MUSINGLY By Karen D'Or

Writing Portfolio, Travel Stories & Other Diversions

Category: Notepad

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My Top Seven Writing Distractions

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I’ve neglected my musingly writing for months, and the reasons at first seem infuriatingly bland — the mechanics of my suburban life. So, this fall, I am making a public commitment to write more regularly — beginning with this cafeteria-style confessional of my top seven writing distractions*:

1) Thinking about food. I spend a lot of time ruminating about food (and drink). ­I particularly get focused on these two favorite hobbies just as I am about embark for — or am returning from —­­ New Orleans. Whole red fish drizzled in fresh herbs from Peche, fried oysters at Clancy’s, fresh oysters at Casamento’s, pretty much anything at Restaurant August. I continue to obsess about the New Orleans’ dining scene, and plan my restaurant runs months in advance. Closer to home, I’m always on the lookout for new and interesting Bay Area dining spots. Suggestions, anyone?

 2) Online shopping. Admit it: the ubiquitous Amazon ‘prime’ shopping is a great distraction for folks who work from home on a computer and like to pretend they are getting a good deal. I can find nearly instant gratification on prime, congratulate myself for saving money, and avoid traffic and fuel costs, all with just a few button clicks. Did I really need double-sided indoor carpet tape delivered in two days?

3) Family. Acute family problems derailed my writing earlier this year (see the Pins and Needles post) but I have only myself to blame. I continue to overthink family issues, get too emotionally involved, and become diverted away from more important matters such as my own creativity. I have an odd itch for an unattainable “normalcy” —and my family will never be normal. Thankfully, my family is an eccentric troupe that could inspire my writing, including: sassy urban teachers, aspiring artists, musicians, someone who has been mistaken for Martha Stewart, a couple of famous British authors, and a former Reagan appointee. My people are characters.

4) Pilates. I recently re-discovered my love for this rather rigorous form of body toning; Pilates is a particularly rewarding exercise for those of us who spend many hours hunched in front of a computer keyboard. This healthy distraction helped to inspire my summer blog post: Five Reasons Why I Love Being Curvy. 

ATT Park, San Francisco, California

ATT Park, San Francisco, California

5) Baseball. Although we are heading into December, it seems only yesterday that the San Francisco Giants won the World Series. Since it is the third time in six years, it should be par for the course around here; nevertheless, during Orange October, I was constantly interrupting my writing flow by jumping up to turn on the TV, or tuning into the pre-game warm-up show on the radio, or ordering the essential World Series pizza. Those magical men from the City by the Bay did it again this year, and I have no regrets for their joyous (and sometimes hunky) distractions.

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acupuncture

Pins and Needles

acupunctureI cannot recall a new year starting off this bleak. Outside the weather is often sunny, and unseasonably warm, but inside my emotional climate is wretchedly stormy and fogged in — even as February has come and gone, marred by hurtful words and sudden distancing.

I have been quietly frantic for weeks, unable to get beyond sleep deprivation and anguish. Some kind of indistinct, pristine, and static image of my marriage (now starting year number 18) has dissipated into the storm. I feel lost, and my overactive brain is congested and confused.

In the midst of great personal pain, I discover acupuncture, and although it has not yet cured my sleeplessness, dry eyes and parched skin, the regular treatments are moving something around.

The discovery of a local community acupuncture clinic is helping me to get out of my head, somehow anchoring my saddened self back down into solid muscles. I can run to this clinic to feel again the warm flow of lifeblood, and an appreciation of my body’s solidity and strength.

The tiny needles are pumping my blood, churning some chi, and sometimes leaving invisible pinprick bruises that I later examine in the mirror.

Although the acupuncture is helping me to heal, I see these tiny dots as vestiges of my love’s harsh and scornful glances— looks that have lately punctured my spirit and turned me into a needy, dejected shell of my true self. At home, we are both pushing the limits of closeness and distance and I am surfing some very frightening waves of anger and love, fearing the worst in the middle of the night.

