Thursday, March 20, 2003

This is what it's come down to: "Expectant mothers were scheduled for Caesarean births to reduce birthing time." Can we even imagine what we're doing right now as a nation? We can't.

I'm sitting in my sister's boyfriend's apartment on Carl Street looking out the window at the Most Beautiful City in the World. It makes me ache with homesickness even though I've never actually lived here—I suspect that even if I did live here it would cause that same ache. Last night I went out to dinner at a restaurant called "Home" in the Castro with my old friends Catherine Meng, Caeli Wolfson, and my new friend Stephanie Young. There's no TV where I'm staying and no sense of urgency in the streets here—no protesters, no obvious anxiety—so I set out in the rain last night and was shocked to discover, when I walked into the restaurant, the President making his little announcement on the TV over the bar. I immediately ordered a scotch and sat there staring at the war until my party arrived. Then we had the interesting experience of having a really nice dinner, a really good time, and meanwhile the war. In this moment and for the next sequence of foreseeable moments each and every thing I do, say, or experience will have this invisible catchline at the end, "and meanwhile the war." Wow. Caeli and I were talking about how the city has changed since I left in 2001, when the boom was starting to fall, but it was funny—there we were eating and drinking surrounded by other laughing happy people eating and drinking and it felt like nothing had changed at all: laissez les bon temps roulez. The good times are gone, but the Nineties are back. I wish Bill Clinton, with all his faults, had come with them. At one point a cheer rose up from the bar and we all looked at each other. What would a classically Castro crowd be cheering? I got up to look at the TV but could learn nothing. Were they cheering the so-called "decapitation strike"? Were they cheering somebody's birthday? Life goes on and on here. Caeli hates her job and says she isn't sure how happy she is because it's so beautiful here; the beauty numbs her. Perhaps it's good that I'm back to visit and not to stay—though the housing market has loosened up so much it makes me want to cry. When I was here finding a studio or one-bedroom that I could afford that would take a dog was impossible; now it would be no problem. Of course the money I had back then is gone too.

Stephanie Young, you are a most excellent dinner companion and all-around gal, meeting you was an early high point for my trip. She and my Montana pals know each other from a writing group they set up, which has to be one of the most high-powered small writing groups around; another reason to feel homesick for the Bay Area is the proliferation of scenes. There's no scene in Ithaca that I'd want to be part of, though Jane Sprague is laboring mightily to create one—Jane if you're reading this I will start helping to publicize your West End Reading Series, yes. Anyway, the four of us talked about our lives, and po-biz, and the Oscars—not much love lost for Catherine Zeta-Jones at that table, I can tell you. I'm trying to decide whether or not I should beg out of this dance performance my sister wants to go to on Friday and instead go to the reading where I can see her again and meet Joe Massey; that's kind of what I'd like to do but I am here to celebrate my sister's birthday, after all. She turns 30 on Saturday; when I turned 30 a couple of years ago she threw this major surprise party for me, so I owe her. Today I'm going out into what looks like a gorgeous blue day, perfect temperature (I think anything above 68 degrees is sweltering), to make my way over to Berkeley and pay a pilgrimage to Moe's and Cody's. This evening I'm having dinner with my sister and then I'm going to see an avant-gardey play called Ursula: Fearn of the Estuary. It's being produced by my old friends John and Kimball Wilkins, with whom I used to work at a semi-defunct dot-com (they're still hanging on, actually: and who have their own theater company, the Last Planet Theatre. John is a playwright himself and his play The Lament of the Wolf Bat was one of the oddest, funniest, and most riveting pieces of theater I've ever seen.

It's so beautiful out! I'm stunned, numbed, enthralled by beauty. And meanwhile the war.

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