Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Widow update

As of yet, no one in her family has been able to see her. 

From the widow's sister: 

In my heart of hearts I do not believe there is any way to help her.  Over my lifetime I have tried everything. Nothing has ever made a difference.  She does her life the way she wants to do her life.  If someone can help her I will be grateful.

I guess I was naive to think that the widow's sister could just swoop in and help the widow. Instead of going over to check on her, the sister called her on the phone first. Their short phone conversation ended with the widow abruptly hanging up. I was told that the widow felt 'judged'. 

There is something called conservatorship, I think it is, whereby someone is placed in the care of another for, in this case, getting their medical needs met. The widow is not yet far gone enough to be placed in such in arrangement. It's rather grim to think that one just wait until a person is sort of suitably deteriorated before legally being able to obtain help for that person. 

The people with whom the widow willingly has contact: 

My brother
My brother's dippy ex-girlfriend
My cousin
One of my uncles (an uncle, might I add, from whom she and my father were estranged while dad was alive)

The people from the above group whom the widow will see in person: 

My brother and his dippy ex-gf

The widow's son, as it turns out, is already dealing with his father's precarious health issues. It may be he that doesn't have the energy to muster up for the situation with his mother. 

I have been involved in two drug interventions in my life. One of them was successful and led to a loved one getting clean. The other was a failure and led to the loved one cutting off contact. I wonder if a medical intervention could be done in the case of the widow? Given that she likes and trusts very few people, it would probably be more stressful for her than it is worth. Even so, I would participate. The widow is a very suspicious person, so I would imagine that she could have a very negative reaction to being confronted, however gently. 

I guess we'll have to wait and see how her health issues progress before anything can be done. 

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

The Widow

My husband said my father's widow is like 'a badger that's been hit by a car'. Given that she was known to paint on eyelashes with liquid eyeliner just below her actual eyelashes, I'd say she is probably more like a racoon that's been hit by a car. I wouldn't know first-hand how she's doing or what animal she most resembles because the woman has been isolating herself from any and all for the past handful of years. Also, she doesn't like me and the feeling is mutual. 

My brother came over for a visit yesterday. He and I packed some sandwiches and drove over to McLaren Park (Golden Gate Park's ignored smaller brother) for a wee picnic. We settled into a spot by a cluster of trees to shelter ourselves from the wind and he began to tell me about the widow. Apparently, she had hurt her back sometime ago and now isn't very ambulatory. She's using a walker, pain pills, and her usual diet of booze and cigs to cope. She doesn't leave the house and has groceries delivered and pays a cleaner to show up once weekly. 

Before coming to see me, my brother went over to the widow's place to change a few light bulbs, at her request, I think it was. Mind you, she has a son who lives nearby, but they don't get on well. She wasn't a very good parent to him. He remembers her often drunk and behaving erratically when he was little. My brother told me that when the widow opened the door he was shocked at the sight of her--dirty clothes & hair, a distinct body odor and threadbare socks. She seemed to be in need of dental work and en eye check as well. She has both refused help and social interaction for years now. With the bad back, I'm sure it's quite hard for her to take care of herself, so, with no one to see & no where to go, she just doesn't. 

One of the main reasons I never liked the widow is because she's always been socially inappropriate (perhaps caused by the drink) and an oversharer of personal details--hers, yours, anyone's she could find out about--no one needs to know. I mostly tried to hide my feelings over the years, but it was challenging at times. One year, during Xmas dinner, she raised her wine glass and said aloud that we should 'thank the baby Jesus'. For what reason we were to do that I am not sure. No one at the table, the widow included, had been raised with religion. The only time my father said grace at the table was for laughs. He'd loudly say 'grace!', we'd have a little chuckle then start eating. It was a bit that never got old even though he'd done it for as long as I could remember. So there she was thanking little Jesus and I, a smart alec 20-year-old, snorted and rolled my eyes. Then I was the jerk for making dad's wife feel bad. 

After dad died, I felt a bit sorry for her, so I took to calling the widow now and then. I quickly learned not to call in January (the month in which dad was born), in October (the month during which dad died), after 11am any day (the time at which she begins drinking). During our phone conversations she would wail and profess her unyielding love for my father. There was lots of I WILL ALWAYS BE MARRIED TO HIM and things of that sort. It mattered little that I and my siblings had also lost someone. In fact, we had lost someone we had known our entire lives not just 14 years of middle-age as she had. Consolation was always one-sided. And to hear this woman repeatedly moan about how much she loved my dad while sobbing stressed me the fuck out. Eventually, I stopped calling. 

