Friday, February 27, 2009

24h world date stamp: 12 p.m. gmt, 2.21.09

And so it begins.

On February 21, 2009, at 12 a.m. Greenwich Mean Time, artists from around the globe participated in the first-ever 24h World date stamp. From pre-dawn darkness in Southern California to Singapore at sunset and all points in between, this group of writers and filmmakers and musicians — each of them artists, each embracing their art in their own unique way — recorded the moment in thought and imagery, snapping photos, noticing, taking notes. What follows is a sampling of some of the most poetic and whimsical and soul-searching collective recollections of this singular moment in time.

Here's the compilation video:






And here are the writers' thoughts and images in their entirety:

London, England
United Kingdom
GMT
(12 noon, local time)


The Tropic of Peckham.

Elinor Perry-Smith
Screenwriter, Blogger
_______________________________________________

London, England
United Kingdom
GMT
(12 noon, local time)


It's lonely being green. Ventured out into the garden on this our first really sunny day after unusual amounts of snowfall. All the plants are looking very sorry for themselves, except for this Mexican Orange which defies the weather. It's like a huge shiny sunburst in the middle of twigs and dead leaves.

You just have to smile.

Kathryn Radmall
Screenwriter
________________________________________________

London, England
United Kingdom
GMT
(12 noon, local time)


So finally a bit of sunshine in London. I jumped straight in the car to get a bit of fresh air. After all the snow it finally feels like spring is on the way - even saw a few pairs of shorts out and about. Tomorrow I am starting shooting a documentary as well, so there is a great feeling of things just beginning...

Pearl Howie
Screenwriter, Filmmaker
________________________________________________

Manchester, England
United Kingdom
GMT
(12 noon, local time)


This is the Central Library in Manchester, and I was thinking, as I looked at it, of my youth. ... It actually was part of possibly my earliest TV memory - when a fight scene took place on the the roof of the library during an exciting episode of a TV series I remember very little about - the fight scene was the one thing that stood out and does so until this day. I remember being really thrilled by it, and being thrilled by the fact I had actually BEEN to the building on the TV screen.

Then I recall the many hours I spent there while researching my novel, FINAL TWIST. Aside from flying to the states to do research (the book was a conspiracy thriller about the killing of JFK), the central library was a valuable resource in that it houses many books that are out of print.

I have been to the theatre underneath the library, and I've been to the cafe under the library. You have to admit, that's some library.

— Peter Spencer

Screenwriter
_____________________________________________


Edinburgh, Scotland
United Kingdom
GMT
(12 noon, local time)



Dreary light, heavy clouds, and wind stronger than it has been for months. Feels like the perfect weather for snuggling on the sofa with a good book and a hot drink.

Laura Anderson
Freelanc
e Writer and Filmmaker
________________________________________________


Devon, England
United Kingdom
GMT
(12 noon, local time)



And they say Britain is a country of animal (bird?) lovers!!! Cats may be cute to us humans, but I guess we don't see them for the hardcore predators they really are...

Lucy V. HayLinkScreenwriter, Blogger
_____________________________________________

Carnegie Lake, New Jersey
United States
GMT - 5
(7 a.m., local time)


I'm based in New York, but this weekend, I am visiting my parents in New Jersey. I once read somewhere that water inspires creativity so sometimes, when I'm at my parents' place, I go to a lake near their house and stare at it for a while before writing. Today it brings back happy memories of a writers' retreat in Ohio, where I would plant myself with my laptop by a window that looked out onto the Olentangy River, and every 30 minutes or so, look up from the screen and see the calming waters.

Unfortunately, accompanying this great memory are worries about finances. Wondering about my job, wondering if I'll be able to make my next short film, if I'll ever find a liquor company that might be willing to sponsor it.

