Monday, July 30, 2007



I spent most of this weekend sprawled out on the couch (or curled up in my grandmother's old chair, or spread out on the floor or on my bed, or sitting at a table at Bay Street) reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and I'm finished! I won't say anything at all except that I thought it was pretty great. Not perfect, but...pretty great.

Now would normally be the time when I would break out a true-crime book--I like true crime after something big and fictional; there's something about it that cleanses the palate nicely--but instead I'm reading Sarah Vowell's Take the Cannoli, which I started a few months back and then put down when I got distracted by something else. It's actually perfect post-Potter reading: a collection of essays about America. It's funny and pop-culture-y and modern and concise, or everything the Harry Potter novels aren't. And it's not that I don't love Harry Potter; I do. I love the whole Potter universe and the fact that it makes me want to sit on the couch for days at a time and do nothing but read. But a girl's got to move on sometime, and I think Sarah Vowell is just the person to help me do that.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007


I visited a new church this weekend. I'm not church-hunting these days, but sometimes it's nice to see how the other 1% live, right? I sometimes wonder about the East Bay churchgoing community outside of First Pres--who are all of these people, and what kind of churches have they formed? So many of the churches here are basically ethno-specific. Where do all of the rest of us go? And anyway, Maggie was in town, and we'd talked about giving Regeneration a trial run, so I cheated on the 5:05.

My impression of Regen is: for better or for worse, this church out-Oaklands Oakland. They began as a church plant and eventually inherited an old Julia Morgan church building on E. 15th St. from a church that was literally dying out. The congregation is a nice match for the old building: diverse in ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and age, though tending towards the younger set. It's also hip. Hipper than hip. Can church be that hip? I'm not sure I can hang with the hipness of that congregation. They have a kickball team, which kind of says a lot, I think. They also take a pilgrimage to Israel every other year, which also says a thing or two. The worship music was determinedly against the grain of the modern church; these people were all about classic hymns, sort of bluegrassed up. Seriously, when was the last time I sang "In the Garden"? About the time Ralph Lightbody retired, I think. (That would be 1990.) I love that song. I miss hymnals, and words like "tarry."

I guess I appreciate the skeleton of Regeneration: the worship is focused and not showy, the preaching is scriptural in a way that my own church (and possibly Presbyterians in general?) sometimes misses, the congregation reflects the community, and the liturgical and the postmodern are blended in a subtle and thoughtful way. Things ran a little long--2 1/2 hours, or roughly an hour longer than my own church--but can I really fault them for being hardcore?

The thing is, though, that I'm so glad I go to my church. First Pres has its flaws, certainly, but I think it's thoughtful in its own way. For a church of 5,000 people, I'd say we do a remarkable job of not falling into the traps of the American mega-church juggernaut. I may appreciate the skeleton of Regeneration, but I appreciate the meat of First Pres--liturgical gardening (you think I'm kidding), the determination that all services should be followed by food, a visual arts ministry that actually produces interesting art, the Four Hornmen of the Apocalypse, my small group that's really kind of a medium group, "The body of Christ, broken for you; the blood of Christ, shed for you," sprinkling baptism (which isn't as lame as you'd think, coming from a church of dunkers), the modern abolitionist movement, silly Christmas skits, less-silly Christmas cantatas, and a whole host--a whole host--of other things. It's a good place, full of light and hope and learning and family, and I'm glad I go there.

So, thank you, Regen, for letting me visit, and thanks even more for reminding me of where I'm supposed to be.

Monday, July 23, 2007

First Transformers, now this

I have betrayed my inner child. When I was ten, I grew my bangs out and swore I'd never cut them again. EVER. Because bangs are CHILDISH and make everyone's faces look ROUND, and they're always in your EYES and then your mom has to cut them with BANG TAPE. I believe that I have also been known to say, fairly recently, that bangs are never a good idea. And so it's even weirder that I waltzed into my local fancy-schmancy hipster salon and asked for Rory Gilmore/Feist bangs. If I can take a moment to be totally vain, I'm pretty pleased with the way they turned out:

And because my new stylist--I have a stylist!--does free bang trims, my mother will not have to dig the bang tape, circa 1986, out of the medicine cabinet (but I bet it's still there if I need it).

