Towse: views from the hill

December 30, 2006

Christmas memories lost and found

Filed under: Uncategorized — Towse @ 7:21 am

I love Laura Lippman‘s Memory Project, as I might’ve mentioned once or three (maybe four!) times before.

Her current memory burp has to do with her December holiday memories back when (she always deals first) and her questions: What’s the best gift you ever gave? What’s the best gift you ever got? And have you ever had to fake it?

I answered:

Over the years. So many presents. Given. Received.

The present I especially remember was … Manhattan Beach, CA. Christmas 1956. My dad was teaching at UCLA that year. We were living in a funky old house on the Strand, which (if my Web sleuthing is accurate) has been bulldozed for condos since the last time I swung by, maybe twenty-five years ago. Alas. Such a house. So many memories for such a short time.

We were only there for a school year. Come June 1957, my dad, with five children to provide for, left academia and signed on with Henry J. and Kaiser Aluminum. We relocated to Belem, Para, Brazil for the next two years or so, while Dad searched for bauxite, exploring the Amazon basin, whacking his machete through the jungles.

Christmas 1956. I was all of four years old and already not exactly your paint-your-fingernails sort of girl. Santa brought me a bright blue metal dump truck that really dumped. You could put four Campbell’s soup cans in the bed. And dump them out. And put them back in. And dump them out. I was in hog heaven.

Another memorable present was something my older brother gave me several years after we got back from Brazil. That Christmas, he took an old cruzeiro coin and polished it up then soldered a small brass safety pin on the back to make me a pin. I still have that pin in a place of honor in my jewelry box forty-some years later.

The best present I ever gave? I can’t remember, but this Christmas we had the serendipity to decide to give the older younger one a gift certificate to Borderlands, a terrific SFF/H store out on Valencia. I wanted to stick the gift certificate in a book and we found a signed copy of Pratchett’s first Johnny Maxwell book. I tucked the gift certificate into the book.

Turns out the older younger one had been searching for years for that title. He had the later Johnny Maxwells but wanted to start with #1 and hadn’t been able to find it. The fact that we’d found him a copy — signed — made his Christmas.

Thanks for the memories, Laura.

Answer yourselves here, folks: “What’s the best gift you ever gave? What’s the best gift you ever got? And have you ever had to fake it?”

December 27, 2006

What interests you. What doesn’t. And how that’s mirrored in your on-line persona, nay, even your RL persona.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Towse @ 8:24 am

Years ago, when I was living with a different husband, the husband and I went to a Silva Mind Control scoop-em-in-and-hook-em-up seminar.

What I took out of that seminar is that what you write about and what you care about and what makes you flinch and what makes you cry or yell or laugh is what interests you, what makes you tick.

The Silva folk had you think about someone you knew well.

What did you really like about them? What about them irritated you all to heck? Ten things for each list.

The upshot of the lists was that what you like and appreciate and what irritates you all to heck are all things that matter to you.

If someone twitches their foot and foot twitching doesn’t ping your consciousness, you’ll never mention twitching feet on your list of like/irritate/hate.

If what makes you twitch are people who are chronically late, you will probably mention that the person you’re profiling is chronically late, if they are.

Back a day or two ago in Usenet land, someone made a crack that struck me all wrong. Still does. He’s now backstepping around the pile of warm stuff that oozed out of his psyche. I don’t care if the crack was intended as a troll. The crack was a reflection of who the person was. One wouldn’t make the crack if it wasn’t handy, somewhere in the psyche.

I think wotzizname Gibson probably had Jews on the brain before he was picked up for DUI by a Jewish cop and spewed his memorable spew. I think whatzizname Michael Richards had a fizz on his brain when he lashed out at the comedy club.

You don’t lash out about things that aren’t already stewing on your brain. You must’ve seen someone lash out at something and you just didn’t get it. You said, huh?

We used to have to deal with a family member who’d make weird attempts to annoy us and get us twitching and spitting. She’d do one of her gotchas and we could tell she was trying to get us to twitch. We’d sit there and wonder, what is she trying now? Why does she think what she’s doing would upset us?

We’d think for a while and then … Oh … that’s it. Silly girl.