After my brother told me about the widow's very sorry state, I called the widow's sister, who also happens to be my mother's oldest friend, to let her know how bad things had gotten. She's alerted the widow's son who will be checking in on his mother tomorrow. The widow's sister will go at the weekend. Will she open the door to either of them? That is anyone's guess. 

Saturday, May 11, 2019

In the office--

The big news of the week really isn't, to be honest. Twenty years ago, I was gifted a Danish desk a la mid-century design by my cousin. Recently, he asked me if I were 'still using' the desk. I took that to mean that he wanted it back, so I gave it to him. As a result, the office is a pile of papers and other miscellany. 

Here's a small sampling of stuff now littering the office floor that I've been holding onto since even before acquiring the desk. I perhaps should just either toss this stuff out or put it in a manilla envelope (and leave it on the office floor). 


A zinger from Dad

I haven't looked at clippings of my father's letters to the editor since putting together a memory book dedicated to him back in 2003. Reading this snippet from him now, I think I'm seeing that my Dad, a life-long Democrat, may have been becoming a bit more conservative in mid-life. I have never thought of my father as either a hardcore patriot or a prude, but maybe he was becoming one or both?  




My friend's father, fondly known as Der Meister (to be read in a Schwäbisch accent), was an accomplished artist. He trained as a silver engraver, but was also an adept painter, a sculptor and he could carve a mean woodcut. The above image shows one of his many designs he and his wife had printed up for their annual holiday card. The inside of this particular card includes a poem by Hölderlin (noted Schwabe) & heartfelt season's greetings. I so loved receiving these cards.

Der Meister: Selbstportrait (culled from the internet)

Der Meister was in art school when he was conscripted into the German army in 1940. He was put to work as a stretcher bearer on the Western Front. He'd kept a diary during that time filled with sketches and poems. I was lucky enough to view it once two decades ago when der Meister was still living. One page particularly struck me as it contained both a rendering of and an ode to his worn combat boots. 

Ritter, Tod und Teufel

Showing a picture of this postcard depicting one of the most detailed engravings by Dürer I have ever seen is almost an affront to the piece. I can guess as to what the symbols of both skull and hourglass reference, but as someone who knows very little about Christianity, I can't say I understand the piece in any fundatmental way. Apparently, the subject/s of this piece have been hotly debated for centuries. Dürer postcards in American art museums usually consist of his rhino and hare images. I caught a Dürer retrospective in Frankfurt some years back, so there happened to be a fine selection Dürer postcards in the gift shop to choose from. I still marvel at this work.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Mental maps of San Francisco, then and now.

I dug up a definition of 'mental map' in large part because I am too lazy to put it into my own words. 

Here you go: A mental map is a first-person perspective of an area and how they interact with it. An easy example would be the image you have of your neighborhood. Your mental map of where you live allows you to know how to get to your favorite coffee shop. It is what you use to plan activities and routes to travel. 



My modern mental map of SF, 2019 (excuse the misspellings)

I showed a buddy of mine the mental map of SF comprised of select memories from the 1970s - 1990s and she dug it. This person then asked me if I'd create an updated 'mental map' of San Francisco. I laughed and said my modern mental map would just be bookstores and coffee shops. (Surely this person's mental map of SF would be much more exciting?) While my modern mental map turned out to be a bit more than just books and lattes, it does still feel like it is a bit lighter on material than my mental map charting out 'yesteryear'. 



Another version of my SF mental map ca. 1975 to 1990

Did I used to engage more with the city or is there simply less in the city that I wish to engage with? This answer is: probably both. 


Thursday, April 25, 2019

San Francisco Mental Map



This is my mental map of San Francisco. Spots noted were cherry-picked from my own memories of this town during the 70s, 80s and 90s. Accuracy is secondary to what you think about a place when it comes to creating a mental map. 