Thursday, July 12, 2007

12 of 12: July

Same song, millionth verse; a little bit louder and a little bit worse!

7:00 - I'm up. Really.

7:06 - Breakfast and my pretty farmer's-market flowers, which I will miss terribly when they're dead.

11:02 - Break time! A quiet moment with Atonement (excellent, by the way).

There was allegedly work in the middle of all this, but we won't talk about that.

4:48 - Boooooorn freeeeeeee, as free as the wind bloooooooows.....

4:56 - I thought this new sign in my neighborhood summed things up nicely, so I took a picture.

6:32 - Leftover salad (greens, blueberries, toasted walnuts, and dill), while the chocolate-covered coffee beans look on

6:32 - A little Gilmore Girls to feed the nostalgia ("Paris is Burning," even though it stresses me out every single time)

6:57 - Amish Friendship Bread batter is a gross, yeasty mess that makes my kitchen into a gross, yeasty mess.

7:28 - It's a good thing that gross, yeasty mess bakes up into such a nice, vanilla-cinnamon bread, or it might be more like Amish "Why is this bread so gross and yeasty?" Bread.

9:17 - My Bible study, minus about eight people. But hey, it's the faithful ones that get Friendship Bread (also treasures in heaven, I hear?).

9:55 - I am not stalking Alexis Bledel. I am, however, planning to bring these pictures of her bangs to my hair appointment tomorrow and say, "I want THAT." Aren't they cute? (I know full well that I am not Alexis Bledel, nor do I have a stylist to follow me around with a curling iron. I am aware that bangs may be a Bad Idea. But maybe not, so, you know.)

11:02 - Time to do it all over again. Good night!

Friday, July 06, 2007

"The worst thing about prison was...the Dementors."

I have Harry Potter anxiety.

First of all, to pre-order or not to pre-order? Or, really, to buy or not to buy? Normally I wouldn't. I've managed just fine begging, borrowing, or stealing the last four books a few days after the fact. Even now, the only Harry Potter book on my shelf is a paperback of Harry Potter and The Sorcerer's Stone, and I haven't felt the burning need to buy the rest of the series. To be honest, I hadn't really thought about Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows much--I've been planning borrow it from a friend or from the library (when it's available, in 2015) and call it good. But now I've been thinking: if pre-release angst is any indication of the way people feel about this book, spoilers are going to break faster and in more mainstream places than I can possibly keep up with and avoid. If Harry dies, for example, we won't even need to turn on the news, let alone read the book. People will be riding through the neighborhoods of America, shouting it from bullhorns: "Extra! Extra! Harry Potter dead on page 856! The Boy Who Lived kicks the bucket!" Mark my words. Pre-ordering would lessen my chances of being spoiled before the proper time, because I wouldn't actually have to, you know, encounter any human beings until after I've finished. So there's that.

I'm also discovering, weirdly, that I am deeply and profoundly concerned about the contents of the book, mainly who lives and who dies. I'm not the only one--the release date is two weeks out and my office is already talking about it--but I didn't think I was emotionally involved in this way. What if Harry dies? What if--even worse--we lose Ron and/or Hermione (who clearly are meant to live happily but argumentatively ever after, or J.K. Rowling is stomping all over my sad little heart)? What if it's Neville Longbottom, whom I'm afraid is destined to die a heroic death? I love Neville. The death toll in this last book has to be devastating; after the events, or Event, in the last one, it's the only way to go. And I think that knowing the carnage is coming but not knowing where it's coming, exactly, is stressing me out.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

To the faraway towns: An English photo-essay

Well, helloooooooo!