She’d do off-the-wall stuff intended to annoy. Well, she’d be annoyed if someone did something like that to her and she was so self-centered she didn’t realize that what annoyed her might not annoy others. She’d hope we’d whine and complain and raise a fuss and storm out of the family and behave badly. We let it go. What’s “stuff” anyway, crazy girl.

She was so self-centered she never could understand that what she did reflected more about how she ticked inside than it ever had anything much really to do with us.

She was avaricious and expected everyone else to be. She was suspicious of everyone because she knew that everyone should be suspicious of her.

She’s no longer part of the family due to circumstances changing. The only thing I really miss is having a front row seat on her soap opera life. Boy, that girl had a weird view of how people should treat each other. I would love to see how her world view impacts her life these days — how many friends have deserted her, how many tradesmen have cheated her, how many people are just being mean-mean-mean to her. I would love to know what’s going on in her life, but not enough to get back in contact with her. I’m curious, but not enough.

In a similar fashion, the personas that people assume on Usenet ooze with things that they are aware of and care about, things that make them tick or tick them off.

I’m the girl who rummages up URLs. I’d never affect the persona of someone who cared about pink shooz. What? Or someone who cared about The Bulls. They lost last night? What?

Next time, watch what people pay attention to, what they react to, what sort of button pushing really sets them off and you’ll see what’s important in their lives. You’ll also see that people who push buttons pick buttons that they care about. People talk about, act out, or conspicuously avoid things that they are most concerned about. If the subject didn’t make their nerve endings twitch, it would never occur to them to even notice.

Denver escort Michael Forest Jones’s memoir

Filed under: Uncategorized — Towse @ 2:56 am

Note in today’s Pubishers Lunch of the sale of “Denver escort Michael Forest Jones’s memoir of his three-year gay relationship with Evangelist and church leader, Ted Haggard, written with Sam Gallegos, to Dan Simon at Seven Stories, for publication in June 2007, by attorney/agent Donald Farber.”

More here.

Sam Gallegos is a freelance writer in Denver who helped Randy Shilts with research, when Shilts was writing CONDUCT UNBECOMING: Gays and Lesbians in the U.S. Military.

Judith Regan, eat your heart out.

December 26, 2006

an inhabited island has disappeared beneath rising seas

Filed under: Uncategorized — Towse @ 6:40 pm

DISAPPEARING WORLD: Global warming claims tropical island
For the first time, an inhabited island has disappeared beneath rising seas. Environment Editor Geoffrey Lean reports
Published: 24 December 2006 [The Independent Online]

Rising seas, caused by global warming, have for the first time washed an inhabited island off the face of the Earth. The obliteration of Lohachara island, in India’s part of the Sundarbans where the Ganges and the Brahmaputra rivers empty into the Bay of Bengal, marks the moment when one of the most apocalyptic predictions of environmentalists and climate scientists has started coming true.

As the seas continue to swell, they will swallow whole island nations, from the Maldives to the Marshall Islands, inundate vast areas of countries from Bangladesh to Egypt, and submerge parts of scores of coastal cities.

continued …

Christmas was everything I wanted

Filed under: Uncategorized — Towse @ 3:13 am

The younger younger guy flew in from Boston late — after eleven — on the 23rd. He found me snoozing in the wait lounge when he arrived. Luckily his nibs was awake. I’d been up past my bedtime for the previous two or three nights and had crashed.

We got back to our place and got to bed after midnight, more like one a.m. or so. I was up before seven-thirty (being careful not to wake up the younger younger guy who was asleep on the living room floor) to head down to Liguria Bakery for focaccia for us to snack on during the day before our big Christmas Eve dinner and for a couple raisin focaccia to take to the family Christmas.

But it turned out I wasn’t the only one with such plans.

After over an hour and a half in line, I reached the front door around nine-thirty and discovered the bakery had just sold their last piece of my favorite rosemary focaccia. I winged it with the two raisin focaccia I was planning to bring to Christmas brunch, plus one each of garlic, rosemary garlic and two tomato/pizza. Turns out they mixed up the order a bit and I wound up with onion instead of the garlic. I prefer the garlic to the onion (others have the exact opposite preference), but we survived the mixup.

Who knew that focaccia on Christmas was such a big tradition for some people? There were people standing in line who were buying twelve sets of tomato focaccia for Christmas Day. People had driven over from Pacifica and up from the south bay, and that was only the people I talked to or overheard a couple spaces ahead or behind me in line.