But enough about this - it's about the story, for the next couple of hours. This is the beauty of being a writer - you can escape this world at the scribble of a pen, taps on the keyboard. I'll think about my characters and their problems, not my own.
Mrinalini Kamath
Playwright, Filmmaker
_____________________________________________

Raleigh, North Carolina
United States
GMT -5
(7 a.m., local time)


A deserted and quiet 07:00 a.m. Classical music plays in the background. The crowds haven’t arrived yet, only four early morning regulars sitting on the other side of the fireplace having a cup of Joe and rehashing last night’s basketball game.

People do come in dribbles and drabs – place their orders – leave. I often wonder: what are these people’s lives like? They seem to be unable or unwilling to sit, relax and enjoy.

I can’t write at home. Tried it many times, just can’t do it. Panera works for me. I can write here. My laptop is powered on and open and poised to take in four-plus hours of screenwriting -- and I’m ready.
Michael Scherer
Screenwriter
_____________________________________________

Louisville, Kentucky
United States
GMT -5
(7 a.m., local time)


I know of nowhere else where people are so fond of walking in circles! Seneca Park, in the East End of Louisville has a level, paved 1.2 mile walking track, a pretty perfect ellipse in and about old trees, but open enough to see the width and nearly the length — unless, of course, it’s dark. This morning, it’s freezing (32 degrees) and there are all sorts of people out — some lithe ones in spandex staging a run, and dog walkers. I feel eccentric, in duffle coat, scarf and knit hat taking pictures of backsides in the dark, some with their running lights twinkling.

So much positive faith, that exercise is good, walking or running in circles especially therapeutic. And I a self-conscious observer, with the requisite coffee and donut — like the cop on a stake out. I am not much for running into what I can’t yet see: like the future. I want to be positive that all will be well: We will go around and come around. Yet I feel, even on the verge of sunrise, pensive for our land, our people. Still, so many neighbors’ eager to walk and to run this early gives me hope.

— Jeanne Hammond
Screenwriter
_____________________________________________

Westlake Village, California
United States
GMT -8
(4 a.m., local time)


You're awake before the alarm goes off, in and out of sleep that is fitful with the fear that you will miss the first date stamp.

As you are on the West Coast of the United States, 12 p.m. GMT means you've pulled the early straw — 4 a.m. your time. You get up in advance of this to make sure you've got the shot lined up and your thoughts in order (in spite of the fact that it's black as pitch outside, the second will prove to be more of a challenge). But when the magical hour arrives, your camera fails you (so much for dry runs the night before), and you find yourself stumbling around outside in the cold, MacBook Pro in hand, its built-in camera aimed at whatever you think might show up in the shot.

The streets are quiet, the neighbors asleep. And good thing, too. Because you look a little suspect tip-toeing around in the front garden with a laptop in hand.

You ultimately get the shot, though it's of questionable quality. What resonates and remains with you throughout the rest of that sleepy weekend is the fact that you knew (or hoped) that in all different parts of the world, other artists were out and about, noticing, taking notes. That you were coming together, behind, in front, and right in the middle of the sun as it rose and shone and set on the world.

And in that moment, you never felt so connected.

— Pamela Schott
Author, Screenwriter

_______________________________________________

Royal Ville
Singapore
GMT +8
(8 p.m., local time)


I'm so tired that I'm seeing double but at the same time, determined to soak in the pleasure of my me-time as I wait for my husband to come home and my daughter is blissfully asleep. The tv's got Die Hard 4.0 blasting away (piss-all to watch anyway!), an assortment of toys lie scattered as I still procrastinate about tidying up (hmmmm...maybe later!), I've prepped my sweet and sour fish for dinner (God I'm STARVING, hurry up and get home already Billy!) and of course, I'm catching up on the never ending shenanigans of Facebook. Meanwhile, there's always a niggling thought at the back of my mind (every Saturday night mind you) that I just want to go out and hang out and have a few gulps of adult beverages at one of my favourite watering holes in town... or more than one! So, nothing wild or out of this world, just another typical Saturday night.

