from Sandy Needham

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

San Francisco, etc. Dispatch

OK, OK. It’s June now and I have yet to fill in all my dispatch blanks since January. But you must trust me that at this Medicare-approaching age, six months is the new six weeks.

I would be further postponing dispatches for the sake of projects for Jake’s wedding in July, except that there is construction happening on the house again and I need to hole up in the office. The independent company who agreed and was approved to fix the cracking exterior and interior work done by the infamous In Mare construction people - whose pile driver across our road caused the veranda and parts of the house to crumble in the first place - arrived yesterday at 3:00 instead of 9:00am, as stated, and sounded surprised that they had told us the job would take “two days.” Now it’s a week, though I can see how that could easily not be enough. My repaired and painstakingly painted house from one year ago and my slowly regained sanity are getting pummeled with a sledgehammer, literally and figuratively at this self-same moment.

About San Francisco: from Boulder, Colorado I rendezvous-ed with Newton in Santa Clara, where his trade show was located. I needed to renew my USA passport, so I thoroughly enjoyed commuting to San Francisco and back twice on the Caltrain, just like a daily commuter. This included my rush-hour train breaking down, all the passengers standing in the cold on the dark platform while two, three, four trains came and went without us. We finally made it, and I relished the familiar experience all the more because I never have to do that nowadays!

The Passport Agency is merely a footnote here, as it was easily reached by foot from the train station and functioned in a still-first-world way (it’s not too late, America!). What captured my heart, which I almost left in San Francisco, was just traipsing around this Market Street/Union Square area, visiting galleries, sophisticated shops, eating well, and discovering a gorgeous fabric store: Britex Fabrics at 146 Geary Street. I found incredibly beautiful silk for my mother-of-the-groom dress there, and I am praying not to ruin it on my new sewing machine I brought back from this trip. By the way, if you have $500 for a jacket that is a piece of art, and I mean design at its best, visit The Rafael’s at 643 Market Street. The store just blew me away, particularly the Japanese and Scandinavian jackets. The staff was lovely to me in spite of my being more like an enraptured design student than a paying customer. Classy!

I met up with my first cousin’s beautiful daughter, Judy, who grew up in the middle of San Francisco and runs a market research company. Her husband, Eric, and three daughters, Gabby, Isabella and Ava, joined us for Thai food. I don’t know how she stays so cool with so much on her plate, but she DOES. My cousin Mary was not able to join us, unfortunately, due to illness. I only met Judy for the first time at my Mother’s funeral in 2010. She used to go to Oklahoma City to visit relatives as a child and told me how much she cherished the trips to Tulsa to stay with my parents. We share this big fan-ship about them. She has Mary’s flaming red hair and McCracken looks!

Mary’s twin sister, Norma, who stayed in Oklahoma for life, got word of our dinner and called my cell phone while I was on the Caltrain back to Santa Clara. I remember this unexpected call with great affection because she then died in April, just days after her husband passed. She was a pisser, my highest compliment.

Another big city adventure was shopping at a fabric store on Mission Street and meeting up with Mary Barbosa, a San Franciscan I met some years back in Pirangi, the next beach town here. She moved back to California for her son’s high school years. The fabric store was on a slightly rough section of Mission Street, so I was lunch-challenged, shared the sidewalk with many harmless homeless people, and then was coffee-challenged once Mary picked me up. Luckily, we found a lovely Starbucks-type place further down Mission, run by Mexican-Americans. They offered a soup bowl-sized cup of mocha coffee “pimentada” (spicy) that I would kill for right now! Seeing Mary was the treat it always is; she is a remarkable woman. She will be showing up to visit around here in a week!

After just a typical list-clobbering day in a Santa Clara mall, I met up with my cherished friend since 7th grade, Bob, and his beautiful, brilliant wife, Jo Beth. They divide their time between Redwood City, where Bob is a wind surfing retiree and Jo Beth runs a tech company, and Maui, Hawaii, where Bob is a wind surfing retiree and Jo Beth rests! We had more delicious Thai food (fusion), something I cannot get here so could handily repeat two days in succession. Bob is one of my brainy friends, so we talked about aliens. Jo Beth had been on a safari in Africa with her daughter and showed me some extraordinary photos.

Newton and I and a couple of his associates had a delicious dinner at Birk’s in Santa Clara the last night. I savored my requisite-when-stateside martini at their huge bar – two more things that we don’t get here. We were off to Los Angeles for a weekend with our kids before returning to Brazil.

Jake and Larissa drove up from Mexico and stayed near Elise’s apartment in Hollywood. Newton and I shared the apartment with Elise and her adorable cats, the ever-elegant Fluffer and the irascible Cashew.

A highlight of the weekend was attending the hilarious musical, “Book of Mormon,” at the elaborate Art Deco Pantages Theater. The show was written by the “South Park” television show team and leaves no satirical stone unturned! Really fun.

Elise has a friend who assembled her pink Christmas bike for her after we were previously confounded by cryptic Chinese instructions. She enjoys riding and hiking in the area. She wrote a wonderful piece about hiking all the way up to the famous Hollywood sign and experiencing the surreal while trying to find her way back past wolves and a deserted old campground. I recommend (she can write, too!):

Elise has been free-lancing for many video and graphic design venues, including designing the new wheel for the revived “Let’s Make a Deal” television show! Now she is editing visuals for Radio Disney, among many other jobs. Very busy!

Larissa and Jake stayed in Mexico only through February, after which they came to Brazil with Elise for Carnaval and a visit to Natal. (See next dispatch!) They returned briefly to the house in Las Vegas, then were off to Vancouver till the end of May to continue Jake’s professional online poker, which is still prohibited in the USA. Now they will be in Las Vegas for Jake’s live Texas Hold’em playing in the tournaments surrounding and including the huge annual World Series of Poker. This is Jake’s 8th year to participate. Larissa and Jake are deep into July wedding plans! Here is one of their lovely engagement photos:

I’ve been reading plenty of books between home and travel. The two books to which I gave five stars lately are a haunting first novel from India from 1997, The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy (Booker Man Prize). The prose comes close to poetry and the story is exactly as I said: haunting. The other book I just loved is the new biography of Jim Henson, of Muppet fame, by Brian Jay Jones, 2013. What an affable genius, who just wanted to make the world a better place through puppets for children and adults, alike. His Kermit comes as close as any one personality could towards that end! I loved every page. I am in awe of the work that came out of his varied endeavors and feel so lucky for all of us that it lives on. Of course, I’ve been watching all the old Muppet Shows. Brilliant! (I’d say Rudolf Nureyev is my favorite guest.)

I can only vouch for the first chapter, so far, of my friend Marie Arana’s new award-winning biography, Bolívar, American Liberator. It is one of the most exciting first chapters I can remember reading, and we’re talking history here! I have many chapters to go, but my curiosity about the extraordinary life of Simon Bolívar is thoroughly piqued.

My next dispatch will turn its sights on life in Brazil again, and will bring us up-to-date at last!



1 comment:

  1. That must be Bob Dow whom I first met in second grade and with whom I played baseball on the Lanier Longhorns for 4 years before Wilson. If not, it must be his twin.

    I do believe that the one thing Max and I enjoyed the most and now miss the most is the food we ate during our 15 months in San Francisco. I suppose second is the wonderful variety of places to visit within several hours of driving. We started a blog when we were there to record and share our excursions with friends and family. I printed it all when we got back, and it added up to about 500 pages. I need to get that out and look through it again. I must admit, we never visited the fabric stores on Mission, but we poked into every other nook and cranny of that wonderful city.


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