In another post, I created a mental map of California. It took me all of three mintues to cobble the pencil sketch of California together. The SF mental map took me about 2 hours to complete. Again, as mental maps are quite personal, these images and references might hold very little meaning to others. However, I will bet that there are other Gen-Xers who grew up here who would probably get a lot of what I put down! 

Monday, April 22, 2019

Beach Blanket Babylon

Beach Blanket Babylon meets Beach Blanket Bingo! 

After 45 years, the musical revue extravaganza that is Beach Blanket Babylon is closing at the end of this year. I was somewhat heartened to read that the the imminent closure was not as a result of a massive rent hike, but rather that the show's head felt it was time to end things. 

HRH the Queen, Mary Martin (Peter Pan), Tony Bennett & Steve Silver, the show's creator 

I first saw the revue with my mother sometime in the late 70s. My hazy memories of the show include Snow White looking for love, massive head pieces worn by the performers that would make Carmen Miranda groan, and a cast of characters pulled from both political and popular realms. The last time I saw BBB was in the late 80s and I want to say that they sent up both former SF mayor Diane Feinstein and Michael Jackson. 

Charles and Camilla on stage with cast

Some of the cast and crew have been with the production for decades. I would imagine that they are reeling at the news. These performers have been blessed with a steady gig and great benefits like paid vacaction, paid sick leave, and health insurance. What will they do next? There aren't many shows in this town for local performers to sink their teeth into over the long haul and there certainly aren't any other shows like Beach Blanket Babylon here at all. A sensational piece of San Franciscana is going the way of the dinosaur come New Year's Eve and how unfortunate it is. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Flintstone House

For as long as I can remember, there has stood an odd cave-like sprawl of a home up on a hill overlooking the 280 freeway. As a child, I would point excitedly at the structure and squeal: 'Flintstone house, Flintstone house!' whenever my parents drove down I-280. I suspect that not only children in the '70s like me said this, but adults as well as the name has stuck all these years. In recent articles regarding The Flintstone House, it is now also known as an 'eyesore' and a property 'not in keeping with community standards'. 

The home's architect, William Nicholson, was interested in creating dome-like structures by spraying shotcrete, concrete projected at high velocity primarily on to a vertical or overhead surfaces, onto steel rebar and wire mesh frames over inflated aeronautical balloons. The technique had been developed just a year before in 1975 and was still considered experimental at the time. Nicholson apparently created a series of these 'dome homes', but this is the only one you might have heard of as of late. 

The original house was a drab beige and sort of fit in well enough along a hillside made up of ever-green trees and dry brush. Sometime in the the mid-2000s, the house was painted a burnt sienna color. -really easy to spot from the freeway (although it always had been). A few years ago, the home was listed on AirBnB. The AirBnB ad showed a structure that had morphed bit from monochrome to this: 



A woman called Mrs. Fang bought the property two years ago and decided to go whole hog with the Flintstone theme. The property grounds are now host to an interesting assortment of statues and other structures. The view from 280 shows a menagerie of dinosaurs. At the entrance to her home stand life-size Flintstone cartoon characters including Betty, Barney and Fred. 

This is what the property looks like now: 



Front entrance


View from Interstate 280


Her neighbors have registered a complaint with the city and it's been determined Mrs. Fang is in code violation. I think the wealthy citizens of Hillsborough are mostly up-in-arms because they think her house looks garish. What's vaguely ironic is that given how large the lots are in this area and how the greenery rather obscures one's view, the neighbors who are upset can't actually see much of what Fang has done to the property lest they are driving by on the highway. 

Fang has retained the services of attorney Angela Alioto, a woman from a prominent San Francisco family who recently unsuccessfully ran for mayor. Mrs. Fang, also not unknown in SF's 'high society', if you will, is the former publisher of the San Francisco Examiner newspaper. 

Alioto alleges that racism is behind the opposition to Fang's *ahem* improvements. 

According to court documents, the dinosaurs standing in her yard count as 'unenclosed structures that require prior approval and a building permit'. Neither of which Fang has obtained.

I'm interested to know how this saga will pan out. Will Mrs. Fang have to dismantle her pre-historic zoo or will her neighbors have to suck it up in the name of a bit of a cartoon fun? 


An unadulterated Nicholson design in Palm Springs


Widow update

As of yet, no one in her family has been able to see her.  From the widow's sister:  In my heart of hearts I do not believe ther...