— Sonia Marzuki
_____________________________________________


Marta, Italy
GMT +1
(1 p.m., local time)


After many days of rain in Italy today has finally made some head with the sun ... Mark is impatient waiting for the arrival of spring, one of his two favourite seasons together with the summer, to breathe the fragrances of nature all of these landscapes.

Marco Pesci
Musician




Elsewhere in the world:


Panama Canal, Panama
United States
GMT -8
(4 a.m., local time)


















Helsinki, Finland
GMT + 2
(2 p.m., local time)




















Venice Grand Canal, Italy
GMT +1
(1 p.m., local time)


















Paris, France
GMT +1
(1 p.m., local time)






















Tossa del Mar, Spain
GMT +1
(1 p.m., local time)














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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

and... go! 24h world is launched

The world stands on the verge of massive change. From tectonic shifts in how we view ourselves as individuals and indistinguishable parts of a greater whole, to world market operating systems and our organic interaction with this place we all call home, by the time we're ready to turn the page on 2009, things are going to be very different.

Over the course of the next 52 weeks, the 24h World Project will seek to document this change in 24 unique date stamps noted in word and imagery by participants from all seven continents. Their submissions will be compiled into one video that will grow in length as the year grows in days, and available in full-text format in the pages of this blog.

The result? A look at who we are now, at the project's inception, and who we will be in 12 months' time, when the seeds sown in 2009 begin to emerge as the harvest of 2010.

This is us, the 24h World Project, noticing, taking notes.

It's time to begin.



Note: The first 24h World date stamp took place on February 21, 2009, at 12 noon GMT. The images and thoughts of those who participated from around the world will be compiled and released here in the next few days. Those who wish to join the project should email teamschott@roadrunner.com.
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Saturday, February 21, 2009

beautiful day

Humbled.

You are humbled. And amazed. And so... alive.

The 24h World Project kicked off today at 12noon GMT. Because you live in California, you pulled the earliest shift (GMT -8), the one in which your part of the world still lay in complete darkness. And where you live was quiet, and still, and still at rest.

The first images and impressions, captured by bloggers from all around the world today at the exact same time, will be posted here soon and compiled into a movie that will grow with each additional hour that is added (1pm GMT will be next, and so on, until, by the end of a 12-month cycle, we've covered a full 24 hours).

In the meantime, here's a first look at what the world first looked like as February 21 dawned. It's humbling, isn't it? And amazing, this world that is so... alive.

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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

24h world: first international event this saturday

Quick Announcement:

The first 24h World virtual date stamp will take place this Saturday, February 21 at 12 noon GMT. Bloggers from across the United States and around the world have signed up to participate in this cross-continental effort to capture 2009 in thoughts and imagery, but there are still many countries not represented.

To participate, be sure to read the guidelines post below (dated February 17) and then email teamschott@roadrunner.com. All are welcome!

We'll be creating a short film that combines each blogger's photos and impressions and adding to it as the year progresses, so be watching this space.

Twenty-four hours. Seven continents. One world.
Bloggers noticing, taking notes.
24h World.



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Monday, February 16, 2009

24h world: the skinny

So, the cat's out of the bag.

For the past month or so, you've been cooking up a project with friends and acquaintances from around the world, talented writers and artists you've had the tremendous opportunity to engage with as owner of this site, generous individuals who share with you the passion and humility and perplexing dichotomy of being human in this wide and wonderful world.

The result? A social experiment that will run the length and breadth of this aforementioned world, a project that will date stamp, over the period of twelve months, twenty-four consecutive hours from the viewpoint of participants from every continent, complete with a photo of what was happening out there at a precise moment in time as well as the in here bits, the thoughts feelings emotions of the person capturing the moment, their goals and aspirations, and disappointments and setbacks — everything that makes life messy and beautiful at the same time.

gr@itude's task is to compile the images and feelings, to weave them into a compelling film that will grow with the year, change with the seasons, and serve as a true and faithful representation of life from around the world, told in increments and aspirations, memorable moments and successes and failures.