I don’t know if the people still in line behind me got the focaccia they wanted before Liguria ran out for the day. You snooze. You lose. Now that I know their Christmas Eve hours have them opening at 6 a.m. (instead of the 7 a.m. opening hours that are “normal” for weekends), I’ll know to be on their doorstep at 6 a.m. on Christmas Eves in the future.

The older younger guy and his guy drove up from Santa Cruz in the afternoon and we chatted and sat around. I made cheese danish coffee rolls (from scratch … yeast and knead and raise and all) while the others read until it was time to walk over to the HOPR (hopper) AKA The House of Prime Rib on Van Ness for a Christmas Eve dinner.

Dinner reservation was for 10 p.m., the earliest we could get. We were seated fifteen minutes, a half hour late, but that was okay. The time in the bar area gave us a chance to watch the passing crowd, and what a motley crowd it is. The HOPR is a favorite with a wide variety of people.

Dinner was exactly what we expected. How could it not be when the menu is pretty straightforward and hasn’t changed since it opened fifty-plus years ago. The only recent change is an option for the vegetable side: you can now order creamed corn in lieu of the creamed spinach, a result of the E.coli spinach problem earlier this year.

Who knew that Christmas Eve dinner at HOPR was a long-standing tradition for some families? I didn’t, although it may become one for us. More than one family party left, saying “Thanks. Good-bye. See you next year.” to the wait staff.

I swear the guy and his son who were standing in front of me at Liguria were waiting for a table with the wife and daughter of the family.

Filled to the brim and carrying our bright red HOPR bags with our uneaten pieces of prime rib stored inside, we walked back home.

We didn’t get to bed until after midnight.

Up bright and early, we turned on the sparkling tree and had focaccia and cheese danishes for a snack before we opened our presents to each other, to and between the five of us.

Oddly enough, the presents were book-book-book-(gift certificate for book store)-book-book-(magazine subscription)-book-DVD-book-book-mug.

Theme here?

After the opening of presents, we loaded up both cars with presents for the rest of the family and focaccia (and hard sauce to go with it) and cheese danishes and what-not and headed off to the Towse family Christmas in the east bay. Over the bay and through the tunnel and up to the water and east and … we arrived.

The day was good. Far better than I could’ve hoped for. I missed Dad, of course, but it was good to see us all together and together.

My present for the matriarch was a box of mixed XOX truffles, which she loved. I mean really loved. Great! Now I know what to bring her for a treat when we visit.

Christmas was everything I wanted. We didn’t get or give loads of gifts. There were no piles of presents, no conspicuous consumption. I had what I wanted: family and peace and having us all together. Everything and all that I wanted. Here’s to magic. Here’s to wonder. Here’s to family. Here’s to love.

Good night. Good peace.

December 23, 2006

Harrison Bergeron

Filed under: Uncategorized — Towse @ 12:06 am

Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegut (1961)

THE YEAR WAS 2081, and everybody was finally equal. They weren’t only equal before God and the law. They were equal every which way. Nobody was smarter than anybody else. Nobody was better looking than anybody else. Nobody was stronger or quicker than anybody else. All this equality was due to the 211th, 212th, and 213th Amendments to the Constitution, and to the unceasing vigilance of agents of the United States Handicapper General.

Some things about living still weren’t quite right, though. April, for instance, still drove people crazy by not being springtime. And it was in that clammy month that the H-G men took George and Hazel Bergeron’s fourteen-year-old son, Harrison, away.


Comments in a post at Noise in the Attic reminded me of this short story.

The post at Noise in the Attic was commenting on a recent news report: Seems a “high school in Needham, MA, has decided not to publish their Honor Roll in the newspaper any longer. Why? Because it causes stress in the students who don’t make it. Plus, adds the principal, it puts an “unhealthy emphasis on grades”.


December 22, 2006

And a happy Festivus Eve to you and yours

Filed under: Uncategorized — Towse @ 9:31 pm

Not that I’m a believer, mind you, but if you want your Festivus fix, go to



Video explaining How Festivus Poles Are Made.

An explanation of Festivus.