Seeking relief, I find our local community acupuncture clinic and make an appointment for the next day.

The clinic sits in a flat-roofed commercial building near the shopping mall adjacent to one of those dungeon-dragony retail outfits whose windows blocked by stacks of dusty boxes covered with rather bloodthirsty and jarring Gothic images.

Once I enter the acupuncture clinic, it appears the antithesis of its Goth neighbor — a place people come to relax and heal. It is noticeably warm inside, the music is soft and new-agey and—behind a bamboo screen— ten large plush reclining chairs face each other in a circle. According to the map in the bathroom, there are hundreds of community acupuncture clinics across the country. It is a modest clean spot with a sliding scale payment system; it seems to work because instead of high-rent, fancy private offices, the practice takes place in the common room.

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herbsaint dinner at the bar Nov. 2013

Eating Off Your Plate

herbsaint dinner at the bar Nov. 2013

herbsaint dinner at the bar Nov. 2013

Food loving friends and family contributed to my delicious and libationary 2013. Here are some of the highlights of a plentiful year:

Sharing Food.The joy of sharing food together reflects on the quality of the friendship. My daughter, Robyn, jokes that our family has a tendency to eat off of each other’s plates, uninvited. Perhaps that is odd, but the gracious and intentional sharing of food can deepen most relationships. I wrote about sharing a leisurely meal with a dear friend earlier this year in the Redd Meet post.

Sharing my love of New Orleans. The April 2013 trip (it was dear friend Liz’ first time in NOLA) was described in my previous post: Restaurant and Bar Reviews 2013. So much laugher, great music and delectable experiences during her inaugural visit. My second trip (Thanksgiving 2013) had a number of food and drink highlights, many of which I reported on chow.com NOLA board, one of my favorite online places with some of the best overall discussions about food anywhere. Chowhound NOLA is so entertaining and convivial that not one, but two, of my chow correspondents astutely “ambushed” me on the November trip.

Sharing success. My daughter’s dear friend, Carrie also has her own fun and informative blog Consumedbycarrie.com. She also makes an awesome chocolate chess pie!

Sharing skills. I went to our local Sur La Tableto get some new skills. “Wives with Knives” is an enactment-style TV show on ID, but mayhem was not my purpose in taking the basic knifing class. I am seeking additional confidence as a cook because, frankly, I think it will make be a fitter foodie. Although I was not very coordinated in the class, I have been more adventurous in the kitchen and have committed zero crimes with my new Kyocera ceramic chef’s knife.

Sharing hobbies. In 2013, my husband and I we realized we had made a great trade: I become a true baseball fan – hanging in there for an abysmal season – and my husband had opened his mind and stomach to fine food. Here are our a few of our new favorite spots around ATT Park in San Francisco.

Marlowe: http://marlowesf.com/  Wonderful post-game comfort food

Zare Fly Trap: Mediterranean cuisine with modern Persian influence. Delightful pre-game, had a great meal with Mimi this summer. http://www.zareflytrap.com/about_us.html 606 Folsom Street

83 Proof: A wonderful neighborhood bar http://www.83proof.com/ 83 First Street between Mission and Market.

With 2014 adventures in the planning stage, I hope to read the great food writers, get creative in my recipes –- and make sure to grab a few bites off of everyone’s plate!

 

ATT Park, San Francisco, California

Five Ways to Cope with (Baseball) Loss

 

ATT Park, San Francisco, California

The World Champion San Francisco Giants are resoundingly un-championlike this year, so the foray from Sonoma County to the stunning ATT Ball Park, in San Francisco’s China Basin, can feel onerous. Call me unsportsmanlike, but it is true: the trek from the North Bay (either via auto or the ballpark Ferry) seems a breeze when our guys of summer are on a winning streak, but can drag on like a six extra unproductive innings when they are losing!