In other words, real time. You cannot wait.

The call is out now for more to sign on. Below are guidelines for the project, what it will take to make this a truly worldwide initiative. All are welcome, and all that is required is a digital camera, email, and a commitment to share a world view with the rest of the world.

Care to join us? Email teamschott@roadrunner.com to get on board.


Official Guidelines

In order to participate, we simply ask that you:

1. Have a camera and the ability to email photos.

2. Commit to capturing a snapshot of what’s going on at your assigned hour twice a month. This is important! You don’t want your country/state not represented because you weren’t available to take a picture! (☹)

3. Provide a brief (one to two sentence) summary caption of what you saw/felt/experienced at the exact the moment the shot was taken. (Just keep it tasteful, especially when after-hours shots are required!)

4. Email your snapshot and caption within two days of the date stamp so that it can be included in the video project.

5. Spread the news! Blog about the project (if you’re a blogger), Twitter it, email your friends, invite your family to log in and experience our 24h World as it happens.

6. Allow us full usage rights to your photos and captions (don’t worry; we’ll duly credit you, and will provide ways for people interested in who you are and what you do to reach you directly).

FIRST DATE STAMP:

February 21, 2009
12 noon GMT
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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

craigslist help wanted, $35K!

Normally, craigslist is like a big flea market: Sometimes you stumble upon a really good find, but most of the time, it's all just recycled crap. Someone wanting something for free or dirt cheap, someone wanting to get rid of their dirt-cheap crap for free. You drop in on occasion, sometimes to browse items for sale, sometimes just to see who is hiring for what, curious about your options, should you ever decide to hang up the writer hat and get a real job for a change.

Today was one of those drop-in days. And while you didn't stumble across any good finds, you did find an ad that calls for a nanny/assistant for a Malibu family of five (with pets), which was obviously placed by a wife/mother who is apparently just not that into the mom bit. How can you be so sure? Read what Malibu Mom writes:

NANNY WANTED FOR BUSY EXECUTIVE IN THE MALIBU AREA

Oops. Malibu Area Mom.

Temporary to possible Permanent

Monday - Friday 1:30pm - 9:30pm. Some occasional late evenings and/or weekends. The ideal candidate would be able to commit to these hours and be flexible.

Cool. An eight-hour day, but you'd get the mornings to yourself. Not bad.

She goes on:

The ideal candidate can multi task, plan ahead, problem solve and give plenty of nurturing love to 3 respectful and delightful children (9-14).

Hmmm. The ideal candidate sounds like... a mom. In fact, no matter how respectful 'n' delightful these three children are, no one could ever possibly give them the nurturing love they require but a mom. Preferably, the Mom, mom. (That means you, Malibu Area Mom.)

For clarity, Malibu Area Mom adds this:

My children are quite energetic, so we need someone with lots of energy.

Ohhhh. Those kind of kids. Still. Not a bad gig so far. Someone could make a nice living taking care of three energetic kids in the Malibu area.

Must have excellent organizational skills, oral and written communication skills. He/She should be skilled in Microsoft Word, Excel, Outlook.

Three kinds of skills? Malibu Area Mom wants someone with mad skills! This must be for the assistant part of the job. And, fair enough. You suppose most people who are of the age to care for three kids and double as an assistant to an executive would expect to know their way around the Microsoft Office Suite, no?

College degree is required.


Assuming you're still playing along, you may be thinking this job has promise. You're not exactly sure why anyone would need a college degree to do what she's described so far, but whatever. If Malibu Area Mom wants a degreed household employee, surely she's willing to pony up and pay what a college-educated employee is worth. And her kids deserve top drawer care.

(Just to be clear? You're not being facetious here. Her kids do deserve top drawer. The absolute very best. All kids do.)

Valid drivers license / insurance required.

Safety first!

CPR is a plus.

Er, wait. What? Back it up, Malibu Area Mom. You require a college degree, but CPR is "a plus"? Really? Because if you think about it, isn't it more important that your stand-in knows how to save an energetic life than whether or not he/she has read Milton?

