République back on track. Riots did ensue after the election results were announced, but not on the grand scale some feared, or at least that is what is being reported. So he's got a plan for his first 100 days in office, including disbanding the 35 hour work week. Désolée, mes amis!

Back to the good news to which I referred in the subject line of this post. My good friend Estelle, une française from Albertville, received notice on Friday that she won the lottery. Not the California lottery, but the green card lottery! Estelle called me ecstatically and insisted that we go out and faire la fête. We met up with my pals Gabriela and Melanie whom I know from the year I lived in Grenoble. We reminisced about the year we spent in France, and perhaps it was the many margaritas we had been drinking, but we started singing all the classic and not-so-classic French songs we could possibly remember, starting with "69 année érotique" to "Thaïe Nana" and of course "La Marseillaise." Gabriela filmed the karaoke session, and we must have been a sight to see and hear among all the Cinco de Mayo revelers along Valencia Street that evening. We momentarily toyed with the idea of singing Mexican songs in honor of the holiday, but nothing came to mind and we quickly broke into another round of "Je suis venu te dire que je m'en vais!"

J'adore la France! Even though it's turning into a right-wing haven for skinheads!

Friday, May 04, 2007

le candidat de la police

Like many French people, I am a little afraid of Sarkozy, the conservative/right wing candidate for Président de la République. I am afraid that he would be supportive and not adversarial to the Bush regime. It has been beneficial to the left-leaning world to have countries like France who have overtly condemned Bush's foreign policy (remember that we are not supposed to drink French wine, and we are to call fried potato strips freedom fries). I am worried that we could invade Iran, and I'm afraid of World War III.

I am also afraid of the plight of the immigrants in France, as race relations in that country seem to be on the brink of a major explosion, with the banlieue already breaking out in riots in 2005. With Sarkozy, the immigrant and non-immigrant dark-skinned population stands at odds with a government whose domestic policy might include turning a hose onto demonstrators. And since I'm not writing for the Times here, I can say, what the hell? A hose? It sounds like some metaphoric ethnic cleansing. Already suburban Parisians have declared that they will not acquiesce to a Sarkozy win on Sunday.

We all know that the French like to demonstrate. They are always in the streets, telling the government what they want, and often their government listens. But if Sarkozy wins, I fear that he will practice the same kind of domestic policy regarding the people's voices as Bush. I was part of the millions of people around the globe a few years ago when demonstrators took to the streets and marched for peace. And Bush turned a blind eye, and escalated, and we all know what a mess we are in now, and people keep dying. But I digress. My fear is that the so-called western world is growing more intolerant of dark-skinned people. I can't call them immigrants because many of them are French citizens, or in our country American citizens, born and raised. And yet, they are still often seen as foreigners, and the cause for unemployment, crime, drugs and many other woes of society.

Needless to say on Monday, May Day, as I was driving to work, I saw a group of demonstrators in Dolores Park, and I was happy to see them blocking traffic, happy to see them peacefully reminding us that they are making a contribution to our life in this country.

However, I do not see the riots that could break out across France on Sunday, if Sarkozy wins, as peaceful.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

que bueno, mi amor, de oir eso

These were the last words that he said to me today before I ran out of credits during our monthly phone call.

The words we exchanged before these last words were I love you. I miss you.

Alexei is 32 years old today. I wish I could celebrate with him.


I just read this adorable story on another cool woman's blog. Or should I say green woman?