So here are my hints on how to get through these tough times:

1.    Stay overnight in a luxury hotel, particularly for night games. Nothing takes the sting out of a stunning defeat than an easy walk from ATT Park to a 4-star hotel. If you are feeling particularly frugal, pick up a nice screw-top red wine from one of those ubiquitous liquor store’s with flickering fluorescent lights — and partake in hotel glasses alongside munchies Milano cookies and sweet potato chips. If you are feeling more generous, belly up to the bar at a high-end watering hole, order a fancy cocktail (or hot brandy if it is one of those SF summer evenings!) and note the number of people around you in SF Giants gear or hipster costumes.

2.    Skip the ballpark fare and treat yourself to a nice dinner before, or after, the game.  My two new favorites dining spots near the park are Marlowe right across from the Cal-Train station on Townsend near 4th street and Zaré at the Fly Trap on Folsom near Second Street. If you need a beverage, and you don’t want to fight the brew pub crowds close to the park, head up to First Street (between Market & Mission) and belly up to 83 Proof’s fine bar.

83 Proof's Fine Bar

83 Proof’s Fine Bar

3.   Don’t let the turkeys get you down. Losing at home is even harder when an arrogant Pittsburg Pirate fan (who claims to be a Giants fan) sits behind you and yells well, like an umpire, for each and every “Buccies” run. I’ve sat next to nicer LA Dodgers fans, frankly, but you cannot let opposing fans get you down, even when they tell you to change seats after a couple of scowls. Really?

4.   Take plenty of photos. Win or lose, we all know it is one of the most beautiful ballparks in the world. Always good to catch loved ones wearing more than one hat!

Loved one in two hats

Loved one in two hats

5.  Sing. As you head home after a losing game, try NOT to listen to the post-game wrap-up show on the radio. It is always tempting to over-analyze weaknesses, and commiserate with others, but better for the soul to pop in some tunes and sing your way home— there will always be another game, and another season!

 

SF Giants Game

Giant Women

SF Giants Game

Summer Day at ATT Park

This summer, the World Champion San Francisco Giants struggle to make contact — the mercurial, tiny white balls fly just inches beyond the reach of their shiny bats and handsome gloves. The players’ awkward near-misses along with straining strike-outs are so hard to watch; each painful blunder seems made in slow motion. How difficult it must be to flounder as a team after the miraculous wins of just last fall? And for Bay Area baseball fans, who are perhaps over-educated and have paid too much for tickets, the 2013 season is disheartening.

So, as the players take their All-Star break, I offer tribute to a few of the Giant women in my life: women who love the game, adore these ball stars, and are making the world a better place.

Mimi

I often go to games with my dear stepdaughter, Mimi, a loyal and knowledgeable Giants fan who often teases me when I miss a play, forget a name or follow the wrong Hector Sanchez on Twitter. Mimi teaches critical living skills to students with moderate-to-severe disabilities at a very large high school, on the east side of the Bay. Some of her students are autistic, one has cerebral palsy, and most suffer from cognitive impairment. Mimi tells me that none of them will graduate with a traditional high school diploma. So each school day she teaches them the things I take for granted: cooking, counting change or elementary grade reading comprehension.

Linda

I met Linda early in 2008 and she helped inspire me to volunteer for Obama’s campaign. I went from California to Texas, where I campaigned for four days with Linda and her crew of young San Franciscans. With her warm wit, great organizing skills, and unfailing energy, she motivated me to knock on doors all around Corpus Christi. Over the years I campaigned with many others, but it was never quite as magical as those early days with Linda as our volunteer leader. Later, she became a policy analyst for a statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition, and now she is Policy Director for Young Invincibles, a new national non-profit that ensures 18- to 34 year-olds perspectives are heard wherever decisions about their collective futures are being made. Linda and I do not see each other much, but we recently shared a winning game  — and campaign memories ­— sitting high up in a boisterous ballpark, the vast green field below us on a warm June day.