This is where the funny feeling starts to settle in. And as it turns out, Malibu Area Mom is just warming up.

Picking up kids from school, organizing homework & study time, scheduling after school activities, supervise play, preparing kid meals, help get children ready for bed.

You get the picking up from school bit. And, okay, homework supervision is necessary, as is play supervision, and it's nice to sometimes be able to hand over that baton of responsibility. As a mother yourself, you can see where Malibu Area Mom is coming from, can understand needing additional help here and there. In fact, you had a nanny of your own when your family was younger, and you know how much you appreciated having someone there to share in the monumental, non-stop task of caring for children.

But meals and bedtime, every night? Just where are you, Malibu Area Mom? Where do you go?

Handle/coordinate personal activities and events, being aware when children are in and out of school; their holiday schedules and outside activities, schedule and arrange activities for children as requested.

Hello?

Make reservations, flights and car rental arrangements for vacations, as well as arrangements for appointments/reservations, i.e., doctors, hair cut, dinner, etc.

Of course, but --

Help with personal purchases ranging from clothes to home appliances.

Malibu Area Mom?

Order gifts for birthdays, anniversaries and holidays for friends and family.

MAM?

Handle/coordinate the maintenance, upkeep and cleaning of home, including appliances, managing the house, straighten house as needed.

OKAY. You GET IT already. SOMEONE needs to parent these children. But the question remains: Where are you, Malibu Area Mom?

Because what you're describing here, in very thorough detail, MAM, is, um, actually, your job.

Yours.

Let's just let that sink in for a second.

Because what's coming next is the real doozy.

We're talking now about the value you place on this position, Malibu Area Mom. The price you are willing to pay for the care and feeding and nurturing of your three children, the upkeep of your home, the smooth-running of your daily life, plus the extra touches. Like the gift buying, and the vacation planning, and all the other stuff that makes every moment a memory, every second something to savor.

All of this, to your way of thinking, is worth a paltry $35,000 per year.

Wow.

And, whoa.

And... why?

Granted, you could never really place a price on the value a mother brings to her family. But in this instance, you kinda have to try, because you're asking someone to step in your shoes and do your job. A job that you think is worth, oh, roughly $15 an hour. Why, Malibu Area Mom? Why would you so completely undervalue what you do? Do you have any idea how important your work is? How noble and honorable and necessary your job is? Could there be any more important, any more weighty a calling than to raise up three responsible, mature human beings?

No, MAM. There cannot.

Please, Malibu Area Mom. Rethink your drink. Not just in consideration of your future nanny/assistant (God bless him/her), but for you, and your energetic kids. You're worth so much more, and so are your children. What you bring to your family, and, by extension, the rest of the world, is something worth so much more.

But it's not something you can buy or sell or trade. And it's definitely not something you'll find on craigslist.
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Thursday, February 5, 2009

txting san francisco

Author's note: Over the weekend, my husband and I flew up to San Francisco to celebrate our birthdays in the town where we met, fell in love, got married, and had a child. As this was the first time that we had left our two girls in the care of someone else for this long a period, there was an understandably hefty amount of phone calls exchanged to check in and reassure them that we were, in fact, planning on coming back home to them. Eventually. But not until we had eaten our collective weight in food, San Francisco style. One of the more delightful (and least anticipated) bi-products of the trip was the copious amount of texts exchanged with our 10-year-old daughter in particular, which inadvertently served as a date-stamp travelogue. Here, then, is a to-the-minute recap a few of our favorite highlights from the trip, as well as some of what happened at home while we were gone.

Friday
January 30, 2009

11:57:43 AM
@ Julia

Touchdown! We flew right over Malibu and home. It was so cool!