A click to

More …

I’m off down the hill to buy me mum some of the best chocolate truffles in the world. For Christmas? Festivus? Saturnalia? Winter solstice? Yule?

For Mom. Hope she likes them.

December 20, 2006

Some photos of the tree.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Towse @ 2:24 am

Some photos of the tree. Such as they are. Click Rudolph’s nose for entry to the gallery.

I’ll try again with a tripod tonight or tomorrow to see if I can get some sharper images. If the pictures turn out better, I’ll just update the gallery and tack a note up to that effect.

The tree, obviously, is not one of those elegant, symmetrical, sophisticated, balanced, artistic, themed trees but rather a tree with a motley collection of decorations accumulated over the years.

We boxed up several large boxes of decorations and a spare tree stand for the folks at NBC this year for their tree, but still had enough for several more trees in addition to the one we have.

Maybe next year I’ll be ready to give even more away. Or not. The ones we have have so many memories attached to them, and I keep buying just a few new ones each year. The kids won’t need to squabble over who gets the Christmas decorations after we settle in for our dirt naps. Each will inherit enough! for a tree! or two!

December 18, 2006

Tree’s up.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Towse @ 7:03 am

After much hemming and hawing and even a “why don’t we just rearrange the furniture” episode at lunchtime today, we went over and picked up the decorations and tree stand from where they live eleven months of the year, then stopped by Delancey Street Trees at Pier 32 and bought a tree this afternoon.

We’d already put up a crèche in our seldom-used fireplace a couple few weeks back and strung lights up on the deck.

… but the tree, the tree, we had no tree.

My fault. I hadn’t cleared the space we needed. We needed a day with nothing else happening to fetch the tree, which hasn’t been happening recently, too. But most of the fault was mine. Stuff stashed, spread, boxed in the space where the tree would live. I finally cleaned the space, but it’s just a week before Christmas and can I justify all the tree-effort for such a short spell?

The tree is a magical bit of Christmas for me and a pain in the rear for his nibs, the choosing, the dragging, the setting up, the lighting, the decorations. Because of the logistics these days, the getting and setting of the tree is even more a project than it ever was back in the days when we’d drive with the kids up into the mountains to cut a fresh tree from George McKenzie’s Christmas tree farm.

So I’d finally cleared the space, but we were so close to Christmas and his nibs didn’t much want to go through the exercise. I decided maybe we’d alternate years: a year for me with a tree, a year for him without one, but then today after I’d rearranged the furniture, I sat in one of the soft armchairs, staring out at the sun-shiny day, the bay, the blue skies, Mount Diablo in the distance, the boats, the east and the day was beautiful and I should’ve been at peace, but I felt as melancholy as you can feel without drowning in the black ooze. Sure it was all about Dad not being here this Christmas and his birthday and Skip’s just past and all the combined blues but then there was the there’ll-be-no-tree-this-year on top of it all.

His nibs, bless him, understood and said, let’s go get a tree, for pete’s sake, or words to that effect.

We sat on the sofa after dinner, in the dark, watching the lights twinkle on the almost-all-decorated tree, watching the lights twinkle on the bridge and in the East Bay, watching the candle in front of the crèche flicker while Jimmy Buffet sang Lennon’s Happy Christmas (War Is Over) …

(The Buffet Christmas Island album is one of my favorite Christmas collections — probably an even tie with Sinatra’s for the best-ever Christmas album of all time.)

… and although I’m still a bit melancholy about the season, the tree is tossing out tendrils of peace and happiness and my mood’s much improved over where it was early this afternoon. Much.

December 16, 2006

A happy birthday to the uncle who used to take me fishing

Filed under: Uncategorized — Towse @ 6:03 am

… and who shares a birthday with his nibs.

We celebrated with a wild night … home.

Baked kabocha squash filled with butter/brown sugar/nutmeg.

Spiced lamb sausages from Little City Meats on Stockton with grilled onions, egg noodles.

Dessert was (for the birthday boy — by request) baked Granny Smith apple stuffed with butter/brown sugar/nutmeg, served warm with French vanilla ice cream and (for moi) French vanilla ice cream with a splash of (non-vintage … not the Dow ’83 sitting on the kitchen counter! not the Dow ’83!) port.


We had a very nice birthday.

We hope the uncle who used to take me fishing (and his paramour) did as well.

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