Robyn

My daughter, Robyn, relocated to New Orleans two years ago. In Riverbend’s dive-y bars, she now watches Giants games surrounded by Louisiana-folk who have no major league team, and often cheer for the Atlanta Braves. Who can stand the Braves’ horrible, faux-chanting sound, a singsong irritant that bounces around my living room until I want to throw something at the TV? I digress. Robyn has found her home in the Big Easy, with an energetic group of caring new friends, she has created life that includes half-marathons with Mimosa rest-stops, walks to the Sno-Ball shop, and rides into the Quarter on the green streetcar line. With her resilience and creativity, she teaches in the Orleans Parish schools, guiding young  students to read, write and love education.

As Robyn struggled with career changes earlier this year, I wrote her a support poem. Now I offer it to all those who may be struggling —and particularly to the San Francisco Giants:

Giants Prayer

Pray for the calm savvy of Bruce Bochy.

Pray for the steady skillfulness of Matt Cain.

Pray for the youthful vigor of Buster Posey.

Pray for the exuberant joy of Pablo Sandoval.

Pray for the humble accuracy of Marco Scutaro.

Pray for the high altitude of Brandon Belt.

Pray for the sexy showmanship of Angel Pagan.

Pray for the clear vision of Gregor Blanco.

Pray for the hustle and goofiness of Hunter Pence.

Pray for the pure magician-ship of Sergio Romo.

Pray that as you “play ball” with your inner team you find the grit and guts to come back after defeat. Together, you’re giant.

Karen D’Or, July 2013 

 

 

sazerac cocktail

Transformation NOLA-style

Renowned writers have long explored the decadence and idiosyncrasy of the Big Easy. I won’t try to compete with decades of great prose and poetry, but will offer my list of personal transformations since falling in love with the city New Orleans. Here are ten ways that the Crescent City changed the life of this native northern Californian:

 

1.  Appreciation of Jazz and its history. I may not understand it, but I like Jazz — especially if brass and young people are involved. 

 

2. Now prominent in my living room bar is a bottle of artisan-distilled Rye whiskey. My rye love started with the Sazerac Cocktail. If you have not experienced a Sazerac, get thee to New Orleans!

 

sazerac cocktail

sazerac cocktail

 

3. I am  now staunchly spoiled when it comes to wait-staff hospitality, and am exceedingly impatient with what I now call “California-style indifference” in any restaurant.

 

4. Consider myself a foodie. Thanks to an extroverted couple from San Diego— who were also lost waiting for a streetcar at Riverwalk, we discovered a sampling of New Orleans favorites— like Casamento’s and August— on our first visit. Now I am a shameless food follower and have even been called a great ambassador by local chowhounds.

 

5. Addicted to accumulating airline and hotel miles and points. Since my darling daughter now lives in New Orleans, I have a great excuse to travel. Deep discounts and free nights make it much more fun. 

 

6. Cocktails.  Thanks to a hint from the locals,  I don’t even look at a food menu until I’ve ordered a cocktail!

 

7. Sundresses. I think they are a must in the summer, but the sundress becomes more appealing for a middle-aged women when a charming young man, walking an Uptown neighborhood street, says: “That dress is perfect for today!”

 

8. Da Track. The thought of spending Thanksgiving day at the horse races would have upset my life balance before NOLA. Da Track is a New Orleans tradition:  a spicy mix of old timers and young hipsters coming together in their best hats and finery on Thanksgiving afternoon. Looks like I will be there for 2013, too.

 

9. Hurricane alerts. My daughter may be composed during storm warnings, but her worried mother is on Twitter, Hurricane watch, Weather Channel and the NOAA website at any inkling of Gulf storms.

 

10.  Joie de vivre. I enjoy the pleasures in life more passionately knowing that in our vast nation there is a place as magical and unique as the City of New Orleans.