Normally, you prefer to fly out of Burbank, as it's more accessible from home, and getting into Oakland, and from there, San Francisco, is much easier. But this time, you thought you'd try LAX. This decision added nearly two hours to your travel time, but you're not complaining. Flying up the coast, following Highway 1, you gained a better perspective on the wild frontier you call home, this rough and rugged and righteous jewel at the edge of the continent, this swath of coast and desert and mountains, forged from violent volcanoes millions of years now dormant, that always pulls you back, pulls you back, no matter where in the world you go.

12:19:46
@ sister-in-law

We're here! We are both in a puddle!

What can you say about catching sight of the City skyline, huddled precariously on landfill at the edge of the Bay, as it comes into view from 10,000 feet? There's the Transamerica Pyramid, and 525 Market Street, your old building, and 555 California Street, the tallest building in the City. Over there is the Bay Bridge, a gigantic structure that somehow manages to be both elegant and utilitarian at the same time. In the center of the Bay is Alcatraz, and beyond that, the Golden Gate Bridge, bright and bold and noble. People save up their entire lives to see that bridge. You feel proud, and possessive (that's your bridge, this is your town), and eager to share it with anyone else who finds it just as achingly beautiful.

12:23:44 p.m.
@ sister-in-law
re: meeting up for Hunan

We are totally flexible and will work around your schedule. Are you driving or taking BART? We are just leaving SFO right now...

And so begins the food fest that will return you home feeling five pounds heavier and oh, so happy. In a city that claims more restaurants per capita than any other place in the U.S., the best Hunan you've found is above Broadway, on Sansome. You used to walk there after work with your boyfriend, before he was your husband, making the trek from Market Street, working up an appetite for meat pie and Chinese chicken salad and green beans.

But the Hunan reunion won't be for another seven hours. For now, you are content to ride the shuttle from the terminal to the new BART station. Happy to settle into your seat on the train, to smell the familiar, underground punch of electricity and humidity and humanity. Content to people watch while the train screams and shudders through the tunnels. Ecstatic when you finally climb above ground to the suburbs, where the sun is shining with blinding clarity, and the homes that march up and down the hillsides in tidy, Monopoly-style fashion look like ribbon candy — pink and yellow and green home-sweet-homes to thousands who are willing to pay the high price of living here.

12:23:56
from Susan (sister and your replacement for the long weekend)

I'm outside school right now. Have fun!

As your BART train burrows its way into downtown, you have to stop salivating a moment and wonder at the people in your life who grease the wheels, who graciously stand in when you need a rest from the heavy lifting.

393 miles south of where you are at this moment, Susan is picking up your oldest from school. It's no small thing to entrust the complexity of your life and the love at the center of that life to someone else. But with your sister, you don't have to think twice. She is there, waiting, as promised. School will be out soon, and your daughter will have someone to feed her and listen to the drama of her day and tell her how cool a kid she is — someone, that is, who will do her best to meet her every need.

You thank her with this:

1:32:36
@ Susan

Within seconds of getting off the Powell Street train, we were sampling tri tip, pizza, and quesadillas in the food area.

It was not a pretty sight. Neither you nor your husband had had anything yet to eat that day, which meant that blood sugar was understandably low. But that's a thin excuse for what happened, and you know it. Because even if you had stuffed yourself before setting foot in the Westin San Francisco Center food court, you still would have consumed the tri tip and pizza and quesadilla on offer. You're not crazy. You might not take a second pass through the court for additional bites of tri tip as you did this time around, but that's just pure speculation.

In the end, none of the generous vendors got your money that afternoon (though you would make up for it on Saturday). After much circling and debating and stomach growling, you "settled" on sharing a salad and sandwich from Bristol Farms.

Dessert (after-lunch dessert, remember, because this is still San Francisco and you are still on vacation) consisted of Beard Daddy cream puffs (plural, because you were sharing) and Peet's latt├ęs, both of which proved the existence of a mighty God, and then it was time to check in to the hotel.

2:54:31
from Julia

I love you!!!

