Monday, June 24, 2019

Billy the Goose

To us kids, my dad's cousin Bill was the dude at the holiday table you didn't want to hear from. He was kind of a blow-hard, a bit of a drunk & a gambler par excellence. Word had it that he had lost his mother's San Francisco rental properties on a slew of bad bets. His 'lady friend', Evelyn, as Bill would refer to her, was a sweetheart, however. She smiled easily and never had a bad word to say about anyone. Upon her retirement sometime in the mid-90s, she upped sticks and moved back to the South to care for her mother. I remember thinking: I can't blame her. Bill stayed behind, relocating to a small flat in a town just south of San Francisco called Brisbane. 

Back in 2009, through an old acquaintance, I got a gig tending bar at The Eagles Club, a members' only joint where one can drink on the cheap, in Brisbane. Given that 2+2=4, I had a strong hunch that Bill probably would be a member of this club, so I started asking around. -pretty much the everyone in the bar said: 'Billy The Goose? Oh, yeah, we know Billy!' Bill's surname is Le Gasse, so there you go. Bill finally came in one night when I was behind the bar. We hadn't seen each other in a good ten years---sometime before my Dad's death in 2002. I don't know if he immediately remembered me, but he began warming up once I reminded him of who I was. He seemed a bit frail and somewhat out-of-sorts. Maybe he was just pickled? Anyway, we had a nice, initial chat from what I recall. 

Flash forward ten years and I find myself this afternoon back in Brisbane at a burrito joint with my husband. The Eagles Club happens to be just across the street from the restaurant, so I make my way over after our meal. Peeking my head in to the bar, I can make out Bill sitting in almost exactly the same spot as he was when I last saw him there. I walk up to him, say hello and remind him of who I am. He looks a bit stunned, asking me how I had known where he'd be today. I smile and say, 'because I used to work here.' He asks me if he could 'sign me in'. I tell him I can't stay, so he comes out to the pavement for a chat and to meet my husband. 

Bill circa mid-1990s at my Dad's house. He looks much the same, but with solid, white hair & minus the beeper on his belt.

We caught up on who in the family is still kicking and who is not. And, then, for some reason, he recounted what happened the day my Dad died. (I know the story already, but didn't feel comfortable cutting him off.) A rather short story even shorter: Dad and his wife had taken Bill and Trini, his next 'lady friend' after Evelyn, out to dinner for Bill's birthday. Dad was feeling poorly, and, on his way to the toilet, started to collapse, but not before Bill caught up with him and literally caught Dad as he fell. 'He died right in my arms'. Again, I knew this story, but I don't think I had ever heard it directly from him. Or maybe I had? Dunno. 

Bill also mentioned that our Swedish Family Picnic at the usual spot was still up and running after Dad revitalized it back in the 1980s. One of my second cousins, a cousin of Bill and my Dad's (that makes one a second cousin, no?), has been organizing it since Dad's death. I haven't been to the picnic since before Dad died. I took Bill's no., so I suppose I will call him for a firm date on the picnic. It's either in July or August. It might be a bit weird to attend, but it could also be nice to visit with some of the other 'Swedish' relations after all this time. 

I will leave you with the reason why we picnic--my great-grandparents, Axel and Anna, two Swedish immigrants meeting and marrying in Bernal Heights, San Francisco, ca. 1904. 

Sunday, June 23, 2019

A happy coincidence.

Yesterday, I found this stamped card (approx. 2" x 1") pressed in a book. I drew this image out for a friend's wedding back in 2012. I then took the image to a really nifty stamp shop in London called Blade Rubber Craft and had them make it into a stamp. I used the stamp to decorate wee thank-you cards attached to gift bags for Tessa's bridesmaids. The card I stumbled over in the book was a sort of 'test run' that I had kept for myself. 

After making the discovery, I sent a message to Tessa, she of the stamped image above, telling her of the discovery. She and her wife happen to be celebrating their anniversary this very weekend along the coast just up from Brighton. Good timing, eh? 

Friday, June 21, 2019

Hot cocoa with a twist!

I first became aware of Jack Monroe's blog 'A Girl Called Jack', when I lived in London. Jack was, at that time, becoming known for creating tasty recipes cobbled together using little money & a lot of ingenuity.   

In addition to having a website, Jack is on Twitter dispensing gratis recipes that are pretty dang tasty-looking. It was from there that I pinched the recipe for Peanut Butter Hot Chocolate

For those of you who are keen, here you go: 

Ingredients (for one mug):
50ml water
3 squares of chocolate (I used, ahem, a bit more than that)
1 heaped tablespoon of peanut butter (I used chunky peanut butter)
150ml milk (I used almond milk & the consistency and flavor were gorgeous) 
Melt the choco and peanut butter with water in a saucepan. Stir until ingredients form a sticky paste. Then slowly stir in milk a bit at a time so as to prevent the cocoa from clumping. 
I topped mine with cinnamon & it all went down a treat!

If you fancy a peek at Jack's work and amazing creations, here it is the link to her website:

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Two cents' worth and more

It would seem that Harvard does not admit racist shits. If I were to have a child attending Harvard, then I’d want him or her to have as few classmates as possible with a history of repeatedly saying “nigger”. Harvard's decision to rescind offers of admission from such persons should not be considered controversial. For those of you interested in who was denied admission to Harvard, here is a link detailing what occurred---Kyle Kashuv.

This month I began attending an SF rec & rehab pool. One needs a doctor's note in order to access the facility. Most of the attendees are older retirees and many are recuperating from surgery. The beauty of the pool is that it is heated to a comfortable 92F/33C. It feels as if one were swimming in a giant bathtub. I attended a 30 minute water exercise class at the pool today. It wasn't too easy, fortunately, and the music didn't suck--lots of Paul Simon and Cat Stevens. I shall return. 