 

To my new friends in New Orleans, to my dear daughter who may never leave, and to all the friends I hope to meet on my journeys, I share some BB King:

 

“I don’t care if you’re young or old

Get together, let the good times roll.”

  

Karen D’Or

July 2013

 

That Bar

It’s Funny About That Bar

That Bar

That Bar

 

While defining the word musingly, I found:

Adv.

1.

musingly – in a reflective manner; “`It’s funny about that bar,’ he said musingly.”*

A not-so-coincidental perfect quotation as I launch this new site to share new writing, travel and curious stories told sitting at the bar.

The root word, musing, also has a more serious use:

adj. Deep in thought; contemplative  n.1. Contemplation; meditation. 2. A product of contemplation; a thought. “an elegant tapestry of quotations, musings, aphorisms, and autobiographical reflections” (James Atlas).

Please enjoy my compiled writing whether it sends you to a place of contemplation… or a seat at your favorite bar.

*Source: 2003-2012 Princeton University, Farlex Inc.

 

 


 

Hellgate 1999

Camping With Sheryl Crow

Dancing in a stodgy music hall usually filled with symphony-lovers, I’m reminded of the summers Sheryl Crow went camping with us. Although she says this is her first time in Santa Rosa, I know she traveled with us to dusty, obscure backwater campgrounds we found— often by chance— at the end of a hot day in a cramped car.

Sheryl, with her mighty soprano pop notes and husky red-wine lower range, was a great traveling companion. Four very strong personalities were trying to make sense of this new “blended” family, and its clumsy, rustic camping traditions. Sheryl’s music would surprise us, telling stories of Las Vegas and Santa Monica Boulevard.

She brought along sleazy characters all longing for escape, or love, or both.

1994 was the year Bob and I moved in together, and was our first year camping together as a family. We went to Alpine County, new territory. It was Sheryl’s breakout year with Tuesday Night Music Club. I recall Bob telling our children –Travis was 9, Robyn 10 – that the “Leaving Las Vegas,” and “All I Wanna Do” stories were not Sheryl’s literal life experiences, but rather her ability to become the fictional narrators of the songs. I was so very grateful he explained this, because I, too, was befuddled about the lifestyle of our favorite songstress.

But whether she was a dancer from Nevada or a barfly in LA, it didn’t matter. She knew, and still knows, how to weave her fragility, her strength, her independence, and her unending longing for love through a masterful blend of blues, folk, pop and rock’n’roll songs.

In 1997, Sheryl accompanied us to a rainy Stanislaus campground with “Change (Would Do You Good).” We followed her advice, headed out of the rain north into Yosemite, singing: “Every Day is a Winding Road.” It was great trip. We fished, rubber-rafted the river, and hiked to the uppermost Mariposa Grove of redwoods. The summer flu cut the trip short, but Sheryl got us home with ”Sweet Rosalyn.”

Hellgate 1999

Hellgate 1999

In 1999, on a trip to Hellgate campground, she brought us “The Difficult Kind” from The Globe Sessions (which sadly she did not perform at her concert). Sheryl’s deep throaty sadness in the foreground, and dramatic back-up harmonies behind tell a heart-wrenching story of love gone sour; I insisted we play it over and over and over again.

I memorized the melody and Robyn, with her magnificent voice and an uncanny ear, picked up the harmony. The song became our daily anthem making the journey difficult for our tolerant male traveling companions. For those were pre-iPod road trips; music experiences had to be shared in a more communal and participatory way. We listened and sang together. It was better that way.

But good news: Sheryl seems very happy and relaxed. She is supposed to be a perfectionist, so the small Santa Rosa venue helped her feel “she could do what she wanted” and even “mess up.” As she performed, she paid particular attention to a couple of ten-year-old fans in the front row. I hope those youngsters have the chance to take her camping.

But mostly, selfishly, I hope that — before my children move far away and get too busy — we can take Sheryl Crow on a road trip, again, someday.

© 2009 Karen D’Or

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