Enter the 10-year-old, complete with her big-as-the-ocean heart and passion for multiple exclamation marks. In her honor, you will give out more money than you usually do to the homeless that you meet, as you know that this is something she would beg you to do if she were there with you. She is on her way to dance class thanks to the gracious assistance of yet another person in your life. Checking in to the Hilton on Union Square, you mentally tick off another task successfully delegated, and wonder if you could get away with doing something like this more often.

4:20:52
@ Susan

We are at St. Dom's. Fr. Cassidy is still alive and kicking.

You almost talked yourselves out of it. The first Geary Street MUNI bus that passed you by was packed with commuters, and you weren't sure you were up for the balancing act that's required when you're standing on a bus that's throwing itself up and down hills with willful abandon. That was your commuter life, back when you worked for Wells Fargo and lived in Pacific Heights, and then Hayes Valley.

But you decided to give the next bus a shot. It was only just past four, after all — well ahead of rush hour.

So worth it.

It'd been a long time since you took the bus anywhere, and that's a shame. Because riding the bus in a big city grounds you, puts you eye at level with everyone else who's going your way, moves you into a meditative place as someone else gets to worry about the traffic and lights and getting there.

When you booked the trip, you decided that you wouldn't rent a car, that any place you wanted to visit this time through had to be reached by foot, taxi, or public transit. This skirted the ever-present challenge of finding and paying for parking. It also forced you to take San Francisco in on its own terms, to see things the way they were meant to be seen: deliberately. To jostle and sidestep, to join the hustle and flow.

The MUNI dropped you at Fillmore Street, which used to be the boundary line for your first apartment. You walked up the street, then down again, marveling at the number of chocolate shops, the coffee stores, the specialty home goods stores that are somehow managing to survive the current economic environment.

Then it was on to St. Dominics. This is where you were married, where you walked yourself down the longest church isle in the City, where you messed up your vows when you promised to take him to be your "wife-I-mean-husband!"

This is where your first child was baptized, and where your husband received the majority of his first sacraments. And so this is one of the first places you go when you're in the City, the place where you feel the most at home when you are a guest in town.

4:57:43 p.m.
@ sister-in-law

We're waiting for a bus out of the Presidio.

After St. Dom's, you make the five block hike up to where you used to live on Presidio. This area of town is residential, and it's a quiet afternoon. Tomorrow, the place will be buzzing with strollers and cyclists and power walkers with coffee in hand and a copy of the Chron tucked under one arm. For right now, though, you have the neighborhood to yourself.

This is where you want to end up. Eventually. Maybe after the girls are grown, or at least in high school. When you don't need a yard any more. Or a car, for that matter. When it's just the two of you again. And if you can't swing it before then, this is where you want to end out your days, writing, remembering.

5:53:54 p.m.
@ sister-in-law

We are walking to Sansome right now and will meet you there.

Back downtown now, dwarfed by towering steel and glass canyons in the grey half-light of a Friday evening. You take a walk past 525 Market Street, the building that once had a cheap cafeteria on the third floor where you'd go for lunch when you were broke and working as a legal secretary. It was during one of these lunch hours that you first laid eyes on your husband, and immediately determined that you needed to get a job in this place so that you could meet him. Lucky for you, that's exactly what happened.

With time to kill before meeting his sister and her husband, you take familiar back alleys to see if your favorite Dim Sum place is still there (it is), to see if there really is a grove of Redwood trees planted in front of the Transamerica Pyramid Building (there are), to peak into the steamy kitchens of hole-in-the-wall Vietnamese restaurants where the bang and clatter of silverware tossed about by busboys elbows deep in dishwater makes you glad to be alive.

Then it was on to Sansome Street, to wait outside on some steps near the restaurant, hungry and sore from walking, eager to see family, but content for the moment to just sit, and listen to City as it stirred awake to night life, and be.

Next post: Saturday shopping, massage, only-in-San-Francisco-theatre, food, and a shameful science experiment.
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Wednesday, February 4, 2009

mean girls

It's been very much on your mind recently. You're 40, not 14, but you feel just as you did back then, now that your oldest is going through her turn in junior high.