I'm back.

I had a great trip, gallivanting around, seeing lots of English things, eating delicious food, and very carefully not getting blown up. All good things, if I may say so.

Christine and I went here:

and I was tremendously graceful clambering up onto the lions. I was. Are you saying you don't believe me? Fine.

We also went here:

(that's King's Cross Station, Platform 9 3/4, if you can't tell) and took a series of mildly embarrassing but totally necessary photos. I'm dying to know what kind soul decided to put up the sign and the cart and to not even charge! Or were they just pestered into it? The world may never know.

We tracked down 84 Charing Cross Road. This is all that's left of Marks & Co.:

but at least it's not the Pizza Hut next door, as previously thought.

We went to St. Paul's cathedral, which I think might be the most beautiful church I've ever been inside. I loved it. Plus: a crypt, 300-something steps to the second deck, and John Donne's grave. Win!

We also saw Mary Poppins in the West End (forgettable except for the completely awesome "Step in Time" tap-dance number), went to the Tower of London, checked out Kensington Palace, walked across the Bridget Jones Millennium Bridge, and visited all of the state-run museums. Going to the art museums with Christine was fun, since she a) cares and b) actually knows things about art, whereas I just get bleary and bored. I was, however, disappointed to find that the Elgin marbles at the British Museum are not, in fact, spherical.

And the food! First of all, I love European hotel breakfasts. There's something about muesli with whole milk or a croissant with jam and yogurt and tea that makes me feel especially civilized, and yet ready for a long day on my feet. Maybe it's that I would never dream of drinking whole milk or eating plain yogurt in the States. I'm not sure. Either way, it's delicious. There's also my mild obsession with bangers and mash: sausages, mashed potatoes, and gravy. The Brits have comfort food down, I'm telling you.

I also need to make one thing clear: I love pubs. I don't understand why we in America can't make pub culture work for us. Why do we have crazed and/or totally depressing bars when we could just as easily spend our evenings ensconced in the plushness of leather and dark wood, good friends, salty food, and a nice pint of cider? Doesn't everybody like a nice game of darts? Is this not an obvious choice?

London was fun.

But eventually I left London and went here:

and hiked from here:

to here.

It was fantastic. Doesn't it look fantastic? I walked the Coffin Track, which was the road used to transport dead bodies out of Ambleside before they had a consecrated church. I stopped off at both of Wordsworth's houses (and I don't even like Wordsworth all that much) and made friends with an older gentleman on the trail. When I got to Grasmere, I ate fresh bread and root-vegetable soup, and the rain started just as I caught the bus back. Good times.

On my last full day in England, I went to Bath. First I ignored the advice of Rick Steves and the fine folks at Lonely Planet and went to the Jane Austen Centre. I knew it would be lame, and it was, but I couldn't not go, could I? Jane Austen lived in Bath for five miserable years and set Northanger Abbey and part of Persuasion there. The Centre was mostly concerned with the BBC miniseries, and the docent actually made a snotty remark about the Keira Knightley Pride and Prejudice, which I thought was...uncalled-for, especially from a woman without anything directly Austenian to offer. Afterwards, I walked up the street to the house Jane Austen actually lived in, which is now a dental surgery:

And on a girl's last day in a foreign country, when she just can't take another historical site, what is there to do but wander in the rain and shop? I didn't buy anything, though I actually considered checking my carry-on for the flight home just so I could bring a vintage cake stand with me. Common sense prevailed.

Bath is beautiful, all honey limestone and Georgian everything:

Doesn't it make you want to wander in the rain and shop? Pretty.

So that was my trip to the UK, minus a couple of lostness incidents, a trip to the British Film Institute, baked beans for breakfast, and everything else crammed around the edges. Coming home wasn't totally unwelcome, but I had a great time and I've already got some itinerary points in mind for a return trip. A fine place. Cheers!