The hubs is between jobs (he has a new gig, but starts next week), so we've been tidying up the house together the past few days. He found my Swiss driving license tucked away in a pile of papers. Although I will likely not have need for it again, I do like having this driving license as it NEVER expires. I can hear you all saying: Say what now?! Yes, and I paid about 100 CHF for the pleasure. 

Note that the DL describes itself in the four, official languages of CH (German, French, Italian and Romansch) with English sort of being the unofficial fifth language. 

Friday, June 14, 2019

UK, Oz, SF

Wendell Rd., Hammersmith

When I lived in London, I went to see the house in Hammersmith where my great-great-grandparents had lived just before the turn of the last century. The hubs had been poking around an internet genealogy site and the address of this place was one of the nuggets he had uncovered.

The family lore I had always heard was that great-grandma Bea, having been born in Hobart, Tasmania, came over from the east coast of England to San Francisco on her own, and that she'd sent for her siblings later. This is, thanks to the hubs's digging, largely incorrect.  While the Ceiley family does hail from Norfolk, Bea, her siblings and her parents had lived both in Australia and London before moving to California. Wendell Road in Hammersmith, West London was last where the family hung its hat for a spell before moving to San Francisco. Bea, her mother & sister came over to San Francisco first with her father and brother following sometime later. 

The documents found on the internet list Henry Ceiley's profession as 'carpenter' in England, Australia, and California. I wonder if he had been attracted to the building booms that were probably happening in both Tasmania and California just over a hundred years ago. Henry's skills certainly must have been in demand here in SF after the resulting fires of the 1906 earthquake destroyed huge swaths of homes and businesses. 

The hub's research showed that great-great-grandfather Henry, sometime after the death of his wife, left San Francisco, and returned to Australia. He lived for some years in Bankstown, New South Wales, before being fatally struck by an automobile in 1940.

I will leave you with a photo of my great-grandma Bea with her two sons, Wellman & Raymond. Ray is the one wearing the interesting headdress & he is also my grandpa. 

At the house on Mission Street, San Francisco circa 1915. 

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Heat wave

'Embiggen' the photo in order to truly appreciate the tiny toilet with adult-sized sneakers placed next to it. I don't think it was a funky art installation, but it sort of looked like it could have been.

This was the first trip I have taken to the beach since September of last year. (Foot stuff had been preventing me from making the attempt until now.) My feeling better coupled with current, super-scorching temperatures (30C+/85F+) drove me to it.

I sat for a spell, read the paper, and ate a wee snack before dipping the old toes into the Pacific. A slew of 'free range' dogs racing around barking at each other compelled me to beat feet sooner than I had hoped. (Side note: I am beginning to think that a dog attack I sustained a few years' back has probably affected my sense of well-being.)

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Too good to be true?

SF Women's Building

I have been meditating solidly for the past two months. I find the exercise calming. Clearing the mind is the goal. Thoughts, good or bad, are meant to be disregarded. One is meant to focus on the breath. Sometimes I count '1, 2' over and over in my head as I inhale and exhale to help keep me on track. Thoughts or feelings that enter the mind are noted with 'pleasant', 'unpleasant' or 'neutral' and set aside.  
There was a flyer posted at my local coffee shop for a gratis group-meditation being offered at the Women's Building. I decided to check it out last night. 
I walked into the room of waiting people and said, 'hello'. Most people looked up, but no one responded. Had the meditation already begun? One woman was wrapped almost entirely in a thick, brown blanket. Another person seemed to be asleep. There was a note written on the white board: meditation 7.30-9.30. Were we going to meditate for a solid two hours? I have only done 15 minute meditations and didn't think I could do much more. 
The facilitator, a man who called himself 'Jafa', sat perched in front of a laptop near the white board. I approached him to ask about the structure of the evening. He told me that there would be some discussion couched around two 15-minute meditations.  
'Discussion' actually meant that he would be talking most of the evening about the chakras and karma and past lives and I understood very little of what he was saying. He spoke for nearly thirty minutes before launching into the first meditation. He said that we would meditate to music. There would be three songs representing the three chakras we would be focusing on: One near the bellybutton, one at the sternum, and one just above where the eyebrows meet. He talked about what each chakra stood for, but I can't remember any of what he said now. He pressed play on his laptop and lively, slightly raucous music came out of an adjacent portable speaker. It was at that point that we were meant to close our eyes and go for it. No deep breathing, no getting comfortable...nada.   
The music was too loud. It didn't help that I was sat very near the speaker. The synth bits of the first tune felt penetrating. My palms almost started to sweat and I thought: Fuck, I'm having a stress response--the exact opposite of why I came! My solution was to open my eyes, stare mostly at the floor and just focus on the breath--1,2,1,2. I did look around a bit as well. People seemed seemed to be into it, but I don't know. Our man at the front had his head back slightly as if he were communing with someone or something high above. He held his left had up at chest level and his right hand near his crotch between his legs. 

Talk that followed seemed to be geared toward how one can use meditation in order to become a more effective white-collar worker. 'Don't take on your co-workers' energy. Try to remain detached.' And: 'Ask your boss for what you want. Don't worry about the outcome.'  One participant raised her hand to say that she needed to leave by 9.00p. I took that as  an opportunity and left shortly thereafter. 

Billy the Goose

To us kids, my dad's cousin Bill was the dude at the holiday table you didn't want to hear from. He was kind of a blow-hard, a bit o...