It all seems so unnecessary.

The bullying, the name calling, the eye rolling. The comments about her clothes, the suggestion that she not curl her hair in the morning, as that look is the domain of the most popular girl in the eight grade. The additional suggestion that she try and "dress normal," that is, tone down who she is to become one of them.

It is all bullshit.

You pick her up every day from school, this tall, leggy, knock-out of a girl/child — the one who has been sketching clothing designs since she could hold a crayon, the one who now turns heads wherever she goes, and has the boys competing for her attention — and you know before she releases the latch on the door that it's been another one of those days.

The worst of the vitriol comes from the angriest of girls.

(Do they know how transparent they are to outside observers? Do they know that, with every sneer and cutting remark, they shed light on a self-loathing that is so profound it moves you to think about it?)

There's the one who was born with a defect, who literally wears her shame on her sleeve. She is a pretty girl, but awful. Just awful. Spiteful and mean and consumed. She has manipulated her world to work things in her favor, brandishing her handicap like a weapon, defying anyone to short change her the pity she thinks she deserves.

(Probably not. Or, not yet, anyway. They can't possibly have that level of self awareness. If they did, they would be incapable of such behavior.)

The problem is, your daughter doesn't buy it. She doesn't sing in her key, doesn't fawn over her and tell her how cute she's dressed today. This only infuriates the girl, strengthens her resolve to publicly bring your daughter down, no matter the cost.

(The problem also is, your daughter thinks that she is in some way responsible for how this girl treats her. That she somehow deserves the abuse. Daily now, you remind her that she is only responsible for how she chooses to interpret what is said and done. That she has the ability to respond in a way that favors her self esteem. You wonder when this is going to sink in.)

There is another girl, a plain, unremarkable girl whose smart-ass, fuck-you attitude will not serve her well down the road. Last year, you had the school place restrictions on how close she could come to your daughter. Yeah. Like that. It didn't stop the harassment. You knew it wouldn't. But you also knew that to not go to the administration, to not bring to their attention what was going on, was to send a message to your daughter that she was not to make waves, speak out, stand up for herself when faced with abusive behavior. It was an exercise in self respect, a lesson in discerning what is and what is not acceptable in the big world.

Especially when it comes to being a woman.

These two are among the aggressors. There are others, the followers, those who stand idly by as the verbal vomit happens. They are perhaps the most disappointing, because you know some of them. Know their parents. Have carpooled with them, given them birthday gifts, watched them grow up. Where is their loyalty? Where is their own sense of self respect? Where is that little voice that reminds them that it is absolutely unacceptable for any girl, no matter what her social standing, to belittle another?

Of course, rationally, you know the answer, know about herd mentality, understand the stakes involved in standing apart from the pack. And you know these kids are probably doing the best that they can with the tools that they have. And so you smile at them when you see them, and wait for them to mature, and hold your daughter close after the day's storm has passed.

The others... Long after you've forgotten their names, or are able to place their faces, or even recall the harmful exchanges, long after your daughter has grown and matured and stepped into womanhood in the way you know she is capable of doing — will eventually do — these girls will probably still be there, in their eighth grade mode, with their petty judgments and massive self loathing.

Unless.

Unless grace happens. Unless something moves them, from within, or without. Unless their lives are shattered in such a profound way that to pick up and rebuild with what they had would make no sense. Better to start from scratch, from a new understanding, or from zero understanding, but a willingness to go from there.

And grace could happen. It's there. It's always there, waiting for any and all comers. Maybe your daughter will be the catalyst for grace. Maybe the dance that she's performing with them will be the turning point. Maybe in her graceful approach to getting through these last few months of junior high, head up, shoulders back, self esteem shaken but not destroyed, grace will move and find momentum.

You hope and pray that this is so. Because no matter how often you wish you could slap them around, mean girls need grace the most.

(Come to think of it, you could use a cupful yourself.)
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